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Updated: Aug 7, 2023

What is overstimulation?

Overstimulation (also known as sensory overload) is when your brain and senses are overloaded with information which makes it difficult to fully process everything that is going on in that moment. It usually occurs in people that can be known as highly sensitive. Overstimulation can occur after going through stressful experiences. It is also very common in individuals with a ADHD diagnosis.

Signs of Overstimulation

  • Becoming easily overwhelmed with sensory triggers such as bright lights, loud noises and strong smells.

  • Becoming easily stressed when there are a lot of tasks to complete in a short period of time.

  • Frequently experiencing emotional exhaustion from absorbing others feelings.

  • Getting 'hangry' easily.

  • Prioritising and organising days in advance in the effort to prevent overwhelming situations.

  • Often taking naps on days where life gets more busy than normal.

  • Difficulty sleeping at night.

  • Sensitivity to certain types of fabrics or clothing e.g. silk/velvet.

  • Often losing focus on tasks or in conversations.

These are just some of the more common signs of overstimulation. There isn't a 'one size fits all' criteria for overstimulation everyone is different and can express signs in many different ways.

HSP's (highly sensitive people)

'Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP, is a term coined by psychologist Elaine Aron. According to Aron’s theory, HSPs are a subset of the population who are high in a personality trait known as sensory-processing sensitivity, or SPS. Those with high levels of SPS display increased emotional sensitivity, stronger reactivity to both external and internal stimuli— pain, hunger, light, and noise—and a complex inner life.' There is a self assessment that can be completed created by Dr, Elaine Aron to find out if you might be HSP. Click HERE to find out!

How to manage & overcome...

  • Try to limit your screen time. I know in this day and age limiting screen time can be a challenge when the majority of professional and personal lives are accessed through the digital world. However, it is crucial to remember that it is overexposure to screen can contribute to overstimulation. A good way to start limiting this is by setting time limits. When you wake up, try to not immediately reach for your phone, or try to limit screen use so not to use at least 1 hour before bed.

  • Finding a safe space. Ensure that it’s quiet and easy to get to either in your home or outside in nature somewhere. Whether that’s a separate room in your house or a favourite bench in the park, find somewhere that you can go to when it all feels too loud or overwhelming. Listen to your own favourite playlist, podcast, or audiobook.

  • Listening to something personal and familiar can actually help with soothe overstimulation.

  • Set boundaries with others and ask for some quiet space alone. If you live with other people, this is a big one. This can be really challenging when you want to be there, support, and help the people that you’re around, but you can’t help anyone else if you’re not mentally available to do so.

  • Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is just like training your physical muscles at a gym. It takes time and continuous practice. But once achieved it can have a serious positive impact on mental wellbeing and prevent overstimulation taking over. For example, to start try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. This will encourage you to really focus on a task that normally anyone can do on autopilot.

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