Today I want to talk to you about sensory modulation! For those of you who have never heard of this type of therapy before it usually involves supporting and guiding people (often in a designated sensory room/area) sometimes this is in the form of facilitated community classes or is even done online, to gain skills in self-management and changing emotional states by using sight, sounds, smells, movement and items such as weighted blankets, fidget toys. It enables individuals to learn self-soothing techniques and/or change their current emotional and behavioural responses to a stressful situation.
I have done an 8 week course for free here in New Zealand through a community support trust that was looking after my mental health care at one point. And I found it really invaluable to think about what tools could I have for myself, what works for me, when I am anxious or distressed or overwhelmed. That it is useful to have this available when I need it and possibly in different environments.
It can also be used in many other ways and has many benefits: To feel safe, increase calm, a sense of control, feeling grounded, experience pleasure, mindfulness, cope with pain, cope with urges and impulsions, improve focus.
When thinking of the senses and what you may need to use to self soothe here are a few ideas to get you brainstorming.
SIGHT: Often light levels can put us into sensory overwhelm. Or not enough light. Ways you can help regulate is to have ways to control ambience if possible, close curtains, turn on the lights. Sun glasses are also something you can include into a physical kit. Sleeping masks are also useful especially if you are sensitive to light during naps or rest. In a kit you can also include visual stimming items like glitter wands, hour glasses and anything else that may have some kind of soothing movement for you.
SMELL: If you have a particular smell you really enjoy or triggers something relaxing for you, include this in your kit. This could be in any form whether it’s something sprayed on a handkerchief or something that contains essence, these can be useful on the go. It’s also useful to burn scented candles and focus on the smell. Different types of brewed tea also can have a nice aroma. Including your favourite foods. What type of smell do you find can help you come back to the moment.
HEARING: Noise can be really hard to escape sometimes so ear plugs are very useful and can be discrete in a lot of situations where headphones are not as appropriate or useful. Having a play list of music easily accessible to you that is used just to give you sense of calm can also be useful. Guided meditation apps, videos, audio books and pod casts are also a great form of distraction.
TASTE: Taste can be a fun one, again different tea flavours are particularly useful and easy to transport or keep in a small sized sensory kit. Having fresh crisp vegetables or fruit can be a nice sensory refreshment. Cold water is also useful to give the system a shock and bring it back to attention.
TOUCH: Touch is an interesting sensory because it can be something relating to your entire body, head to toes, so a weighted blanket is a popular choice for sensory overwhelm, but not always something you can take with you. Fidget toys for stimming are useful and can be really discrete if needed. It gives you something else to focus on. Mats and even shoe insoles can be useful for touch sensory. Another is massage tools or stress balls which are quite easily found in pharmacies or even super markets. Wheat pack or some type of hot water bottle can also be good, and alternatively a wash cloth you can easily make nice and cool from water can feel very refreshing on your face and hands when you are feeling anxious.
Sensory modulation is a great mental health tool to have and having some form of kit in a carry case or small bag that can be taken anywhere. For people living with ADHD it can be an invaluable way to give yourself the sensory accommodations and emotional regulation you need in many situations.