Tune In, Stress Out: Using Sensory-Based Techniques to Unwind
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” – Chinese Proverb
Every other person I talk to and ask after responds with the same thing, “I feel too stressed these days”. When we weren’t looking, stress became an intricate part of our lives and its impact on our well-being has left us reeling still. From work deadlines to social responsibilities, stress walks with us on almost every path in our lives.
Fortunately, there are various ways to cope and manage stress effectively. One such powerful approach that can help us unwind and release stress is sensory-based coping skills. Sensory coping skills harness the power of our five senses to enhance relaxation, reduce anxiety, and boost our well-being.
In this article today, we’re exploring the different sensory coping techniques that you can use and add to your daily routine to reduce stress and find calm or inner peace.
What Are Sensory Coping Skills?
Sensory coping skills are techniques and strategies that we can use to manage stress, anxiety, and overwhelming emotions. These coping skills focus on drawing on our five senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell – to promote relaxation, control our emotions, and boost our mental and physical well-being, especially when we’re under too much stress.
It is believed that by stimulating the sensory system and coping skills, we can ground ourselves to the present moment, divert our turbulent thoughts, and find a sense of peace or calm amid overwhelming emotions and challenges.
Some examples of sensory coping skills can include;
- Using visual techniques such as guided imagery, picture distraction, etc.
- Using auditory techniques such as listening to nature sounds, mindful listening, etc.
- Using tasting techniques such as mindful eating, eating comfort foods, etc.
- Using tactile coping techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, holding a stress ball, applying cold compresses to tense muscles, etc.
- Using olfactory techniques such as aromatherapy
- Using mindfulness techniques such as sensory walks, dancing, yoga, etc.
- Using nature techniques such as walking barefoot on grass
Please know that coping skills and techniques can be unique to each individual. When stress becomes too much, then having some coping skills on hand to use can work wonders for you and help you calm down instantly.
Other than the aforementioned coping techniques you can also reach out to your support system to improve your mood. Coping techniques are often focused on your emotions and are mostly used for self-soothing purposes. So whenever you feel the need to self-soothe, try to engage your five senses to calm yourself down.
Let’s take a look at how you can use sensory-based coping skills to unwind and self-soothe!
How to Use Sensory-Based Coping Skills For Self-Soothing?
Sensory coping skills mostly involve engaging the five senses in your self-soothing activities to boost relaxation and control your emotions. Our senses have a connection directly with the brain’s emotional center and when you consciously stimulate them, you can trigger positive responses such as activating the parasympathetic nervous response and decreasing stress hormones.
These sensory coping skills can become your anchor in the present, divert your thoughts from your stressors, and promote relaxation.
Here’s how to use sensory-based coping skills to self-soothe;
1. Engage in Aromatherapy
Starting with calming coping skills, you can use aromatherapy to soothe yourself. Aromatherapy is a sensory-based coping skill that uses your sense of smell to promote relaxation and alleviate stress. Essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, and chamomile have calming properties that can soothe your mind and body. You can use an aromatic diffuser or add a few drops to your bath to relieve stress.
2. Embrace Physical Touch
Moving on to another self-soothing coping skill, we have the ones that focus on physical touch. Physical touch can have a powerful effect on reducing stress and boosting emotional well-being.
Activities like self-massage, hugging a loved one, or even cuddling a pet can all trigger one of your happy hormones – oxytocin. The love hormone can increase feelings of relaxation and give you a sense of bonding. You can also try other tactile coping skills such as kneading dough, gardening, self-hugging, etc.
3. Listen to Soothing Soundtracks
Moving on to sound as a self-soothing technique! Sound can also help influence your emotions and stress levels. Listening to calming music and soothing soundtracks such as soft music, nature sounds, or white noise can help drown background stressors and create a calming and peaceful environment.
You can listen to soothing soundtracks when you’re stressed or add this to your everyday routine by listening to calming music before bedtime to ensure relaxed and better quality sleep.
4. Try Eating Mindfully
Other sensory coping skills that can help you unwind can include the ones that focus on your taste buds. Mindful eating is one such technique. It’s a sensory-based coping skill that can reduce stress and at the same time, promote better gut health. This activity engages all your five senses during your meal time by savoring the colors, smell, texture, and taste of your food.
5. Use Visual Relaxation Techniques
Next, we have visual coping skills! Visual imagery can also be a powerful tool to reduce stress and anxiety. You can easily put these self-soothing skills to use by sitting in a quiet place, closing your eyes, and imagining yourself in either your happy place or in a serene environment.
I usually picture myself sitting under a waterfall and listening to the sounds of nature around me until I feel calm. Visualization can also help relax your mind and can be a great tool in combating stress.
6. Practice Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques can also be used as self-soothing techniques to help you anchor yourself to the present moment, diverting your focus from stressful thoughts, and staying focused on what’s happening around you.
One such technique involves engaging your sense of touch by either holding a smooth stone, squeezing a stress ball, or feeling a textured fabric. Touch can help you focus on your present moment rather than being stuck in your anxiety-riddled mind.
7. Go Out in Nature
Moving on to nature! What many of us fail to realize is that nature has remarkable soothing abilities. When you spend time in nature, it helps promote a sense of well-being and reduces stress at the same time.
Whether you’re taking a stroll in a park, hiking on mountain trails, or simply sitting in your balcony garden, spending time in nature can be soothing. It also helps us connect with ourselves, and the environment around us, and instills a sense of peace within.
Sensory coping skills can be powerful and accessible ways to unwind and reduce stress. These skills allow us to enhance our quality of life and sense of well-being by engaging our five senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound – in intentional and mindful ways. Using our senses to self-soothe can also help calm our minds, control our emotions, and find a sense of calm amid overwhelming emotions.
Before you use sensory-based coping skills, remember that each person is unique and so can their sensory coping skills. What works for you might not be best for others and vice versa.
To allow a calmer and more centered life, you can add these sensory coping skills to your everyday routine and also use them when stress becomes too much to handle. Know that the power to heal and soothe yourself is within you!
I hope this article helped you learn sensory coping skills for self-soothing. Let me know what you think about these 5 senses coping skills in the comments below.