My Top 15 Sensory Tools & Replacement Behaviors
As many of my friends and family members know, I have been a hair puller my whole life. 6 months ago, I found Keen by HabitAware and it has been a life-saver for me! Keen first helped me become aware of my hair pulling and then understand why I was doing this unwanted behavior.
Every behavior has a function or reason. Through TONS of research on sensory processing, I was able to discover that my BFRB (Body Focused Repetitive Behavior), hair pulling and picking, was due to sensory stimulation (aka it felt good/soothing, helped me focus, and/or helped me escape negative thoughts).
Twirling, knotting and ripping out my hair gave me the tactile and proprioceptive input I needed to self-regulate; therefore, it would continue over and over in repetitive cycles. With the help of Keen, I’ve began to retrain my brain and regain control using the following tools & replacements.
Hand Squeeze - I clench my fists probably 50,000 times/day, any time I have the urge to pull my hair. Tensing and releasing my muscles helps me calm down and feel at ease. Confession~I might have stolen Betty's strategy from Riverdale...
Deep Breathing - Keen's tight pressure aka 'hug' on my wrist has a light with a 1 minute guided breathing exercise that can be done anywhere.
Sensory Ball or Weight - When my emotional stress turns to physical back pain, I love laying on these different tools to give myself a back massage.
Acupuncture Mat - About a year ago, I discovered how amazing acupuncture is for my mind, body and soul. This mat feels fabulous on my back when I get home from work.
Yoga Stretching - Laying on the floor stretching, relaxes and calms my mind and body ~ relieving back pain after a long day.
Hat & Brush - Both are perfect for giving me sensory input on the areas I have the urge to pick or pull on my head. They are both needed when I'm feeling worried or anxious.
Exercise - Going to the gym or outside for a walk/run always helps me release energy and negative feelings. It's a perfect way for me to take a break to unwind.
Music - Auditory input through music is a tool I use a lot. I love listening to music when I'm sad or angry to calm down and instrumental music if I need help focusing.
Journal - Voicing my feelings through writing is my go-to tool when I'm angry or feel like things are out of my control. Anytime I'm triggered by change or overwhelmed with the 'unknown,' I make a to-do or pros/cons list.
Eat or Drink- If I’m not getting enough sensory stimulation, sometimes I just need a snack (cheese anyone?), or drink of water, diet snapple, (or wine to unwind-no judgements please!)
Progressive Muscle Relaxation- This is an extension of the 'hand squeeze.' PMR taught me to relax through tensing and releasing each muscle group. This mindful activity gives me proprioceptive input to feel regulated.
Talk it Out – Calling, texting or talking to my loved ones can also be a great strategy for me. #asisterisaforeverfriend #homesweethome #teacherfriends #winkfamily #collegebesties #iamhomewheni’mwithyou
Puzzles - This summer, I found a new tactile tool for when I'm bored. Although, since I have summers off, I might have become the obsessed crazy puzzle lady.
Build/Craft – Sometimes just doing something else with my hands when I’m watching TV is a good way to keep my mind off twirling my hair. As an educator, there are always fun things to build (pinwheels), design and prep for teaching (laminate, cut, repeat)! Visit my TPT store here
Fresh Air – Last, but not least, just going outside to feel a breeze can be exactly what my body needs - just some good, old-fashioned, fresh city air!
I'm a firm believer that everyone learns differently and needs different tools to feel regulated, calm, focused and ready to learn. It is my hope that sharing my story will not only help people like me, but also inspire others to teach and learn replacement behaviors. 💙💚💛❤️