Feeling Agitated? Stop Fuming and Fretting

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you often find yourself feeling agitated and restless? Do you get worked up over trivialities? Do you wish you could just switch off your mind sometimes so you could give at least a minute of rest?

We often make life more difficult for ourselves by getting agitated and worked up about situations. Vincent Norman Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, calls this “fuming and fretting.” To gain power and live life to the fullest, we have to stop all this fuming and fretting. 

Here is how to cope with agitation and restlessness, according to Peale.

Learn to Slow Down

The first step is to reduce your frantic pace of life. Many people drive themselves too hard and too fast, and this tempo leads to overstimulation, which can cause physical and emotional sickness. Slowing down brings you back in line with God’s pace. God’s pace is unhurried; things get done when they are meant to get done. When you slow down and practice being peaceful, you will feel a sense of quiet power rise within you. 

A champion rowing crew coach once said, “To win a race, row slowly.” The idea is that rowing too quickly ruins the pace and it’s hard for the crew to regain its rhythm. It’s better to maintain a steady pace.

The author discusses a man whose doctor prescribed an “enforced rest” because of the tension and pressure this man was under. The man felt compelled to work nonstop, feeling that the world depended on his efforts. 

The doctor issued an unusual prescription: take off two hours every day to go for a walk. Then, take a half-day off to spend in a cemetery. The idea was for him to meditate on the fact that the world had gone on after all those people died, despite how vital they must have felt in life. This illustrates that the world will go on without you. 

The patient got the message. He slowed his pace, learned to delegate, and got peaceful.

Spending time in nature is one way to slow down your frantic pace of life and reduce tension. Getting used to quiet time in general is important; you have to discipline yourself to spend time in silence to reap the benefits of a peaceful mind. When you practice being peaceful, you get rid of nervous excitement that holds you back from calm.

Sometimes you just have to stop yourself in the middle of frantic busy-ness and regroup.

Once when Peale was giving a lecture, he found himself being anxiously bustled from event to event—from an autograph-signing session to a luncheon, to a meeting, to a reception, and then back to the hotel to quickly change for dinner. Rushing into the elevator, he stopped himself, wondering what all the rushing was about.

He decided to go at his own pace, take some time for himself, and stop letting himself be rushed. He reasoned that if he spent some quiet time now, his speech would be better later. He read the Bible, rested, and prayed for 15 minutes, gaining a sense of peace and self-mastery, feeling the healing presence of God.

Another aspect of slowing your pace is to infuse the peace of God into your mind, soul and body. By getting the peace of God into your body, you may experience less pain. To do this, relax and think of each muscle and reflect on the peace of God touching it.

Thinking Peaceful Thoughts

Thinking peaceful thoughts will help you attain a peaceful way of life, teaching you to tap new resources of strength. It is the antidote to fuming and fretting.

Just as we have a series of daily actions designed to keep our bodies healthy (brushing teeth, exercising, bathing), we must give time and effort to keeping our mind healthy.

If you are feeling agitated, try to sit quietly and run a series of peaceful thoughts through your mind, for example the memory of a beautiful place you once visited. It’s recommended you do this once every 24 hours, preferably when you’re at your busiest, and practice being calm and serene.

The Mental Follows the Physical

Another step toward achieving calm is to control your physical reactions. You start this by keeping physically still. Don’t move, pace, wring your hands, or let yourself get worked up. Sit, stand still, or lay down. A physical attitude can guide your mental attitude, diffusing all the emotional heat you may be feeling.

> Peale tells of a business meeting where tensions were getting heated. One man took off his coat and lay down on the couch, explaining that he laid down when he felt himself getting mad because it’s hard to be mad when you’re laying down. He also used a whisper, because it’s hard to argue when whispering.

Peale says to practice being indifferent or sluggish if you’re too keyed up. This will bring you back to a more balanced emotional state.

6 Steps to Reduce Your Fretting

This six-point technique will help you reign in your fretting and fuming and help restore you to a peaceful, calm state.

  1. Sit in a chair. Relax completely. Think about each part of your body as relaxed.
  2. Picture your mind as the surface of a stormy lake, but watch the lake becoming calm as the waves subside.
  3. Think about a lovely, peaceful scene you once saw. Relive it.
  4. Repeat a series of words that evoke peace and quiet to you. 
  5. Think about times in your life when you were worried and anxious, but God took care of you and everything turned out fine.
  6. Repeat this phrase from Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” These words will help relieve your mind of tension.
Feeling Agitated? Stop Fuming and Fretting

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  • That there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer
  • The practical techniques of applied Christianity
  • How to take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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