How do you deal with stress? When I’m upset, my go-to choice is to grab some ice or minty gum. The action of chewing can be calming to the muscles of the mouth. In fact, a study in Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health discusses that, “gum chewing is a popular and convenient way to help relieve stress and improve concentration.” Everyone chooses different activities as a way to relieve stress and in order to calm and comfort themselves. I encourage you to think about your own body. What do you choose when you feel tired? How about when you feel upset? As a pediatric occupational therapist, I understand that our bodies have more than five senses. Proprioceptive input, for example, involves heavy work- pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying. This can be calming for many of us.
Chances are adults have struggled to obtain the best and most comforting sensory input and have come up with wonderfully creative strategies to meet their needs. I found this helpful checklist for adults from SPD Support. Understanding your own triggers and stressors helps to know when and how to provide helpful activities. The key is to implement activities before the point of stress. Our brains are designed to protect us and when we become disorganized and upset, we release chemicals that cause fight, flight, and/or flee reactions. Regular participation in activities that both make us feel more comfortable and deliver oxygen to our brains via deep breathing or movement help to regulate and keep in what therapists call the ‘just right’ state of being. It’s when we are in this state that we can interact and function at our best.
You’re never too old to swing! When done in a linear (back and forth) motion, swinging can be quite calming.
Rocking chairs now come in several shapes and sizes. It’s amazing how beautiful they can be! Check these out from La-Z-Boy.
Heat and cold provide relief when feeling overwhelmed. I suggest using a moist heating pad for sore muscles and use of an ice pack or cooling towel to maintain comfortable body temperature.
Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you outgrow your sound sensitivity. I still do not like any loud and unexpected noise. Often times, noise causes a gut reaction that makes my entire body feel uncomfortable and physically ill. Here are my suggestions to help:
Remember that no two people process sensory information in the same way. You have the right to be comfortable and feel safe in your environment. Which of our suggestions have you tried? Let us know if you have any other helpful ideas.
Sasaki-Otomaru, A., Sakuma, Y., Mochizuki, Y., Ishida, S., Kanoya, Y., & Sato, C. (2011). Effect of Regular Gum Chewing on Levels of Anxiety, Mood, and Fatigue in Healthy Young Adults.Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH,7, 133–139. http://doi.org/10.2174/1745017901107010133
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