Sensory guidelines to choosing your 2023 diary

Last week I came to the shocking realisation that I already need a diary for 2023.  After a few minutes of contemplating how time flies, I made a plan to go to the mall after work.  I decided to visit the stationary store to take a look at their options for a 2019 diary.  I soon realised that the choices were overwhelming, prices ranging from R90 – R590, sizes from “fit in your pocket” to “you need a backpack for this one”, different colours, shapes, formats… I felt overwhelmed just by looking at the rack!

This is when I realised my sensory assess could help me to make a choice.  I am a “root” – this means I have low sensory thresholds and too much information overwhelms me  (but I think you noticed that from above!).  I was very grateful to know my own sensory assess well enough to make sense of what was happening in trying to choose a diary.  So I came up with the following guidelines on how to choose the best diary for yourself for 2019:

THE COVER:
Diary covers come in all colours and patterns.  Some are plain with limited text, others are a mixture of beautiful patterns and colours on the front and back, and you even get ones with specific themes like “Little Prince” or “Disney” on them.  I soon realised it is very important to take your visual threshold into account – no matter how much you may like a certain pattern or theme, you need to remember that you will most likely use this diary EVERY DAY for the next year.

  • If you are easily overwhelmed by visual stimuli, like me, you might opt for something with an organised pattern, or a clear colour with limited print on the front.
  • If you love bright colours and wild shapes, you need to remember that you also most likely enjoy nuance and change and that you might grow bored if you choose something too bold.

The best is to pick up the diary, spend some time looking at the cover, and feel what happens in your body.  If you feel excited and ready for the year when you look at the cover, then YES!  If you feel overwhelmed and like there is just ‘too much to do’ when you look at the cover, then maybe another colour and pattern will suit you better.

THE INSIDE:
When looking at the inside of a diary, we also want to take our visual threshold into account.

  • For myself, due to my low threshold, I need a diary that has only one day on a page and the times are clearly marked.  If there is more than one day on a page, the information appears ‘too much’ and I struggle to make sense of what needs to happen in the day.  I also like a diary that has a year planner at the front so I can see everything that needs to happen laid out in one place.
  • If you have a high visual threshold, you might enjoy a format of having more than one day on a page, or even having pictures, motivational quotes and extra information on your page.

Your preference has nothing to do with how busy you are or your cognitive capacity to do a lot.  It simply relates to how much visual information your brain can process at a time.  By choosing the best option, you will free your brain up to do more important work in the day, rather than spend valuable energy trying to decipher your diary. ‘

THE “PICK-UP TEST”:
I soon realised that it’s very important to pick up a diary.  If like me, your diary goes with you to work, to clients and home again it means you have to carry it around all day so you might want to opt for a lighter diary.  The weight is dependent on your body’s ability to carry around additional weight.

  • If it is too heavy, you will become irritated, annoyed and create tension in your shoulders and neck.
  • If you aren’t bothered by extra weight, or you plan not to carry your diary around, you can opt for a bigger size like an A4 or a heavier diary.

It is important to pick up the diary and perhaps even walk around with it a bit.  Are you aware of the weight?  Maybe something lighter will do.  If you are NOT aware of the extra weight, then this might be the one for you!

HAVE FUN!:
This last tip I included because choosing a diary seems like very serious business indeed.  But this is just a quick reminder to have fun!  Choosing a diary needs to get you excited for the year ahead, with all the new adventures it might bring!

Tell us how you chose your diary and what you learned about yourself in the process.  We would love to hear from you!

Want to find out more about your own sensory thresholds and what specific sensory tips and tools would work for you? Click here to do our free Sensory Quiz™ for a short summary of your assessment.  For a comprehensive 26-page report, buy the Sensory Matrix™ online.  You will be amazed at the results!

Tips to reduce stress over the holidays

The long-awaited summer school holidays are here and with that the Festive Season. It is traditionally a time to spend with family and to make new memories. It is a time for fun in the sun, family gatherings and parties, shopping till you drop, and loads of festive food and activities. However, it is also a time of great anxiety and stress for people with low sensory thresholds, especially children. While everyone else is getting excited about the people you will see and do things with, anybody with low sensory thresholds is ready to bolt in the opposite direction.

The hypersensitive child can become overwhelmed by all the sensory input from the lights, decorations, music, food and crowded shopping centres. Being away from home interferes with the carefully structured and routine life one has, and going to new places and meeting new people bring about changes that make the child with low sensory thresholds anxious.

Here are some useful tips to help prevent overload and meltdowns:

  • Have a clear understanding of the child’s sensory needs and dislikes. Take note of behaviour while on the beach, at family gatherings and when eating different foods. Also, go back and recall the past events where sensory overload happened.
  • No new clothes. Pack clothes that your child has worn and approved. New clothes must be tried and tested before you even leave home.
  • Holidays mean no school or homework, and little to no work commitments for most of us, and thus there goes the need for routine. This could be cataclysmic for the child with low thresholds. The hypersensitive child needs routine and structure during the holiday season too. Have a schedule and stick to it as much as possible.
  • Keep to your child’s sleep routine. Prepare your child for the fact that he will be sleeping in another bed. If you have to, pack his linen and his pillow in.
  • Be prepared to deal with the unexpected. Summer is generally a great time to try new things.  Some of these new experiences can however be overwhelming for the child with low thresholds. Give them as much warning as possible beforehand whenever there are changes to the planned schedule.
  • Discuss events or activities that could be overwhelming – break it down and help the child do a sensory breakdown of the activity.
  • Let the child try a new activity in a safe and contained environment. Many outdoor activities have intense multi-sensory input, and the child will be less likely to explore their boundaries. For example, if you are going to the beach, fill a tray with sand and shells, and encourage the child to play with it. This way, the child has a way to get used to a tactile sensation before he even gets to the sandy and wet beach.
  • Allow your child to wear water shoes when walking on the sand and grass – it will decrease the tactile input and it will also protect those sensitive feet from the hot sand too.
  • Apply sunscreen before you leave the house. This will allow it to dry, therefore reducing the amount of sand that will stick to the body
  • Give your child sunglasses and a hat to protect his eyes from the intense and bright sunlight.
  • Have an umbrella or tent to create shade and to protect from the wind and bugs.
  • Have earplugs or earphones handy for when it gets too noisy. This will help decrease the intensity of the multisensory input.
  • Have wet wipes or hand sanitiser on hand.
  • Maintain your child’s diet and keep your child hydrated. Food is fuel for our bodies and our brains. Too much junk food and holiday foods can throw our bodies into disarray.
  • Consider meal options when you are away from home. You know what your child’s food likes and dislikes are, and if need be, take his favourite food with him to dinner. Prep your family and friends in advance, and do not force your child to eat something that he does not like.
  • Have an escape plan – identify a room or have a small tent that your child can retreat to when it all gets too much. Have his sensory tool kit (e.g. fidgets, chewies, plush toy, earphones, water bottle, a book to read) nearby, so that he can regulate with the things that bring the most comfort. Have someone else in your family that can help you make sure that the safe place is ready for when it is needed.
  • Avoid shopping trips with your child. Shopping malls are overwhelming and full of stressed-out people, different sounds smells, and long queues – the perfect place for a sensory meltdown.
  • Add sensory-friendly things to do – visit the museum, go to the aquarium or go watch a movie.

At the end of the day, remember to have fun. Holidays are there to make new memories and to spend quality time with our loved ones. Be flexible –  looking out for and taking care of our loved ones are important, so it’s okay not to do that scheduled activity if one of us is not in a good sensory space.

Happy holidays!

Learn more about your own sensory style: do your Sensory Matrix™.