Every so often I like to do a Q&A session on my Instagram Story. If you’d like to get involved do follow me @21andsensory. Here’s some questions from this week that I was asked:
Do you ever feel weird / different / insecure because of your Sensory Processing Disorder?
Great question. If I’m honest I do 100% feel weird because it’s like my senses are always on high alert and everything is too loud, bright, colourful, strong smelling, scratchy, etc! I do feel very different especially because of my age I think people expect me to be out 24/7, socialising, drinking, partying, that sort of thing. But…that’s why I made my blog and my Instagram / Twitter / Podcast! I really wanted to find others out there struggling with the same things daily and just talk all things sensory related and share tips and tricks. I’ve chatted to so many amazing people it makes me feel part of a community of other lovely people who understand exactly what it’s like.
What’s the first signs you notice when you’re beginning to be sensory overloaded?
Hmm. For me it tends to be my mood plummets and I have a ‘fight or flight’ response which means I’ll start to cry and escape the environment quickly. I’m quite good at removing myself (for example) from a loud situation if I’m starting to feel super overwhelmed or on the verge of a meltdown. Also I can get super hot or super cold and feel totally zoned out which is never very nice!
What happens to you when you’re in sensory overload?
Equally a good question but always a weird / hard thing to explain. It’s almost like I’m shutting down like I’m shutting down like a computer I think. I feel totally overwhelmed , incredibly emotional, tearful, zoned out and generally odd. I bite my nails really badly and this ramps up even more during times like this. I can go quite non-verbal and not explain to anyone what’s really happening . I tend to find the nearest toilet that I can lock myself in and escape the environment or situation that started the overload. I retreat to my room and lie under my weighted blanket / duvet. I did then experience a sort of ‘sensory hangover’ where I just need to be in a quiet place on my own for a bit to recuperate and feel better.
How does stress affect your ability to handle different sensory stimuli?
Stress makes everything sensory-wise like 100% worse. I find I can tip into sensory overload / meltdown much quicker when I am stressed and even a sudden noise or annoying smell can really grate on my nerves 😱 so I try and stick to routine and work the same hours each day and take regular breaks, etc. I also have a to-do list that keeps me on track daily in my life and work! I always try and avoid stressful situations where possible and say no to things like events I don’t feel I can handle.
How do you handle the overwhelm when you feel like you have made someone uncomfortable?
I try not to overthink things. The worst thing you can do is re-run over what you’ve said and over analyse things and it can lead to so much stress and unnecessary angst. I struggle with this as it’s so easy to lay awake at night and overthink things but just remember: the other person isn’t thinking about the conversation you had with them hours ago, they’ve moved on with their day and lives and I think it’s important to remember that a bit.
Not understanding typical boundaries in social or work context ie: talking religion at work?
This can be difficult because the boundaries are never very clear and I understand that. Try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think ‘could this spark a debate or upset somebody?’ before you go ahead and talk about it? For example I don’t talk about politics with anyone because I don’t understand it all! 😂 and I know people can be quite sensitive to that topic.
Do you ever punish yourself by not allowing yourself to stim?
No I don’t think so. If anything I’m the opposite and forget that swimming can help me which is why I have a post-it-note on my sensory / fidget box that says *HELPFUL CRAP USE ME* 😂 😂 😂 I forget in times of overwhelm what helps me! Also just to add: you should never punish yourself for anything. Whether it’s stimming
I hope this was an interesting / helpful Q&A ☺️