Mindset Hacks to Decrease Chaos and Increase CalmFeatured

Have you ever wondered why when upset by chaos (yours or someone else’s), making a coherent sentence feels like a challenge? Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that thinking straight wasn’t in the cards?

Come to find out, there’s a perfectly logical reason for the inability to think or communicate coherently when we’re enmeshed in chaos of any kind. And just like there’s a logical reason, there are also ways to calm our brains down so we can think and advocate in constructive, powerful ways.

Your brain on chaos

Our brains are more prone to look for and be impacted by anything negative. As neuroscientist psychologist, Dr. Rick Hansen says, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.” We have something called negative bias to thank. Negative bias is our brains’ way of being on high alert for any form of danger, perceived or real. And so, when chaos ensues our brains react.

Sometimes we go into what’s called Amygdala Hijack, where our brain releases chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline, preparing us to “fight, fly, or freeze.” During the “fight, fly, or freeze” moment, our prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of our brain) goes offline. This is often why when we’re upset by the chaos, we’re unable to think straight or feel we sound like bumbling fools.

Why deep breathing doesn’t always work

As a mindset coach, I’ve done a lot of research trying to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating calm in times of chaos. I’ve come to understand something that has been a game-changer.

During times of chaos, it’s critical to choose calming exercises that match my brain’s current state (language). To further explain, if that chaos is producing an emotional reaction, like tension or anxiety, I need to do something that engages my body. For example, I may need to do breathing exercises or get up and pace.

On the other hand, if the chaos is causing me to think negatively or causing anything like rumination or the “what-ifs” that is my cue to use my brain in logical ways. For example, asking myself a question like, “What am I in control of right now?”

What’s critical is checking in with yourself; is the chaos impacting you emotionally, or is it impacting your thoughts? This will help you to use mindset hacks that are aligned with your brain’s current state.

Mindset hacks to create calm

Once you have determined your brain’s state/language, the following exercises can be used to create calm. And to make it easier, they’re into two categories, Mind (Logic), and Body (Feeling).

Mind (Logic)

Change "What if…?" thoughts to "How can I…?"

"How can I" empowers. When you feel empowered, you take yourself out of the chaos zone because empowering thoughts and feelings are much stronger than the thoughts created by chaos.

Ask yourself this question for every "what if”.

“How can I ________________________?”

For example, let's say you find yourself saying, "What if I miss the project deadline because I have too many things on my plate?" Ask yourself, "How can I ensure I don’t miss the deadline?” And then let the answers fly.

Present Moment Mojo

Has the chaos got you worrying or stressed about something that has not happened? Or are you thinking about something that happened and worried it would happen again?

If you find yourself taking that little trip to the future or back into the past with worry and stress riding "shotgun," try engaging your present-moment mojo with this simple exercise.

Take a deep breath and look around.

What do you hear right now?

What do you see right now?

What do you feel on your skin right now?

What do you taste right now?

Now take another deep breath. You've just used your senses to return to the present moment where everything is OK.

Calm-Producing Questioning

This little exercise is extremely helpful when the chaos has thrown you into a state of Analysis Paralysis. Important Note: While it may be tempting to craft the perfect response to each question, it helps just to free-write, knowing that you’re the only one that will see the answers.

Start by asking yourself, “What is the outcome I expect to happen?” Once you have the answer ask, “What is the best possible outcome for me?” Then ask, “If a third option was available, what would it be?”

And then, “What is my desired outcome?”

The next question is, “If I woke up tomorrow and, by some miracle, my desired outcome came to be, what would have changed for me?”

The last question is, “As a result of answering all of these questions, what has become clear to me?”

Sh*t Journal

When we stuff our thoughts and feelings, hoping they’ll go away, all we really do is provide an opportunity for those thoughts and feelings to grow stronger and larger, creating even more chaos. So, with that in mind, I encourage you to create a Sh*t Journal.

This journal is where you can “dump” your chaos-related thoughts and feelings. Letting whatever needs to come up come out on the pages, never to be seen or read by anyone. This is not a journal to be shared or re-read, it’s a place to clear the energy, and once the journal is filled, it goes in the garbage.

Expressing Gratitude

Take a look around, and express gratitude for everything you see. Gratitude helps to produce feel-good chemicals in the brain to counteract cortisol and adrenaline.

Ask This Magic Question

What would I see/feel if I didn't see/feel ______________? This little question packs a powerful punch, as it helps to create awareness and can be empowering to think about the alternatives.

Just Notice the Chaotic Thought

Instead of engaging in the chaos, I like to say something like, "Oh look, how interesting. There's that less than stellar thought." Just noticing keeps me from anchoring into the thought and helps to evoke some calm.

Awareness Creating Questions to Ask

  1. Is there something I can do to fix whatever it is that’s causing the chaos?
  2. What do I choose to do right now rather than get involved in the chaos?
  3. If chaos were a person sitting across from me, what would I say to get them to leave me alone?
  4. What’s the chaos costing me?
  5. What would I be willing to do to mitigate the cost?

Body (Feeling)

Go Quiet

For 5-10 minutes, turn off all the noise and distractions and focus on your breathing and how the air feels hitting the tip of your nose.

Slow Breath In, Slow Breath Out

Take a deep breath slowly through your nose and release it slowly out your nose. Do this breathing technique a few times.

Box Breathing

Take a deep breath to a four-count, hold to a four-count, release to a four-count, hold to a four-count. Repeat four times.

Oxytocin Breathing

Oxytocin is a "feel good" chemical; to release it, take a deep breath in, filling your belly with air. Then forcefully release it out of your mouth while loudly saying, "HA!" This form of breathing activates the nerve that runs from the base of your spine to the base of your skull, which is responsible for helping to trigger oxytocin when stimulated.

Shorter Inhale, Longer Exhale

If you take a deep breath in for a count of four, you'll want to exhale to an eight count. This is a great technique to use when you're in a state of fight or flight (common when you're in a worried or stressed-out state), as it lets your amygdala know everything is A-OK.

Get A Hug

Getting a hug from someone helps release some "feel good" chemicals in your brain, which has a calming effect.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This requires tensing and releasing each muscle group and can be done while sitting or lying down. Side Note: It helps if you can remove your shoes before starting.

Start by taking a deep breath through your nose, and as you do, curl your toes towards the balls of your feet and squeeze.

Hold your breath and squeeze to a count of four. As you release your breath, also release your toes.

Next, focus on tightening your calf muscles as you take a deep breath and hold it for a four count.

Continue the muscle contractions and the breathing patterns up your body ending with your facial muscles.


Pacing is a great way to lower cortisol and help to get your brain back online so you can think clearly.

Ten-Minute Power Walk Outside

Walking out in nature is good for your body and mind, as it has a calming effect. Once outside and walking, take in the sights, smells, and sounds to help pull you into the present moment and out of the chaos.


At the end of the day, it’s important to remember two things:

1) we are not our thoughts, and 2) we can create calm in times of chaos by understanding the language our brains are speaking in reaction to that chaos.

And now it’s your turn. Whether it’s managing multiple projects, balancing personal schedules with your professional schedule, or dealing with a colleague's drama and chaos, try any of the exercises and find ones that create calm when you’re faced with chaos of any kind.

This is fantastic! Thanks a lot for this quintessential piece! 🙏
You are so welcome!! I appreciate you taking the time to read it and comment.