Things That Made Me Smile (March 22, 2021) #WeeklySmile

Hi all on this lovely Monday! I am so excited to have discovered the Weekly Smile. This is, as the name suggests, a weekly blog event in which participants share what made them smile. Having discovered this meme itself is a reason to smile. I love being positive! Let me share what else made me smile.

First up is my new assigned staff’s kindness. Like I said in my #WeekendCoffeeShare post on Friday, I have a new assigned staff. She is calm, kind and very dedicated to her job. I initially worried she might get too attached and then have to withdraw as my assigned staff. She reassured me though that she maintains her professionalism.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit triggered. The student staff, with whom I am not fully comfortable yet, had been my one-on-one for the evening. In addition, a male staff may get to work in my home soon. He seems kind enough, but still, it’s an adjustment. All this led me to feeling a bit stressed out when I was going to bed. Thankfully, my new assigned staff comforted me.

After the staff had taken me to bed, I pressed the call button a few times for the staff to come back, but she didn’t mind. She has this little rhyme she tells me each time she puts me to bed. It goes something like this:
Sleep well,
Head on the pillow,
Ass in the straw,
Then Astrid sleeps soon.

This time, the staff adjusted the rhyme to address not just me, but all of the voices (alters) inside my head. That definitely made me smile.

Second is my sensory room experience that I was able to create in my own bedroom. First, I found a calming essential oil blend to put in my diffuser. Then, I found the album on Spotify that I used to have in the CD player in the day center’s sensory room. It is called Songbird Symphony. Lastly, I crawled under my weighted blanket and had my staff cover me with the ball-filled blanket that came with the sensory bed from our makeshift sensory room. In total, I had at least 20kg of weighted blankets on top of me. This probably isn’t healthy for actual sleeping, so I threw off the ball blanket before actually drifting off to sleep. However, the feeling before this was so peaceful. It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s “hug machine”. Reading about that introduced to me the comforting effect of deep pressure years before I felt able to explore my own sensory experiences. Now, I totally appreciate my care staff, physical therapist and the manager for having helped me find my sensory comfort.

What made you smile this past week?

Creating a Sensory Room Experience in My Own Bedroom

It’s been a year since the day center closed. For the most part, it was a good thing for me. I, after all, was often overwhelmed in my day activities group. One thing I miss about the day center though, is the sensory or snoezelen® room. Today, I am sharing how I recreated a sensory room experience in my own bedroom. Since I am blind, I skipped the visual aspect mostly, but I’ll add some ideas for it regardless. That way, you can create a sensory environment for yourself.

Sound

In the day center sensory room, we have a really cool speaker system that’s attached to the bed. It isn’t likely that advanced, so with some speakers at the right position, you may be able to recreate it. I don’t own wireless speakers. However, I found that I can recreate similar effects with earbuds or headphones. I would recommend earbuds for better positioning, but since I don’t have wireless ones, I use my wireless headphones anyway.

I mentioned before that I use an app called MyNoise. This app has over 120 soundscapes and you can customize each individual sound to your own hearing. There are nature soundscapes, but also white noise, Buddhist-like and SciFi soundscapes. I prefer the nature ones.

Like I said, I don’t own wireless speakers, though I might want to invest in some at some point. My phone or computer speakers work okay when listening to music though. There are many calming playlists on Spotify and undoubtedly other music apps too. The ones I love most are Harp Music for Sleeping, Peaceful Guitar and Peaceful Piano. There are also a number of nature sound playlists.

I at one point wanted a music pillow. I may still buy one at some point, but I haven’t yet found one that’s big enough to be used as a sleeping pillow and also works with Bluetooth.

Smell

One thing that my bedroom has and the snoezelen® room didn’t, is an aromatherapy diffuser. I have posted many times about my love for it. Mine cost €40, but they start at as cheap as €15. Essential oils can be a bit expensive depending on the quality you choose. I am obsessed with creating my own blends, so I really like to have a large collection of essential oils. However, if all you want is a nice smell, fragrance oils are also great.

Touch

In the day center sensory room, we had a specially designed waterbed. That felt good, but my own bed is also a pretty good substitute. I usually turn up the head side of the bed slightly.

A thing that’s a true blessing for my senses though, is my weighted blanket. These come in different forms. Some are filled with plastic balls. Mine is filled with sachets filled with granules. It’s a rather expensive blanket at over €500. Thankfully though, my care facility paid for it. With the company we used, you can borrow the blanket on a try-out basis for two weeks for just postage. That helped me make sure it was the right one for me. Mine weighs 12kg, which is relatively heavy considering my body weight of 70kg, but I actually love it this way.

