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Four things that balance out my sense of sight

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

Visual inputs and bright lights can be very overwhelming for me. They can fill up my brain completely until I cannot think. Especially in busy-looking restaurants or bars. I find myself really fighting to concentrate on what someone is saying and not dart my eyes around constantly to get used to what is around me. Usually I end up doing neither. Faking that I'm following the conversation, while also not giving into the urge to look around at everything. I guess when you're extremely detail-orientated, it can take a long time to feel like you're done looking at something new...

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

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

Thing 1: Tidying up

I've always preferred things being tidy, but only recently appreciated the impact. Where I lived previously, I had a piano keyboard. Usually it was up on a shelf out of the way. For a few weeks though, I got very focused on re-learning a piano piece, so had it out in the room. I remember generally feeling more antsy during those weeks. Once I was done, I put the keyboard away. The surface in the room was completely clear again... and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I could finally breathe. After that, I've been more careful to keep things neat. I know now that the calmer I am the more I let things slide, but it eventually causes anxiety to build up and then I need to tidy everything up before I can reset. So I have made it easy for myself by ensuring there is a set place for everything to go. Set boxes in cupboards, matching containers, or even better the bin(!) And I have a reminder in my calendar to clean and tidy up every Saturday morning, so it's just a habit.

Thing 2: Closing my eyes

When overwhelmed by a busy environment or harsh lighting, I now know to close my eyes for a bit to calm down. If I'm out with someone I trust, I sometimes take a break and cover my eyes while they keep an eye to make sure no one bumps into me. If I'm in a meeting, I usually have my camera off anyway so can just close my eyes and listen to avoid overwhelm. These little breaks can really take the edge off.

Thing 3: Dimming lights

In amongst my many post-diagnosis sensory revelations, I started to notice how much lights bother me. More and more as the day goes on. When in an office or a supermarket I'd find myself squinting and desperately wanting to close my eyes. I'd close my curtains in the summer by early afternoon, and feel the impact immediately on my brain. As if it had been dialed down and relaxed all of a sudden. So I got some dimmable light bulbs, and now I can adapt depending on how I'm feeling through the day. More often than not, this means gradually reducing the brightness from about 3pm onwards. I use Phillips Hue lights because they're what I'm used to (a previous partner had them throughout the house already). There are other cheaper ones around though.

Thing 4: Matching household items or clothing

I started to noticed how much joy I get from things matching. And how much time I spend looking at things that don't. Things looking slightly out of place and not fitting feels uncomfortable. This could be clothes, home accessories, kitchenware, my budgie's toys, basically anything. I recently bought my first flat, and have loved going out of my way to find things that perfectly fit together. I like being in my kitchen and looking at my matching kettle, toaster and microwave. Or in my bathroom where my loo brush and bin are both square and grey and fit perfectly in an indent in the wall. I find out-of-sight homes for things that don't match, and only have them out when I need them. When I don't need to see anyone, I like wearing stripy leggings with a stripy top. I objectively look ridiculous. But I like stripes, so it makes me happy to be 100% stripy.

Lauren x


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