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Five things that help me balance vestibular input

For me, my internal senses (proprioception, vestibular, interoception) don’t get enough of the right stimulation.

The vestibular sense is all about movement and balance. It is very “organising” for your brain. It helps make sense of all the other sensory inputs you’re getting.

My brain doesn’t process this like a neurotypical brain, so a lot of background anxiety can build up throughout the day.

After my autism diagnosis, I found out that I need to balance out (pun intended) my vestibular input. I know this is true because:

  • Repetitive movements e.g. rocking are very calming

  • I am very clumsy, constantly bumping into things

  • I have a strong fear of falling

  • I hate being upside down

  • I very easily get lost or confused about directions, even very close to home

  • I naturally walk and run looking down because the motion otherwise feels disorientating

So, what to do? To balance out my vestibular input, I use some deliberate kinds of movement, to help my brain know what’s going on, and in turn, reduce my anxiety.

Here are five things I’ve experimented with. I have no affiliation to anything linked below, it’s just what I use!

Experiment 1: Rocking

What is it? Rocking in a slow-ish deliberate pace back and forth. I’ve done this seated in a chair, cross-legged on the floor while holding my knees, and in a rocking chair.

What happened? If I do this deliberately when feeling stressed out, it can be really calming. I’ve found myself doing it unthinkingly during social situations or meetings when I’m feeling restless, which helps keep me focused and a bit calmer. It also helps me a lot after a run when my eyes feel a bit fizzy from lots of motion.

Experiment 2: Repetitive movement patterns

What is it? Not sure exactly how to describe this… basically, I sit or lie on a smooth floor and move my limbs however feels right at the time. Often this is sitting upright, and moving my legs in and out — almost like making a snow angel —  while clapping my arms in and out in the opposite pattern: legs together and arms apart, legs apart and arms together, repeat. Or I’ll lie on my back, or curled up in a ball, and roll or rock around. Whatever I feel like.

What happened? When I’m heading for meltdown/shutdown, this is often the only thing that can pull me back into the land of the living. This is a fairly recent discovery. But now, when I’m feeling especially antsy, I try and remember to get on the floor and wriggle around.

Experiment 3: Jumping

What is it? When feeling restless and I can’t settle, I sometimes stand in a corner or in a cupboard and jump straight up and down.

What happened? A minute or two of jumping up and down can calm me right down. I suppose it’s a similar — but more intense — idea to the rocking. It’s a repetitive and deliberate movement. With the added bonus of getting rid of excess energy. It helps me to do this after lots of meetings, when I’ve been working on something complex, or if I am feeling agitated.

Experiment 4: Balance pad

What is it? I’ve got this core balance pad. I have tried sitting on it on the floor, on a chair, and having it under my desk to bounce my feet on.

What happened? Sitting on it didn’t quite work for me, but it lives permanently under my desk now. Bouncing my feet — sometimes quite violently — helps me start focusing when I need to work, or during meetings.

Experiment 5: Running up and down

What is it? Running very quickly from one end of the room to the other, then stopping and going back the other way. My rooms aren’t huge, so this means a very rapid acceleration and deceleration. Often I also pace up and down listening to music at a slower speed.

What happened? When feeling agitated, this can quickly run off some excess energy and calm me down a bit. From there, I usually move on to doing whatever calmer activity I’d not been able to focus on before.

Lauren x


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