5 Ways Highly Sensitives Can Overcome Information Overload

Ever felt like throwing your cell phone when a notification pings and interrupts what you’re doing?

Information is constantly coming at us and can add to feelings of anxiety.

Being easily overstimulated is part of the package for HSPs, and the culprit is usually information overload.

As a Highly Sensitive, you notice and process so much more information than a non-HSP; it’s no wonder you will feel overloaded sometimes.

So, what can we do to overcome information overload, so we don’t feel anxious or overwhelmed?

Here’s five key ways to overcome information overload.


1. Inventory

Review your information sources: email, phone, TV, social media, paperwork. 

It’s essential to be aware of how much information you are processing and for how long.

You may have seen dieticians getting patients to log everything they eat in a week and then present them with the physical reality.

The data usually surprises the patients.

For Highly Sensitives, it’s a good idea to look at the data and how much information you’re receiving daily. 

Some of this will be for work and some of a personal nature; both will vary.

The obvious ones are face-to-face conversations, phone, text messages, and email.

Firstly do you need all this information? And if you do, do you get it in the best format? Change it if it isn’t working for you.

Recently I stopped following the news, opting instead only to know what I can do in the current stage of the pandemic.


2. Filter

Change the default setting.

Your brain’s default setting is to “accept all” information, meaning no filter and everything is incoming.

As an HSP, you will notice everything, even things of no consequence or relevance, sapping some energy as you process it.

But not only energy⁠—your short-term memory has a capacity; why allow some of that space to fill up with incidental information?

Consider changing the setting from “all” to “strictly necessary.”

You can train your brain to handle what is necessary and improve its efficiency.

So you need to filter information throughout the day, but how do you do this?

Well, there’s what you could call proactive and reactive.

You can apply the “too much information” filter where you tell your brain not to absorb what you just heard.

You can also prepare your brain in advance to ignore something.

A good example would be turning off the notifications on your phone.

Think about whether or not you need all of the inputs you are currently receiving.

Do you need a news feed? If so, how many? Can you limit your exposure?

As a simple rule, ask yourself what you get from the information? Does it nourish you, enhance you, inform you with vital information?


3. Time

Downtime and scheduling.

I recently read research that calculated the “average” office worker receives 125 emails a day, taking up anywhere between a quarter and third of their working day.

A good approach is scheduling time each day to read emails, assuming that anything urgent would involve a phone call.

You can factor in downtime, too, to ensure you take a break instead of catching up with emails over your lunch.

You can set up “information-free” times, whether by the hour or day, where you stop all means of incoming information.

So that’s no cell phone, computer, tablet, TV.

“Information-free” times may sound drastic, but once you’ve given it a try, you’ll swear by it.

And you can tweak it to suit your circumstances.

My weekend seems to be more enjoyable and stress-free if I don’t spend some of it on the web surfing; I still watch the odd film, but I don’t while the hours away endlessly on the computer.


4. Focus

Avoid immediacy and being interrupted.

Random phone calls and emails will interrupt you, add stress to your day, and stop your creative flow.

Technology is immediate, yet we often do have the choice as to when we read and reply.

For example, Instagram encourages instant gratification, so there you are on top of a mountain looking at the spectacular view, and then you whip your phone out and capture the panorama and post it immediately.

But are you appreciating where you are or what you are doing, or are you more preoccupied with taking the photo? And does it matter if you post the photo then or later? If a follower is not online when you post, it’ll show up later on their account anyway.

Then there’s pressure to check messages constantly.

Again, set aside specific times of the day when you check your messages.

Finally, use the “off” button, where you can, for notifications; the default always seems to be “on” and with sounds.


5. Boundaries

Say “no” more often.

Saying “no” can be difficult for some HSPs, and maybe something to work on if you need to.

Whether it’s canceling email subscriptions, you no longer read or ignore a work call, saying “no” may feel less natural but vital for effective boundaries and self-care.

If you find it easier to start with a phone call, you could turn your cell phone off when you wish and say “no” in a more direct way.

Technology allows you to be selective and screen your calls, so don’t feel you always have to answer⁠—it’s convenient for the caller, but it might not be for you.

We’ve looked at the five key points to do with information overload.

From the sources that bombard you, filtering some of these sources out, the role of time, staying focused and avoiding unnecessary interruptions, and finally putting some boundaries in place and empowering you to say “no” when you need to.

What step are you going to use to overcome information overload?

David is a Highly Sensitive Person, High Sensation Seeker and INFJ. He is an integrative therapist and HSP mentor to parents of highly sensitive children. He lives in Stroud, UK, and in his spare time he reads, writes, cooks, cycles, and enjoys music and time with his family.

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