With the warm sunshine beaming through the window, the day started with the warmest, sweetest smile and a tight squeeze around my neck, that melted my heart. Within 40 minutes my 2-year-old toddler and I quickly moved from this sweet moment into testing, defining and defending our boundaries. Whoa — remember those moments when dealing with toddlers and the biggest problem of the morning was having to listen to your mother and “pick up your blocks so we can leave?”

When moments like these happen, being out of control, what do we do? How do we react? What are we feeling — can we name our emotions?

How we respond during any stressful time can depend on many things: Our background, social support from family or friends, financial situation, our health and emotional background, the community you live in, along with many other factors.

In this moment, I was thankful for the space my son and I were both in mentally and emotionally, as the outcome may have been very different and could have set a negative tone for the rest of the day. But, I didn’t give in to my mom guilt of seeing his tears from crying, he still picked up the blocks, we still gave each other hugs and kisses when the task was completed. But boy that 30-40-minute battle of wills was exhausting. The saving grace was knowing; we would eventually continue our routine of heading to the Y.

“Sensory stimulation or sensory awareness is when our senses are engaged purposefully to elicit a response or reaction. These senses include the visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste) and tactile. For someone who needs to be engaged on the sensory level, I use the example of an orange. An orange has a certain size, a certain texture and a certain visual appeal. If you cut open the orange, it has a fragrance. Once the orange is cut open and you squeeze it, you can put a drop of juice onto the client’s lip for the gustatory — you engage almost all the senses with one item. The most successful therapeutic recreation program with the greatest outcome is where the client experiences sensations across a diversity of domains.” — Beth Lueders, https://www.rightathome.net/, Therapeutic Recreation FAQ’s July 17, 2018.

What senses are you in tune or aware of during stressful times? Using our senses is a way to help create a sense of control over situations we don’t feel in control of.

The routine of leaving home — giving a kiss to my son is always the last thing I do after I buckle his car seat, driving with the windows down, deeply inhaling the fresh air blowing through the windows, unloading the car, are all a part of my familiar routine. But the next 2 minutes are what calm me the most every morning. On our walk into the Y — rubbing my thumb against the smoothness of his skin while he tightly grabs my fingers, while I hold his hand — these short minutes awakens many of my senses. This routine for the last 30 minutes provides some sensory familiarity. These brief minutes of something familiar and being aware can provide well needed moments of relief from the stressful moments that may have started the day, or the unforeseen moments to come throughout the day.

What routines do you have, and what senses do they awaken?

Consider being aware of your senses, consider being in tune with your senses, and consider embracing your senses, as they might just provide a well-needed sense of relief in stressful moments.

Michell Hampton is the financial development director at the Greater Marinette-Menominee YMCA.