In our technology-driven world, sensory overload, often referred to as overstimulation, has become quite common. What is sensory overload, why does it happen, sensory overload symptoms and how to detect them, and most importantly, how to deal with it, have therefore become topics of great interest to everyone.
In this blog post, we explore sensory overload, and its impact on sensory processing, and we also introduce you to a powerful way to manage overstimulation: breathwork.
What is Sensory Overload?
Think of your brain as a sponge that can only absorb a certain amount of water before it becomes saturated. Similarly, your brain can only process a limited amount of sensory information before it becomes overwhelmed. Sensory overload occurs when the brain receives more sensory input than it can handle.
Sensory overload, also known as overstimulation or hyperstimulation, occurs when our senses are bombarded with more stimuli than they can handle. It is a phenomenon that affects people of all ages, including adults. Understanding the concept of sensory overload and how it feels is crucial to recognizing it and addressing it effectively.
What Does Sensory Overload Feel Like?
Sensory overload is not just a concept; it’s an experience that can profoundly affect how we perceive and interact with the world around us. To better understand the significance of managing sensory overload, let’s delve into what it actually feels like.
The Overwhelming Onslaught
Imagine being in a bustling, noisy city during rush hour, surrounded by honking cars, blaring sirens, and a sea of people rushing by. It’s as if every sound, sight, and sensation is cranked up to the maximum volume. Your brain tries to process it all at once, but there’s simply too much information flooding in.
This overwhelming onslaught of sensory input is at the core of what hyperstimulation feels like. It’s like standing in the middle of a sensory storm, and your brain is desperately trying to find shelter.
The Emotional Rollercoaster
Sensory overload isn’t just limited to your physical senses; it can also take an emotional toll. Here’s a glimpse into the sensory overload symptoms:
- Anxiety: Picture a constant sense of unease, as if you’re always on the edge of your seat, anticipating the next overwhelming sensation.
- Irritation: Ordinary sounds, like a ticking clock or a humming refrigerator, can become unbearably irritating, making you feel irritable and on edge.
- Fatigue: Trying to process an excessive amount of sensory information can be mentally draining. It’s like running a marathon for your mind.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Imagine trying to read a book or have a conversation while someone is shouting in your ear—it’s incredibly challenging to concentrate.
- Stress: Hyperstimulation can trigger the release of stress hormones, leaving you with heightened levels of stress and tension.
- Physical Discomfort: Your body may respond with physical discomfort, such as tension headaches or muscle tightness.
- Withdrawal: In some cases, the intensity of sensory overload can lead to a desire to withdraw from social situations or seek solitude as a coping mechanism.
- Sensory Sensitivity: Everyday sensations that you might usually ignore or barely notice can suddenly become magnified, making you acutely aware of them.
What Causes Sensory Overload?
Sensory overload can be triggered by a multitude of factors, and understanding these triggers is paramount for effective management. Here’s a more detailed exploration of what can cause hyperstimulation:
- Loud Noises: Sudden or prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as blaring sirens, thunderstorms, or bustling traffic, can overwhelm the auditory senses. This is a common trigger for sensory overload, often leading to heightened stress and discomfort.
- Bright Lights: Intense or flickering lights, whether natural or artificial, can bombard the visual senses and lead to sensory overload. For some individuals, exposure to strong sunlight, flashing camera lights, or fluorescent bulbs can be particularly challenging.
- Crowded Spaces: Being in crowded and bustling environments, like crowded malls, concerts, or public transportation during rush hour, can result in hyperstimulation. The combination of noise, visual stimulation, and proximity to others can quickly become overwhelming.
- Sensory Processing Differences: Individuals with sensory processing differences or sensory processing disorders (SPD) may be more prone to sensory overload. SPD can cause the brain to interpret sensory input differently, making it challenging to filter out unnecessary information.
- Sensory Sensitivities: Some people have heightened sensory sensitivities, which can make them more susceptible to sensory overload. Sensitivities to textures, temperatures, tastes, and odors can all contribute to overwhelming sensory experiences.
- Stress and Anxiety: Emotional states like stress and anxiety can lower your threshold for hyperstimulation. When you’re already feeling anxious or stressed, everyday sensory stimuli may affect you more intensely.
- Multitasking: Trying to process multiple sensory inputs simultaneously, such as answering phone calls while working on a computer in a noisy environment, can quickly lead to sensory overload.
- Lack of Sleep: Sleep deprivation can make your sensory system more vulnerable to overload. When you’re tired, your brain may struggle to process sensory input effectively.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can increase the likelihood of experiencing sensory overload.
- Environmental Factors: Environmental factors, including temperature extremes, strong odors, or air pollution, can contribute to sensory overload, particularly in individuals with sensitivities.
How to Deal with Sensory Overload in Adults?
