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
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?”
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.
How to Calm Down when Stressed:
- 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 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.”
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
Mary Rooney Armand loves to write about 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 developed ButterflyLiving and a Bible Study titled “Identity” which is available on Amazon. To learn more visit maryarmand.com.