Stress Management, Self-Care and Sensory Integration
These insights suggest new possibilities for work with trauma. The challenge is to figure out strategies that more directly engage the lower brain and associated sensory systems that we now know are the primary interface of the individual with trauma.
To do this will take time, but we have the advantage of the already existing work of sensory integration professionals who have been devising strategies for engaging and balancing the sensory process systems for years, in particular with children.
When I finally realized some years ago that, in addition to early trauma, I have sensory integration issues, I started experimenting. Through trial and error, I have figured out simple ways to reduce my instinctual responses to sensory inputs and to help apply rational thought processes in times of high stress. I’ll write more about this in future posts.
Based on the theoretical work of van der Kolk and others and my own experiences, I now incorporate simple exercises along with basic psycho education information into work my clients and the Expressive Trauma Integration framework I use in therapy and training.
Expand Your Own Sensory Processing Awareness
If the idea that sensory processing is linked to trauma is new to you, view this short video simulating how people on the autistic spectrum experience the world around them as conveyed via their sensory inputs.*
Everyone struggles with sensory processing at times. You’ve probably had the experience that when you are tired or stressed, your levels of sensitivity change. You may react differently, with less resiliency, to changes in light, sound, smells, etc. By increasing awareness of sensory processing, you can increase your ability to manage your life well and support those you care for, even if trauma or other serious challenges are not an issue.
If you see a child who appears not to be coping well in school or social environments, consider the possibility that this child may have sensory processing issues. Read about sensory processing and look for ways to alter the volume, intensity, and mix of sensory stimuli the child is experiencing.
I am convinced that sensory processing awareness will greatly advance stress management and treatment of trauma. Please share observations or anecdotes from your own experiences that would shed light on this nexus.
* Everyone on the autistic spectrum has sensory integration issues, but only a small number of those with sensory integration issues are on the autistic spectrum