Peace In The Chaos | How to Calm the Senses

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Sometimes things feel darn right chaotic. Most of the cause might be outside your control. There are simple tricks to keeping sane. Here are some ways to take control of your space and find peace in the chaos…

how to find peace in chaos, wanting calm

Apart from the world outside…Are you someone who loves to give — to meet everyone’s expectations (including our own)? Are there times when you give yourself to that point of overwhelm where that barrage of demands feels like chaos? You feel like screaming! Read on…

Chaotic life meaning

The dictionary1 defines chaos as a condition of disorder and confusion or a disorderly mass; a jumble.

But then…how do we perceive ‘chaos’ in everyday living, whether it’s family chaos or chaos at work or life in general?

I think ‘out of control’ or ‘out of whack’… feeling heckled – are what an everyday person might say.

In our ever-changing modern world, a multitude of stimuli exists. Our senses are bombarded by ever-increasing and ever-changing (and sometimes conflicting) stimuli…unrelentingly. This might be the ‘chaotic life’ you have at work or in life generally. And you might also have difficulty finding peace at home.

I wrote about how to deal with having so much to do in my article on dealing with feeling overwhelmed.

How our bodies sense and respond to chaos

Our bodies sense and respond to chaos because it’s about survival.

For one thing, our sense of taste can change. Did you know that when we sense chaos we are wired so that our taste buds detect less of the fat and sugar in what we consume? This primes us to take in more energy fueling foods.3

… ‘comfort food’… It was first coined in 1966 to describe food associated with childhood security. Under severe emotional stress, we turn to comfort food as a coping mechanism.

This has survival advantages harking back to our ancestral days² when the effects of this sensory change helped us survive an impending lack of food or shelter or the threat of attack from predators or contesting parties.

The act of eating also increases our oxytocin levels, which naturally makes us feel warm and fuzzy.

To help deal with chaos, our body is also wired to release cortisol in order to increase our metabolism and, with other neurochemicals, ready us for action. (You know that uptight feeling and muscle tension.)

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Cortisol is important in aiding us to ‘flight or fight’. The problem is that our flight or fight is kind of mixed up today and when we are in a sustained state of this with chronic cortisol release, we suffer long-term effects on our wellbeing.

Reacting to stress today

Our inbuilt feedback design protects us in times of lack or impending survival threat, but today, instead, it works against us. The ongoing release of cortisol affects our mental health in that the continued stress and anxiety state it puts us in often leads to chronic depression.

Today’s perceived threats to our well-being are as numerous as they are diverse. But, our body still reacts the same to today’s stressful situations as it would have to those of ancestral times.

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Just one example…our genetic makeup means we tend to consume more carbohydrates when feeling threatened. For some, this can lead to overconsumption of fats and sugars causing weight-gain that exacerbates anxiety and stress. It can also lead to other things like compulsive gambling habits, overconsumption of alcohol or self-medicating with illegal drugs, etc. etc. Then there’s the irritability and angst that are certain symptoms.

7 ways to use your senses to find peace in the chaos

Yep. You can find peace by using your senses. By senses, I mean the usual, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, but also proprioception and the vestibular system (I cover the meaning of these below).

You see, our ability to sense stimuli (our sensibility)2 is what tells us whether things are chaotic or not and so by commandeering these we can signal the opposite to ourselves…and so find peace in the chaos.

find calm in the chaos
The feedback loop involving our senses and our brain

This sensibility relies on our sensory faculties (e.g. hearing and seeing), which take in outside (or internal) stimuli.2 While we all know there are five main senses, in this article, I cover two more, which means you have seven ways to deal with the chaos at home, at work or anywhere…

1. Use natural calming fragrances

Breathing in natural scents is a good way to bring about calm. Essential oils burning in a diffuser can run for up to 10 hours and with lavender or other oils that calm (or lift your mood), they will trigger relaxation. Burning sage for its benefits from the aromatic smoke it releases has a calming effect.

You can use scents that remind you of holiday places near the forest, mountain or sea. For some people, this might be the fresh brewing of coffee or baking of bread or another reminder of homely comforting smells.

