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Listening to your Body to Thrive in Business: Sensory Needs & Interoception – with Steph Robertson

Differently Aligned Podcast – Episode 4

by Adina Levy

This epsiode is some fabulous highlight snippets from my guest speaker webinar that Steph Roberston recently did for my Neurodivergent Business Collective members: Listening to your Body to Thrive in Business – Exploring Sensory Needs and Interoceptive Awareness. You’ll hear Steph sharing and our chats about:

  • What is sensory processing?
  • Different types of sensory processors
  • Strategies to support your sensory system and interoceptive system
  • How to recognise early signs of stress or burnout & what you can do to support yourself

Links & Resources

Get Steph’s full chat and Sensory Questionnaire in the Neurodivergent Business Coaching & Consulting: https://ndbusiness.co/neurodivergent-business-collective/

Alphabet Soup! Exploring Complex Neurodiversity with Steph Roberston – BONUS: Body Scan Exercise https://sites.libsyn.com/502883/bonus-body-scan-exercise

Free things for neurodivergent business owners: ndbusiness.co/freebies

Connect with Steph:

www.sgroccupationaltherapy.com

Instagram: @sgroccupationaltherapy

Facebook: SGR Holistic Family Focused Occupational Therapy

Podcast: Alphabet Soup! Exploring Complex Neurodiversity

https://ndbusiness.co 
www.instagram.com/neurodivergent.business 

 

Transcript

 Welcome to the Differently Aligned Podcast for Neurodivergent Business Owners. I’m Adina Levy, an autistic ADHDer and a multiple business owner.

From a card making business at age 8, through to handmade cloud cushions, running a speech therapy team with a traditional office, and now to my lean, profitable, nimble, and fun online businesses, Play. Learn. Chat. and Neurodivergent Business Coaching and Consulting.

I’m all about supporting neurodivergent business owners like you to build a business that is aligned with your brain, your skills, your passions, your wants, your support needs and your life. And it can be profitable, fun and impactful along the way.

So join me for ideas, support, conversations and guidance to grow your business without burning out. Let’s turn up the fun, the flow, and the alignment.

I’m recording on the traditional lands of the Gadigal and Bidjigal people, and I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands wherever you’re listening to this.

 

Today’s episode, I’m bringing you some of the highlights snippets from a recent chat that I held within my Neurodivergent Business, Collective community. So my community gets access to the whole webinar, which I think is a little over an hour long. And it’s both a webinar presented by the fabulous Steph Robertson.

Who’s an occupational therapist and you’ll hear more about her in a moment. her webinar is called listening to your body to thrive in business, exploring sensory needs and interoceptive awareness. So part of it was. She was teaching us some amazing and important concepts and, supportive strategies and so on. And then we also held a Q and a where I shared questions from our community and she and I had a chat to go deeper.

We also had a really, I thought important chat and I hope it’s been helpful for our members. Sharing our own sensory environments and how we’ve built our workspaces and our work lives to fit our sensory needs as two examples of how that could look. if you’d like the whole webinar and the full Q and a and access to heaps and heaps, more resources, community coaching and support. Check out the Neurodivergent Business Collective.

You’re welcome to join any time. The link for that will be in the show notes. , but I also wanted to make sure that I’m bringing you some standalone, really helpful ideas and concepts that, that Steph shared with us. So that’s what we brought here today. I’ve picked out some of the highlights for you, and I hope that you take something away

To support you in your sensory needs your preferences and feeling generally more comfortable and alert as you need or come as you need. , Yeah, it’s a really important chat and a really important topic. I don’t think we’re ever done learning about how our body experiences the world and what we need to give our bodies and our minds. So please tune into this episode and I’d love to. hear what you take away from it.

 

Steph Robertson is an occupational therapist and a holistic health practitioner, and she is a warm, glowy, smiley hug to the universe.

She’s got a podcast, which is quite new and absolutely fabulous called Alphabet Soup. And if you would like to, Steph, do you want to list off like your intro of your Alphabet Soup podcast? Why you named it that? Because it’s a good introduction to who you are as well. Yeah. Well, the Alphabet Soup podcast It’s called Alphabet Soup Exploring Complex Neurodiversity and I named it that because I got a referral from the GP to see another professional and you know how they put that list of diagnoses on there, you know, all your info, your health info, and it was just all these letters.

And I sort of had a giggle because I was like, this is Alphabet Soup, it’s the first thing that came to my head. And as I was reading it, I was like, I look on this paper, like so confused. Like broken or something. I don’t know. It was hard to explain what it felt like. And then I was like, but if you saw me on the outside, you would see a completely different picture.