I put a flannel duvet cover over my weighted blanket in winter. When it’s really cold or I need some extra softness for sensory reasons, I use a fleece blanket too.

In addition, I have various soft toys. My favorite is an ordinary stuffed bear. However, I also have a 1.60m large stuffed bear that I got from my mother-in-law for my birthday last year. This one was probably quite expensive. Another of my favorite soft toys, is my sensory cat. This stuffed cat can be microwaved and then gives off heat and a lavender scent.

Sight

Like I said, I am blind with the exception of a tiny bit of light perception. I for this reason don’t benefit from visual stimuli. That being said, I do know a bit about making your room visually appealing to the senses.

My essential oil diffuser works as a night light too. It can be set to seven different colors and I believe also two intensity levels.

Of course, you may want to use your sensory room experience for more than just sleeping. I’m pretty sure in my care home’s makeshift sensory room, the staff put up some form of Christmas lights for the visual effect.

In addition, there are many different visual projection systems. My care facility owns the Qwiek.

Conclusion

I really love my makeshift sensory room in my own bedroom. Generally speaking, creating a true sensory room requires a lot of money. I am so glad though that I could buy some equipment myself or ask for it as a gift. That way, I was able to skip the unnecessary for me expensive things and find things I truly would use. I am very glad that my facility paid for the weighted blanket.

loopyloulaura

Lovin’ Lately (October 9, 2020) #Blogtober20

Okay, I’m once again pretty late writing a post. I’m seriously uninspired today. The #Blogtober20 prompt for today, “Imagine”, didn’t evoke anything in me. Since the prompts are optional, I could of course do a gratitude list or lovin’ lately post. That at first didn’t feel good with the challenge, as I wanted to write originally for the challenge, but so what? Sharing my likes and loves might bring you joy! Today, let me share the things that I’ve loved lately and that bring me joy.

1. The weighted blanket. I already mentioned it a few times this past week but yesterday, it was decided that I can keep it. My care facility is paying for it. I am very happy about this.

2. Yet more essential oils. On Tuesday, some new oils arrived, including cinnamon, clove, lemon and orange. I now have over 20 different oils and can make a lot of lovely blends. Right now, I’m diffusing a Christmassy blend of cinnamon, patchouli, clove, orange and ylang ylang. I am completely in love with the most recent additions to my oil collection!

3. Soap making. I love to make melt and pour soap. On Monday, a staff asked me to make one for a relative of hers. I got down to making it on Tuesday right away. She had requested rose fragrance, so I decided to also try out my red mica colorant. Because you only need a tiny amount of it, I decided to make two soaps: one for the relative and one for the staff herself. The butterfly is for the relative and the square one for the staff. In case it isn’t readable, the square one has “100% hand made” written on it.

4. Free and cheap books. I cannot remember who it was, but a fellow #Blogtober20 participant shared some tips on getting free or cheap books legally a few days ago. One of them was BookBub. It’s a U.S.-based (and maybe UK-based too) site that collects book deals from the main book retailers, such as Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, etc. It sends out a daily E-mail with that day’s deals. Through BookBub, I found quite a few interesting books.

Of course, since I’m in the Netherlands, I got an error once trying to download a free book from Amazon.com. However, I looked it up on Amazon.nl and it was free there too. The first one I got is a cozy mystery called Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs. It’s the first in a series, but if I’m correct, the books can be read as standalones too.

5. Products from The Body Shop. I must say I haven’t bought any yet, but I’ve been oohing and aahing at their advent calendar and their pumpkin vanilla product line too. I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy the pumpkin vanilla hand cream if it isn’t sold out already.

What things brought you joy lately?

#Blogtober20

Self-Care Strategies for Coping with Mental Health Issues #Blogtober20

Today’s prompt in #Blogtober20 is “She Drives Me Crazy”. Many bloggers are using the prompt to inspire posts on organization, decluttering and mental health. So am I.

I’m not feeling too well today. Yesterday, my inner voices started back up with a vengeance. This led to a mini-crisis in the middle of the night. Today I’m feeling a bit low. It may be to blame on my lack of proper sleep last night, or it might just be a bit of the seasonal blues. I hope not, of course.

Anyway, here are some things I do to cope with mental health issues. Some of these are specific to a certain problem, such as depression or anxiety. Others are more general wellbeing tips.

1. Proper sleep and rest. I’ve noticed that, when I don’t sleep well, my mental health goes downhill rapidly. For this reason, I’m trying to get into a better night-time routine. I still use my computer or phone before bed, which I probably shouldn’t do, but I don’t know what else to do in the evening.

