Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by all the sensory stimuli around me, such as slamming doors, shrieks of laughter, overhead light bulbs, and blaring music. I’ve always wondered why other people can just tune out bright lights and loud sounds. How do they do it? Why can’t I?
Sensory overload is a mental health condition that often affects neurodiverse people. It occurs when the five senses intake more information than the brain can process at one time. Its symptoms include anxiety, headaches, and fear. It can also impact sleep.
When I started middle school, I found the crowded hallways and sounds of hundreds of conversations to be really stressful. I tried ignoring the endless barrage of sounds, but that didn’t work. I felt hopeless for a time and started to blame myself for my challenges. Fortunately, I realized that it’s possible to deal with sensory overload in a healthy way, and I discovered some helpful strategies.
1: Use noise-canceling headphones. A pair of them can help to block out unwanted noises. Many students at BHS have found them to be helpful such as Nikolas Lasiewski, a junior in Academic Choice. Lasiewski said, “When things get too loud, I just slip on my noise canceling headphones and things get instantly better.” They can be a shield against excessive sensory stimuli. They have helped Nikolas, and they can help you too.
2: Identify your triggers. Sensory overload can affect everyone differently. Some people may be triggered most often by sounds, others by flashing lights or large crowds. By knowing what causes your sensory overload, you will be better able to utilize strategies to manage it and can more easily avoid the situations that are likely to cause it.
3: Try mindfulness and meditation. Meditating just five minutes in the morning can help you to focus and will reduce the impact of distracting stimuli. There are many different online tools that can help you meditate. It has helped me with my sensory overload and it can also be beneficial to anyone struggling with sensory overload.
4: Employ guided imagery. One of the most useful techniques to deal with sensory overload is to imagine a calm place in your mind. It can be anything that you want it to be. For example, you might imagine a peaceful beach or going on a walk in nature. When you are feeling overwhelmed with sensory stimuli, imagine yourself in that place. Soon, you’ll feel much calmer.
If you are someone who experiences sensory overload, know that you are not alone. While it may seem like it will never end, there are ways to deal with the sights, sounds, and smells that may overwhelm you. I hope that you’ll give one of these strategies a try. Sending positive vibes your way!