And I realised how important that individual approach to all of life is for people. So I created the podcast so that I could share my own experiences, my lived experience, my experience of disability and all sorts of stuff, but also hold a space for other people to share their stories so that we can really get a broad spectrum look at.

life experience in under that umbrella of like neurodiversity and get a grip on how complex it is, but also how incredible it is, you know? And I feel like you and I get this similarly, which is you sort of step back from it all and you’re like, but actually I’m just a human, right? Like in the best, but like, I’m also human in amongst this list of disorders and diagnoses or whatever you want to call it, or identity, all of that.

 

We’re going to do a little bit about what is sensory processing. So what am I even talking about? Sensory processing refers to how our nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to information from the world around us. So most of us know that we have our five senses that give you information from outside our body, our sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. And then we have three senses that are arguably more important, but often don’t get spoken about.

Pro perception, which is the awareness of where our body is in space and movement. We get pro perception from muscle tensioning. Against gravity. So if you pick up something heavy, that’s that proprioception and joint compressions vestibular input. So our vestibular processing happens inside our middle ear.

It’s all about our balance and our spatial orientation. If you have a sensitive vestibular system, you may get sick driving in a car, like car sickness. You may not like going on swings or things that spin around in circles. And if you do seek it, then you might be one of those people that loves like roller coasters or things that kind of throw your balance around.

And then interception, my favourite little buddy, is the information that comes from our autonomic systems. So our heart rate, our breath rate our sense of being hot or cold, needing to go to the toilet, but then also our emotions. So this is what we’re going to take a bit of a dive into today. So common sensory processing differences.

If we imagine similar to any form of neurodiversity that This is like that spectrum of, you know, you could be in different categories for different things. For example, I’m a big sensory seeker when it comes to movement, but I’m sensory sensitive when it comes to sound. So while a lot of assessments on sensory processing do try to sort of pigeonhole a person into being a seeker or an avoider, it’s not really that simple.

We can tend to have different preferences across different. Sensors. So someone who’s under responsive or low registration may miss sensory stimuli. So like, if someone calls their name, they may not answer. If they’re really, they may not notice if someone’s had a haircut, for example, guilty. They You might need something to be kind of brighter or louder before they register it and it has meaning to them.

Seekers, I will add there too that just because someone’s under responsive or low reg doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go seeking what it is that their system needs. Because sometimes they don’t know that they’re missing input until it’s sort of looked into further. Seeking is You know, the fidgeters, the fiddlers, the rockers, the swayers, me, the flappers, you know, like it’s looking for ways to bring movement, sound, taste, it could be anything.

And again, you might not seek in all areas, but that one’s pretty self explanatory. Sensitivity. Again, it’s You know, when you get the ick, loud noises, certain sounds busy environments too, sometimes I find a lot of people with auditory sensitivity are okay with loud noises, if it’s the one sound so they go to a concert or you know, they listen to their favourite music, that’s okay.

But they go to a shopping centre and there’s like, all these people talking and then that alarm goes off and then it’s. And that goes deeper into auditory processing specifically. But again, just validating that it’s not always so black and white. But sensory sensitivity can come in any forms in any of the senses.

And will often make someone feel very uncomfortable. It’s important to note too, that when a sensory sensitivity is occurring, it can be perceived as Physically painful for the individual. So we always need to take it really seriously. Avoidance that is more the behavior that we may do to avoid stimuli that is uncomfortable for us.

And so what do we do in our environment to get ourselves outta a situation or avoid being in an environment that we don’t want that sensory input? So.

Sensory processing differences are commonly associated with neurodivergent people, such as those who have autistic ADHD and many people experiencing mental health challenges. I am super excited to be able to report that there is some super cool research coming out now about sensory modulation and mental health and well being and bringing that into a really secure evidence base.

 

So interception and self awareness are things that we develop in our mind and body. And the more we practice, the better we get at knowing what our body is telling us. So mindfulness activities, such as doing breathing and body scans help us develop self awareness. Our awareness of internal sensations.

And when I started doing this, I would do a body scan. Maybe I’d try to do it like five times a day, maybe. And it would just take like a second. Like I’d be sitting here presenting to you. I’ll do it right now. And I’m like, am I actually comfortable? And it’s like, no, I’m not. I kind of need to move a little bit.

Cause I wasn’t listening to my body. I was paying attention to what I’m doing here, which is great, but my body was slowly getting a bit achy and it was trying to tell me I needed to move. And so when I just tap in for that second and I shift, I feel much more comfortable now, but unless I’d cognitively reminded myself to feel my body for a second, I probably would’ve sat like that for ages until my body had to get really loud and be like, excuse me, back’s really hurting.

Can you please move now? You know? Yeah. Sensory based interventions, deep pressure, which is the proprioceptive piece I spoke about before, is almost always regulating for the brain and body. Studies found it is like the most valuable thing. That’s why, you know, for many of us, when we go to the gym, you feel so much better afterwards because you’ve used your muscles, you’ve compressed those joints, you’ve given that feedback and you’re able to sink into the body a bit more.