I currently am in the process of trying out a weighted blanket, which really helps with relaxation. I mean, even if I don’t sleep, I do rest more when using this. I also use an app called MyNoise, which allows users to customize various mixes of nature sounds or other sensory-friendly sounds. You can set the individual volume for each sound within the mix and there are about 150 mixes to choose from if you have the paid version (which is a one-time purchase of I believe €10,99). Last night, I ultimately fell asleep listening to a soundscape called Patagonia.

I do usually take one hour-long nap during the day. Most days, if I stick to just that after-lunch nap, I sleep pretty well during the night and still feel refreshed the rest of the day.

2. Sensory-friendly activities. I already mentioned the weighted blanket and the MyNoise soundscapes. In addition, I often diffuse essential oil blends into my diffuser. Just today, some new oils arrived, so I’m excited to try them out soon.

3. Staying active. Today is a bad day weather-wise, as it’s been raining most of the day. Still, I managed to squeeze in a walk in the afternoon. I also made sure to stay active and do something in the morning. I made a soap. This is not physically exerting myself, but it definitely gives me joy.

It helps me to stick to a routine as much as possible. Like, I drink coffee in the morning and afternoon, eat my meals at regular times, and do an activity in the morning and afternoon too. I also usually go for a walk in the evening, but today it was raining and the staff were too busy.

4. Mindfulness. I haven’t practised that today, but I find it can help me stay grounded in the moment. I sometimes try a body scan meditation. I also for one love guided visualizations.

How do you take good care of yourself?

For those who are interested, last April, I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge with the topic of self-care. If you click on the #AtoZChallenge tag in my tag cloud, you’ll find a lot of information.

#Blogtober20

#WeekendCoffeeShare (September 27, 2020)

It’s pretty late in the evening already and I had a few gulps of wine. That isn’t a wise idea, as I normally literally never drink. It was one of my staff’s leaving party and the other staff dared me to drink to it. I only had one gulp of red wine and one gulp of white wine, but I was definitely feeling the effect. Call it placebo, I don’t care.

I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. The staff who is retiring took the remaining wine home with her, so we don’t have that now. We do have several types of soft drinks and a type of orange-peach juice. We also, of course, have coffee or tea. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, thankfully, all clients who had cold symptoms last week, tested negative for coronavirus and are on the mend now. I am still a bit sniffy but other than that feel fine.

If we were having coffee, I would share that now, unfortunately, my husband is sick. For this reason, I couldn’t see him over this week-end again. I hope he’s better by next week, both for his sake and mine.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I made an experimental soap yesterday. I made it with real coffee grounds and espresso fragrance oil. I was planning on making a soap for the staff who’s retiring, but didn’t have time to make one for myself to try out first. Here’s hoping the staff will like it.

If we were having coffee, I would then go on and on about my new essential oil diffuser and my new oils to go in it. I had a blend I made myself in it yesterday, which I call lime love. It uses lime, lavender and ylang ylang essential oils.

If we were having coffee, I would also share how happy I am with the weighted blanket I’m allowed to try out for two weeks. Last night, I didn’t sleep well due to once again hyperfocusing on a project – my umpteenth attempt at blogging in Dutch. However, I did feel more rested than usual when I woke up.

Lastly, if we were having coffee, I wouldn’t have coffee at all, as I’m wanting to go to bed soon. I love lying in bed with my essential oil diffuser on with a relaxing blend in it, some soothing music in the background and my weighted blanket over me.

What’s been going on in your life lately?

Lovin’ Lately (September 25, 2020)

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for the Friday Favorites linky. I don’t join in every week, but today, I have a lot of amazing things I’ve loved lately.

1. My new essential oil diffuser. I had promised myself a new one when my benefits came in on Wednesday. After all, the old one was a bit leaky at times and its buttons had been stuck for a while. Wednesday in the middle of the night, I decided to order it despite my benefits not having shown up in my bank account yet. I got it from Bol.com, a large Dutch online store similar to Amazon. When checking out, Bol.com offered me free same evening delivery because I have a type of subscription (only €9,99/year) with them that allows free delivery. It seems rather decadent to want same day delivery on non-essentials, but so what? It arrived the following evening at around 8:30 and I love it!

2. Lots of essential oils. I ordered those at the end of last week at an online soaping supplies store. However, they take 3-6 working days to process and ship your order, so my oils didn’t arrive till Tuesday. I went through my old essential oils on Wednesday, seeing which had expired. I still have quite a lovely selection though. Currently, a blend of patchouli, bergamot and lavender is diffusing in my diffuser.

