Activities to Calm
Keep Calm and Carry On- Sensory Calming Strategies for Anxiety and/or Sensory Issues
We have all seen the bumper sticker, “Keep calm and carry on”.
We have all said, “just calm down”.
The truth is, it's not that easy. Anxiety often comes when we feel out of control, overwhelmed, worried, and is a very common issue across ages and populations. The number of children and adults with anxiety disorder are rapidly growing. When your child has anxiety, it is heartbreaking for parents. The good news is, there are some very effective self calming tools that release calming brain chemicals like Serotonin naturally!
As an Occupational Therapist, I treat children who have Sensory Processing Disorder and are overwhelmed by sensations like sounds and touch. We know that many of the same neuro-chemicals and stress hormones are present in increased levels in children with anxiety.
The following are proven ways to naturally release calming brain chemicals and help decrease stress:
Nature- research has proven that just being outside seeing the blue sky, green trees and grass can reduce stress and release calming brain chemicals. Florescent and electronic lighting causes an increase in stress hormones. Adding movement to being outdoors can be especially beneficial to reducing anxiety and stress levels. It is vital to make it part of everyone's routines to move and spend time outdoors for our physical, emotional, and brain health!
So...take a walk, jog, bike ride, jump on a trampoline, play with animals outdoors, hike together, go to a park, swing, rock in a hammock, and/or find a fun outdoor sport. Replace electronic time with outdoor movement play as much as possible. Movement- when we do aerobic exercise, it decreases our stress hormones and naturally increases calming brain chemicals.
Getting daily exercise at a high aerobic heart rate (60-70%) for 30-45 minutes has been proven to be a wonderful natural treatment for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and sensory issues. A great resource to learn more about the psychological benefits of movement and aerobic exercise is Dr. Ratey and his books like Spark!
Jumping, dancing, sports and running are especially beneficial because they are highly aerobic and stimulate the joint receptors, which releases even more calming brain chemicals. Even if you can't get outside, there are great You Tube workouts that require no equipment including Cross Fit and mini trampoline work outs for indoor child friendly ideas.
Indoor cuddle swings or hammocks are popular calming additions to the home. Using a therapy ball in the living room or play room can give more movement choices indoors, rather than sitting to watch TV.
Deep Pressure Touch- everyone knows how calming a hug or massage can feel! Remembering to ask your precious one if they need a hug, snuggle time, back rub, or massage when they are stressed. Weighted blankets, weighted lap pads or shoulder wraps, and even weighted vests have been used in the therapy world for many years and provide calming deep pressure touch. Vibration massage pads under a mattress cover on their bed or in a bean bag chair can be a great calming corner option for children in their own room.
It is important that children have a “calming corner”, a space they can go to that is relaxing and helps them “reset”. An OT can help teach other deep pressure touch calming techniques if your child needs more help with touch processing or is hypersensitive to tactile.
Children often perceive love through the love language of touch, time and attention (quality time). Spending time wrestling, rubbing a child's back to help them go to sleep, massaging a baby, holding and cuddling a toddler, and other special moments close to your child can have a very positive effect on their sensory, cognitive, and emotional needs.
Learn more about the 5 love languages with Dr. Chapman by going to: http://5lovelanguages.com
Diaphragmatic Breathing- when we become anxious or sensory overwhelmed, we begin to focus in the periphery rather than centrally. Blood rushes to our leg muscles, depriving our brains of calming oxygen. Belly breathing techniques help the brain and body go from fight or flight responses to relaxed responses. I have found “belly breathing” with the deep pressure techniques to be extremely beneficial to help a child focus, decrease hyperactivity, reduce anxiety responses and a quick way to get them out of “fight or flight” mode into a relaxed state of mind.
To learn more about sensory calming contact me at: [email protected]
Please discuss your child's anxiety and stress with your pediatrician and seek the advice of psychology professionals.
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