Sensory Overload: How To Find Relief In A Chaotic World
It’s time to take the necessary precautions.
We live in a world based on stimulation and attention. Everywhere you look you’ll find something that was created for the sole purpose of entertaining or grabbing the focus of a human being. For many the constant stimulation and noise is barely noticeable, but for others it is a severe detriment to their everyday lives.
Sensory overload happens when one or more of the body’s senses become overwhelmed and unable to properly process information as it happens. It can occur during an intense basketball game as the crowd lights up, or even in a restaurant with a lively crowd. It even has the potential to happen at the smell of a powerful perfume of a passerby. The stimulatory trigger doesn’t necessarily need to be something intense or overbearing, however it is often at the very least quite noticeable.
The feelings of sensory overload can range from mild to intense discomfort. Almost everyone has experienced sensory overload in their lives, but not everyone feels it as intensely as others. For many, there are plenty of everyday situations that are challenging to accomplish.
For them, going to the school or office cafeterias can lead to sensory overload. The sounds of people talking loudly, strong smells of food, and flickering fluorescent lights can all trigger feelings of being overwhelmed and uncomfortable.
The Causes of Sensory Overload
Our brains function at times like computers, constantly communicating and interpreting information and data as it interacts with the environment. We are sending commands from our brain to every single organ in our bodies and back, billions of times every second.
When there are large amounts of competing sensory information and input, it’s difficult for our brains to prioritize what we should be focused on. This is what leads to that uncomfortable feeling of sensory overload.
Your brain then signals your nervous system into fight or flight mode. When you’re not necessarily in a truly dangerous environment, it can be extremely overwhelming and startling to feel your body tell you to escape.
Symptoms and Signals of Sensory Overload
Symptoms of sensory overload vary case by case, but some of the common ones include:.
- difficulty focusing due to competing sensory input
- extreme irritability
- restlessness and discomfort
- feeling overly excited or “wound up”
- stress, fear, or anxiety about your surroundings
- higher levels than usual of sensitivity to textures, fabrics, clothing tags, or other things that may rub against skin
- urge to cover your ears or shield your eyes from sensory input
It’s important to understand the symptoms so you can properly diagnose the issue you’re experiencing. Sensory overload is extremely common and can often be overlooked as a form of stress, but it’s critical to treat it and find relief to live a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Finding Relief From Sensory Overload
As unfortunate as it is, it can be really difficult today to escape the many triggers of sensory overload we find throughout our cities and communities. However the first step to finding relief is to know your triggers. Understanding the specific sense that provides the most challenges when in stimulating environments is key to finding relief and balance.
By understanding our triggers, we are able to single out which senses are unable to process in deeply stimulating environments, and work on those. Knowing which particular noises, lights, or smells that trigger you will help you identify where the issue is most commonly coming from. Slow-exposure to these triggers may help you find relief and comfort in them. You may learn to slowly block them out, or accept them within the larger context.
At the very least, knowing your triggers allows you to do your best to avoid them and find ways to block them out. It can be extremely difficult to live in environments like larger cities where there is noise everywhere, but having some noise-canceling headphones with relaxing music may just be the solution you specifically needed.
Meditation as a Form of Healing
A powerful solution to sensory overload however, is the simple act of meditation. It teaches us to be still and sit with the sounds around us. To notice and pick apart where our focus is going while being in control of the stimulation we’re feeling. Mindfulness not only allows us to be as present as possible in many situations, but it also allows us to have better control over our minds and the passing thoughts.
A strong indicator of a powerful mind is whether you are able to distinguish between your thoughts and yourself. Those that are able to sit and watch their thoughts pass by as if on a moving train, without fully grasping those thoughts, or feeling as if those thoughts truly define them, are more easily able to control their stimulatory inputs.
Meditation allows you to distinguish between the palette of sounds, voices, textures, lights and more that happen to be shooting off billions of signals in our brain every second. It allows us to be more in control of what we’re receiving, with a heightened perception of the mosaic around us.
What’s important to remember is that you are always in control of your mind and body, and through meditation as well as other de-stressing techniques, you can find a happy equilibrium that allows you to be present and still in challenging environments.
It’s also important to treat our senses like we do the other parts of our body, rest and relaxation are critical to a healthy processing system. Drinking enough water, and a healthy diet also play an important role in being ready for the next challenging day ahead. If we are able to build deloading habits into our days, that allow us to relax our nervous system and conscious thought, we will find ourselves much lighter and overall happier.
Stimulating environments can be an extreme challenge but taking the necessary precautions and understanding yourself are key to living a sustainable and healthy life. The cornerstone of all healthy habits is taking time for ourselves, to unload our systems and reset our bodies equilibrium.