We can get very focused on things like taking care of our bodies where food and exercise are concerned, or at least try to work on those things. It’s that unrelenting reality that we need a lot of upkeep to stay as healthy as possible in this world. But there are many things we enjoy most of the time that we rarely think about how hard our senses are working every moment of every day until we lose them, or they shift in one way or another. We may think we are out of the woods and have no concern until we are older but there is no guarantee and some of us know that “older” arrives faster than we ever expected.
Stop for a moment and consider what your senses are telling you right now. Your eyes are reading on a screen of some sort, but there is more to take in. You have sounds around you. There may be the fan of a furnace, the voice of someone in the same room or near enough to hear, a tea pot about to whistle, a pet walking across the floor, or music playing in the background and even more. You may be munching on something or drinking a favorite beverage. Is it hot or cold, sweet, or salty, or somewhere in between? Our taste buds are always letting us know something about what we put in our mouths and our lips sense the surfaces of the cup or glass or even food we put in there. All these senses enrich our lives in ways we may not always take time to consider unless they stop, or we lose them or intently take time to notice the ones that have become white noise to us.
Sometimes what we need is a rest from the sensory overload to reawaken us to the sense we have lost awareness of such as the feel of the pillow under our head, the smooth soft touch of the flannel shirt we love to snuggle into, the gentleness of the breeze on our faces as we walk down the street, the brilliance of the colors in the world that is ours to work, live in, and enjoy.
“Every day your nervous system is under constant stimulation. Background music plays in offices, in elevators, and while your phone call is on hold. Television, computers, iPads, and smartphones add their artificial glow to your environment. The popcorn burning in the break room mingles with the latest perfume and fragrant hand lotion to overwhelm your nasal passages. Our bodies crave a reprieve. Periodic times of selective sensory deprivation deliberately remove external distractions and stimuli from your senses in order to reenergize them.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
We need some sensory rest for short periods of time since all the 5 senses are working to keep our brain informed of a myriad of things we need to know to keep us safe and warn us of things that could harm us in one way or another.
It’s not just eye strain and unplugging that we need in order to not impact the interplay and interconnection of body, mind, emotions and more.
“When you overload the senses, you overload the mind, and your body and emotions will respond adversely. Signs of a restless overstimulated body include racing thoughts, anger, palpitations, anxiety, disturbing dreams, and trouble falling asleep.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
Just like all the other areas of rest needed and the deficits that occur, when we don’t heed what our bodies and senses are telling us there will be trouble ahead even if you think you are able to ignore or avoid them now, they will show up eventually. Accidents happen and we also don’t know the “use by” date that came with our bodies and life.
Each area of rest we have looked at in this series highlighting great information from Sacred Rest by Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD includes a list she indicates shows we have a deficit. Signs you may be dealing with a sensory rest deficit might include:
- Sensitivity or an adverse reaction to loud sounds
- Blurry vision and/or eye pressure, fatigue, or strain
- Believing natural foods don’t have any flavor and craving processed foods
- A dislike of being hugged or touched by others
- Being desensitized to aromas others seem to smell easily
- Inability to enjoy periodic sensory-rich experiences such as concerts or fireworks
How did we get there or why do we get there so often you may wonder?
“When our senses continue receiving incoming information without a break, the nervous system becomes too congested to process the information appropriately. The result is a decline in happiness, stifled creativity, mental restlessness, and blunted performance. Ultimately your overall health suffers because of inadequate sensory rest.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
So how do we get sensory rest? Some of the ideas are ones you may already use, but if you pause and consider what we’ve been saying here you will likely think of options I do not list. Here are a few:
- Consider setting aside a time every day where you unplug from all electronics for a specific period of time. Be realistic and set small goals like 10 minutes or so as a start
- Use the unplugged time to practice stretching and getting all the tension released from hunching over screens or maybe just enjoy being still and letting your head fall back to rest on the back of the couch or chair you like
- Pay attention to how different kinds of sensory stimuli affect you and what brings you comfort or peace versus the symptoms we noted above
- Get some fresh air, consider how dimming the harsh lights affects you, and eliminate constant noise
- If touch is not something that negatively affects you, consider setting aside some money to indulge in a hand or foot massage, a pedicure or facial, or a total body massage that not only feels good but relaxes your body and helps the lymphatic system move toxins out of your system
For most of my professional life I worked indoors in a classroom or my counseling office. What I recognized I most needed to regain rest in all these areas was to plan vacations to weekends away that were not busy where I tried to see all the sights and kept on the go. Instead, my husband and I chose quieter places that refreshed us in every area. At the end of this post is a photo I took of one of those. It is located on the property of a hotel in Alberta, Canada we were able to enjoy for a number of vacations. The river made a beautiful sound lulling us to sleep from our window or balcony because there was no air-conditioning to blot out the sound of God’s sound machine. We drank in the fresh air, the sounds of the river, the quiet of the mountains and were replenished with the goodness of God’s creation – the very best medicine!