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Calming Sensory Strategies

When our routines and schedules are turned upside down many people start to feel anxious and unable to relax. When we feel like this, it can cause increased misunderstandings, agitation, nervousness, and feelings of being burnt out.  Read more to find out some at home tricks to help you feel calmer.

Deep Pressure

There is a reason that getting a big hug from a loved one or being buried under mounds of blankets can help you feel relaxed.  Deep pressure is great for calming the nervous system. Try making a “kid taco” by wrapping your child in a blanket then give him or her a firm squeeze. You could also have them lie between two couch cushions and give some gentle downward pressure.  Curl up with your dog or cat on your lap.  You could also make your own lap pad by cutting the leg off an old pair of leggings, filling it with rice, and sewing both ends.

Oral Motor Input

Try sipping a warm beverage, like tea, hot chocolate, or hot lemon water for a nice calming effect.  Gnaw on a chewy food, like fruit leather, beef jerky, or day old bagels, or drink a thick liquid such as kefir, yogurt, smoothie, or applesauce through a straw.  Control your breathing. 

4-7-8 Breathing Rule

For adults or older children can try the 4-7-8 breathing technique (inhale for 4 seconds, hold breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds). 

For the Kiddos

Kiddos can work on their breathing by blowing bubbles or singing. You can also get creative by having ‘races’ with poms or cotton balls by propelling them across the floor or a table by blowing through a straw.

Visual Input and Auditory Input

Take a break from the overstimulating synthetic blue light from the TV, smart phones, and iPads.  Dim the lights and give your eyes a rest, or watch clouds, stars, a lava lamp, bubbles, or a fish tank.  Try listening to some calming white noise or slow tempo instrumental music.

Heavy Work

“Heavy work” is a category of physical activity that provides sensory input that pushes or pulls against the body.  It helps to regulate the nervous system and can help to create a “just right” alertness level.  Some activities to try are kneading and rolling out dough (real dough or play dough), holding yoga poses, doing jumping jacks and cross crawls, carrying laundry or groceries, or going for a jog.

Written by: Elizabeth Horsch, COTAL

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