|We all know that STRESS can come from worry, fear, illness, relationships, or holding conflicting beliefs – but stress can also come from surprising places. Do you have some days when you are feeling annoyed or stressed, but can’t quite pinpoint the cause? Look no further than your FIVE SENSES.ARE YOUR SENSES UNDER CONSTANT ASSAULT?
Do not underestimate the power of sensory stressors on your feeling irritated and stressed-out. Your five senses are how you take in information about the world. If your sense of sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell are under attack, you can feel annoyed, irritable, and worn out. Here’s how:
When we think of visual stress, we usually think of CLUTTER, busy wallpaper, dirt, or bugs. But HARSH LIGHTING, or lights that are too bright or too dim, can be a genuine source of stress. I have never liked fluorescent bulbs because they are “cold” and glaring, and their constant flickering makes me nervous. Ask yourself how many times you have worked at a desk that faced a bright window, instead of repositioning your desk to allow the light to come over your shoulder. You end up squinting and and squirming in order to SEE. Likewise, the computer screen can cause you stress if it is too bright or too dim. An unbecoming dress or clashing colors can set you on edge. A poorly prepared or presented meal can also offend your visual sense and you may push your plate away in disgust. And having the wrong prescription for your glasses can be a huge source of aggravation and stress.
Do you blast your ears with the stereo, or is the TV so quiet that you have to strain to hear? Some of the musicians my husband and I dance to are so loud that they actually HURT my ears, and I’ve had to start wearing earplugs. If you are surrounded by continuous, distracting sound with no let-up, it can interfere with your ability to think your own thoughts. When a family member keeps the TV going all day it can actually feel like your brain – and your peace of mind – has been invaded. And a barking dog – yours or the neighbor’s – can drive you nuts!
Do you sometimes wear clothes that are too tight or have an unpleasant texture or “feel” to them? This can annoy you throughout the day. Are hugs, handshakes, or expressions of endearment from loved ones too rough or insensitive? Do your fingernails hurt you? Do you let your skin get sunburned, dry, cracked, or itchy? Is there too little or too much moisture in the air you breathe? Do you keep the temperature too hot or too cold? This can get tricky when you live with someone else because one person may want one temperature/moisture setting, and another person may want another.
We are familiar with the annoyance of food being too bitter, too sour, too sweet, or too salty. This can interfere with our nutrition and our enjoyment of eating. Food that is too hot or too cold – or not hot or cold enough – can interfere with enjoying the full flavor of our food. And a burned mouth makes it difficult to eat or taste or talk – which is a HUGE source of stress!
Putrid, acrid, decaying matter can be a source of stress. A moldy, dank house can be unpleasant to be in. Odors from poor hygiene, poor diet, or poor housekeeping can be a constant annoyance. A woman’s perfume or a man’s aftershave can be offensive and make you want to leave the scene. Fresh paint annoys my “sniffer” and makes my eyes water. And various household chemicals can put you on edge.
This is all testimony to the fact that, when it comes to stress, seemingly little things can have a powerful impact on your stress level. If you can alleviate this stress, your life can be a lot more pleasant.
HERE’S HOW TO GET STARTED
1. Create Pleasant Visual Experiences. Pay attention to your surroundings and how you feel about the things you SEE. You have no control over something if you don’t pay attention to it. Try to see your surroundings with fresh eyes and get rid of unpleasant “visual stressors” in your home. Make a place for everything and put everything in its place so that you create some visual order. Rearrange furniture for good lighting and more pleasant spaces. Get rid of rugs, furniture, wallpaper, dishes, and clothes that irritate you. And update your prescription for your glasses.
2. Create Pleasant Hearing Experiences. Don’t just take the noise around you for granted. Pay attention to your surroundings and how you feel about the things you HEAR. Adjust the volume on your radio. Keep the TV from invading your space by moving it from the living room to a room with a door that shuts out the noise from the rest of the house. Wear earplugs when you have to be around loud noise. Pick out music that you love to play while you’re doing home maintenance. And allow time for silence so you can think.
3. Create Pleasant Tactile Experiences. Pay attention to how your skin FEELS. Many of us put up with uncomfortable clothes because we like the color or the way we look in them. Don’t do that! Alter or get rid of clothes that are too tight or unpleasant to the touch. The challenge is to find clothes and shoes that look good AND feel good. If your skin feels dry get a humidifier, and if it feels too damp, get a dehumidifier. For those who have an “iron grip” for a hand shake, let them know that their hand shake is painful. If you don’t like how you are being touched by your loved ones, let them know what does please you. If you’re in the sun, wear sunscreen to protect your skin from burning. In dry weather use lotion to protect your skin from dryness. And keep your body clean to better enjoy your tactile experiences in intimate situations.
4. Create Pleasant Taste Experiences. Pay attention to what you enjoy the TASTE of. If it’s all junk food, re-educate yourself. Take the time to discover food that’s not only good for you but also appeals to you – in texture, in color, and in taste. Make time to shop and prepare food that tastes good. Serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold…but test the temperature of something hot before putting it in your mouth. Make eating a pleasant taste experience. And don’t forget that having good company seems to improve the taste, as well.
5. Create Pleasant Smelling Experiences. Pay attention to how your house smells. Stench can be cumulative. To avoid it, empty the trash regularly, get a dehumidifier if its moldy-smelling, allow fresh air and sunlight to come into the house, keep the lids tight on garbage cans and household chemicals, keep your clothes fresh-smelling, wash your shower curtain, and keep your sinks clean. Keep yourself clean, pick soaps whose fragrance you enjoy, and choose a mild, pleasant fragrance and deodorant so you can enjoy being in your own company!
From here one out, you do not have to be victimized by Sensory Stressors. By taking a few moments to identify your Sensory Stressors, you can minimize these seemingly “little” things that bother you so you can vastly upgrade the quality of your everyday life.