I also ordered some other soaping supplies, but haven’t used those yet.

3. Chocolate. On Wednesday, I had been in the care facility for one year. To celebrate, I asked my staff to get some mini candy bars for me and the other clients to enjoy. I particularly loved the crispy one.

4. Books. I haven’t been reading that much lately, but I did download a few new books off Bookshare. Among these are, not surprisingly, several books on essential oils. However, I also saw that the latest Katherine Center novel, What You Wish For was added to Bookshare. I haven’t gotten down to reading any of her books, but I think I’d enjoy them.

5. A weighted blanket. I discussed sensory integration with the physical therapist a while ago and suggested I try a weighted blanket for relaxation. The company that my care facility works with, sends them on a try-out basis for two weeks for just shipping costs. If it helps, the physical therapist is even going to ask my facility to purchase it for me. So far, it’s pretty great.

6. A small table. When we had the COVID scare and were in room-based isolation early in the week, I needed a table to eat on other than my desk. The staff got a small table from an empty room. We’re no longer in isolation, but I’m allowed to use it for as long as no-one else needs it. I love it! I have my diffuser on it. Used to have it on my countertop, but that didn’t work. I may ask my husband to help me look for a similar table at Ikea.

What are some things you’ve been lovin’ lately?

Gratitude List (July 17, 2020) #TToT

It’s been a while since I last did a gratitude post. I’m feeling okay. Not good, not too bad either. However, gratitude will be helpful at any moment. As always, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. A good meeting with the cerebral palsy charity. We “met” online via Microsoft Teams last Saturday. It was nice to get to know some people in my area, as this was a provincial meeting. We’ll “meet” again online on September 5.

2. Paracetamol. I was in some pain over the week-end. Thankfully, some paracetamol did help.

3. Lorazepam. I took one last Saturday too, as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and wanted to sleep well. I got an okay night’s sleep and haven’t needed to take more lorazepam since.

4. Jewelry-making. I didn’t do too much of it, but I did make a keychain for my sister-in-law today. For the rest of the week, I’ve just been looking at all the wonderful things I could do.

5. Physical therapy. This Wednesday, the facility’s physical therapist came by. We had asked her to after the meeting with the CP charity had made it clear that I have no reason to keep going on with pain if there are still options. The PT assessed me and concluded I have tension all over. She put tape around the inside of my right knee, because I overextend it otherwise. That’s helped some.

6. A weighted blanket. I had asked my staff a while ago to inquire about me getting a weighted blanket. The PT said she had one with balls in it on hand. I didn’t like that one, but we did set things in motion so that I can rent and maybe later buy a weighted blanket.

7. Blueberries and candy. I went to the local supermarket with a staff today to by candy, but also ended up buying blueberries. These are all eaten now. The candies aren’t yet.

8. My husband. I talked to him on the phone a few times this week. On Monday, I was quite upset because I feel I may be deteriorating. My husband reassured me that regardless, I am okay the way I am.

I can’t think of anything else and I realize some of these are really blessing-in-disguise type of gratefuls, but oh well.

What are you grateful for?

Weighted Blankets: Sensory Activities for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my 23rd post in the #AtoZChallenge. For the letter W, I choose to write about weighted blankets and other sensory equipment that can help you take good care of you.

I don’t own a wweighted blanket myself. At my old day activities, a staff member made one for use in the sensory room though. It wasn’t ideal, as the weighted compartments wouldn’t stay in place. I loved it though.

I remember clearly how I discovered the good deep pressure can do for me. I was at the first day center I went to after leaving the psych hospital in 2017 and the staff were talking deep pressure as it related to another client. I was at the time already struggling seriously at this day center and at a point where I was looking for another place, but the staff were still trying to be helpful. I asked them whether I could try some weighted products. They handed me a weighted turtoise soft toy. From then on, I’d often have it in my lap during mealtimes and when I was stressed.

Later, once already at my previous day center, I got a weighted unicorn soft toy for Christmas. It was probably originally intended as a door stopper that keeps a door from accidentally banging shut. This one is filled with sand rather than pebbles and it is not wide enough to cover my entire lap. However, it’s cool.

Other sensory products can help with stress relief too. I have a wobbly pad (not sure that’s the correct word) to sit on. I also have a fitness ball that I generally just sit or lie on.

A few months ago, I discovered fidget toys. I think the hype about them a few years ago was exaggerated, but they do help some.

There are tons of other sensory products that can help you calm down or relieve stress. I’m pretty sure I haven’t discovered all that is available.