A Sens8tional Guide to Staying Calm in Anxious Times

A Sens8tional Guide to Staying Calm in Anxious Times

Many of us – both adults and children included – find it difficult staying calm in the face of uncertainty. With coronavirus spreading, events cancelled and a potential lockdown on the horizon, many of us may be thinking about what we can do to alleviate anxiety and get through this time of upheaval.

Children are always watching what we say and do, so it’s important that we consider the impact of our responses on the younger ones around us. With this in mind, it is incredibly important that we look after ourselves while we cope with changes in routine and other effects of the current pandemic.

Wherever possible, we should see it as an enhanced opportunity to connect with our children as we work to maintain a feeling of warmth and safety at home. Our suggestion is to keep as many routines going as possible, as change can make us feel worried or anxious, having a negative effect on the body, even unconsciously. 

If you or your family do need to self-isolate, getting up at the same time in the morning, getting dressed, and sticking to bedtime routines can help to maintain a sense of stability. Structured activities and a routine for the duration of your time at home (e.g. schooling time, family time, play time) may help some families. For other families a less structured routine may be more useful; be guided by your own family’s needs. Either way, using a visual timetable will help support the implementation of new or existing routines.  

A visual timetable

Below are a few suggestions for sensory activities to try while at home with your child, to help us regulate each of the 8 senses.

We hope these strategies help, and serve as a reminder, that we can use many of the same tools to keep ourselves calm as we often use with our children, while we deal with the uncertainty around us. 

It’s just as important to look after ourselves, to be responsive to our own needs during this time, as well as the needs of our little ones. The strategies above can benefit everyone in the family.

Remember to take care of your physical health too — eating healthy snacks, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep will all help!

Look out for more sensory strategies we will be posting in the coming weeks.

Physical Games & Activities

Senses involved: Vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (muscle work)

Get moving and have fun! Movement, in particular anything involving working the muscles is the first thing we would suggest to help regulate the brain and our emotions. Physical activity boosts mood and improves focus, whereas heavy muscle work always has a calming effect on the body.

  • Trampette or Trampoline
  • Obstacle Courses
  • Wheelbarrow Walks
  • Sack/Pillow Races
  • Family Yoga: Cosmic Yoga or ask us about our yoga cards
  • Gardening
  • Do the Bear Walk – a favourite of ours!

Breathing

Senses involved: Interoceptive (internal sense)

There are many breathing techniques that can help us to “ride out” any uncomfortable feelings and encouraging a sense of calm. You could try:

  • Belly Buddies; place a beanie or soft toy on your belly. Take long, slow deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, noticing your belly buddy rise and fall with each breath.
  • Bubbles; Practise controlling the breathe to blow bubbles that are big, small, fast or slow. How far can you make the bubbles travel? Try lying on your back and watching the bubbles float away.
  • Give me 5; Use your hand, tracing up and down each finger as you breathe in and out.

Nature

Senses involved: Visual (sight), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (muscle work), interoceptive (internal sense) 

Allow nature to work it’s magic! 

A woodland walk or some time in the garden provides much-needed space to relax and regulate with the sights and sounds of nature, while also getting some fresh air and exercise.

Nature is wonderful for helping us feel more grounded. 

Baking and Crafts

Senses involved: Olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), visual (sight), tactile (touch)

  • Bake bread, cakes or cookies; baking stimulates several different senses: the yummy smells of a cake in the oven, the tactile input of kneading dough or mixing batter, the visual enjoyment of decorating cupcakes. 
  • Make some Glitter Jars; create a calming focus for the visual sense
  • Painting and crafts; so many to choose from!

Family/Group games 

Senses involved: Interoceptive (internal sense), visual (sight), vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (muscle work)

Play, especially games that involve a little bit of silliness and a dose of laughter work well to boost our mood. Try Charades, Pictionary or act out a play. For calmer activities, reading together or snuggling up with a film and a hot chocolate is perfect.

Music and dancing

Senses involved: Auditory (hearing), interoceptive (emotions), vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (muscle work), visual (sight)

Upbeat music can work wonders to lift our mood, while dancing gives us that all-important vestibular and proprioceptive input. Dress up in costumes or dance with ribbons for extra visual input! 

Think about music that helps you wind down and relax too, music is a powerful tool to help calm the mind.

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