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Five things to balance out my sense of smell


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

Smells can be very overwhelming for me. They can fill up my brain completely until I cannot think anymore.

However, being very sensitive also means smells can have a really positive impact. Deliberately balancing out the negative with the positive can reduce anxiety that would otherwise build up through the day and cause sensory overwhelm.

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

Thing 1: Candles and oil burners

I love to burn essential oils in an oil burner, or just normal candles, at different times of day. I find that filling my living space with smells that I like can really help shift my mood if I'm feeling antsy or a bit down. It feels reassuring somehow. I've started to notice which smells I find most calming while out and about, or thinking back to when I was little, so that I can tailor more towards those. I really like mixing up different oils and creating my own combinations. Buying these online can be a bit hit and miss, but the ones I've had from this brand have been pretty reliable. There's also a "cotton fresh" candle from Tesco that I've got in every room of my house now because I love the smell so much... I always buy a spare too because I'm afraid they'll stop stocking it eventually! I like to light them all after I've cleaned up. It feels like hitting reset on my environment somehow.

Thing 2: Controlling cooking smells

I noticed that lingering cooking smells, either on the night that I've cooked or going into the next day, can make me feel slightly sick. It doesn't matter if it smells nice. It's just not meant to be there in that moment, and I can't tune it out. When I first noticed this, I was living in a teeny tiny studio. Sleeping and cooking and working all happened in the same room. So I started to keep the windows wide open when I cooked, no matter how freezing cold it was (that's what blankets are for). Now I have the luxury of more than one room, I always make sure to keep at least my bedroom door closed, an extractor fan on, and I burn a candle or some oils after I'm done.

Thing 3: Carrying a sniffle stick

Number one, I realise that this is not what it's actually called. A friend gave me this stick to use when travelling, and it's been great. I keep it in my coat pocket. When I am on a train or something and need to calm down, I give it a sniff. Now that it has become a nice, familiar smell, it calms me down and sort of takes the edge off. These kinds of mini positive sensory experiences help to slightly balance out all of the many, many negative and overwhelming ones happening out in the real world!

Thing 4: Moving away from difficult smells

One big realisation since my diagnosis is how much I have put up with and ignored over the years. In all sorts of respects, but especially around my senses. Now that I understand the impact that things like this have, e.g. smells that I find difficult to be around, I am much less tolerant(!) I am more likely to move away, tell someone about a sensory need, or avoid certain situations in the first place. For example, the smell of tea makes me want to gag. I (shock) don't drink it, but tend to keep some in the house for guests. Now I usually don't offer it, unless perhaps there is a strong smelling oil burning in the burner...

Thing 5: Perfume, perfume and more perfume

As well as burning nice smelling things, I tend to apply perfume multiple times a day. It brings me back into the moment, which reduces my anxiety. Usually I do this before I go out (including on my scarf, so I can hide my face in that if I end up somewhere icky), join a video meeting, before bed, or just if I am feeling overwhelmed. I use different ones at different times, but they are all on a spicy, vanilla, woodsy type spectrum. Unfortunately there are a few I used to always get from The Body Shop that no longer exist, so I am trying to draw the last of those out for as long as possible!

Lauren x

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