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Alleviate Stress Through the Five Senses

By:
Lisa Fabian

Humanity has always faced troubling times, but a modern life that keeps us tuned in 24/7 allows little reprieve.

Signs of Stress

Do you experience any of the following?

  • An inability to make decisions
  • A short temper
  • Anger
  • Anxiousness
  • A negative outlook on life
  • Feelings of overwhelm
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Constant worry

If so, you may be experiencing high levels of stress in your life.

While small amounts of acute stress can improve performance and alleviate boredom, most of what we experience these days is chronic and damaging.

Using Your Senses to Relieve Stress

Living life means there will be stressors no matter how much we try and avoid them. We can’t realistically expect to eliminate all stress, but we can employ certain tips and tools using our five senses. Here are some to try to help calm body and mind.

  • Taste

    Food as therapy is a common but frequently ill-fated practice. When we eat that slice of chocolate cake, it may give us momentary satisfaction but we’re left with a sugar low and empty caloric intake. That’s not to say we should never enjoy a treat. But if our food choices are consistently unhealthy, they can lead to more irritability and depression and may impact stress levels as well.

    Food affects mood, so choose healthy, whole-food options.

    • Enjoy the taste and crunch of slices of raw carrots, bell peppers, jicama, and cucumbers. Dip veggies in vinaigrette or hummus for added flavor.
    • Awaken your senses with fresh herbs and exotic spices. They add flavor and brightness to any dish.
    • The key to eating healthier is to notice and appreciate a food’s texture, color, flavor, and fragrance.
    • Make a bowl of warm and nourishing oatmeal or other hot cereal to start the day. Top with crunchy nuts and a drizzle of sweet honey or maple syrup.
    • Sip a cup of steaming herbal tea. The ritual of making tea is relaxing in itself, and taking the time to slowly enjoy it encourages relaxation.
  • Touch

    The skin is the body’s largest organ and is extremely tuned to external stimulus. Imagine the cloudlike feel of a freshly laundered soft towel or the warm touch of a loved one’s hand, and you can see how powerful a tool touch can be to help us relax.

    • Massage and Stretching

      Massage is a time-honored technique to help the body unwind. Consider trying some yoga or tai chi to stretch the muscles and alleviate tightness.

    • Spend Time with a Pet

      If you have a fur baby, spend time petting or grooming their coat. You will both benefit from the exchange.

    • Try Tapping

      Tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique, is an effective tool based on ancient Chinese acupressure and modern-day psychology. The fingertips are used in a repetitive pattern on specific meridian points of the body to calm the nervous system and help eliminate stress, limiting beliefs, and phobias.

    • Weighted Blankets

      For a powerful form of touch, some individuals turn to weighted blankets to help with their stress, insomnia, and anxiety.

      These therapeutic coverings can weigh anywhere from five to 30 pounds.

      How do Weighted Blankets Work?

      When this extra weight is placed over the body, it creates a therapeutic technique known as deep pressure stimulation. This type of pressure relaxes the nervous system and is used when working with support animals and receiving massage treatments.

      Weighted blankets get their heft from small beads or tiny crystals such as quartz or amethyst sewn right inside. Look for blankets that are five to 10 percent of your body weight.

      Precautions

      Weighted blankets work well for many. But keep in mind they may not be for everyone.

      • Avoid their use on children under two, due to possible suffocation risk.
      • Those who experience claustrophobia may not appreciate the blanket’s tightness.
      • Individuals with breathing issues such as asthma and sleep apnea may find them unsuitable.
  • Sight

    We view the world through our eyes. Change your viewpoint by focusing your attention on something beautiful and uplifting.

    • Enjoy the Visual Arts

      Works of art, both modern and ancient, can lift our spirits. If you have a coffee table book of an artist you love, take time to browse through it again. Visit a local museum to find beloved works from sculptors, designers, and painters.

    • Look at Photos and Memorabilia

      Some people find that revisiting happier times boosts their moods. Whether you have photos stored on a computer or in an album, remembering past vacations and fun times can bring a smile to your face.

    • Try Color Therapy

      Color therapy can change a person’s mental and emotional well-being.

      • Gaze upon violet, green, and blue shades, which are known to soothe and have anti-inflammatory abilities.
      • Pink has also been shown to calm within a few minutes of exposure to it.
      • In contrast, red, yellow, and orange hues are stimulating, and are ones you may want to avoid unless you want to feel energized.
  • Smell

    • Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

      Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants. They affect parts of the brain associated with behavior and emotion.

      Aromatherapy is the inhalation and use of essential oils to help with depression, insomnia, stress, anxious feelings, and more.

      Working with ylang ylang, lavender, bergamot, and vanilla essential oils has proven to lower stress levels.

      Inhaling an essential oil directly from its bottle encourages us to take deep breaths, which regulates the stress response. You can also use a diffuser to add healing scents to your indoor environment.

    • Fresh Flowers in Bloom

      Another option for stress-reducing scents is to visit a local flower shop. Browse the aisles and take time to inhale the scents of various blooms. If flowers are growing outside, partake in these short-lived beauties.

  • Sound

    • Relaxing Music

      Listening to calming and relaxing music has been found to be effective for reducing stress and boosting mood.

      • Stay away from energetic music. It is less likely to lower stress levels.
      • Try music tuned to 432 Hz. It’s believed to be brighter and clearer with beneficial effects on the body and mind.
      • Playing a musical instrument is another powerful choice for lowering stress levels, as is song. Sing along to the radio or even to yourself!
    • Affirmations

      Our voices are powerful tools. Do not underestimate the mind’s ability to respond to positive affirmations. Say them out loud for more self-encouragement.

    • Natural Sounds

      Go outdoors and absorb the sounds of nature.

      • Birdsong
        • If the weather’s warm, enjoy morning’s birdsongs. The chirps and calls of birds have been found to help with stress recovery in adults.
        • If the birds have flown south for the season, try pre-recordings of nature sounds.
      • Weather Sounds
        • If it’s raining, open the window and enjoy the sound of water hitting the earth.
        • In winter, enjoy the sound of silence as snow falls.

Relieve Stress Using All Five Senses

For the ultimate healing experience that engages all five senses, look to nature to lift stress levels. Experience the sight of a bright blue sky, the smell of wild flowers, the feel of sand beneath your feet, the sound of wind rippling through the leaves, and the tasty crunch of a freshly picked apple.

Whether you enjoy outdoor sights and sounds by visiting the country or going to an urban park, spending time outside greatly benefits concentration, mood, and creativity and, ultimately, relieves stress.