10 Ways to Apply Pressure to Your Body to Appease Sensory Cravings

10 Ways to Apply Pressure to Your Body to Appease Sensory Cravings

Many people, both with and without autism, find certain types of sensory stimulation have a calming effect and help them cope with the stresses of everyday life. To fulfill these sensory cravings, some people participating in self-stimulatory or "stimming" behaviors. There is a wide range of these "stims," from hand-flapping to headbanging and more.

Each type of stim serves a different purpose, stimulating one or more of the senses, including touch. And one form of touch-related self-stimulation is putting pressure on the body, also known as deep-touch pressure. In the same way that a hug or a shower with good water pressure can be comforting, so other forms of pressure can offer a relaxing sensation or another type of sensation.

Because certain stims can be dangerous behavior—such as banging one's head against a hard object or biting oneself—it's important to have plenty of sensory-friendly tools in your arsenal so you can choose safer stims for yourself or encourage safer stims in your child or someone else in your care.

In that spirit, we've compiled a list of safe stims that involve putting deep-touch pressure on different areas of the body. Some of these activities require the use of certain objects, while others can be done no matter where you are. You're sure to find one among this list that fulfills the unique needs of your situation.

Click "next" for a list of safe deep-pressure stimming activities!

10. Weighted blankets

Weighted blankets are a very versatile tool to put weight either on the whole body or just one part of the body (just don't cover anyone's face with them). There are also lap pads or weighted vests that provide a similar "hugging" sensation without being quite so cumbersome.

9. The "burrito"

If you don't have a weighted blanket (they are a bit pricey, we agree), you can use a regular blanket wrapped tightly about your body to get a similar feeling. It may take two people, however, to make one human "burrito" (although that may change with practice).

Click "next" for more safe deep-pressure stimming activities!

8. Couch cushions or pillows

Some people find it comforting to skip the blankets altogether and "sandwich" themselves between couch cushions or pillows. You might try lying underneath the cushions on the couch or taking them off to build a sort of compressed "cushion fort" for yourself or someone else. Again, be careful not to get yourself or another person into a position where they can't breathe.

7. Massage

Some people (again, with or without autism) have issues with personal space and don't like to be touched. However, for those who don't fall into that category, there's nothing like a good massage to relax you. This, along with hugging, is also the perfect stimulation activity for those who crave human touch. Just be sure all parties are okay with this type of touching before proceeding.

Click "next" for more safe deep-pressure stimming activities!

6. Bouncy ball

You can either roll on a bouncy ball on your stomach or back or sit on the ball to bounce. Bouncing on a ball offers a momentary weightless feeling, while you may find the pressure of the ball—whether it's on your backside or your front—comforting. Bouncing also has the added benefit of helping work off excess energy.

5. Crash pad

Crash pads are specifically designed to cushion your fall, similar to the mats you may have seen in gym class or at a wrestling match. For people who enjoy stimming activities like falling, punching something, or hitting their head on something, a softer item like a crash pad or standard pillows might do the trick in a safe manner.

Click "next" for more safe deep-pressure stimming activities!

4. Somersault

Being upside down is a unique feeling all its own, and, while we don't recommend being in this position for too long, a quick handstand or a somersault could be just what your body has been craving. You might also try hanging upside down from a sturdy object for a short period of time.

3. Water

Water is another versatile tool for applying pressure to the body. Swimming can provide a feeling of weightlessness, while showering or standing in a sprinkler's stream delivers more targeted and deeper pressure. No matter how much or how little pressure you like, water has got a setting for you (in one form or another).

Click "next" for more safe deep-pressure stimming activities!

2. Log roll

Rolling around on the ground is a surprising way to give your whole body sensory stimulation. Not only does the floor provide the natural pressure of gravity when you do a log roll, but you'll also feel entirely different sensations on different types of flooring—from carpet to hardwood to tile.

1. Bear crawl

There are a variety of exercises that give your hands, feet, and other areas of your body pressure, sometimes while providing other sensations as well. A bear crawl, for example, may give you a slight head rush and a stretching feeling in the backs of your legs. There's also the crab walk, the army crawl, regular crawling, the wheelbarrow walk to give you different sensations without the need for any tools or props.

Got another activity in mind? Let us know what it is in the comments!

Want to see some stimming in action? Click "next" below to watch an autism family explore the world of stims.



Elizabeth Morey

Elizabeth Morey graduated summa cum laude from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, where she dual majored in English Literature and Spanish with minors in Writing and Business Administration. She was a member of the school's Insignis Honors Society and the president of the literary honors society Lambda Iota Tau.

Some of Elizabeth's special interests include Spanish and English linguistics, modern grammar and spelling, and journalism. She has been writing professionally for more than five years and specializes in health topics such as breast cancer, autism, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Apart from her work at GreaterGood, she has also written art and culture articles for the Grand Rapids Magazine.

Elizabeth has lived in the beautiful Great Lakes State for most of her life but also loves to travel. She currently resides a short drive away from the dazzling shores of Lake Michigan with her beloved husband.

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