In today’s fast-paced world, we are constantly bombarded with information. From notifications and news updates to the bright screens of our electronic devices, it’s no wonder that many people experience overstimulation and sensory overload. This can lead to plenty of stress and anxiety. In this guide, we explore several effective strategies and techniques on how to stop overstimulation and regain control over your senses.
Table of Contents
Understanding Overstimulation and Sensory Overload
Before we delve into the strategies to combat overstimulation, it’s essential to understand what this term means.
Overstimulation and sensory overload occurs when our senses are exposed to an excessive amount of sensory information. It’s like trying to listen to five people talking to you at once; it becomes challenging to focus on any one thing. At a certain point, the brain can no longer process the input efficiently. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, and even physical discomfort.
An example from my own life is when I’m working, and I get lots of emails, multiple chats and calls simultaneously. It can really stress me out when I can’t process all the incoming information anymore, and I don’t know what to do first. It feels like juggling with ten clubs at the same time. You might have similar experiences where you feel overstimulated.
Now that we have a clear understanding of this concept let’s explore how to stop overstimulation and take back control.
1: Declutter Your Environment
One of the most effective ways to stop overstimulation is to declutter your environment. An environment filled with too many objects, bright colors, or loud noises can overwhelm your senses. Start by reducing the visual clutter in your living or working space. Keep only the items you truly need and love, and put the rest away. Take a look at your desk. What is truly necessary, and what is clutter?
Additionally, consider organizing your space to reduce noise pollution. If you live in a noisy area, invest in noise-canceling curtains or earplugs. A quieter environment can make a significant difference in managing sensory overload. The same is true for working in the office: open-plan offices can be a blight on your senses. Try to find quieter sections in the office, or use noise-cancelling to give your ears some rest.
2: Practice Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is a powerful tool to help you regain control over your senses. When you find yourself becoming overstimulated, take a moment to focus on your breath. Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this a couple of times while keeping your focus on your breath.
This simple yet effective technique can help calm your nervous system and reduce the feeling of overwhelm. By practicing mindful breathing regularly, you can train your body to respond more calmly to sensory challenges, stop overthinking, and relax.
3: Create a Sensory-Friendly Space
If you struggle with sensory overload, it can be incredibly beneficial to create a sensory-friendly space where you can retreat when needed. This space should be quiet, dimly lit, and free from excessive sensory input. You can use this space for relaxation, meditation, or simply to decompress.
Decorate this space with soothing colors, soft textures, and calming elements like candles or essential oil diffusers. Having a designated sensory-friendly space can be a lifesaver during moments of overstimulation.
4: Limit Screen Time
In the digital age, screens are a significant source of sensory input. Whether it’s from our smartphones, tablets, or computers, we are constantly bombarded with visual and auditory information. To stop overstimulation, it’s essential to limit your screen time.
Set boundaries for screen use and practice digital detox regularly. Turn off notifications, avoid checking your devices before bedtime, and try to have tech-free hours during the day. Reducing screen time can significantly decrease sensory overload, so be sure to try it out.
5: Practice Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques are an excellent way to reconnect with the present moment and stop overstimulation in its tracks. These techniques can help you regain control over your senses and calm your mind. Some grounding techniques include:
- 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise: Name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
- Deep Pressure Stimulation: Applying gentle pressure to specific parts of your body, like hugging yourself or using a weighted blanket, can help you feel grounded and reduce sensory overload.
- Mindful Walking: Take a slow, deliberate walk, paying close attention to the sensation of each step. This can help you connect with your body and the environment.
- Body Scanning: Mentally scan your body from head to toe, paying attention to any tension or discomfort. This can help you release physical and mental stress.
6: Manage Sensory Triggers
Identifying and managing sensory triggers is a crucial step in learning how to stop overstimulation. Pay attention to the specific sights, sounds, or sensations that tend to overwhelm you. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can take steps to manage or avoid them.
For example, if crowded places trigger sensory overload, try to visit these locations during off-peak hours or with noise-canceling headphones. By understanding your triggers and taking proactive measures, you can reduce the frequency and intensity of sensory overload episodes.
In my case, I have decided to disable all email notifications and chat pop-ups. I also changed the ringtone of Teams to a more pleasant tune. This significantly reduces the amount of sensory information that’s being presented to me on a daily basis.
7: Establish a Routine
Routines can provide a sense of stability and predictability, which can be particularly helpful for those prone to overstimulation. Establish a daily routine that includes time for relaxation, exercise, and self-care. If you’d like some inspiration, be sure to check out our list of great ways to unwind after work.
Having a structured schedule can reduce the unpredictability of sensory input, making it easier to manage. In fact, once a routine has been established, your brain can execute the steps in that routine with little to no effort. This can greatly help in reducing overstimulation.
Also, be sure to include regular breaks in your routine to decompress and recharge. These breaks can be a moment to practice mindful breathing, step into your sensory-friendly space, or engage in other relaxation techniques.
8: Seek Professional Help
If you find that overstimulation and sensory overload are significantly impacting your quality of life, it may be time to seek professional help. A trained therapist or counselor can provide guidance and strategies to help you manage and mitigate sensory overload.
Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based approaches have been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of overstimulation. Additionally, a professional can help you identify the underlying causes of your sensory sensitivity and work with you to develop a tailored plan for managing it.
Conclusion: How Do You Stop Overstimulation?
In a world filled with constant sensory input, learning how to stop overstimulation is a valuable skill. By understanding the nature of overstimulation and sensory overload, and by implementing the strategies discussed in this guide, you can regain control over your senses and improve your overall well-being.
Remember that everyone’s journey in managing overstimulation is unique, and it may take time to find the strategies that work best for you. With patience and practice, you can develop the tools needed to live a more peaceful and balanced life, even in our hyper-stimulating world. So, take the first step today and get started with reducing overstimulation!