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How Having a Sensory Diet Helps Sensory Processing

I read about having a sensory diet a few years before I started one, and I wish I would’ve started one right away, but I didn’t understand how drastically it would improve my life. Then my occupational therapist (OT) helped me understand that engaging my senses often throughout the day would help me stay regulated. Help me stay in my body and avoid dissociating. A concept that was new to me. I never knew I had been leaving.

If I don’t engage with my senses enough for my nervous system to properly regulate them, when I receive sensory information, my system doesn’t know what to do with it. So I either fight, flee or freeze. If fighting or fleeing are not an option at the time, I freeze, or dissociate, from my body. Disconnect. Unable to connect to my body’s needs. Not knowing if or when I need to eat, to sleep or to rest. To move or to take an action. To feel an emotion.

Before I starting seeing my OT and learning about having a sensory diet, I was dissociating to the point where I was unable to process sensory information every day. My system was completely unregulated. Causing me to have frequent meltdowns and to not be able to think clearly. Not allowing me to connect to myself or to others. Making my life a shred of what it should be.

And then came my sensory diet.

While working with my OT, I learned that a sensory diet is nothing more than engaging your senses throughout the day, but doing it mindfully, like if you were keeping track of a food diet. So just like we follow a food diet to avoid mindless eating, I was to start following a sensory diet to avoid mindless processing.

Since starting it, I have the tools I need to help me stay on track and to get myself back on track when my system is dis-regulated. Dissociated. Freezing up. And I’m finally learning how to thaw.

Now on good days, I can stay regulated to the point where I don’t fight, flee, freeze or have a meltdown at all. Improving my way of living after over 37 years.

My sensory diet spreadsheet.

When I first started my sensory diet, in order to ensure I was keeping up with it, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of my daily sensory actions and to set goals. It was a good way for me to make sure I was engaging with each of my senses in a variety of ways. Now, I have a routine (shocker) for how I incorporate my senses, but I still try to mix it up when I can.

Morning

  1. Drink cold water.
  2. Light a scented candle and listen to chanting music.
  3. Drink hot tea and use weighted blanket.
  4. Drink cold water and chew on chewy straw.
  5. Drink hot tea.
  6. Use heated, weighted rice pack on shoulders.
  7. Eat something crunchy: apple, chips, crackers, etc.
  8. Use weighted blanket.
  9. Listen to music.
  10. Light a scented candle and take a magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) and essential oil bath.
  11. Cross arms, hands and feet for at least 10 seconds on each side.
  12. Listen to chakra balancing or brainwave synchronization music.
  13. Smell and apply lavender essential oil.
  14. Stretch and do handstands and/or push-ups as needed.

Afternoon 

  1. Drink hot tea.
  2. Listen to music.
  3. Suck on mints.
  4. Workout: do yoga, run on the treadmill or jump on the trampoline.
  5. Drink cold water and chew on chewy straw.
  6. Eat something crunchy: apple, chips, crackers, etc.
  7. Take a shower (using a loofah and essential oil body wash) and listen to music.
  8. Cross arms, hands and feet for at least 10 seconds on each side.
  9. Listen to music and write or read.
  10. Smell and apply lavender essential oil as needed.

Evening 

  1. Light a scented candle.
  2. Drink hot tea and use weighted blanket.
  3. Use heated, weighted rice pack on shoulders.
  4. Do yoga.
  5. Drink cold water.
  6. Apply lavender, peppermint and frankincense essential oils to jaw, neck and shoulders, Digize (Young Living brand) essential oil to stomach, and lavender and frankincense essential oils to the bottom of each big toe.
  7. Put on sleep mask and headphones.

Additional Sensory Diet Options I Incorporate:

  • Breathing deeply.
  • Pushing against a wall or a hard surface.
  • Applying pressure to hands.
  • Spending time upside down.
  • Using an exercise ball.
  • Doing heavy lifting.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Swimming.
  • Rocking in a chair.
  • Sitting in the sun.
  • Reading, writing or drawing.
  • Using a dry brush on skin before showering.
  • Rubbing hands and feet on textured surfaces.
  • Getting a deep tissue massage.
  • Receiving a tight hug.
  • Carrying/holding a baby.
  • Receiving craniosacral therapy.
  • Doing pre-birth movements.
  • Doing body mapping movements.

Fellow sensory warriors: If you or a loved one have a sensory diet, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. 

How Having a Sensory Diet Helps Sensory Processing


Jenna Grace

Jenna Grace is a neurodivergent writer and educator with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD) diagnoses. She writes and speaks about topics including neurodiversity and SPD in order to help others and to explore new meaning. Visit her website or Twitter, @jennagracewrite.


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APA Reference
Grace, J. (2018). How Having a Sensory Diet Helps Sensory Processing. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/neurodivergent/2018/11/how-having-a-sensory-diet-helps-sensory-processing/

 

Last updated: 2 Nov 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.