A Sensory Guide to Wellness
Life in lockdown means our worlds are confined to a mere few rooms—that can make it difficult to set boundaries between our professional and personal lives. Where we stress about deadlines is the same place where we eat, sleep and lounge. Once the emails and notifications sneak into our personal time, that’s the start of a slippery, unhealthy slope.
“It means we are always on high alert. We call that chronic or toxic stress,” says Natalie Brunswick, a Toronto-based occupational therapist, adding that we are not meant to be in this state, which is known as “hyperarousal.” It’s the sweaty, racing thoughts, increased heart rate feeling that many of us experience all the time. How do we conquer that? Start with calming your senses using these tips:
Schedule soul-nourishing time
Whether you enjoy morning meditation, burning scented candles, running by the river or turning off your tech to read in bed—schedule it into your day. “When you make yourself a priority, you’re supporting your immune system, your desires and your health and wellness,” says Julie Cass, founder of The Positive Change Group. Make it non-negotiable.
Recognize the power of breathwork
“There’s so much overactivity in our minds which induces fear and stress,” says Cass. Breathwork is one of the best antidotes. It seems almost too simple but both Cass and Brunswick stress the importance of slowing down your breath. Your exhale actually signals to your nervous system that it’s okay to calm down, relax and hit pause on racing thoughts. So when your yoga teacher or meditation guide says breathe in for four seconds and out for eight, there’s science behind that.
Crank those peaceful tunes
Who doesn’t have a favourite Spotify playlist for a chill, lazy Sunday? Play it in the background as a way to keep stress and anxiety at bay. “Sound is hardwired to be soothing,” says Brunswick. That’s why, as she explains, a baby or young child will calm down while hearing a lullaby regardless of what language it’s in.
Sprinkle small self-care rituals throughout your day
Learning to calm your senses in this cluttered, noisy world doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Finding mini pockets of peace throughout the day can look like drinking a glass of lemon water before your morning coffee, keeping your favourite hand lotion on your desk or leaving the phone in another room for an hour. “It’s simple but such a game-changer,” says Cass. “It’s the little changes that give us energy throughout the day.”
Remember that taking a minute to pause is a decision. Try stopping for a snack or your favourite beverage without interruptions during your workday. One refreshing option is Quatreau’s cannabis-infused sparkling waters which are available in a variety of fresh fruity flavours including Ginger and Lime, Cucumber and Mint, Passionfruit and Guava, and Blueberry and Acçai. A simple way to reset before your next task. This unique beverage brand is available in Canada from Canopy Growth.
Load up on essentials oils
Our sense of smell is more powerful than we think—certain scents have the power of instantly triggering memories and emotions at lightning speed. “Smell is actually the quickest [sense] to get processed by our brain, so we notice its effects the fastest,” says Brunswick. How, you ask? When you breathe in a scent, smell receptors in your nose analyze the smell and then send messages through the nervous system to your limbic system (the part of your brain that controls your mood and emotions). This messaging system is why scientists believe aromatherapy through essential oils is capable of soothing stress and anxiety. When shopping for essential oils, Cass suggests stocking up on lavender for calming effects, citrus oils to uplift, and sage or balsam fir to ground. Be sure to consult your doctor or trained aromatherapist for insight on proper use.
Spending some time outdoors, whether it’s a walk, run or enjoying a view, is a great way to calm overstimulated senses. According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, it’s been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and promote an overall positive and tranquil mood. “Being in nature is very healing because it’s multi-sensory,” says Brunswick, meaning that all our senses are engaged when we spend time outdoors. Through the whistling wind or chirping birds, or the smell of fresh-cut grass or blooming flowers, it’s a therapeutic experience. Plus, Cass adds that “you never go for a walk in nature and wish you didn’t.” So if you need a quick boost, this is the one.
Engage your deep touch sense
Any kind of deep touch (think a hug, cuddling or massage) releases oxytocin, known as the “bonding hormone.” That, in turn, decreases your stress hormone cortisol. To engage this sense, hug your arms close to your chest or place your hand over your heart and press down. This is also your cue to jump into the weighted blanket craze!
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*This product contains minimal amounts of THC.