Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Art Therapy Exercise: Reversing Sensory Overload

Is listening to the news bad for your health?

I usually don’t listen to the news, but lately I have been. I am struck by how the words and images stay with me. People who live with T.V. or radio news constantly on in their homes must either develop defences against the ongoing bombardment of negativity or feel continually stressed. It cannot be beneficial for the health of our children. The article Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet  by Rolf Dodelli makes a compelling argument for why we should not listen to the news. I feel that it’s like most things in life we all have different levels tolerance, on different days. I work as an Art Therapist and counselor so it is too much for me to watch movies with violence and trauma. I have to be very aware of my sensory overload. Sensory overload means that your body/mind is over stimulated and needs to retreat. Powerful and moving images, loud noises, pungent smells and constant touch can cause sensory overload in adults and children. It is good to know what you are sensitive to and when you reach your sensory maximum. We have all seen children exploding in the checkout aisle of the grocery store when they reach the limit of their sensory tolerance. It may be the bright lights, all the interesting items on the shelves, the constant noise, touching all the food items, or taking in all the food odours. We all have different sensory limits. What is yours and how do you calm down your system when you need to?

Quick ways to calm your system:
1.    Take a 15-minute nap or quiet time.
2.    Drink glass of water.
3.    Do a 15 to 20-minute meditation or visualization.
4.    Sit in a quiet, dark, room with a soft blanket. 

Reduce sensory input to one: smell, sight, touch, and noise.
Art Therapy Exercise for Sensory Overload:

Relax and do some deep breathing. Think of one color that feels really relaxing right now and slowly visualize it filling your inner body. Start at the head and work your way down the neck, shoulders, chest and stomach. Pause at the stomach and let yourself breath in the color deeply. Then watch that color gently wash through your hips, legs and down to your feet. Now, pick one smell and let yourself breath it in deeply. Notice how you are feeling. Next, shift your attention to one image that really resonates for you and sense where in the body it gravities to. Sense into your hands and let yourself image touching  something that would feel calming for you right now. Take one deep breath and let yourself hear one sound that feels soothing to your ears. As you bring this exercise to a close, think of one word that expresses how you are feeling. Take a piece of white paper and express what you just experienced. Focusing your senses on one strong image, smell, touch or sound helps reduce sensory overload. 


Carole said...

A few years ago I stopped watching the news and all shows with any violence as I found I reliving what I'd seen in my dreams. These exercises would certainly have helped me then. I'll use them in the future as needed. Thank you.

Karen Wallace said...

Carole, Thanks for reading. Hugs Karen

A bird in the hand said...

Hello Karen, I stopped watching the news years ago when I realized that what was being reported, and how it was being reported, was making me angry and upset. Nowadays, I only read the headlines.

I've never liked loud noises and crowds and have always instinctively avoided them. In my profession there are many who need music to get them working; I work in total silence: it's when I'm at my best.

I hope parents with children read this valuable post.

Thank you!

Elena said...

Oh yep, I avoid the news like the plague. I don't do well with negative overload and just learning to cope with sensory overload. Thanks for the exercise!!!

Karen Wallace said...

Hello. You are welcome. Hugs Karen

Jessi Cross said...

I recently took two months off from the news for the very reasons you describe. As an art therapist who takes in a lot of difficult to disturbing information as part of the job, I have felt overloaded from more such information. I am now on a lean diet of news!
There used to be a magazine that only reported "good news." I think we need more of this, as such news is just as important as all of the terrible things occurring in the world.
Thanks for all of your great ideas!


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