So while the activity preference might look different for anybody, you may find that if you give yourself some proprioceptive input, it could even just be pushing against a wall, doing like a wall squat for a bit before you have to go into an important meeting or do a presentation. I was dancing to that fireball song before I sat down to do this so that I would give myself that input and be regulated to be in this space.

And then there’s the emotion focused intervention. So this is where we take the time when we experience emotion to link it back to the body. I’m feeling like anger. Where is it sitting in my body? Am I clenching my fists? Am I tensing my muscles? Am I grinding my teeth? Am I furrowing my brow? What’s my body doing that’s showing me we got to this state?

And then what gradually happens is we learn to be. Notice the clenched jaw a bit earlier, or notice the furrowed brow, or notice that we’re hunched over and we go, my body’s uncomfortable. It’s trying to tell me something. What do I need to give myself now to help shift this?

So yeah, I hope that this is helpful in introducing a bit of an idea about how important.

This is as a consideration for regulation as an individual, because I feel that if you’re a neurodivergent person in this space exploring business, You’re doing things outside the box a little bit already, right? And so I hope this gives you permission if you need it, if you thought you needed it to really invest in yourself as a part of investing in your business, because your wellbeing will always be the most important thing.

And your sensory and interceptive and emotional regulation capacity is quite easily developed when we take the time to look into it.

 

 

Would it be right to say broadly that. When you’re figuring out your sensory and interoceptive supports, it’s just experimenting. 100%. Not just, but yeah. Yeah, definitely. And that’s why, if you have a look at that the sensory questionnaire, it can help you reflect, I think on like, oh yeah, I do do that, or I don’t do that.

Cause there are often things that we do, I think unconsciously, and we don’t realise that we’re doing a certain thing to meet a certain sensory need until Either someone tells us we’re doing it or we answer a question like that. And then we’re like, oh yeah, that’s, that’s totally me. I thought everyone did that, you know, whatever it might be.

But it really is experimentation. And I think we need to give ourselves that permission as well to just go, I’m going to try this and it’s okay if it doesn’t work or if I don’t like it, but if I don’t try it, I wouldn’t know.

That’s so important. I think I’m going to guess when you’re talking about the things that other people point out that we do, they’re going to be the annoying ones, aren’t they? Probably. I’m thinking the foot tapping, the pen clicking, you know, the stuff that does impact on other people. Now everyone listening in is a neurodivergent business owner, probably some are going to be solo and therefore you may be able to build your sensory world in a way that is really whatever you want, and sometimes there’s going to be a case for.

You kind of have to negotiate with the people around you to meet your sensory needs, but not trigger them. Is that right? Yeah, definitely. And this is where, you know, again, it’s, it’s so individualised really. But for example, say you’re a pen clicker, right. And you love it. If we looked at what the sensory input was that you got from the pen clicking, is it the action of the clicking?

Is it the noise that you really like? You know, and, and breaking that down, can we then use a different tool to give you the input you’re looking for without then doing whatever it is that’s disrupting someone else? And I think this is where, again, coming back to it being just experimentation, but when we break it down and we look at the function, you know, we talk a lot in therapy about functions of behaviour.

And so what is this doing for you? Is there something else that could do this for you in a different way, or even in a better way to make you feel more regulated and connected? That’s a really good point that we may not first go to our best. Sometimes the compromise, even the compromise is what I’m trying to say.

It may actually be a better solution.

 

Any tips for recognising stress slash anxiety slash overworking signals before they get too high? So here we are looking at how we wanna teach the body to be able to recognize them earlier in ourselves.

So they are gonna be different for everyone. However recently I’ve been doing a lot of work with people who’ve experienced burnout. So I’ve done a lot of looking to what that actually looks like, and there are some early warning signs of. Say burnout, which is what I would say is that working too hard, the body’s starting to give you signs that it’s getting to its capacity.

And it’s like, I can’t keep going at this rate anymore. We might need to slow this bad boy down. And so one of the first key things I also find this is from anxiety, which is more of a personal experience, but feeling tired, no matter how much sleep you get. So tiredness that is not related to sleep.

And this can be hard for people who then also struggle with sleep to assess. But if you think, no, I’m getting eight hours of sleep or I’m getting plenty of sleep and I am tired all the time. That’s a sign that the nervous system is working overdrive in those hours when you are awake or when you’re asleep, if you have nightmares.

Lack of motivation. So often a sign of an overwhelmed nervous system is that you lack motivation, even for the things that you would usually really enjoy. So someone says, Hey, come and do X, Y, Z, and it’s your favourite activity. And all of a sudden you’re going, I just don’t want to, you know, start leaning into those decisions that you might be making and asking, why do I not have the spoons left over to be able to go and do that?

