4 tips for dealing with overstimulation

OverstimulationWhen 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?

Image credit: “9 Crimes” by Raul Lieberwirth is licensed under CC by 2.0


27 thoughts on “4 tips for dealing with overstimulation

  1. Salvageable says:

    Ally, I am just like you in this regard. Whether it’s someone at work talking too loudly on a cell phone, or coming home from work to a house filled with teen-age girls (well, three of them) all singing as loudly as they can and deliberately out of tune, I just have too much input and need to get away or shut down. Thank you for your suggestions. I will keep them in mind and try to use them when I can. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Warrior Freya says:

    I really like your tip about positive affirmations. I know when I get over stimulated / overstressed, my mental voice is the first thing that turns on me. In fact, I the situations seem to be so overwhelming in most part due to the battlefield my brain becomes.

    It’s so easy to keep telling myself that it’s “too much”, when really if I told myself, “You got this. You’re over halfway through,” or some other positive encouragement, it would make the situation so much easier. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work, so why does it seem to be the first thing for my brain wants to jump to? : )

    This is one of those things that I’ve known on a subconscious level that I should be doing, but I don’t think I’ve ever really directly acknowledged that I wasn’t being kind to myself during the times when I ought be the most understanding and patient.

    Thanks for sharing your tips, Ally. I’ll definitely be keeping number four in mind when next I find myself overtaxed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      Thank you! I really hope it helps. If we were in a situation where someone was having a hard time, we’d be encouraging and try to make things easier for them. However, we don’t extend that same kindness to ourselves. Its kind of ironic.

      I totally agree. I wish that negative thoughts weren’t the default when I start to get overwhelmed. I might have to write little reminders for myself, so when I find myself drained and irritated, I can consciously remind myself of the positive. Definitely something I’m still working on 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Madeline Johnson says:

    Very healthy advice when life feels overwhelming and there is just too much going on. I typically do something active – walk, bike ride, run – without any mental stimulation at all. Just let the brain go. 10 minutes of breathing meditation helps as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 2mostrareaffections says:

    Thanks for sharing what it feels like when you are overstimulated! I’m starting to see that I’m not the only one! Haha. I try to focus on my breathing and think, “what are my options?” Often I’ve been stuck thinking I only had one option: stick it out and grit my teeth (until I run away panicking, which is what happens eventually if I do this option!) If I can focus on my options, I’ll realize I have the opportunity to go to the bathroom, get outside, or pick out another wallflower in the room and stay near them. And focusing on breathing helps, when I remember to do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      Yeah, I agree.The hardest part is remembering that you have all these options. Focusing on breathing helps so much, I need to start doing that more often too 🙂


  5. pearlgirl says:

    “…the bathroom can be a lifesaver.” So true! haha

    Great tips! I really need to learn to check in with myself more often. Thanks for that advice! If I’m out in large groups or for an extended period of time I tend to wait until I’m completely worn out to do something about it. Of course by that point I’m ready to just collapse and don’t have any energy left to wrap things up the best way. Having this reminder might help with that though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      Thanks, I really hope it helps. I usually have to remind myself even before I go to an event, that I need to monitor my energy while I’m there. Too often, just like you, I don’t pay attention until I’m burned out and irritable. Definitely something I need to keep working on. I might have to set alarms on my phone to remind myself haha.

      Liked by 1 person

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