Sensory Relaxation - A Sense of Calm, Sensory Relaxation to combat stress and anxiety

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“A Sense of Calm” follows the protocols of sensory integration, using specially created movement and music to promote an atmosphere of sensory relaxation. “A Sense of Calm” can be used by anyone in need of relaxation, but is particularly beneficial when used to bring relief to those who are prone to agitation, anxiety and stress as a result of medical conditions ranging from autism to dementia.
Dr. A. Jean Ayers first defined sensory integration as "the neurological process that organizes sensation from one's own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment."

Our senses are our windows on the world - sight, sound, taste, touch and smell combine with our vestibular and proprioceptive systems to help us make sense of our environment and our place within that environment. In other words, without our senses we would not be aware of anything, not even ourselves and without being able to integrate our senses we would remain confused and disorganised, unable to make a connection between ourselves, the world around us and the various parts of our body.

Some medical conditions like dementia, anxiety disorders and learning difficulties like dyslexia, autism and Down's Syndrome interfere with our ability to integrate our senses, making us susceptible to agitation, stress and anxiety, which can trigger the overproduction of high frequency beta brain waves and stress hormones associated with the flight or fight response. This can also happen to anyone who is going through a difficult time where anxiety is brought about through the pressure of work, personal problems, illness, or injury. Constant exposure to high beta brain waves and stress hormones can cause both mental and physical health problems.

When we are in a state of relaxation our brain waves oscillate at between 8 and 13 cycles per second – these are known as alpha waves.

In 2010, research psychologist, Matteo Toscani of the University of Giessen suggested that alpha waves support a 'gating function' on sensorial stimulation in the brain that actively inhibits unattended information, helping to cut out sensory overload.  Neurologists have long understood that if someone’s senses are exposed to external alpha range stimulation, the brain will mimic the alpha vibrations and create its own alpha brainwaves. This is known as brain wave entrainment.

Research by Dr. Georgi Lozanov and others has shown that music with a pulse of 50 to 70 beats a minute can shift brain activity from excitable beta brain waves to calming alpha waves.  Alpha waves are also strongly associated with the brain’s visual cortex (Silva 1973), so visual rhythms can be very effective in stimulating those calming alpha wave frequencies in the brain. Occupying the visual cortex also helps to reduce input from the other senses, reducing sensory overload. So, alpha brain waves can help to rebalance the anxious brain and reduce our exposure to stress hormones.

Alpha Brain Waves
Visual Cortex
The music and the pace and movement of the images used in "A Sense of Calm" are specially constructed to promote calming alpha brain waves. The music is new and the images are deliberately abstract, so they do not require a memory response to be effective. They are also “non-threatening” in the sense that they are constructed in a way that minimises any negative associations that can often occur with familiar music and scenic imagery.

Abstract images can also encourage visualisation, where the viewer creates scenes, or assigns meaning to the images in their own imagination. The movement of the images also gently promote smooth pursuit eye movement which help to increase awareness (Kerkhoff et al 2013) and optical divergence, similar to focusing into the distance, which relaxes the eye muscles.

Because “A Sense of Calm” helps to create an alpha wave rich atmosphere, the recipient of the therapy is drawn towards a state of relaxation without any effort on their part, unlike exercise based relaxation methods that require conscious and physical effort. This is very important for conditions like dementia, autism, Down Syndrome and other learning difficulties where it is often difficult to engage with someone who is distracted by their agitation and / or confusion.

As a relaxation aid "A Sense of Calm" displays a number of benefits –

1. It comes in the convenient form of a DVD.
2. Flexibility, because it can be used in a purpose build sensory room, in a hospital ward, a care home, a classroom, or at home.
3. It can be used on its own or to accompany other therapies.
4. It is based on the principles of multi-sensory therapy.
5. It helps to create an alpha wave rich atmosphere and the recipient is drawn towards a state of relaxation without any effort on their part, unlike exercise based relaxation methods.
6. It does not rely on memory to elicit the response, so avoids any adverse reactions.
7. It can help as part of a treatment to reduce the reliance on anti-psychotic and anti–depressant drugs.
8. It can be used for a range of medical conditions.
9. The abstract imagery encourages visualisation that enhances the relaxing effect.
10. Promotes smooth pursuit eye movement, which increases awareness and optical divergence, relaxing the eye muscles.

For more on sensory relaxation, please read our booklet on sensory calming in our resource section.

All content within the A Sense of Calm site is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. A Sense of Calm is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this website and A Sense of Calm is not liable for the contents of any external Internet sites listed. Always consult your own doctor if you are in any way concerned about your health, or the health of someone you care for.
copyright: A Sense of Calm Ltd 2020
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