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  • Writer's pictureAmanda the OT

Managing Emotions with Sensory Strategies

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Effort and attention are limited commodities that the brain assigns accordingly to the actions it predicts will be successful in protection or pleasure. Therefore, sustained states of boredom (too easy) or frustration (too hard) are stressful to the brain.


The part of the brain that reacts to stress (the amygdala) acts as a switching station by activating either the reflective or reactive centers of the brain. Activation of the Big Brain (i.e., reflexive) results in learning and retention compared to outcomes of activation of the Little Brain (i.e., reactive) are fight, flight, or freeze behaviors. This is how the brain is designed. It's NOT A CHOICE!


Emotions are felt in the body through sensations, and in the mind as thoughts caused by chemical messages from the brain traveling through the body and driving our behaviors. Some factors that impact the regulation of emotions include body functions, sensory processing skills, attention, and behavioral skills.


Calming sensory strategies that are especially helpful for those with low thresholds for sensory input include:

  • Massage

  • Calming Aroma (e.g., lavender)

  • Rocking

  • Pressure Garment

  • Headphones


Alerting sensory strategies, on the other hand, support those with high thresholds for sensory input including:

  • Head Inversion

  • Dancing

  • Face Tapping

  • Music

  • Crunchy/Sour/Frozen Foods

  • Cold water splash


Just-right sensory strategies are helpful for both high and low thresholds. Examples of these include:

  • Yoga

  • Gum/Mints

  • Change

  • Music


For more specific and individualized information on your sensory processing pattern and strategies to manage your emotions, schedule an assessment with an OT practitioner in your area.


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