Many of us, and maybe most of us, are often either trying to calm down or stay calm. We may even tell other people, like our friends or our children, “calm down, it’s going to be ok.” Yet, telling ourselves or others to calm down is easier said than done. Life just seems to have a way of testing (and improving) our ability to stay calm. And, so we routinely have opportunities to calm down or stay calm.
How do we stay calm?
As a professional counselor and counselor educator, below are a few common and effective steps I share with clients and encourage counseling students to use with their clients. More information about these activities is widely available on the internet, and so you can and should do additional research on the topics of relaxation, mindfulness, and grounding. But, this short list will at least serve as a “sampler” of some free, safe, and easy activities to help us and others calm down.
- First, is the 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness Method. Amy McPherson of Texas Tech University did a good job briefly explaining this process. A super quick summary is this: 1) name 5 things that you currently see around you; 2) name 4 things that you can currently touch around you; 3) name 3 things you can currently hear around you; 4) name 2 things you can currently smell around you; and 1) name 1 thing you can currently taste.
- Second, is Box Breathing. Just as with the 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness Method, the goal with many breathing techniques like Box Breathing is to help us focus on the present moment. More specifically, these steps help us to relax in the present moment versus worrying about the past or the future. Over-thinking about our past or over-worrying about our future can easily cause us to feel out of control. And, so to help us calm down, we need to stay in the present—not the past or the future. Back to Box Breathing! For a brief how-to video on this super simple and effective process, take a look at this video by SunnyBrook Hospital.
- Third, is prayer (or meditation). For me as a Christian, my prayer may sound something like this: “Dear God, thank you that you are never worried. Thank you for letting me bring all my worries to you. Thank you for caring about me so much. God, I’m worried about (fill in the blank). Please help me to focus on your strength, on your love, on your peace. Help me lean on you and trust you with my worries. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.” This is just me praying in my own words. The good news is, God doesn’t care about what words we pray or don’t pray; he just wants to hear from us. A couple scripture passages that may help you here are: 1) John 14:27 and 2) Philippians 4:6.
- Fourth, is an activity or process often referred to a guided imagery. Here again, you can search the internet and find many examples of guided imagery videos that may be helpful to you. Here is one called “Being Still in the Presence of God,” by an organization named The Mindful Christian. What you’ll see in videos like this, or perhaps more accurately, what you will hear, is a soft-spoken voice prompting you to think about certain peaceful images or thoughts. You may want to try out a few of the examples you find to see which one feels most useful to you, but these can be a good way of calming down.
- Fifth, take a walk or do some other enjoyable activity that gets you moving and having fun. Walk your dog. Dance. Build or sew something. Cook. Clean. Play a video game with friends. Help your neighbor. It’s difficult to have fun and feel worried at the same time! I know, I know. We can’t have fun all the time, but we also don’t have to worry all the time either. Sometimes, we have to choose to calm down and then take action to, in fact, calm down.
Remember though, if you’re trying these steps and not having much success or are generally struggling to carry on with your normal day-to-day routines, please talk with your doctor and/or with a counselor. You are not alone and do not have to face life’s struggles alone.
Will it really be ok?
Ok, so we’ve got a handful of “how-to’s” for calming down or staying calm. But can we really know that “it’s going to be ok”?
There are so many things in life that make us feel uncertain and worried. Health problems, money problems, family problems, job problems, etc. And, truthfully, it would be highly unusual to not experience at least some questions and uncertainty about such hard things. So, yes, let’s all keep working to calm down and stay calm, but let’s also be gracious toward ourselves and others as we all seek to cope with the hard stuff of life.
Because there are so many answers to the question “will it all be ok,” and because blogposts such as this one are, by design, short sources of encouragement and information, I want to first offer you another resource, this time one from an all-time great source of wisdom in mine and so many people’s lives—Dr. Charles Stanley. Here is Dr. Stanley sharing his sermon: Adversity, Burden or Bridge? My hope in offering you this resource is that you will hear something here that may encourage you to know whether and how your current situation will work out ok.
Next, I want to offer you other resources that have been and are helpful to me personally in my own efforts to deal with life’s hard moments. In fact, these are resources that I have found comfort and inspiration in even in recent weeks. These truths help me to remember that yes, it’s going to be ok.
- From author and speaker, Lysa TerKeurst, via her Twitter account @LysaTerKeurst:
- “We have to fight the urge to expect our version of God’s good timing, God’s good provision, and God’s good protection to match what we script for our lives. God Himself is good. And that means His plans are good, His ways are good, and we can trust Him at all times.” (December 20, 2022)
- From pastor and author, Steven Furtick, sermon title: When You Hear No, Think Next!
- From singer, songwriter, musician, Brooke Ligertwood (and Hillsong United), song: New Wine
- From philosopher, Dallas Willard, via his Twitter account @DallasAWillard:
- “The drive to significance is a simple extension of the creative impulse that God gave us. We were built to count, as water is made to run downhill. We are placed in a specific context to count in ways no one else does. That is our destiny.” (November 27, 2022)
Take from these whatever may be helpful to you in your situation. For me, these resources and truths remind me that God has a good plan for my life. And, though life doesn’t always go the way we hope it will, the hard times just help return our focus to God and to his love for us. He is still in control. He still loves us. And, his plan is still good. He is with us always. We just need to stay calm (or as calm as we can) and hold on while he’s working out the details of our lives.
Thanks for reading!
God bless you!