A Sense for Stress: Using Your Five Senses to Relax

By Taruna Anil


Stress loves to accumulate.

It’s the sound of police sirens while you’re trying to focus.

It’s the feeling of coming home to a messy space.

It’s the tension you carry in your shoulders, neck, and back without realizing it. 


As humans, we’re a sensitive species. Our senses heighten our awareness of the world around us, yet come at a cost. With the world moving at a rapid pace, it’s difficult to remove ourselves from it, giving stress the opportunity to quickly build up.  Knowing how to use your senses to slow down can help you deal with the constant buzz around you. Even if you don’t have all five senses, keeping these strategies in your back pocket will come in handy later:


Sense #1: Sight


One of the first steps you should take to reduce your tension is to ensure you have an organized space. Being surrounded by clutter will only fill you with more worries, so rearranging your desk or making your bed can truly make all the difference. 


As well as having a clean environment, being actively engaged by something can help take your mind off your worries. An example of this could be reading a book (or the Stress Free Teens Blog!) to unwind.


Being around nature also can be relaxing. All you have to do is go for a walk, or try to surround yourself with green and blue objects—both remind us of nature!


Sense #2: Touch 


Relieving stress through touch is often overlooked even though it’s one of the easiest ways to relax. A helpful strategy is to rub a piece of fabric on your arm and focus on how it feels. Does the fabric feel soft or rough? Hot or cool? Focusing on something so minuscule as a tactile sensation can ground you and make you calmer.


Another way you can use touch to aid anxiety is to surround yourself with water. Taking a warm shower or going for a swim can instantly bring up your spirits. Likewise, being in a comfortable temperature or wearing comfortable clothes can help you feel less tense.


Sense #3: Hearing


There’s a specific feeling we get when we listen to our favorite songs. The sensation of chills running down your spine and the sudden urge that you have to smile. Music can help us be in the moment, allowing us to feel more happy and relaxed.


Moreover, music that contains specific frequencies can aid in stress relief. These tones, called Solfeggio frequencies, can help our bodies and the state of our mental health. There are multiple Solfeggio frequencies, but the most effective ones for stress relief are 432 and 396 Hz. Both of these frequencies are meant to put your mind in a peaceful and relaxed state and help to relieve subconscious anxiety. 


If Solfeggio frequencies aren’t your cup of tea, listening to lo-fi hip hop or white noise are great alternatives!


Sense #4: Smell


Smell is more popular for stress relief. Inhaling certain scents—usually in the form of a candle, a diluted spray, or concentrated essential oils—can be extremely effective. Scents that have proven to reduce stress include eucalyptus, lavender, and vanilla. 


Aside from specific scents, just going for a walk outside and getting some fresh air can relax your mind. 


Sense #5: Taste


According to Dr. Matthew Tull, “...hunger can lead to irritability and this can impact stress levels as a whole.” While it isn’t healthy to turn to food every time you have the slightest bit of worry, it’s important to make sure to eat consistently throughout the day. Try to avoid skipping meals and make sure to fit in a few snacks throughout your day.


For specific times of anxiety, sucking on hard candy, or having a cup of chamomile tea can soothe any tension you may have. Having comfort foods (in moderation) is always beneficial, so be sure to let that chocolate melt on your mouth.


5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Method


This final strategy is incredibly impactful and grounding for those times when you’re feeling especially anxious or stressed. Try to find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. By the time you finish the exercise, you should be feeling a lot calmer than where you started.


Even though stress comes unexpectedly at times, it’s more controllable than you think! Knowing how to de-stress effectively can help you in anxiety-inducing situations. Make sure to carve out time every day to drown out the buzz around you, and you’ll feel amazing.



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Sources

Matthew Tull, Ph.D. “How to Relax and Soothe Stress by Using Your Senses.” Verywell Mind, About, Inc, 22 Jan. 2020, 

Brill, Alison. “Relax With the Help of Your 5 Senses.” Mass Public Health Blog, 3 Feb. 2015, blog.mass.gov/publichealth/mental-wellness/relax-with-the-help-of-your-5-senses/.

Relax Melodies. “The Science Behind Solfeggio Frequencies.” Relax Melodies, Relax Melodies, 16 Dec. 2019, www.relaxmelodies.com/blog/science-behind-solfeggio-frequencies/.

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