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Stressed much? How about a sensory approach…

by Sabrina Colafabio

These days, stress is abundant and it’s taking a toll on everyone. The daily news is weighing on us and finding solace in a daily routine is not always possible when there are major disruptions to our day-to-day. Managing these changes and the stress that can come with it is important.

Many of us already know that breathing, regular exercise and mindfulness are great and effective ways to managing stress, however there are other ways to reduce anxiety, in the moment, which involves using your senses.

What’s important is to recognize when you’re stressed and how specifically your body reacts to it.[1] Some people have an overexcited response (angry, agitated, overly emotional) others have an underexcited response (depressed, withdrawn and spaced out). Depending how one responds, they either benefit from stimulating one or some of their six senses that quiet them down or others which are stimulating and energizing.

The idea is to experiment and find which works best for you, depending on your stress response and depending where you may be in the day or evening when you have a moment of stress. Some ideas are below:

Sight: Look at a photo, use flowers to brighten your space

Smell: Perfume, burn a candle, breathe in the fresh air

Touch: hold a pet, wear your favorite sweater, give yourself a massage

Taste: Avoid snacking and eating unhealthily…think about getting a piece of gum or drinking a tea, a piece of fruit

Movement: Run, dance, stretch or squeeze a stress ball and, lastly

Sound: Listen to calming or your favorite music, windchimes, water flowing or outdoor noise.

These are merely starting points and the idea is to try engaging some or all your senses in the ways mentioned above to find the one(s) that work best for you. One thing that applies to us all is to avoid technology. Resist the urge to check emails, talk on the phone and browse the web and instead, try some of the ideas above.

According to Dr. Jeanne Segal, Dr. Melinda Smith and Lawrence Robinson, “The best part of sensory-based strategies is the awareness that you have control. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, quick stress relief is within arm’s reach.”

[1] 2020, March. Quick Stress Relief. Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson

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