Touch, taste, hearing, smell and sight. These are our five senses that we use every day. Whether it is appreciating the sight of the morning sunrise, savouring the taste of our morning coffee, listening to music whilst on public transport to work, or snuggling into the soft touch of the doona as we go to bed at night. Our five senses help us enjoy and appreciate the fullness of the world.
Not only this, our five senses are powerful and come into great use when our emotions run high. It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and stressed. 2020 has been a stressful year for many and highlighted that we can all be vulnerable to feeling distressed at times- it is part of the human experience and having tools to calm yourself is very important.
Psychologists teach clients to use their senses as powerful self-soothing and calming tools. That rather than focusing their energy on criticising or berating themselves for feeling overwhelmed, turning to the senses to be kind and compassionate. Psychologists teach clients to be fully present and focus on the senses, rather than get caught up in the rumination/worry cycles that fuel distress.
Self-soothing activities can be any activities that provide a sense of calmness or relaxation. Many of the activities we find calming are often strongly focused on utilising senses. For example, client’s often provide me with the example of using music to calm themselves. Other common exams I hear are showers, TV and cups of tea.
An example that I have turned to this year is going on bush walks. Bush walks provide many sensory inputs- from looking at the beautiful scenery, to smelling the spring flora, to listening to the chirping of birds. Bush walks have also become an important part of my weekly routine to help reduce my overall daily stress before it reaches higher levels. Engaging in sensory activities is important with not only reducing distress but also reducing the vulnerability to becoming distressed in the first place.
What are your sensory preferences? What sense do you find calms you the most? Are you a hearing person who enjoys listening to music? Are you a taste person who enjoys cups of tea? Are you a smell person who enjoys scented candle? Are you a touch person who enjoys hugging a soft toy or a weighted blanket? Or are you a sight person who enjoys watching the waves or the sun setting?
After reading this blog, I hope that you have either been reminded of ways that have been effective in calming yourself, or inspired to try new ways of calming yourself. I am aware that for some, you may have read this blog and might be thinking that using the senses sounds good, however putting it into practice or making it work for you can be very difficult. This is something that psychologists commonly address and can assist you with effectively developing self-soothing skills.
Michelle Dean (M Clin Psych, BA (Hons – First Class), brings her genuine care and compassion for people, along with her keen insight and analytical abilities to her work. Michelle is registered with Medicare and is also an approved practitioner in the NSW Workers Compensation System.
Through her various roles, she has developed a deep understanding of how these difficulties develop and impact on people in different life stages. Michelle has been able to assist her clients in developing skills to manage their anxiety and depression, along with enabling them to develop a healthy sense of self and greater self confidence. Michelle is a high calibre and compassionate professional and she is wonderful at being able to see the complexities of a clinical presentation and bring her therapeutic work down to a manageable and structured approach.