Another way is to scent freshly laundered linen with lavender or the like and take in the aroma to soothe the soul. Another…fill a vase with fresh-cut fragrant blossoms.

2. Eye peaceful scenes

Use serene nature scenes to divert yourself from chaos to calm. Scenes of a waterfall, tranquil lake or bay, waves breaking on a shore or fields of lavender.

Use screensavers or background images on your device or photographs or paintings where you tend to rest your eyes at work or home.

Other ways:

  • If you have a fireplace, light a fire and watch the flames flicker.
  • Gaze up at the sky and watch the clouds moving or stargaze at night.
  • Use nature’s gifts to your full advantage and spend a few seconds outdoors appreciating nature.

If you can’t get outdoors, get comfy with a cushion, then close your eyes and imagine a place in nature that makes you feel at peace. Imagine being in the Maldives on a perfect day. You could do this as a type of meditation. The science behind relaxation techniques has to do with alpha brain rhythms — I wrote about this here.

3. Eat calming foods

Supposedly, consuming carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, and quinoa, boosts serotonin.

Beans, such as black beans, lima beans, and chickpeas, are known to be rich in magnesium, which helps to relax muscles and improve mood and sleep.

Drinking tea, especially if you’re one who finds comfort and likes to solve problems over a cup of tea, is good for this. Chamomile tea is recommended for calming and relaxing.

Another is lemon balm tea. (I swear by fresh lemon balm in terms of foods that calm anxiety that I’ve suffered.) Also, there are CBD-infused oils, which are part of the new wave of bio-ceuticals to calm nerves (though not available everywhere at the time of writing).

It makes sense to keep your immunity up by including fresh fruits, green vegetables, and berries in your diet. (In support of intuitive eating, if you are truly craving something sugary and ‘evil’, then have it. It’s probably best to finely balance this, however, with other sensibilities, so it in itself doesn’t lead to binge eating, and so create anxiety about gaining weight, ugh!)

4. Listen to soothing sounds

Tune into your favourite calm-down music on Spotify or another music service. Songs or audios that remind you of happy times are especially good for calming the mind.

The tones of water flowing, and other nature sounds, like forest bird songs, are great for boosting mood.

You can chill out with the low-frequency vibrations in the Alpha wave range, which help you relax and find inner peace.

Tip: use noise-cancelling earphones, that are wireless and sweat-proof (so good for the gym and summer outdoors) to mask other noise or avoid disturbing others when in public.

noise cancelling earphones as a suggestion to help anxiety calm down

5. Find solace in touch

For this, you could order a massage or get a friend to give you a hug. This will help boost your mood from the release of oxytocin. Giving yourself a hug can also help.

Or, you could get into some cozy breathable clothing that feels great on. To naturally reduce stress and increase relaxation, a lot of people are choosing a weighted blanket, as it simulates the feeling of being held or hugged and this has a calming effect. This is popular among those who experience heightened sensitivities.

Other touch ways to calm yourself: Lie in a bathtub of warm water with a couple of handfuls of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) after work; get treated at the hairdressers; walk barefoot in grassed areas or along the beach; pat or groom a ‘furry friend’.

Use your hands to create or achieve something! I find calm through being creative, it just does something to my mind to ease the noise. If you are a crafter or hobbyist try using your hands to do something mindless.

Other mindless ways I can think of to find calm include doing jigsaw, crossword, or sudoku puzzles or playing video games. You might have others. Let me know in the comments.

soft towels, essential oils and oils infused with herbs for massage suggesting the touch of soft tactile things can be calming

6. Destress via proprioception

The proprioception system is located in your muscles and joints and controls your coordinated body movement or regulation of your posture. It is an awareness of self-expression through your body’s pose. This sense centres on muscle spindles.

Unconsciously, you express it in how you stand, your facial expressions, body language, etc., when you feel a certain way. For example, you might continually frown when you are stressed, or walk with a slumped posture.

