Everyone has heard of IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional intelligence). But did you know that there is third type of intelligence, called sensory intelligence?
What is sensory intelligence?
Sensory intelligence has to do with how we experience the world through our senses, and becoming aware of where our sensory thresholds are can help us cope in our daily lives.
Our six senses
Our brains are bombarded every minute of the day with information that we gather by using our six basic senses, which are sight:
How our brains respond to overload
Everybody knows the feeling of reaching a limit beyond which you are unable to function.
“There is a hierarchy in our brain, that determines how we deal with incoming information,” says Dr Annemarie Lombard, an Occupational Therapist in learning and development, and CEO of Sensory Intelligence Consulting. She is the author of the book called Sensory Intelligence.
“When our brains become overloaded with information, our response is not a cognitive one; it is a primitive one – we shut down,” she says.
“We cannot always change our circumstances immediately, but knowing our thresholds can help us make decisions, such as choosing a career or leisure activities.”
Sensory overload is a cumulative process, and people reach a point where the brain cannot process another thing. People have different levels of tolerance where this is concerned. One person may be sensitive to noise, but not to visual overload, and vice versa.
Know your “triggers”
Knowing yourself, and being aware of specific ‘triggers’, such as loud music, jostling crowds, or frenetic videos, or screaming children, can help us structure our lives to minimise stress caused by sensory overload.
Sensory overload activates our fight / flight response. If we are unable to escape the situation, our stress levels are raised. We can generally tolerate more when we are rested, such as in the mornings. Our living and working environments (think of someone working in a call centre, or a large open office) are not always conducive to reducing our sensory overload.
“Our world is a busy one, and it is getting busier all the time,” says Lombard. The fact that we are permanently on ‘standby’ and available as a result of our phones, e-mails and so forth, means we never really get a chance to recharge. This is one of the reasons why stress levels appear to be on the increase.”
Sensory intelligence questionnaire
Complete a sensory assessment right here:
Stress release tips
Basis sensory stress release mechanisms can help to reduce this overstimulation. In short, the following can be recommended:
• Physical withdrawal from an overstimulating situation when possible.
• Building quiet times into your day if you need them.
• Finding effective ways of coping with an unchangeable situation (such as earphones in the office).
• Planning and choosing specific leisure activities while keeping your sensory thresholds in mind.
• Incorporating self-regulating and soothing activities into your life (breathing techniques, oral soothing of some kind, touch therapy).
By Susan Erasmus
The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.