When I get overstimulated, my brain starts to feel fuzzy. I can’t think straight and it takes me a long time to process anything. My reactions are slower. All the noises blur together to create a dull roar in my ears. The lights are too bright and there are too many things going on at once. I can’t focus. I’m tired and my legs feel heavy. I get irritable and I feel as if I’m stuck in one spot, unable to move. My patience fades. I start to feel panicky. I need to get away from the crowd. I become lethargic, unmotivated, and apathetic.
But what do you do if you can’t go home right away? Maybe you’re carpooling with someone and they’re not ready to leave yet. How can you deal with feeling like this? Especially if you’re surrounded by people?
I thought I’d share a few things that have helped me when I’m feeling overstimulated.
1. Pay attention to how you’re feeling throughout the day.
Try to check in with yourself periodically and assess how you’re feeling. Are you tense, relaxed, fidgety, calm, nervous? Are your muscles tight or relaxed? Taking time to notice how you’re feeling throughout the day can clue you into how much energy you still have. And if you know you’re starting to feel drained, you can combat it right away, rather than dealing with the consequences after all your energy is gone. On a normal day, I usually check in with myself every hour or two. But if I’m attending a busy event with lots of people, I usually do so every ten minutes. This is what works for me, but the times may be different for you.
2. Break time.
If despite your best efforts, things are still getting to be too much, take a break. Most introverts already know that the bathroom can be a lifesaver. Politely excuse yourself if you’re in a conversation, then go there immediately. If you’re in a public building, you’ll probably have a cubicle to yourself. I usually just sit there for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll listen to music for a bit. If its an option, head outside, away from the chaos. Try to find an empty space that you can have to yourself. The last time I attended a busy convention, I found a quiet corner of the building to sit down in. There were still crowds of people milling around, but being on the edge, rather than in the middle, helped immensely.
3. Don’t run on empty.
Being overstimulated is bad enough. If you’re also hungry or thirsty, it makes things even worse. Try to bring a snack and water with you wherever you go. Especially if you know you’re going to be gone for several hours or more. It can be as simple as a granola bar or some trail mix. I’ve found that eating something almost always improves my mood. But of course, try to bring something healthy that will energize you, rather than something that will make you feel more sluggish. Even if food is available for purchase, if I don’t have the energy, I can’t motivate myself to stand in line with a bunch of other people. That’s why bringing a snack is so important.
4. Use positive affirmations.
When you’re overstimulated, things can get pretty negative. I always get irritable when my energy is low. But remind yourself that you’ve been able to do similar things in the past. Look back on previous situations and successes where you were able to make it through. Reassure yourself that you only have to stay there for a certain length of time before you can go home. Let yourself count down the time until you can leave. Also promise yourself that you will take some quiet time to recharge. However much you need. Then make sure that you do so once you have the chance.
I wanted to share a few things that continue to help me deal with overstimulation. The only “cure” for overstimulation is getting the quiet time you need. But there are a few things you can do to make it easier for yourself.
How do you deal with overstimulation?