What to do for a calm life? The proprioception ways that can help: do yoga; playing an instrument; doing stretches at your desk or bench; simply walking tall; going for a walk (in mindfulness) during your breaks; closing and opening and moving your eyes side to side and then up and down, while visualizing a fun place; lie down for a while with a heavy quilt. This type of cover helps to relax your muscles and allows calming thoughts to fill your mind.

a woman in sitting yoga pose looking at calm lake suggests a way of dealing with anxiety

7. Use your vestibular sense to soothe

The vestibular system contributes to our awareness of body balance and spatial orientation through sensory organs in our inner ear.

Using your vestibular sense for soothing: rock slowly in a rocking chair; find a swing in a playground and swing high and low (you’ll be surprised at how it feels); lay flat on your back on the grass and watch the clouds in the sky move and dissolve.

woman swinging on a swing under a tree looking at the ocean with islands in the horizon, is about your sense of balance, and swinging like this is a way to calm the mind and relieve stress

All of the above are natural ways to deal with everyday stress which feels like chaos.

How do you get happy amidst chaos?

Here’s the thing…

Since the sensing of a threat through stimuli causes our brain to send signals to our taste buds, so too in reverse our senses can send signals to our brains about things relating to calmness. We have this type of feedback loop.

For instance, if we use our sense of sight to view uplifting videos, photos, or scenes, we send positive signals to our brain and we feel invigorated, joyful, and at peace, and we forget the outer goings on.

What else can I do to help deal with chaos?

Learning to meditate and making it a daily habit is one of the best things you can do to reduce high cortisol levels. For muscle tension, progressive muscle relaxation is an answer in terms of how to calm down when stressed. What you do here is tense up and then relax certain sets of muscles one at a time in sequence (read more here). There are types of meditation that incorporate a similar procedure.

How else do you handle the chaos? Most times chaos causes us to feel stressed and this interferes with how and what we eat – eating comfort food is one example. Stress taxes our body and nutrients help combat the effects of stress and so we should make sure we include these in our diets to bolster our defence against the impact of chaos in our life.

You could invite positive energy into your space. Smudging is practice people use to cleanse their home in a spiritual way to get rid of negativity and bring about balance and harmony.

Vitamin C

Eating foods rich in Vitamin C can help control those cortisol levels that rise with stress. Yep, Vitamin C is a known stress buster. If you are really busy, you could try taking Vitamin C supplements as a convenient way to help alleviate high levels of cortisol and support your immune system during times of stress.

Sometimes taking supplements is needed. You can get a high quality Non-GMO Vitamin C at Amazon — See details

Lemon balm

A natural for calming nerves…

Fresh lemon balm is excellent for relieving anxiety and nervy stomachs. It also aids digestion. Works well as tea or natural. Look for herbal tea if you are not able to grow it or get hold of the fresh lemon balm.

Try growing your own lemon balm. Another way is to try organic lemon balm tea, which you can get at Amazon — See details

Vitamin B

A good Vitamin B complex is another one that has really helped me. It helps with stress, energy, and maintaining a healthy immune system. How does it work? Vitamin B helps the synthesis of serotonin (the feel-good chemical) and in supporting the adrenal glands in association with our fight or flight responses.

When taken as a supplement to your diet, people find stress relief benefits and you can get high potency Vitamin B at Amazon — See details

Vitamin D

There is strong evidence4 indicating Vitamin D supplements as being helpful in preventing and treating stress-related issues, especially in older people or those who cannot naturally obtain the goodness from sunshine.

Make sure to get certified organic Vitamin D3, which is available at Amazon — See details

How your senses can calm the chaos

On a daily basis, the ever-changing technology and new ways of doing business take their toll, yeah? And, then there’s the unspoken pressure on you to perform…To be that promotion-worthy employee, that perfect parent, or that gangbuster successful participant of whatever.

We are designed to survive and our senses help us do that.

Our ability to detect stimuli helps us survive.² We are wired to respond to threats or danger. It’s the ‘fight-or-flight’ response (due to chemical releases) that helps us overcome or avoid ‘danger’. It’s part of our human evolution. From stimuli, we construct meaning, and then, perceive the world around us, e.g., are we in chaos, world upheaval, or peaceful bliss?

