With sensory processing disorder (SPD), leaving the house can be tricky. There are so many unforeseen sensory triggers that even just going for a walk can seem daunting.
Since discovering my sensory needs a few years ago, I’ve found there are certain items I can have with me at all times to help me when I’m overstimulated, triggered or overwhelmed. I keep a bag containing these items in my purse — my sensory emergency kit.
Here are the 10 items I keep with me to help myself stay regulated when on the go:
Earplugs: I started wearing earplugs a few years ago, and now I don’t go anywhere without them in. They muffle the long range of noises I pick up so I can focus more on the conversations I’m having. Granted, sometimes I need to take one out to hear the person in front of me, but I keep one in.
Sunglasses: I never knew how much light distorted my thinking until the last few years. Especially fake and fluorescent lights. Wearing sunglasses indoors helps me think without overhead lights distracting me. I always have a pair with me.
Headphones: I love listening to music and I find it soothing when I’m overstimulated, so I always have a pair of headphones with me. Also, wearing noise-canceling headphones has become a lifesaver. Specifically when I’m around loud noises like construction work or lawnmowers.
Lavender essential oil: This helps when I get overstimulated or overwhelmed, for nausea, for tension in my jaw and shoulders, and it helps me regulate my sense of smell. And it smells nice too, which never hurts.
Water: I always have cold water with me. If I’m getting overwhelmed, it’s the first thing I go to to calm myself down. I also try to drink close to 80 ounces every day to keep my neurological juices flowing.
Medical marijuana or CBD: I’ve found a number of uses for medical marijuana: some strains relax my mind, some relax my body and some do both. THC oil calms my body and helps release the tension in my neck, shoulders and jaw without making me feel high. CBD oil helps me speak and interact socially. Both help with anxiety and depression. Now if only I could travel with them. Maybe someday they will be seen for the medicine they are.
Digestive enzymes: Often when eating outside of my home, I have a difficult time digesting my food. Either because of the sensory stimuli surrounding me or because of the ingredients in the food I’m consuming. And when digesting is difficult, mentally processing is even more of a task, so I use papaya-based vegan enzymes (that I buy either online or from Whole Foods) for quick relief.
Good Day Calm Chocolate Supplement: These little magnesium boosters are a lifesaver for panic attacks. I typically take two, though I’ve been known to take up to four. Especially when I’m driving or traveling on an airplane and a loud engine triggers me, I can pop these in and feel better immediately.
Bach Rescue Remedy Spray: Just like it sounds, this spray saves you when you’re stressed. A few sprays on the tongue and I feel immediate stress relief.
Altoids Smalls mints: My occupational therapist told me that sucking on something is helpful when my processing is stressful, so I always have these mints with me. They don’t mess with my blood sugar like candy does and the small size makes them easy to consume while talking. I put one in my mouth before I go into any social situation to ensure I have back up — for my breath and my processing.
If you’re sensory like me, I hope some of these items help you stay regulated. It’s a very stimulating world out there, my sensory friends, so it’s good to always be prepared.
This story originally ran on Psych Central on April 19, 2019. Since Psych Central has been sold, the link to the original is no longer available.