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Eight things that help me balance my sense of touch

For me, my external senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, sound) are easily over-stimulated.

Certain touch sensations are very overwhelming for me. They can fill up my brain completely until I cannot think. Some things make me completely recoil and cause a very physical reaction. Some have a more gradual effect and build up through the day.

As ever though, being very sensitive also means things can have a very positive impact. Balancing out the negative with the positive can help reduce anxiety that would otherwise build up through the day, causing sensory overwhelm.

Here are eight things that help me. I have no affiliation to anything linked below, it's just what I use.

Thing 1: Soft fluffy things

Touching soft fluffy things feels calming, so I make sure I do this as often as possible(!) I've got a fluffy dressing gown which I wrap up in when I'm feeling tired or stressed, and a fluffy blanket on my sofa. Plus some velvet-ey furniture and curtains which I often find myself petting... I recently invested in some nicer bedding, like this which feels like cosy flannel pyjamas and is my absolute favourite, and this which is just super soft. It makes getting into bed a much more joyful experience. Also much harder to get out of... maybe not ideal for everyone, but for someone who used to consistently leap out of bed too early due to anxiety, this is a really positive change.

Thing 2: Tying my hair up while sleeping

The feel of my hair on my face or arms can be infuriating. It used to often keep me awake at night. I'm now in the habit of tying my hair up if I'm feeling antsy or when it is likely to bother me (e.g. when I am concentrating on work, and when I go to bed). For bed I plait it so that it doesn't feel sore once I take it out in the morning.

Thing 3: Wearing socks while sleeping

Another thing that used to keep me awake is the feel of my toenails on the bedding. Even typing this out makes me feel icky. More on nail-related issues later, but this one was a simple fix suggested by someone in a blog comment. I now wear thick soft socks in bed when this bothers me, which has improved things a lot.

Thing 4: Noticing nice sensations and doing them more

This is kind of the theme of most of my sensory posts, but here I specifically mean things that might be a bit weird. E.g. I recently had to get rid of some jam. I emptied it in the sink, and for whatever reason decided to squish some of it in my hands. It felt really nice, so I spent a while squishing it through my fingers and just enjoying the sensation. Not something I do every day... but the principle of getting positive sensory inputs wherever you can find them is important. So many things in the external environment cause small amounts of anxiety to build up (often invisibly) through the day. Gradually wearing me down, and working their way up to a meltdown. Anything that feels good can help chip away at that. And balance things out by taking away a little chunk of sensory overwhelm.

Thing 5: Fiddling with things that feel nice

I've experimented with all sorts of fidgety things since my diagnosis. Mainly concentrating on things I knew I liked as a kid. I've got two sticklebricks that I carry around with me and play with while out and about, which I find soothing and a positive distraction. I've got a drawer with various things in at home including play doh (mostly because the smell brings such nostalgia!), therapy putty, and squishy foam balls which I use interchangeably depending on how I'm feeling. I'm not such a fan of the therapy putty, it can make my hands feel dry, but squishing or bouncing the foam balls is usually a safe bet.

Thing 6: Avoiding "bad" things

Noticing which things are problematic isn't always fun. But now that I understand why they are problematic, I know that this is probably not going to change. So I put things in place to avoid these issues wherever I can. Some of the things I struggle with include: water, the feeling of wet tiles, and milk. So, I: always wear gloves when I wash up, am careful to not touch the sides of my shower, have stopped ever agreeing to go to a pool, and am super careful to not spill any milk if I do need to use it for something. Because I have literally cried over spilt milk on more than one occasion.

Thing 7: Planning around my hands and nails

By far my biggest sensory issues are around my hands and nails. I need to keep my nails short else I have the feeling that they will be pulled back somehow. And I need to use hand cream as soon as possible after drying my hands, else my skin feels sqeaky and horrible. Both sensations completely fill up my head. And both are things I have ignored at great cost on many occasions. But, no more! I have hand cream dispensers by my kitchen and bathroom sinks. I always carry hand cream in my bag and coat pocket. As well as hand sanitiser so I can avoid washing my hands with water wherever possible. And I cut my nails more often, as soon as I notice that the sensation is starting to bother me. Neglecting to do this has completely ruined outings in the past, because it is even worse when stress levels are high.

Thing 8: Being more deliberate with my clothing

I've changed what I wear a bit since my diagnosis, because I notice the impact it has now. Working from home full time does give me more flexibility, which is great. But I've made some changes for when I am not at home too. Soft leggings, seamless socks, and a soft T-shirt or fluffy jumper is my go-to. The softer and the fewer seams the better. If I go to a friends' house, I might bring some leggings and socks to change into so that I feel more comfortable. If I'm in the office, I try to wear a soft fabric pencil skirt with tights and a soft long-sleeved top. So I don't have to deal with any uncomfortable smart-wear fabrics, seams or collars. This sort of smartness level is just about ok with my organisation, but even if it wasn't, I know I have the support of my line manager to make any adjustments that might be needed. I am extremely lucky to have a manager who understands why this matters, and the impact that being able to adapt will have (for me, and therefore also for them!)

Lauren x


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