6 Ways to Find Calm in the Chaos
Words by Tianna Faye
I fell in love with New York City at a young age when I witnessed my first Broadway show. I watched wide-eyed as performers glided across the stage, tapping their shiny shoes in a frenzy to intricate rhythms. Flashes of bright color flew past as dancers spun effortlessly in circles, showcasing what they’d practiced for years. Even as a child, I felt the palpable energy of their drive and passion. From that moment forward, I knew I wanted to live in NYC someday, where I could sing and dance like the stars.
When the show ended, my family and I waited for the actors outside. I’ll never forget how the lead actress knelt down beside me, a naïve and small child struck by the whimsical world of Broadway, and smiled. She happily signed my Playbill, turned on her heels like a modern-day Disney princess, and went on her way. In an instant, she had waltzed down the sidewalk and faded into the vast sea of people that make NYC the jungle that it is. Even in the wild, she was unfazed, unrecognizable, and strangely serene.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that memory would become one of the biggest life lessons I would learn as a twenty-something in the Big Apple. The dance between calm and chaos, stillness and dynamic movement, the bewildering juxtaposition of opposing energies existing at once. While it’s easy to get swept away by the thrill of it all, there is a part of every one of us that yearns for calm.
My story begins in North Carolina, where southern hospitality greets you with a smile. My family, a tribe of bold, honest, hilarious New Yorkers, always instilled in me a sense of undying ambition. Growing up in a bustling household against the backdrop of southern life showed me early on how calm and chaos often coexist. I always considered myself to have access to the best of both worlds; a peaceful existence in the south mixed with the other-worldliness of my huge Puerto Rican Brooklyn family.
My golden excuse to move to NYC came in the form of a graduate school acceptance letter from Columbia University. I was ecstatic to have gotten in somewhere so dreamy, and was ready for a change. I packed my life into suitcases, and with the support of my loved ones, I arrived in the city. It’s been two years since that moment; since I dropped myself into the beautiful chaotic melting pot that draws crowds from all over the world. What I found was a whirlwind of excitement, motivation, energy, and a renewed sense of purpose.
Anyone who has lived here knows the feeling of being surrounded by driven people determined to “make it.” Whether you’re a barista, Broadway star, or both, the work never stops. Pushing to the point of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion often isn’t by choice; it’s a matter of survival. Rise, hustle, repeat.
Meanwhile, we forget that we’re faced with an enormous amount of stimuli day in and day out. Sights and sounds and crowds make our heads spin. Trains to catch, money to be made, places to go and people to see, and we’re somewhere in the middle of it, simply trying to exist. For many of us, this lifestyle is exhilarating and motivating. At the same time, we inevitably experience the flip side of any good thrill – the coming down.
You know the look. Tired eyes, sore muscles. The burnout, fatigue, and hazy confusion associated with working ridiculously hard and somehow feeling like you’re still behind. For even the most ambitious of us, our bodies naturally crave balance and rest. In the chaos of everyday life, it’s important to find the calm, especially when the idea of rest seems unfathomable.
Many highly successful people have said they don’t believe in the idea of balance. While we can certainly debate that, I believe balance is less about finding a perfect split between your priorities, and more about knowing how to find your personal sense of stillness. Finding calm in the chaos doesn’t have to mean that you meditate for 20 minutes a day (if you do, teach me your ways) or totally zen out all the time (let’s be real, are “zen” and “MTA” ever in the same sentence?). For some, calm might mean singing in the shower, hitting the gym, or movie night. Your calm is what you make it, and once you develop a way of accessing it, it’s always going to be there for you.
If you’re anything like my family and I, you might be asking, “Who has time for calm?” Given our go-getter nature, we need realistic, practical tips for incorporating moments of calm into our jam-packed schedules.
Here is a short list of things that have helped me stay afloat when I need some grounding:
1. Establish a personal ritual.
I have always struggled with consistency. When establishing a ritual, find something that truly works for you. For me, it’s morning coffee, evening tea, putting my phone on “do not disturb,” and spending time outdoors. What can you do this week for you and only you?
2. Protect your field.
Our physical and energetic space is influenced by others on a daily basis. In order to be of service to others and ourselves, we need protection! A teacher once advised me to imagine a pure white light filling my body head to toe. Before heading out the door, I can make myself a “bubble” of protection so the light will stick with me when things get crazy. Sounds woo-woo, but works like a charm.
3. Listen to your body.
Ask your body what it needs. Movement? Stillness? Dance? A hug? Space? Sleep? Our bodies give us clear messages, and it’s our job to listen and respond.
4. Repeat a mantra.
There are plenty of mantras out there to help you to ground, motivate, and reflect. I find that it’s most powerful to create your own, but here are some favorites:
“I can do this.”
“This will pass.”
And a lovely one courtesy of Audre Lorde: “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
5. Take a social media break.
Social media is both exciting and exhausting. A break from your apps and screen time – whether it’s for a few minutes, days, or weeks – can return us to the present moment, stop the toxic comparison game, and allow our focus to shift to other important values.
6. Try something new.
When was the last time you did something out of your comfort zone? As an avid yogini, I recently started boxing classes and now can’t imagine life without them. They help me feel empowered and blow off steam in an entirely new way. What can you try that will shake up your routine?
No matter where this finds you, know that you are seen and heard. The next time you’re caught in a whirlwind of and it feels like control is slipping away, pause. Tune in. Reconnect to what makes you feel grounded. Know that even in the craziest of times, calm is always waiting for you, no matter how far away it may seem.
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About the Author:
Tianna is a performing artist, psychology educator, and yogini based in NYC. She is a proud graduate of NC State University and Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute. Tianna finds joy in singing, writing, and empowering others to find their personal sense of creativity, artistry, and wellness.