Lady holding head-How to Calm Down when Stressed

How to Calm Down when Stressed

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My teenagers love the phrase calm down, except when it is applied to them! Actually, I haven’t met anyone who likes to be told to calm down.

The overused sentiment is usually expressed over a minor outburst or dramatic reaction, but in reality, the reminder to calm down can be helpful when we face real problems.

A Sailboat Outing

1

For years our family and friends vacationed at a beautiful beach on the Gulf of Mexico. As our children grew, the trip was one of the highlights of our year promising fun, relaxation, and companionship.

Several years ago, one of the families brought a sailboat so everyone could experience an adventure on the water. The owner of the boat was an avid sailor and supplied life jackets and other equipment needed to have a safe, fun-filled excursion.

One beautiful afternoon our friend set out for a twenty-minute sail with several of the teenagers on board.  As they sailed away, the rest of us talked, relaxed and waited on the beach.

After about thirty minutes, someone mentioned they thought the boat had been gone longer than usual. We started to become concerned that the sailors may be in trouble. 

An Opportunity to Practice Calming Down

As we began to discuss possible scenarios -all negative- our panic began to escalate and we struggled to calm down. The sense of hovering distress waited to grip us. We paced and looked out on the water for glimpses of the boat’s return.

In the midst of stressful situations, like this one, our emotions tend to jump into high gear and it becomes increasingly harder to find peace. 

Anxiety is a natural response when someone we love may be at risk, but it is during these moments that the ability to calm down is most vital.

When my crazy is hanging out a little too much, I can not function rationally or hear God’s voice.

Logically, a storm was not brewing, everyone wore life jackets and could swim, the water was calm and we could see the boat, a distant speck, on the horizon.

We just needed a better plan to practice the process of calming ourselves down.

Calm is Possible

In great contrast to our agitated reaction, the sailor’s wife sat in her beach chair calmly reading a book, “I am not worried”, she said “he has been sailing his entire life and knows exactly what to do. They are not lost; I can still see the boat in the distance. He will guide the boat back to us, I promise.”

My friend did not need to calm down because she never gave in to the push of anxiety.

Her peaceful presence reminded me of the story of Jesus asleep on a boat as a storm thrashed around.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Mark 4:38-40

do you have no faith

Can our Faith Reset our Emotions and Help us Calm Down

Just as the disciples questioned Jesus, who sat beside them during the storm, I sometimes question Him during my own distressing situations.

“Jesus, don’t you care that I am really anxious and feel as if I am drowning?” Jesus’ response to the disciples in the boat also applies to me-have I lost my faith when things are hard and uncertain?

Something about being in a boat, suspended above deep water, is both exhilarating and terrifying all at once. It reminds me of life.

When I face unknown outcomes, it seems I am suspended, anxious, unable to calm down waiting for some type of resolution. The waiting can sometimes bring me the worst angst.

During stress, I must choose to place my confidence in God, who He is and His love for me instead of the unknowns and despair of uncertainty. This is how I am able to reset my emotions.

copy of the positive side of the expression calm down

 

How to Calm Down when Stressed:

  1. Pray and take deep breaths

I take deep breaths and cry out to God for calm and peace. I sometimes sing songs that remind me of God’s faithfulness and bring me comfort.

My prayers usually sound like this, “Dear Lord, I am trusting you during this current time of waiting. I pray for your supernatural peace to surround me and for my faith to increase.”

It is my prayer to draw nearer to Him and not always for the situation to be resolved in my favor although I talk to God about that too!

“Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:12

     2.  Focus on what thoughts are taking over

Catching a thought before it can dominate and hold us hostage brings us back to a peaceful trust-filled stance especially if thoughts are illogical.  But even when I think logically, I can sometimes create illogical outcomes in my mind.

“And be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind, having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude” Ephesians 4:23

   3. Discuss options with wise friends

Strong encouraging community can stand beside us, help us talk it out and lift us up as we wait. The key is to find the correct source for encouragement, because sometimes people unknowingly drive our emotions in the wrong direction.

“That is, that we may be mutually encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:12

   4. Reach out to help others

When we take action and serve others it brings liberation from the consuming thoughts of uncertainty. This seems counter intuitive or an unnatural reaction when we are struggling, but it is truly amazing how many times this has worked for me.

“Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another as [is appropriate for] good stewards of God’s multi-faceted grace [faithfully using the diverse, varied gifts and abilities granted to Christians by God’s unmerited favor].” 1 Peter 4:10

 

Trust usually Requires not Knowing the Outcome

After a very long 60 minutes, we finally saw the sailboat returning safely. Our friend said he had struggled turning the boat around, but never lost confidence or hope that he would make it back to shore.

