Selfcare and emotional wellness when life gets tough

Posted: 15 November, 2019

By: Marieta du Toit

Section: Wellness

Selfcare and emotional wellness when life gets tough

Around this time of the year, people often reflect on the past 10 months: the highlights… and the hardships. The image of a lab-rats running aimlessly on their spinning wheels comes to mind as we prepare for shutdown before the frantic festive season. We’re all yearning for rest and relaxation without time frames and deadlines. Luckily (hopefully), soon enough we’ll be sitting around the Christmas table, laughing and enjoying special carefree moments with loved ones. 

For many, getting to those peaceful, harmonious days towards the end of 2019, has taken much more effort and strain than in previous years. Life throws curveballs when you least expect it: failed relationships, job losses, accidents, unforeseen expenses, illnesses and even loss of life. 

I’m not one for clichés, but the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, was on to something when he said: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

You see, I lost my brother to cancer earlier this year. He’s been fighting the dreaded disease bravely for over 3 years, but his body was not as strong as his will to live. I was fortunate to be with him (together with the rest of the family) as he drifted off into eternity. Although it was a purely peaceful, holy moment, my comfort levels took a turn for the worst and I felt an urgent need to get out of the hospital room. 

I’ve contemplated on numerous occasions why I needed to flee, why I couldn’t stay in those surroundings… why I needed to get out… 

Thinking back to that moment, it now makes complete sense to me why I had to “run” – my body and nervous system was not coping and all my senses were going into high alert. It felt as if the pressure cooker’s lid was about to blow. Thankfully, I know my sensory thresholds all too well, was able to read the warning signs, and realized that I desperately needed to self-regulate to avoid complete sensory overload and probably a meltdown. 

Revisiting that day with an analytical view, I now recognize that I provided my body and nervous system with the much-needed input at that specific time, without having to think about it: my body intuitively knew what it was craving, i.e.:

  • For me, the easiest, surest, most fool-proof sensory strategy for achieving self-regulation was MOVEMENT!
  • While walking, I was not merely providing rhythmic vestibular input to my body, but also DEEP PRESSURE through the soles of my feet. 
  • While pacing up-and-down outside the hospital building under the trees, I continuously inhaled and exhaled taking DEEP BREATHS – another great strategy for self-regulation. 
  • Being outside, the warmth of the sun rays on my skin provided calming TEMPERATURE and I felt as if I was comfortably wrapped in a warm blanket of sunshine. 
  • As I calmed down, I became aware of bird songs, the breeze rustling through the leaves and other soothing SOUNDS OF NATURE

Following these sensory strategies, I reunited with my family and was able to be present and engaging, avoiding additional stress and ensuring selfcare at that moment.

When going through difficult times, be it physical or emotional, take care of your body and mind: applying sensory strategies to calm your nervous system ensures that you follow a bottom-up approach to reduce stress: 

less thinking, more doing;

less aftercare, more prevention;

less fight/fright/flight reactions, more regulation. 




To discover your own sensory thresholds, increase self-awareness and identify your unique coping strategies, visit and complete your own Sensory Matrix™ or the free Sensory Quiz™ for an introduction to your thresholds. 


Get to know yourself – enjoy living, learning and working easier.


Who has benefited

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