I’m starting to think all humans have a natural tendency to lose ‘it’. Including anything from our “cool”, to our “marbles”. And I find it fascinating that even two-year-olds across the globe instinctively know how to throw temper tantrums.
Perhaps we have learned over the years that falling face down on the floor and pounding our fists while screaming is inappropriate social behavior. Maybe we found better ways to deal with our anger and frustrations, but not getting what we want never really gets easier.
I like the Thai expression for “keep cool” or “calm down”’, which is “jai-yen”, literally translated as “heart-cool/cold”. Waiting until you are in the heat of the moment is not the way to learn how to keep calm in the midst of a raging storm.
It may seem like a good strategy, but how does it work? I certainly do not claim to have all the answers, and I’m pretty sure that our lives and desires are totally different. However, from my own experience with two-year-old mini-melt-downs, working in a multi-cultural environment, family dramas and being married. I can only share what I have learned and what works for me.
#1. The first five minutes of the day are critical.
In reality, it’s more a case of pray and keep calm. I have learned that waking up at least five minutes earlier to spend some time in the Word, read, and prayerfully journal my thoughts, sets a calmer tone for me for the day. Since I’m not naturally an early riser, this practice doesn’t come easy. And I actually have to set my alarm at least fifteen minutes earlier to get up five minutes earlier!
#2. Change your posture.
It may sound silly, but sometimes, all I need to do is to sit down. The lower I position myself, the better. Sitting down on the floor next to a screaming toddler is somehow more effective in staying calm. As well as getting him to calm down. Perhaps it’s a Kingdom principle that lowering yourself is more powerful than trying to tower out above others. I also find that physically going on my knees to pray helps me to stay focused and humble.
#3 Engage in an activity.
For my toddler, it may be grabbing the nearest toy or a coloring book. With my husband, it’s going for a walk or making tea. At work, it may be typing in words on Baidu or Google Translate to get the message across. Finding something useful to do with my hands is always a better alternative than slamming a door, grabbing a rod or being tempted to slap someone in the face.
#4 Find a positive outlet that works for you.
This is not for “in the moment”, but for afterward. Quite frankly, we all have our limits to how much we can bear. It is often hard work to keep calm…. we are subjecting our unruly flesh. So, we also need to choose what to do with all the built up frustrations and emotions we accumulate even in the midst of “staying calm”.
That built-up pressure needs a release. I find it in words, in pouring out on empty pages and reading good books. In getting out in nature and watching squirrels, butterflies and sunsets. Sometimes I just need to go for a run or have a cup of coffee with a friend. Maybe you need an empty canvass, a safe shoulder to cry on, a punching bag in your backyard, or time on the local tennis court.
#5 Pray with someone.
I believe this is the key to staying calm together. That praying with someone is the only way to survive motherhood, friendship, marriage, and life in general. Finding myself in the midst of a Buddhist community with only one Christian friend, I am truly grateful for being able to share my life with a spouse committed to spending at least the last five minutes of our day as a family together in prayer.
I pray that you have someone to pray with. Not only when you are overwhelmed, but also when you just need to give thanks. I hope that someone will also truly intercede for you when you need it most. And, when all things fall apart, I hope that you will be the one who always find ways to keep calm and pray.
How do you stay calm?
Please feel free to send me a personal message if you need prayer? Especially if you do not have someone to pray with.