My teenagers love the phrase calm down, except when it is applied to them, of course! Actually, I haven’t met anyone who likes to be told to calm down.
The overused sentiment is usually expressed as a minor outburst or dramatic reaction, but in reality, learning how to calm down when stressed is helpful when we face problems.
How to Calm Anxiety and Nerves
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 for safe sailing.
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 and relaxed on the beach not realizing that knowing how to calm anxiety and nerves would soon become a useful skill!
After about thirty minutes, someone mentioned they thought the boat had been gone longer than usual. We started to become anxious that the sailors may be in trouble.
As we began to discuss possible scenarios -all negative- our anxiety began to escalate and we struggled calming 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 choose peace over anxiety and nerves.
Anxiety is a natural response when someone we love may be at risk; we are scared. It is during these moments that knowing how to calm down when stressed and scared is most vital.
When our crazy is hanging out a little too much, we 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 on how to calm our anxiety and nerves.
Peace in the Storm
In contrast to our anxious reactions, 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. She exhibited peace in the storm.
She set a great example on how to remain at peace and not give in to the pull of nerves and anxiety.
What Does Jesus say About Peace?
My friend’s peace in the storm 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 NLT
Just as the disciples questioned Jesus, who sat beside them during the storm, I sometimes question Him during my own anxious, stressful situations.
I pray, “Jesus, don’t you care that I am anxious and feel as if I am drowning?”
Jesus’ response to the disciples in the boat also applies to me–do I lose my faith when things are hard and uncertain?
Peace, that a relationship with Jesus offers, is not based on our current circumstances
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 anxiety.
During times of anxiety and stress, I must choose to place my confidence in Jesus, His love for me and the peace He offers instead of the unknowns and despair of uncertainty.
This confidence in Jesus is how we are able to reset our emotions and experience what He says about peace.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27 NLT
How to Calm Down when Stressed
Calming Down with Prayer
Calming down with prayer is simply communicating with God when we start to feel anxious or scared. I take deep breaths and cry out to God for calm and peace. I sometimes sing or play 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 AMP
2. Control Our Thoughts to Calm Down when Scared
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. When calming down, I must go back to peaceful thoughts.
“And be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind, having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude”
Ephesians 4:23 AMP
3. Rely on Trusted Friends for help Calming Down
Strong encouraging community can stand beside us, offer advice and lift us up as we wait. The key is to find the correct source of 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 AMP
4. Calming Down when Stressed can be as Simple as Helping Others
When we take action and serve others it brings freedom from the consuming thoughts of uncertainty. This seems counter intuitive or an unnatural reaction when we are struggling, but it is 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 AMP
Prayer for Anxiety, Worry and Fear
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?
While waiting, one of the reasons it is difficult to learn how to calm down 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 learn how to calm down when stressed by resting in the certainty that God is always near and available to steer us back to His faithful comfort.
Prayers for anxiety, worry and fear can be found by reading the Psalms. I sometimes read them out loud and call out to God for His peace and comfort.
Here are 2 helpful psalms to pray for peace over anxiety and stress.
Psalm 73: 23-24 & 28 GNT
Prayer 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.”
“But as for me, how wonderful to be near God,
to find protection with the Sovereign Lord
and to proclaim all that he has done!”
Psalm 57:1-3 AMP
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”
Mary Rooney Armand loves to write inspiring, faith based stories. She focuses on helping others grow in their intimacy with Christ and thrive in their personal relationships. Mary lives in New Orleans with her husband Cory and four children. Besides writing, she teaches Bible Studies and leads small groups. In 2020 she created ButterflyLiving and a Bible Study titled “Identity” which is available on Amazon. To learn more visit maryarmand.com.