Increased irritability. So if you find that the smallest thing is that it’s getting under your skin and you’re feeling snappy or cranky, that can also be a sign that you’re moving into that kind of overwhelmed place. Decreased productivity. Harder one to measure, but I think important for business. So if you notice that you’re still putting in the eight hours a day or however many that you’re doing, But things aren’t getting done.

It could be because you’re getting distracted. It could be because you’re zoning out and it could be because you’re slowing down in your productivity rate. Trying to be hard on yourself about this though, because the reason that this is happening is because the body needs to preserve the energy for itself and for survival, which is more important than your job.

So, but recognising it is important as well. And one thing that you can keep an eye on. Withdrawal is another one. So similar to that whole lack of motivation thing. If you’re saying no to going out with friends, if you’re saying no to a social thing you usually would do, if you find you haven’t seen family or friends in a long time, that’s one way to look at it.

Obvious one, negative emotions. So you’re feeling anxious, feeling depressed, feeling sad, feeling down, not finding joy in things that you did before. Decreased Satisfaction. So similar things that you used to like aren’t doing it for you, or you’re just feeling generally unhappy with yourself. Insomnia. I think we’ve all been there at some point increased use of substance.

So this one I found, I find interesting because often people will be like, Oh, I don’t usually drink, but lately, like every night I’ve had a glass of wine or something like that. And you sort of, it’s cause your body’s subconsciously looking for that bandaid for what is uncomfortable. So that’s another thing to keep an eye on.

Being forgetful. Increased cortisol levels in the body. One of the first signs is. Memory, Struggle really interesting science behind that. Anyone wants to go on a deep dive? And also being clumsy. So this is the other thing signs of increased cortisol in the body, which is our stress hormone. Clumsy, dropping things, fumbling, can’t get your keys in the door, that kind of stuff.

Tripping over and memory. Those two together are really good indicators that the body is under some form of stress. Changes in appetite is another one. If you’ve stopped eating or if you’re feeling ravenous or you’re like binge eating and you’re snacking or there’s been changes that are just not like you.

And then some kind of, you know, I guess bigger ones are maybe you’re neglecting your self care, so you’re prioritising, say, your work role, parenting role, your whatever, and therefore you’re not showering because you’ve run out of time, you’re exhausted, or you’re not preparing a decent meal for yourself because you don’t feel like you have the effort and then, you know, that’s it.

I guess bigger emotions, like feeling really hopeless or not being able to actually show up to do that job role. That was a lot. It was. And I’m like literally nodding along, not just to look like I’m listening, which I am, but actually go, that makes sense. I’m thinking back. I’m not in burnout these days.

And I’m going through your list going, Oh yeah, no, no, not there. That’s nice. But thinking back to when I was heading into that zone or there. All of those things, I was not even aware of a lot of them, but like even things like the increased forgetfulness.

You know, all of those things. And I think for, especially for ADHD is we may kind of be prone to forgetting stuff a lot, but I guess it’s noticing that that’s different to your normal. You know, or pronounced or whatever that is Oh, it’s a lot. Would you say then your body scan exercise, for example, is something that will help you check in on all of those factors and get that sense for yourself, whether you are feeling, we’ll call it just a little bit off.

Yeah, definitely. And when you start to recognise this, again, I guess I can speak more from experience, but the more I practised it, the more I would recognise. Disregulation. And even if I didn’t know exactly what it meant, because again, I still am one of those people who get like feeling, but don’t know what it is.

But what I could do is make a calculated and an educated guess as to what I might need and go try some of those things and be like, ah, there we go, we got it. But I had to practice different things to see what would work and try, you know, Taking the time to listen before it got too uncomfortable.

 

Thank you so much, Steph. This has been beautiful as always. Thank you so much for having me. I loved it.

I hope you found that useful and you’ve taken a few ideas for things you might want to try yourself to support your interoception and your sensory needs. If you have any questions for Steph and you are a member of the Neurodivergent Business Collective, you can catch her in our slack group and sent her line. , I’d love to see the conversation, keep going and hear what you’re taking away.

If you are not yet a member of the Neurodivergent Business Collective, please do consider joining us. I hope that you will. It’s a growing collective of resources, support community. We’ve got our slack chat where we can just keep the conversation going. And, it’s just a beautiful space it’s developing and I’m loving seeing everyone connect and grow together.

So I hope to see you in there and also catch you at the next episode.

 Thank you so much for listening in. I hope that you’ve taken something helpful from today’s episode and please do share it with a fellow neurodivergent business owner friend. You can find me on Instagram @neurodivergent.business and all the links that I’ve talked about are in the show notes.

Remember, your business can feel aligned and easy and it’s okay to do business 📍 differently. I’ll see you on the next episode.