Sensory overload is a phenomenon that affects individuals of all ages, including adults. However, adults, in particular, often encounter distinct challenges associated with overstimulation especially within the workplace. It’s of paramount importance for adults to not only recognize the signs of overstimulation but also to proactively seek and implement appropriate solutions to maintain their well-being and productivity in professional settings.
Recognizing the signs of sensory overload in adults
In the context of adults and the workplace, recognizing the signs of hyperstimulation is crucial. Adults may experience a range of sensory-related difficulties that can hinder their work performance and overall job satisfaction. Some common signs of sensory overload in adults include:
- Adults may find it challenging to concentrate on tasks when exposed to excessive noise, bright lighting, or other sensory stimuli in the workplace.
- Sensory overload can lead to heightened irritability, making it more challenging for adults to collaborate effectively with colleagues or handle workplace stress.
- Overstimulation can result in decreased productivity, as adults struggle to focus and complete tasks efficiently.
- Hyperstimulation can manifest as physical discomfort, such as headaches, eye strain, or muscle tension, affecting adults’ ability to work comfortably.
- Prolonged exposure to sensory triggers can contribute to elevated anxiety and stress levels, impacting adults’ mental well-being and job performance.
Seeking appropriate solutions
Once the signs of sensory overload are recognized, adults should take proactive steps to address the issue effectively. Here are some strategies and solutions for managing overstimulation in the workplace:
- Create a Sensory-Friendly Workspace: Adjust your workspace to minimize sensory distractions. Use soft lighting, noise-canceling headphones, or ergonomic furniture to create a comfortable environment.
- Set Boundaries: Establish boundaries with colleagues and supervisors regarding noise levels, meetings, or interruptions to ensure a conducive work atmosphere.
- Take Regular Breaks: Incorporate short breaks into your workday to step away from sensory stimuli and recharge. Use these breaks for deep breathing exercises or a brief walk.
- Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness and relaxation techniques to reduce stress and improve focus. Simple practices like deep breathing or meditation can be effective.
- Advocate for Change: If your workplace lacks sensory-friendly accommodations, consider advocating for change with your employer. Suggest adjustments that can benefit not only you but also your colleagues.
- Consult with a Professional: If sensory overload significantly impacts your well-being and job performance, consider consulting with a healthcare professional or therapist who specializes in sensory processing issues. They can provide tailored strategies and support.
- Educate Your Employer: Raise awareness about overstimulation and its effects on workplace performance within your organization. Encourage your employer to implement policies and accommodations that promote a sensory-friendly work environment for all employees.
How Does Breathwork Help with Overstimulation?
Now that we’ve grasped the concept of overstimulation, it’s time to dive deeper into how breathwork can be your steadfast ally in regaining control and achieving tranquility amidst the chaos.
The Calming Breath Technique for Sensory Overload
Let’s introduce you to one of the most effective and accessible breathwork techniques—the Calming Breath. This method, when practiced regularly, can serve as your personal anchor in the storm of overstimulation.
- Step 1: Inhale
Begin by finding a comfortable and quiet space where you can focus on your breath. Close your eyes if it helps you to concentrate. Now, let’s start!
Inhale: Take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to four as you fill your lungs with air. Imagine the breath as a soothing wave of calmness entering your body.
- Step 2: Hold
With your lungs filled with that rejuvenating breath, it’s time to pause briefly and find stillness.
Hold: Pause your breath for a count of four. During this pause, you’re creating a tranquil space within yourself, allowing the soothing effects of your breath to permeate your being.
- Step 3: Exhale
Now, as you release your breath, imagine letting go of any tension, stress, or excess sensory input.
Exhale: Slowly and gently release your breath through your mouth, this time counting to six. As you exhale, envision yourself expelling all the chaos and unease that sensory overload may have stirred within you.
- Step 4: Repeat
Repeat this process several times, ideally for a few minutes. With each cycle of the Calming Breath, you’ll begin to notice a remarkable shift in your mental state. Tensions will ease, and the overwhelming sensations of sensory overload will gradually subside.
The Magic of Consistency
The true magic of breathwork lies in its consistency. Incorporating this practice into your daily routine can lead to profound improvements in your ability to manage sensory overload. Over time, your body and mind will become more adept at finding balance and serenity, even during a sensory storm.
Take the Step Towards Transformation
To embark on this transformative journey, all you need to do is download the Breath Hub app. It’s your passport to a calmer, more balanced life, where sensory overload no longer holds sway over your well-being! With the app’s user-friendly interface and expertly crafted guided sessions, you’ll find yourself effortlessly integrating breathwork into your daily routine.
So, seize this opportunity to reclaim control over your sensory experiences and lead a life characterized by serenity and balance. Download the Breath Hub app today from the App Store and Google Play, and step into a brighter, more harmonious future—one breath at a time!