There are five senses, and three loose states that your system might be in. The five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing) are always picking up the signals from the environment around, and depending on if your senses are hypersensitive (very sensitive), typical, or hyposensitive (less sensitive than “normal”) these inputs can be translated into physical and emotional stress on the body. For example, take someone who tends to be hypersensitive. Imagine you are standing in a large crowd at a concert (remember those?). There are bright and flashing lights on the stage that move around the audience and sometimes directly in your eyes. The person next to you is sweaty from dancing and singing and smells a little bit, someone a row behind you is smoking marijuana, and above all, the smell of alcohol lingers in the air. The bodies are pressed closely and with the dancing, causing people to bump hips, brush arms, rub back against back. From all directions. You are thinking about your dry mouth and wanting something to slake the thirst, but that would mean fighting the crowd, and the prices are already outrageous. And perhaps the most pressing sensation is the thumping of the bass that shakes your body, the vocals reaching your ears at full volume. For many of us, one or more of these sensations can cause anxiety or uncomfort. And if all of your senses are hypersensitive? This could turn a fun night hellish. On the flip side, sometimes the lack of pressure of sensation can be just as distressing. Not getting each of the senses stimulated through typical daily input, you may crave touch and pressure, seeking increased levels of input to the sensory system. This can sometimes lead to unintended injury, as with a hyposensitive sense of touch, pain tolerance is lower, but it is not always so extreme. In some situations, the overload or underloading of the sensory system may cause an outburst that seems weird to onlookers: yelling and storming out of the room because of someone’s chewing or breathing or pinching one’s body or chewing on a pen. However, if you take the time to learn your body and what works for you, the anxiety or stress associated can be lessened by fidgets or safe sensory activities.
Depending on the sense you want targeted, you can seek out specific tools or activities. Below is a list of some examples, but I would suggest doing your own testing to see what works best for you!
- Stand up and move! Anything from taking a walk/run/ride to going to the kitchen to get a drink.
- Handheld fidgets: from spiked rings, calm strips (below), stress balls, boxes with buttons to be pressed or spun, phone cases that have a specific texture, even ripping a small piece of paper. However, these should be unobtrusive or loud when used in a public setting.
- Weighted blankets / sweaters
- Scratchers / massagers. Tools such as head massagers, back massagers, massage or heated chairs, or a spikey or scratchy object may come in handy, but often these are still expected to be used more at home-- and needless to say, used in an appropriate manner.
- Headphones / listening to music to block out noises
- Brushing your hair
- Swimming / bath / shower
- Working out
- Draw / paint
- Essential oils
- Resistance bands (on chairs, etc)
- Bubble wrap
- Sorting activities
- Knitting / croche
- Mints / gum
- Clothes with a specific fabric / texture
Written by Katy Evans
What are calm strips: https://www.calmstrips.net/?gclid=CjwKCAiA9bmABhBbEiwASb35V2kfEkrnTHFGQZV5f6T8w-7vD3LsgdvBSgPbRhjroEBtnIy8M17vMRoCIncQAvD_BwE