Written by Deb Hopper, Occupational Therapist
Top 3 tips for super charging your break with sensory boosts for relaxing and recharging
The holiday season is almost here! Maybe you have escaped for an early holiday break? Those of us still at work are just a little jealous, but, we’ll be there soon too. Often we hang in there for holidays, counting down the days, ticking off the to do lists and often we just make it. Sometimes we make it to holidays, our bodies breath a sigh of relief and our bodies crash as soon as we stop as our immune system needs to take a rest and we come down with a cold or flu. I hope this doesn’t happen this holidays for you. So how can we become super relaxed this holiday season, supercharge ourselves ready for being ready to work and serve our family and those we work with again?
As teachers, allied health or medical professionals, we often give and give and give. We are passionate about being our best selves and working to help those we work with. Self care can look like sitting on a beach with a book (which I can’t wait to do next week) but sometimes selfcare can take a little effort and look a little different.
Thinking about relaxation and recharging from a self regulation and sensory perspective
So as teachers or health professionals working with children, we often think and teach children about how they can learn to self regulate, and often we use sensory strategies as actions for children to calm themselves down when they are anxious or nervous, or for helping them to increase alertness in their sensory system if they are tired.
Using a model such as the Just Right Kids model can help us to visually understand and conceptualise how this might relate to us as adults in helping us to relax during the holidays and supercharging ourselves during our break from work.
As you can see from the model, there are two sides to it. The left hand side talks about how fast or busy our body or our mind is running. Often before a holiday, our bodies are tired, but we use our self talk and cognitive strategies to motivate ourselves, to get ourselves through the next list of tasks we need to complete or through a work party we are really too tired to attend but feel we need or should go to.
The right hand side of the model talks about our emotions and how we are feeling. They are divided in this model as the red zone (anger), blue zone (sad), and the black crash zone. The black crash zone might be entered when it’s 11pm, you still have 20 presents to wrap, you’re exhausted and you’ve just run out of wrapping paper and it’s Christmas Eve.
The focus for our top 3 tips and the secret or clues for how to supercharge our relaxation can be found on the left hand side of the model.
You will see that there are some sensory based clues on the left hand side such as movement, muscle, mouth and deep touch pressure. Theses are strategies for helping us to have uber self care and make the most of our break.
Transforming your body from stress and a “fast” mind to relaxation
1. Deep touch pressure – let’s cut through to the best strategy for most people.
Booking in for a massage (best) or a facial is the best way to get your mind and body from the red “fast” zone to the blue “relaxation” zone. Deep touch pressure is used in therapy with children and as a sensory strategy for adults in mental health units and nursing homes to help calm their nervous system, which gives them feelings of relaxation, calmness, and an increased ability to cope. For myself, having a massage helps me fast track my ability to calm and re-centre myself and saves me a week of holidays. It shoots my nervous system from the fast zone into a more relaxed and calm zone. I’m having a massage this Friday afternoon, because it will slow my mind and thoughts, help me be a happier wife and mother and I’ll be much more fun to be around from day 1 of the holidays.
As you can see on the Just Right Kids Model, being in the blue zone on the left hand side equals being tired and slow in your body. This is being relaxed in mind and body, and a place where we all aim to get to at some point in the holidays.
2. Muscle – resistance. Burning off that stress to be calm and centred.
Using muscle resistance is my second choice for uber relaxing and grounding myself. As you can see on the Just Right Kids Model, muscle is the dark green section. By using resistance activities such as going to a gym class, doing some push ups, Pilates, yoga or stretching or going for a walk, you can calm your body down if you feel your body or your mind is going fast, or if you are feeling tired, you can wake yourself up and make your body, nervous system and mind more alert.
3. Mindfulness – Be Still
Often as I work with children who are busy or hyperactive and struggling with concentration and listening, teaching them to be mindful and still can be one of the hardest but the most rewarding achievement for them. The skill of stopping (both our minds and our bodies) needs to be taught to children and we need to practice it as adults.
- Take some time out for a walk by yourself on the beach or by a river.
- Sit and be mindful of the sounds around you, notice the details in nature and breathe some more.
- When chatting to family and friends, really take notice of what they are saying, become engrossed in the conversation and really be there in the moment.
- When playing with your children or grandchildren, turn off your smart phone, move onto the floor or next to them and give them 100% attention.
These three strategies are very simple, but often not practiced to the extent that we need.
7 bonus quick cheat methods for feeling fantastic, relaxed and recharged include
1. Eat well. Nutrition is brain and emotions food
2. Drink lots
3. Try a digital detox
4. Cook a new recipe mindfully
5. Catch up with a BFF
6. Take (another) massage of facial, give yourself a mindful facial at home
7. Read a book for fun (not a work book to get ahead).
So here’s to a fantastic relaxing, refreshing and recharging holiday break. Notice on the Just Right Kids model how you are feeling and how your body does relax from the red (busy) and blue (tired) zones and back into the green (just right, refreshed and re-energised zones).
Here’s to a happy holiday!