About this post: New York City is known for its fast-paced, always-hustling vibe – try these strategies below as complementary to any anxiety treatment in NYC that you might already be receiving. Or, even if you’re currently not pursuing anxiety treatment, these strategies can help reduce your stress using just your senses!
The addition of a global pandemic has only increased the stress levels of New Yorkers.
According to the CDC, “Stress is the result of pressures or tensions and how our body responds to them. Stress can cause feelings of unease, anxiety, frustration, nervousness, fearfulness, or helplessness.” Although stress can cause feelings of anxiety, it is not the same as a clinical diagnosis of anxiety disorder. Of course, if you think you might be experiencing clinical anxiety, please seek help from a mental health professional who can provide holistic and appropriate anxiety treatment. That being said, anyone experiencing anxiety and stress can benefit from daily stress reduction techniques.
Stress can be a full-body experience. However, utilizing sensory strategies can dampen your “fight or flight” response. Tapping into the five senses of auditory (sound), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), gustatory (taste), and visual (sight) can assist in regulating your emotions and stress response. Since the sensory system is unique to each person, it’s important to be clear about your personal needs. Below are some suggestions for each sense that can be experimented with to find what works best for you.
- Listen to instrumental music
- Listen to nature sounds
- Eliminate noise by utilizing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones
- Tune into sounds of the city around you
- Smell different fragrances from your past that you associate with calming or happy memories
- Sniff fresh or processed lavender (oil, spray, moisturizer, etc.)
- Touch different pleasing textures – for some this might be fluffy, soft materials, and for others, something more textured is more enjoyable
- Squeeze a stress ball, stuffed animal, or pillow
- Punch or hug a pillow
- Taste various foods and flavors from your past that you associate with calming or happy memories
- Drink a cup of chamomile tea
- Reduce visual input by closing your eyes or placing an eye mask on
- View nature by going outside or looking at images of nature
- Imagine a relaxing safe space
- Enjoy peaceful artwork
Above are a few options, but there is no limit to the variety of sensory experiences you can try to address your stress. Whether you are diagnosed with anxiety or are looking for assistance in managing daily stress, graymatters can help. As graymatters’ mental health occupational therapist, I work with clients to assess their sensory responses and preferences to promote optimal engagement in daily activities. Additionally, graymatters has a wide range of mental health clinicians who can provide anxiety treatment in New York City.
When you’re ready, explore reducing your stress through the five senses and let us know how it is going!
Written by Colleen Kerrisk, mental health occupational therapist a graymatters