“Do we want to infect people with more anxiety, or heal ourselves and the people around us with calm?”
-Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
I just love this quote by Brene’ Brown. Her analogy is so true. Like a virus, anxiety is an infectious disease that spreads so easily from person to person.
As a third grade teacher, I regularly witness the power of anxiety in my classroom. It’s amazing to me how the anxiety of just one student can affect the whole classroom dynamic. And I’ve noticed that my own anxiety can also negatively affect my students. As humans, we tend to match the emotions of the people around us. Therefore, when I am stressed out and anxious, my students also feel stressed and on edge.
However, the opposite is also true. Although anxiety is a strong force, calm is equally powerful. As someone who wrestles with anxiety, I know from personal experience the healing power of calm.
I love spending time with calm people. My dad is one of those people. He is quick to listen and slow to speak. He takes each moment as it comes and refuses to worry about what he can’t control. There is something so healing about being around calm people— people who are at ease with themselves and others, who aren’t trying to prove anything, and who refuse to hurry and rush. These people seem to lower the heart rate of the room just by entering.
As I’ve observed calm people and tried to learn their secrets, I’ve noticed several strategies that I’m trying to practice.
Calm people breathe. This is a simple, but powerful observation. I’ve noticed that when I’m anxious, sometimes I forget to breathe! Therefore, taking long, deep breaths is so helpful in the midst of anxiety.
Calm people talk slowly. When I’m stressed out, I start talking faster and faster. It’s amazing how just slowing down my pace of speech calms down my body. I even find that my heart rate slows down when I slow down my speech.
Calm people do one thing at a time. There is so much danger in multi-tasking. I’ve read a lot of research that suggests that multi-tasking actually decreases our productivity. But even more importantly, multi-tasking makes it difficult to be fully present in the moment. Therefore, when I’m stressed out or anxious, I’m trying to discipline myself to focus on one task or activity before completing the next.
Calm people stop. This is probably the most important strategy for embracing calm. In a frenetic culture of constant doing, it’s difficult to stop and just be still. However, I think that moments of stillness are actually the birthplace of calm. I need time in the quiet to be with Jesus and experience His peace.
Calm people embrace imperfection. As a recovering perfectionist this is a challenging one for me. However, I’ve noticed that I’m so much calmer when I let go of the pressure to do things perfectly. There’s something freeing about simply allowing a task to go undone.
I want to close by sharing this sermon by John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church:
I hope this sermon speaks to you and encourages you as it did for me. I was deeply impacted by John Mark’s emphasis on becoming a “non-anxious presence”. I love how he points to Jesus as the ultimate example of what a non-anxious presence looks like. Jesus is our perfect model of a life free from anxiety, filled with calm and peace.
And oh how our world needs this! In our currently frenetic and chaotic society, our world desperately needs people committed to calm.
I am so far from that.
But I’m thankful that we have a God who can transform us from people of fear and anxiety to people of peace and calm.