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Autism Strategies: Calm Your Nervous System

Looking for a more effective way to calm down than relying only on intellectual instruction like "Calm down" or "There's nothing to be stressed about. Don't overreact!"

Try using sensory inputs. Everyone uses these inputs to wake up, stay centered, and calm down, but we rarely think about these inputs as a strategy. Consider the times you have relied on a how shower in the morning and the blessed scent of coffee to help you get into your day. What about the sense of calm you feel when you take deep breathes of air by the seaside? And those invigorating hikes or runs through your local trail. Think of how relaxing a nighttime bubble bath can be after your evening yoga routine.

One of the most effective sensory inputs for calming is proprioceptive input. This is the input you get through your muscles and joints. The great thing about these inputs is that they can help center us whether we are feeling too groggy or too restless.

We get proprioceptive input through our muscles when we use a weighted blanket, lay in a hammock, or get a massage. That pressure into the muscles can be calming. We get proprioceptive input through the joints when we experience a pushing, pulling, or hanging sensation (pressure into the joints). This may include things like yoga, rock climbing, shoveling snow, bike riding, and gardening.

Instead of relying on instruction to calm down, add some calming sensory inputs and see what happens!

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