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Six things that balance out my sense of hearing

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

Sounds can be very overwhelming for me. They can fill up my brain completely until I cannot think. Certain sounds make me completely recoil and cause what feels like a very physical reaction. Generally noisy environments have a more gradual effect. They will overwhelm me and I can't stay there too long (not if I also need to concentrate on anything at all, anyway).

As ever though, being very sensitive also means some things 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 six things that help me. I have no affiliation to anything linked below, it's just what I use.

Thing 1: Noise-cancelling headphones

Such a game changer while travelling. Or on the very rare occasions when I have to be in an office. I've got these ones, but there are plenty around. On trains and planes the background sounds of people and engines often stop me from being able to process anything else. Cancelling out a lot of that noise means I can focus better, but more importantly, it then takes a lot longer for me to get totally overwhelmed.

Thing 2: Rain and wave sounds

I've always found water very calming. Whenever there's rain (quite often where I live) I take a minute to sit and notice it, stick my head out of the window, or go for a walk. When I've been through a busy period I'll take a trip to the emptiest possibly nearby beach and listen to the waves and the wind. All these things help to reset my brain a little bit.

Thing 3: Medical-themed ASMR

A friend recommended WhispersRed ASMR a few years ago. I'd only ever heard of ASMR as the butt of a joke in the past, so assumed I wouldn't be keen... but honestly, this recommendation has had such a huge positive impact on my anxiety levels and my sleep quality. I always knew I found eye exams super relaxing. Turns out there are ten million softly spoken ASMR eye exam, cranial nerve exam, ear exam, "follow my instructions" etc. videos on YouTube. These have become the one thing in the world which can reliably switch my brain off! At some point every day I will listen to a few videos. Usually right before bedtime, but also sometimes while I'm working if I need to calm down. Some of my favourites: SRP ASMR, ASMR Eliza, ShiverMeTingles ASMR, Behind The Moons, Be Brave Be You ASMR, ASMR August, James Matthew ASMR, Moonlight Cottage ASMR.

Thing 4: Music to match my mood

Most days I find myself pacing up and down, listening to whatever music matches my mood at that moment. Always either some old favourites, or the two to three songs from my Spotify 'Discover Weekly' playlist that I'm compulsively listening to on repeat that week... Like most people, a song striking a chord (pun intended) with my current mood can really draw out whatever I'm feeling. Sometimes it makes me really happy, sometimes it makes me cry. Either way, I've started using this as a way to help process my emotions. Like a lot of autistic people, I have a lot of very intense emotions but am not always great at identifying or dealing with them. Music helps me sit with whatever that feeling is for a little bit. This way, the emotion is allowed out. I can process it rather than it staying trapped un-processed at the back of my brain until the inevitable emotional meltdown weeks or months later.

Thing 5: Asking for a quiet corner

I add a note when booking tables at pubs/restaurants to request a quieter corner. Usually they can accommodate. The person who showed me and a friend to our table at The Raven in Glasgow even offered to turn down the music for me (which I very happily said yes to!) The Lock Inn in London turned the outside speakers away from my group's table so we had our own little quiet spot. I wouldn't have thought to ask before, but now that I have, it makes a huge difference to how long I can stay comfortable while out with friends.

Thing 6: Telling people to stop...

Now that I understand the impact of certain "this needs to stop NOW" noises, and how much I'd been suppressing my reactions to them, I've started calling them out more. Sometimes it's a tiny noise that someone can easily stop. Other times it means moving away from the source of the sound. All of my friends and family know about my diagnosis, and I've explained to them what it means. Having a bit of shared language around this means I can excuse myself without hurting anyone's feelings. And, even if it did hurt someone's feelings, I now see why that might still be worth calling out. Because staying in that situation hurts me. Way more than is visible.

Lauren x


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