How Highly Sensitive People Can Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed
As HSPs we have a finely tuned nervous system and the stimuli we receive daily can be overwhelming.
But it’s not just the amount of stimuli my senses pick up, it’s the depth of processing aspect of my trait that can also cause me to feel overwhelmed.
Usually feeling overwhelmed is the result of a combination of stimuli.
The times when I can feel overwhelmed make life more difficult, but thankfully there are ways to avoid it.
One of the important things I’ve learned about feeling overwhelmed is I need to stop and find out what other feelings I’m feeling too.
Because this gives me a better idea of where my sense of feeling overwhelmed is coming from.
You can’t solve a problem unless you know why there’s a problem right?
For example, when I feel irritated and anxious, it’s usually connected to my environment—what I’m picking up in my environment.
The sense of sound for example, if you live in the city you are constantly hearing the hustle of life around you.
But it’s an unnatural sound and it can start to aggravate you.
How about the sense of sight?
For some of us, we are very sensitive to light, both natural and unnatural. Some types of lighting can cause headaches in highly sensitives.
And the sense of smell, that one is impossible to avoid.
Taste and touch. We choose what to eat as well as what we decide to put on our bodies.
Too much caffeine can cause my body to accelerate on the amount of information it’s picking up.
If I’m feeling angry this is usually because a healthy boundary I’ve set has been overstepped by someone else, and my anger is a knee-jerk reaction that helps me understand I need to address an issue with this person.
In other words, I need to speak with them calmly, let them know, and try to find a solution with them that works for both of us.
Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t—depends on the person I’m dealing with.
If I’m feeling sad, this is usually because I’m flat out physically exhausted.
So what are some things we can do to avoid overwhelm?
Here are some ideas for when you feel overwhelmed at the moment, in general, and daily habits you can create.
In the Moment
- Accept that you’re feeling overwhelmed at this moment.
- If you’re around other people excuse yourself and go to the washroom.
- Close your eyes and practice deep breathing and visualize yourself in a peaceful environment.
- Identify what other feelings you’re feeling and determine what they’re linked to (environment, boundary, your physical stamina).
- When you feel calm go back to what you were doing, knowing you can handle one thing at a time.
- Later on, when you’re feeling calm (maybe after meditating) decide what you can do to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Plan ahead. For example, if you’re invited to an in-person event, find out ahead of time what the event will be like. Will there be loud music? How many people will be there? What activities or entertainment will there be? Depending on the answers to these questions you can plan how much time you’ll spend at the event or if you’ll want to go at all. Remember “No, thank you.” is a complete sentence.
- Instead of getting together in large groups, reach out to people individually for one-to-one get-togethers.
- Avoid over-extending yourself. Committing to too many things and/or people can contribute to feeling overwhelmed. Your friend wants you to signup for a class that happens twice a week in the evenings but you’re usually spent by the end of a workday? Find other ways to spend quality time with your friend – a walk together on a weekend perhaps?
- If noise causes you to feel overwhelmed consider buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones and/or a white noise machine and/or earplugs.
- If you find you seem to be getting headaches from fluorescent lighting you may want to try a warm white LED light bulb.
- If looking at your computer screen makes your eyes sore you can consider using a software program designed to be easy on your eyes, https://justgetflux.com/, and/or buy a pair of blue light blocking glasses.
- Look at the places you spend the most time, do they need decluttering? Oftentimes we can overlook something this simple, but places that are cluttered can contribute to feelings of overwhelm.
Habits You Can Create:
- Listening to calm music.
- Taking a nap.
- Going for a walk in nature.
- Limiting time on social media.
- Limiting time watching or reading the news.
- Building time into your day to do something light and fun like painting, cooking, baking, coloring, puzzles, reading, playing board games.
Pausing in the moment and reflecting, preparing ahead for group events, and developing mindfulness habits are all ways to start reducing and eventually avoid feeling overwhelmed.
These habits give your trait room to flourish in a world seemingly bent on constantly trying to grab your attention and bombarding you with stimuli.
It’s important to recognize that you have control and can avoid feeling overwhelmed.
What things do you do to avoid feeling overwhelmed?
Like this blog post? Read How Highly Sensitive People Can Manage Anxiety