One of the strategies I have come to rely heavily on for calming me down is mindfulness. Basically it's taking a moment or two to be completely aware of your surroundings in a non-judgmental way. Yes, it seems to be so elementary to pay attention to your surroundings. Ever tried it? It's a lot harder than it looks on paper. Here are some examples on how to do it and when it's great to use.
Example 1: After a long day
You've had a horrible day at work and you are exhausted. When you get home, the family is there to welcome you with their demands of your time and attention at the very least. You finally get to sit down, but having a quiet moment to yourself is nearly impossible nowadays. The kids are playing, the TV is on, and the dishes need to be done. The to-do list for the night seems to be never ending!
Now, using the four senses, describe what your environment is like. I personally like to do this out loud since my brain doesn't shut up even for me to talk. What do you see? The kids? Yes, but go further: the kids playing cars with each other. The TV? Once again, go further: the TV is on a commercial about hair color (or whatever the case may be). Notice the hangings on the wall that have been there forever. You are making a mental list, not judging how much you hate the color of the walls and want to change them. Ok, so now - what do you smell? Dinner? What about dinner? Maybe garlic and the browning of meat. What do you hear? The meat sizzling in the pan; the kids laughing as their toy cars collide; the hum of the heater? Ok, now feel. The chair pressing into your back; the hair in your face; your clothes resting against your skin. Are they itchy or tight?
Example 2: Trouble Falling Asleep
This is when I utilize mindfulness the most!
You've had a shower, the kids are in bed, the chores done and you finally collapse into bed. The exhaustion is overwhelming, but when you close your eyes, you can't fall asleep. Writing down your thoughts on a notepad next to your bed is useless when you can't even keep up with them. Your brain is having problems winding down and processing the events of the day.
Again, what do you see? If you do this with your eyes closed this time, it might be a better idea, since the objective is to go to sleep. Still, you see blackness. What do you smell? The freshness of the sheets; the dog lying in bed next to you? What do you hear? The hum of the fan; the dripping of a faucet; the dog snoring? Now, what do you feel? The softness of the sheets lying against your skin; the dog's breath on your arm; your head cradled in the pillow?
It may seem easy, but putting it into practice is sometimes hard. However, this is one of the best methods I have found to help me get perspective of the world around me. It also helps me calm down when things are getting on my last nerve, or as above, when I can't sleep. It really has become one of the best ideas to deal with my skin picking, especially when its anxiety related. The more detail you can incorporate into your senses, the better. It will get easier the more you use it. I hope it gives you insight and is as helpful to you as it has been to me!