The kids were not frightened or concerned but relieved to be back on the beach. Today my kids barely remember this incident.

If we had only known what was happening on the water, we could have trusted that everything would be fine! Isn’t that how it works in most situations?

One of the reasons it is difficult to calm down while waiting is, we don’t know at the beginning of a stressful situation how long it will last or what the outcome will be. But like my friends who demonstrated calmness so well, we can rest in the certainty that God is always near and available to steer us back to His faithful comfort.

Psalm 73

Psalm of trust

“I always stay close to you,
    and you hold me by the hand.
You guide me with your instruction
    and at the end you will receive me with honor.”

Psalm 57

Prayer of rescue

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious and merciful to me,
For my soul finds shelter and safety in You,
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge 

and be confidently secure
Until destruction passes by.
I will cry to God Most High,
Who accomplishes all things on my behalf

[for He completes my purpose in His plan].
He will send from heaven and save me”

For further reading on trusting God: Searching for Rainbows

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55 thoughts on “How to Calm Down when Stressed”

  1. Avatar

    Love these tips. The one about wise friends is crucial. Asking for help from those who don’t have the tool of wisdom can be deadly. Great wisdom in this post.

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    Jessica Brodie

    This is a great blog. It’s true: calming down is a conscious choice and a very important one. As we are told: Be still and know that God is GOD!

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    Mary, oh, how I relate to this post. I’ve always struggled with thinking the worst case scenario. And this has been me far too often: “When my crazy is hanging out a little too much, I can not function rationally or hear God’s voice.”

    It’s funny, my four-year-old grandson says, “Calm down!” and it makes his mama so aggravated. 🙂

    I like how you applied it to calming down is possible and your tips are great.

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    I really love the practical tips shared on how to calm down in this post. Very insightful and also very timely because the devil is attacking people with anxious thoughts.

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    Thank you for this post on how to calm down using God’s word and prayers . I needed to read this today to remind myself that in the midst of chaos to turn to Him for calmness. Thanks for writing this.

  6. Teresa Lamsam
    Teresa Lamsam

    Ha! Nail on the head about the phrase! When I was younger, I would think “Don’t tell me to calm down!” I’m thankful for spiritual and personal growth since those days, and I have found many of your tips listed to be the ones I often use to calm down. However, I still need a reminder now and then. I’m also starting to memorize scripture as an added step to extend my calming down process.

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    A really great reminder to practice calm when we’re in stressful circumstances. Your tips are great, some of which I have used in tough circumstances. Thank you for reminding me of them.

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    I don’t know what version of John 14:27 you used, but I love how it’s worded. Lately, peace has been absent in our home with the kids being home 24/7 and we’re all tense and frustrated. Today, I will take your advice, because I surely do need it!

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    It’s so easy to become stressed, but just realizing that and focusing on Jesus helps to calm down so much. Peace only come from Him!

  10. Avatar

    Great, practical advice and a whole lot of encouragement! You are right – no one likes to be told to calm down. But when we do we are able to allow God’s peace wash over us.

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    “My friend did not need to calm down because she never gave in to the push of anxiety.” I never thought of it as giving in to the ‘push’ of anxiety. But it’s so true. Anxiety is like a bully spirit and when I have given in to its push, I can hardly breathe let alone make a decision. Jesus has had me practicing taking my thoughts captive so I don’t even entertain them. Very unique and awesome post, much needed today. Thank you … ❤

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    “During stress, I must choose to place my confidence in God, who He is and His love for me instead of the unknowns and despair of uncertainty. This is how I am able to reset my emotions.”

    Thank you for writing this encouraging, practical and spirit-led post! The steps you outlined here are excellent, and I know I will find myself considering what you’ve shared here when I face stress in the future.

  13. Avatar

    Mary–Thanks for your wise words about being able to calm down when you experience the push of anxiety. I am with you on the no one likes to hear the words calm down. I usually get angry! The passage about Jesus in the boat was part of my devotional this morning. It hit me this morning too – about calming the storm in our lives, not just being able to control the weather. Thanks for sharing this!

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    Thank you for this wonderful post! I love how many scriptures you reference in helping other’s to see how God helps us to calm down and that the Word of God is so clearly a source of comfort for you!

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    Bosede Santos

    Thank you Mary for the captivating story that will pin this message on our hearts. Trust is all about holding on to God’s every word without knowing the outcome, regardless of my situation. This is so timely and a good reminder that when we know who our God is, nothing will shake us because we know He will keep His words. God bless you!

Would love to hear your comments!