This article is not intended to be taken as medical advice. I am sharing my experiences with food allergy anxiety and PTSD from an allergic reaction, and how I manage that stress and anxiety.
On a typical Wednesday night, I fell asleep to a video of Maria, from Gentle Whispering ASMR, making a meal from Blue Apron. Gentle chopping sounds and soft whispers lulled me to sleep.
If you’re new to ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), the concept of it might seem a bit strange. How can someone whispering into a mic and slowly chopping vegetables cause euphoria? Cooking videos are only one stream of the ASMR umbrella. There are tapping videos, scratching, brushing, whispering, and pretty much every sound effect you can think of. They are not all effective for everyone, so you have to take some time to figure out which ones work best for you.
The idea behind it is that certain sounds cause stimulation in your brain that feel so good, like goosebumps inside your head. Some people call it a brain massage! Not everyone can experience ASMR (it is thought to be related to/a type of synesthesia), but if you do, it can be incredibly effective. Many use it to tone down anxiety, like I do. Searching the term on Youtube will return an endless array of results. To be honest, many of them are downright odd. When I reveal that I listen to ASMR to my friends it is often met with some laughs. There is a stigma that it’s sexual in nature, and I’m sure some people take it that way, but that is not the intention. The intention is to relax and comfort.
I was first introduced to ASMR by a colleague and friend at my previous job, about three or more years ago. My reaction was complete shock! I didn’t know there was a name for this amazing feeling. You see, before finding the treasure trove of videos on Youtube, I would get ASMR in different ways. As a kid I was a big fan of listening to the bath water run. I couldn’t explain why, but it gave me goosebumps every time. I have since learned that this is called frisson.
It happened when I’d watch the shopping channel (the calmer segments like jewelry or watches), or when someone read a book aloud to me. Goosebumps inside my head (hard to imagine, but think about it) and I’d fall asleep. By contrast if I heard a really hard banging sound, such as a hammer hitting a nail, it would make my head and teeth hurt and my eyes blink. You can read more about synesthesia here.
The ability to tap into these feelings on demand has been a massive relief for my food allergy anxiety and allergic reaction PTSD and I have been able to incorporate it into my daily meditation practice. I find a comfortable place, lay down with a good pillow, put my headphones in, turn out the lights, and take my mind off everything for a half hour to an hour. For ambience I’ll light a relaxing essential oil like lavender or eucalyptus. I may start with a guided mindfulness meditation and end with an ASMR video. Sometimes I take a few weeks off as it is possible to ‘wear out’ the sense for it.
The other benefit of listening to/watching these videos is that they have improved my quality of sleep and brain fog (more on brain fog in a future article). When I’m well rested I feel less groggy and foggy, think more logically, and am better able to manage my anxiety and talk myself down when I get into the weeds of fearing food.
I’m sharing my positive experience with ASMR because I hope you give it a chance and that it helps you with your food allergy anxiety. The mindfulness and attentiveness that it requires alone is often enough to distract my thoughts away from a spiral of anxiety. If you’ve tried it before, let me know what you thought!