Listening to the sounds of nature help calm and relax us for sleep after a chaotic day

This focus music compiled from nature sounds is useful for blocking out the chaos and clearing the mind for study, work, meditation or simply to chill out. The sounds of waves breaking on the shore are particularly soothing. If you’ve ever holidayed beside the beach, you’d relate to this…

How we control perceived chaos

We perceive things are chaotic because stimuli are sent to our brain from our senses to tell us just that. Our neural connections interpret the outside. What we hear, see, taste, feel, or smell fires messages to our brain that affect our moods and our sense of chaos, and peace also.

Apart from the 5 main ones, proprioception and vestibular are senses that work in sending stimuli or messages to the brain.

So, we perceive the world according to what we sense or our ability to sense (sensibility). We also make sense of our world, and perceived chaos, from our perceptions. It’s a feedback loop and you can change how you feel.

How to deal with chaos at work

How to stay productive when life’s a bitch? Foremost, you need to do something to keep your ‘cool’ and calm down. You could incorporate any of the above ideas into your work. Some of these you could try subtly so you don’t impinge on colleagues.

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Calming tips

♦ Get it down on paper. Everything that’s bothering you. You’ll feel better. Or…talk it out with a confidante.

♦ Use apps, like Trello, that will allow you to list, organize, and access your tasks and schedule on any device anywhere.

♦ Practice calming techniques. Choose times when you know you might feel frazzled or when it’s practical, like during lunch or morning or afternoon breaks, and take time out to calm your senses.

♦ Balance your work and play. Finding peace in the chaos is about finding balance. Be aware of your needs and listen to your inner self.

Stress and anxiety can lead to ongoing depression, which no one craves. So it is best to find your peace and ‘chaos calmers’ that work for you.

Here are some ‘calming the chaos’ strategies that focus on ignoring and managing the situation:

  • Shift your focus (ignore)
  • Focus on one thing at a time (ignore/manage)
  • Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything (ignore/manage)
  • Schedule, prioritize, and plan (manage)
  • Practice daily meditation or mindfulness (manage)
  • Use prayer, faith, and belief, as suggested by Max Lucado (manage)

Final thoughts on finding peace in the chaos

A dose of morning sun will help you sleep better at night, which helps with keeping calm during the day.

We can at times feel that our minds are in chaos. But, did you know this chaos saying…

Those of us with chaotic minds are more creative and perceptive than our non-chaotic counterparts. ~ Cathi King

So…Know your capabilities. What can you change? What can’t you ignore? Be realistic. Know when your energy levels peak and when they fade. Do this without judging.

Finally, consciously practice shifting your incoming messages and see what difference it makes. Hope this helps you find balance.

Other resources

  • The Sensory Connection: A trusted guide to mental, emotional & social health:
  • Dealing with a chaotic mind from a writer’s perspective:
  • Finding time in the chaos:
  • Dess NK, Edelheit D (1998) The bitter with the sweet: the taste/stress/temperament nexus. Biol Psychol 48: 103–119.
  • Swaffield J & Roberts SC (2015) Exposure to cues of harsh or safe environmental conditions alters food preferences, Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1 (2), pp. 69-76.


  1. American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  2. Platte P, Herbert C, Pauli P, Breslin PAS (2013) Oral Perceptions of Fat and Taste Stimuli Are Modulated by Affect and Mood Induction. PLOS ONE 8(6): e65006. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065006
  3. Curnoe, D. (2015) Making Sense of Our Evolution. The Conversation.
  4. Anglin, R., Samaan, Z., Walter, S., & McDonald, S. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(2), 100-107. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.106666

Image Credits

Maldives Image by pasja1000 | Drinking Tea Image by rawpixel | Headphones Image by Icons8_team | Massage Therapy Image by stevepb | Yoga Woman Image by evitaochel | Tropical Beach Swim Image by Free-Photos, on Pixabay