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! Here are some simple fixes to find calm in that chaos as part of my series on how to feel better naturally.
Another in this series is how to feel better naturally.
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Chaos In Everyday Life
The dictionary1 defines chaos as a condition of disorder and confusion or a disorderly mass; a jumble. I think ‘out of control’ or ‘out of whack,’ feeling heckled – are what an everyday person might say.
What does this mean in everyday life?
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.
You might also like to read my article on dealing with feeling overwhelmed.
With so much of this, our ability to sense stimuli2 causes us to feel like we are in a sea of chaos.
Our sensibility requires faculties by which the stimuli from outside or inside our body are received and felt, e.g. with hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste.2 While these are the five senses often considered, in this article, I cover seven.
7 Ways To CAlm the Chaos Using Your Senses
How to stay productive when life’s a bitch? Foremost, you need to do something to keep your ‘cool’ and calm down and using your senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, proprioception, and the vestibular system, are pivotal in this. Read on further below for why, but first here are seven steps you can try stay mentally fit and relieve stress through your senses.
- Inoculate Your Sense of Smell With Calm
Breathe in natural scents and trick yourself into calm. You could use essential oils in an essential oil diffuser that can run for up to 10 hours. Use oils that calm or ones that lift your mood because they remind you of the forest, mountain, or sea where you once holidayed.
Other ways? Lie down in freshly laundered sheets scented with a calming natural fragrance, like lavender, and take a deep breath. Or, fill a vase with fresh-cut fragrant blooms.
- Change Your Scenery – Imagine Being in the Maldives
Use serene nature scenes to trick yourself. Look at scenes of a waterfall, tranquil lake or bay, or fields of lavender. You might have these screensavers or background images on your device or as 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. You could do this as a type of meditation and relaxation.
Imagine being in the Maldives…
- Eat Foods That Keep You Tip Top
Supposedly, consuming carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, and quinoa, boosts serotonin, which is a natural mood booster.
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 a good for this. Chamomile tea is one 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 drugs and foods to calm nerves.
It makes sense to keep you 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!)
- Listen to Sounds That Soothe the Soul
Tune into your favorite calm down music on Spotify or other music service. Songs or audio 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-canceling 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.
- Find Calm Through 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 sulfate) 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.
- Use Proprioception to Shift Overstimulation
The proprioception system is located in your muscles and joints and controls our coordinated body movement or regulation of your posture. It is an awareness of self-expression through your body’s pose. This sense centers on muscle spindles.
Unconsciously, you express it in how you stand, your facial expressions, and 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; play an instrument; do stretches at your desk or bench; simply walk tall; go for a walk (in mindfulness) during your breaks; close and open and move 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 allow calming thoughts fill your mind.
- Stay Balanced – Using Your Vestibular Sense
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.
All of the above are natural ways to deal with everyday stress which feels like chaos.
Our Bodies Sense and Respond to Chaos
Our bodies are designed to sense and respond to chaos. It’s about survival. When we perceive chaos, we are wired in a way that our sense of taste changes, for one thing. We adopt this ability to taste less of the fat and sugar we eat and so we take in more of these things.3 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.
To help deal with this, our body is wired to release cortisol. This increases our metabolism and with other neurochemicals readies us for action. (You know that uptight feeling and muscle tension.) Among other things, cortisol acts to increase bloodstream sugar to boost our energy and aid our ‘flight or fight’.
Reacting To Stress Today
Today, we have new and evolving perceived threats to our well-being that are as numerous as they are diverse. But, our body still reacts the same to these stressful situations as it would have to those of ancestral times. Our inbuilt feedback design is meant to protect us in times of lack or impending survival threat, but instead, it works against us. The chronic release of cortisol affects our mental health and we feel anxious and stressed.
Since it’s in our genetic makeup to consume more carbohydrates when feeling threatened, for some, this can lead to overconsumption of fats and sugars and thus to weight-gain that adds to the anxiety and stress. You’ve heard of ‘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. The act of eating also increases our oxytocin levels, which naturally makes us feel warm and fuzzy.
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.
Calming Down Anxiety Using YOur Senses
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 Take If I Need to Calm Down?
The intake of natural nutrients help with stress relief.
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.
How to calm nerves? Fresh lemon balm is excellent for relieving anxiety and nervy stomachs. It also aids digestion. Works well as a tea or natural. Look for herbal tea if you are not able to grow it or get hold of the fresh lemon balm.
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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 it works? 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.
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There is evidence4 to suggest that Vitamin D supplements help with preventing and in treating stress-related issues, especially in older people or those who cannot naturally obtain the goodness from sunshine.
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How Your Senses Can Calm Down Anxiety
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?
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.
Other Tips For Calming Down From Anxiety
♦ 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 calming your senses.
♦ Balance your work and play. Finding peace among 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 Advice for Finding Calm 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…
Suffering from Anxiety? Calm and Free offers you the first steps to beating anxiety — find out more!
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.
- The Sensory Connection: https://www.sensoryconnectionprogram.com/program.php A trusted guide to mental, emotional & social health: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-relief-in-the-moment.htm
- Dealing with a chaotic mind from a writer’s perspective: https://beabetterblogger.com/chaotic-mind
- Finding time in the chaos: https://www.findingtimeinthechaos.com.au
- 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.
- American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
- 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
- Curnoe, D. (2015) Making Sense of Our Evolution. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/making-sense-of-our-evolution-44591
- 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
- Maldives Image by pasja1000 on Pixabay
- Drinking Tea Image by rawpixel on Pixabay
- Headphones Image by Icons8_team on Pixabay
- Massage Therapy Image by stevepb on Pixabay
- Yoga Woman Image by evitaochel on Pixabay
- Tropical Beach Swim Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay