Caring for the Senses

By Jennie Hastings
[Savvy Self-Care]

On my own path of savvy self-care, I have gone through many stages of learning about myself, my body, my mind, and my emotions. At each stage, there is a refinement in my self-care practices. One of the first stages of learning to care for myself was to pay attention to the food I was putting into my body. I remember being fascinated as I noticed the way different foods made me feel and the power that seemed to give me overnight.
After paying attention to the food I was eating, and learning a little about nutrition, I began to understand how different foods affect me and so could choose how I wanted to feel. It was no longer a mystery to me when I woke up bloated and with a new crop of acne after a day of eating pastries and drinking coffee. I knew it was an inflammatory response in my body, and I discovered how to balance my system again with food that kept my blood sugar stable.
Over time, as I have learned more about self-care, I have come to learn that food is not the only way junk can get into my system. Besides my tongue, I have eyes, ears, a nose, and the surface of my skin, and for each of these senses there are both beneficial and harmful things to consume.
Our senses are, well, sensitive. They are directly connected to our nervous system and brain, and through them we gather the perceptions that create our thoughts and emotions. If we regularly expose ourselves to harsh sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, our nervous system will begin to withdraw our sensitivities. Too much sensory exposure causes a deadening of our senses as we subconsciously disconnect a bit from life to protect our inner experience. A cycle then begins where it takes more for us to feel something, so we seek even more extreme sensory experiences.
The trouble with this continual numbing is it takes us out of connection with ourselves. As massage therapists and bodyworkers, our bodies and minds are the instruments we use to do our work. If we blunt our senses by exposing them to too much, we will not be sensitive in our work with our clients.
The work we do is subtle. Our ability to put our hands on a person’s body and feel what is going on with their muscles means we already have refined our subtle awareness. The more we are able to support this awareness by caring for our senses, the better our work will be.

Nurturing Our Senses
There are many ways to protect and nourish the senses. I am sure if you think about it, you will realize there are many things you already do to take care of yourself in this way.
Take a moment to think about your eyes and sight. What are the sights that nourish you? What are the sights that make you feel bad? For me, every time I walk under a canopy of green trees my eyes relax and I immediately feel better. Watching violent movies, on the other hand, is a total no-no, as I am thoroughly upset by images of people being hurt.
Now, consider your ears and hearing. What are the sounds that uplift you? How can you bring more of those sounds into your life? What are the sounds that upset or irritate you? I know that very loud sounds are hard on me, and I will stuff toilet paper in my ears if I am at a concert with an overly loud sound system. Even if I love the music, if the sound is too loud, my brain begins to feel like it is getting bounced around inside my skull.
Repeat these questions for each of your senses. Begin to identify which sensory experiences make you feel healthier, happier, and more peaceful, and which ones leave you stressed, angry, and make your mind race. The beauty of doing this exercise is that as soon as you bring these ideas into your awareness, you will automatically begin to shift to the experiences that support you and away from the ones you have identified as harmful.

Refreshing Our Senses
Have you ever taken a day off to rest your senses? I know this is almost unheard of. When most people get the day off, they plan a full day of excitement and fun that fills the senses. But what if you took a day off to let your senses rest? What would it feel like to take a day off to truly do nothing? A day to sit around, take naps, and meditate. A day when you unplug all your electronic devices, eat plain and simple food, and keep silent as much as possible. I highly recommend taking time like this on a regular basis. It is a powerful self-care practice.
As we progress on our self-care journey, we must come to understand that what we allow in through our senses affects our well-being, and we must begin to choose what we allow into our life and what we choose to shield ourselves from. Like food, it is not necessary to eliminate harsh sensory pollutants entirely, but we need to recognize them for what they are and how they affect us. This process empowers us to make good choices about what we let in and what we keep out.

Jennie Hastings is a board-certified massage therapist, writer, and teacher. She is the creator of The Blossom Method and author of The Inspired Massage Therapist (Massage Blossom Books, 2012). She wants to be your friend on Facebook. Sign up for her monthly newsletter, and check out her blog at