How to Calm Someone Down: The Best 5 Things to Say to a Loved One

By Kate Harveston | Posted: May 01, 2020

Has anyone in human history ever relaxed when another uttered the words “calm down” to them? Probably not. Right now, people are experiencing unprecedented levels of fear and anxiety. 

What can you do if someone you love flies into a panic? It can prove challenging to know the right thing to say or do during an emotional meltdown. However, if you are sheltered-in-place together, you need to maintain peace and stability, as well as care for their mental health. Here’s what to say and what to avoid. 

5 Things to Say Instead of “Calm Down” 

You know that saying “calm down” is counterproductive. Deep down, the person understands that they are overreacting. However, they also have ample external reasons for feeling the way they do. Invalidating their feelings will only lead to resentment. Instead both you and your loved one together can join this free webinar and learn some practical tools to calm down.

1. I Am Here, and I Love You No Matter What

Everyone needs some additional reassurance right now. Their lives may feel completely unstable. Perhaps they've lost their job, and they’re wondering if their skills can translate to online work. Even if they remain employed, no one, including world leaders, knows how long this pandemic will last. They need a rock that they can cling to, some glue to know that not everything falls apart. Remind them that your relationship remains strong and that no matter what happens, they will have your love and support. 

2. Would It Help If I Sat With You, or We Did Something Together?

Don’t underestimate the power of physical touch when it comes to comforting someone who is stressed. Research indicates that a hug or caress can decrease the level of stress hormones in the blood and increases positive chemicals like oxytocin. 

It isn’t helpful to suggest that the person you love participate in self-care activities while you sit on the couch. However, you can ask if they would like to do something with you, such as going out for a walk if it’s permissible where you live. Physical activity releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. 

3. What Can I Do to Help You? 

Everyone can use a helping hand now and then. When an individual becomes overwhelmed, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol soar, leaving them with intense anxiety. They may freeze and seem helpless to do anything, or they may desperately seek escape from the situation through drug or alcohol use. When you ask if you can help, offer concrete solutions. For example, if they feel hopeless about their job search, you could offer to review their resume or help them to find leads. 

4. Do You Need to Vent, or Would You Like Advice?

Sometimes, your loved one might need to get it all out, and asking this question indicates that you respect their emotions. Validating their feelings in this way is instantly soothing. Plus, coming off with advice when a person is in a frenzied state can seem condescending. This question opens up the door to let you help them, but it also demonstrates respect for their needs. 

5. It’s Okay to Cry or Take Some Time Alone 

If the person you love typically embraces a tough exterior, they may feel guilty about expressing their emotions. Reassure them that it is okay to break down and cry sometimes. If the person you love is your partner, they might hesitate to take time for themselves and instead devote themselves to the home or children. Let them know that you will hold down the fort while they relax in a bubble bath or lie on a hammock to read quietly for an hour or two. 

Things You Should Avoid Saying When a Loved One Panics

It’s as vital to know what to avoid saying as well as knowing what you should say. Please try to ban these phrases from your vocabulary. 

Everything Will Be Okay

These words sound supportive, but they can cut like a rusty knife. Even if eventually things will work out, it’s not okay right now, and that’s all the hurting person can see and hear. Let’s face it — it’s not okay if your loved one lost their job and doesn’t know how they can pay the mortgage. It’s not okay for your 18-year-old senior to miss out on graduation and prom, nor is it alright for them to worry about their changing college experience. 

We’re All Stressed Out Right Now — Don’t Make It Harder

While this statement is true, it isn’t helpful at all. Remember, surviving the COVID-19 pandemic is not a contest. No one person’s suffering supersedes anyone else. This saying only invalidates their feelings and sets the stage for a temper tantrum or a quiet resignation to despair. While stress levels are higher than normal, take a little time to join this free masterclass to help you deal with the increase of stress using simple, powerful tools!

There’s No Reason to Panic 

When the people who run the show can’t provide concrete answers as to when life will return to normal, there is cause for alarm. The fact that everyone is experiencing this pandemic together doesn’t make it any less stressful for individuals, so don’t invalidate their emotions in this manner. 

Calm Down Your Stressed Loved One with Sensitivity 

Calming down a stressed loved one requires diplomacy and common sense. By knowing what to say and what to avoid, you can diffuse tense situations and care for the mental health of those around you.

Kate Harveston writes about wellness and mental health. If you enjoy her work, you can visit her women’s health blog, So Well, So Woman. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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