49% of people like rollercoasters. Are you one?

Posted: 13 August, 2018

By: Marieta du Toit

Section: Wellness

Rollercoaster

As a child, I remember visiting the amusement park at the Rand Easter show with my family. We were very excited at the prospect of going on “The Big Dipper”. In those years it was one of the best rollercoaster rides. I recall standing in the queue, waiting my turn and getting overwhelmed with excitement as I watched the little train slowly making its way up to the top, just to chase down the track at what seemed like the speed of light. I couldn’t wait to have a turn!

My mom and I shared a cart as I’m the youngest. Initially, I wasn’t sure what the big hype was all about: the train moved slowly and stayed close to the ground. I was even able to take my hand off the safety handlebar and wave at the onlookers who were waiting patiently for their turn.

Suddenly we started ascending the track.
My waving hand automatically returned to the safety of the handlebar.
I looked at my mom for reassurance.
At this stage, my tummy felt as if it was turning upside down.
I asked my mom if I could get off the train if I wanted to… unfortunately no such luck.
I closed my eyes, which made it all worse.
So instead I glared into the clouds which seemed to be coming closer and closer.
My hands and feet were starting to sweat, I got the sensation of needles and pins in my feet, my breaths were shallow, and my heart felt like it was beating outside my chest.

I wanted out!

But there was nowhere to go but forward…
As the train reached the top I almost stopped breathing.

AND THEN WE TOOK THE BIG DIP!!!!!

I cannot remember much about the trip down, except that there were a lot of screams and tears, mostly coming from me. When we finally reached the bottom, I vowed never to do that to myself again. And yet, my brother and sister were already standing at the back of the queue to go for their next round.

So, what is it that causes 51% of people to DISLIKE going on rollercoasters?

Answer:  Their movement systems are over-responding to sensory stimuli!

In our fast-moving world, our vestibular (movement) system is constantly being bombarded with stimuli. If you have a low threshold for movement input, you might dislike:

  • Lifts
  • Escalators
  • Heights
  • Sitting in the passenger seat of a car
  • Sitting on a bar stool with your feet off the ground
  • Flying in an aeroplane

In a study done by the Department of Neuro-otology and the Ear Institute from the University College London together with the Centre for Integrative Physiology from the University of Edinburgh, it was found that patients with vestibular symptoms and psychiatric morbidity were found to present with significantly increased anxiety scores and experienced a greater degree of social stress.

The question is: What can we do to prevent anxiety due to vestibular symptoms?

  • Use the stairs instead of lifts and escalators
  • Limit commuting during peak traffic hours
  • Choose chairs and seats for your home and office that suit your needs and feel comfortable to you
  • Make sure your feet can touch the ground when sitting
  • When flying in an aeroplane, choose your seat wisely. Don’t sit at the back where turbulence often feels worse. From a window seat, you can look out the window and use your vision to pre-empt when flying through clouds.
  • Take a movement break and go for a relaxed walk

By using simple strategies, life’s rollercoaster experiences do not have to bring you down!

  1. If you would like to learn more about your own sensory assessment, do our short FREE Sensory Quiz™.
  2. For a comprehensive 25-page report with tips and strategies on how to reduce stress and live a productive, healthy and happy life visit Sensory Matrix™.
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