7 Tips To Prevent Acute And Chronic Overstimulation

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Stop and cure chronic hyperventilation

Do you often feel completely exhausted after an outing?

Do your friends notice that you are very often irritated?

Do you often whine and can be very dissatisfied with everything that is happening around you?

Do you feel tension building up in your body and mind?

This may be due to overstimulation. Do you think you suffer from overstimulation?

Then read this article carefully. It can help you gain insight into yourself and regain your resilience in the event of overstimulation.

Purpose of this article: in this article you will become acquainted with acute and chronic overstimulation. You learn what the specific characteristics are and which phases you can go through when you are overstimulated.

At the end of this article you will get tips to stop overstimulation.


What is overstimulation?

The term overstimulation is widely used in our contemporary society. Scientists speak in English about sensory overload because our senses play an important role in this.

We receive numerous stimuli every day through our senses. Often too much than we would like. If these stimuli and impressions become too much for you, we speak of overstimulation.

Woman smells a flower

Peace of mind is increasingly difficult to find these days. Some people have no problem with this at all. They go with the flow of life and do not feel overstimulated at all.

But there are also people who do not like this abundance of stimuli at all. What’s more: if the stimulus processing does not go as it should, they can become quite ill.

Overstimulation manifests itself in much more than being tense. You can become mentally overstimulated, but you can also get an overstimulated body. Which complaints you get as a result, will be discussed further on in this article.

Woman with hand in front of her eyes suffers from overstimulation

Let us first examine how overstimulation arises. If you immediately link overstimulation to disorders such as autism or ADHD, then you are wrong. Overstimulation can also have many other causes. Would you like to read along?


How does overstimulation arise?

high sensitivity

Stimuli are much more intense in highly sensitive people. This can make them feel like they are completely exhausted.

Highly sensitive people mainly seek peace and quiet to recharge their batteries. Preferably in a quiet place where they are completely alone and where no stimuli come to them.

Woman seeks peace and sits on a deserted heath

Highly sensitive people are not only more susceptible to all kinds of stimuli. They also need more time to process it. If they are not given the opportunity to do so, they may become overstimulated.


Overstimulated nervous system

For people with an overstimulated nervous system, overstimulation can be so bad that it makes them mentally and physically ill. Do you wonder how a nervous system can become overstimulated? I will try to explain this to you as best I can.

Our nervous system is a network of cells that absorb and process information. It ensures that we as humans can exist and that our body works as it should.

Human nervous system in the brain

Initially, a distinction is made between the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The latter, in turn, is classified into the somatic and autonomic nervous systems.

The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic nervous system provides action, the parasympathetic nervous system provides rest. In order to go through life calmly and relaxed, it is important that these two nervous systems are in balance.

Man holds hand on which you can see the nerves running

When too many stimuli come at us, our sympathetic nervous system takes over. The parasympathetic nervous system does not get a chance to work as it should.

Result: your brain and your body no longer relax and you become overstimulated.

  • Also read our article on hypersensitivity . This also has to do with this.

Medical conditions

In people with a brain disorder, overstimulation is a common complaint.

If something has gone wrong somewhere in your brain, stimuli often enter in a different way and are processed in a different way.

Man with hand on chest has a stroke

I am thinking especially of a cerebral infarction, a head injury as a result of an accident or Parkinson’s disease.

Overstimulation is also common in people with an autism spectrum disorder, ADD or ADHD. But, it is a big problem for many people in our current society.

Getting too many stimuli and not processing them correctly can lead to a lot of problems. For example, you can end up in a depression, you can get a burnout and you can even get anxiety disorders.

The video below shows in a very simple way what overstimulation can do to a person:


Characteristics of acute and chronic overstimulation

There is a difference between acute and chronic overstimulation.

Acute overstimulation

With acute overstimulation you really get the feeling that everything is just too much for you.

You will probably recognize the example below if you have ever experienced an attack of acute overstimulation.

Man who can't handle it anymore with hands next to his head

You are attending your best friend’s birthday party. A lot of people are invited, nice music is played and the DJ supports his music with a colorful light show. Everyone is in a party mood, there is dancing, laughing and talking a lot and loud.

Suddenly you get the feeling that everything is getting too much for you. All the sounds come to you way too loudly and the flashes of light give you a splitting headache. You experience this whole party as an unreal event, you start to sweat and you get the feeling that you are going to pass out.

Woman who nearly faints with hand on her temple

Acute overstimulation can be very annoying and frightening and in some cases can even lead to an anxiety attack or a panic attack .

If you experience acute overstimulation, your body assumes that you are in danger. The Fight or Flight response kicks in and causes various symptoms.

  • You get irritated
  • You get concentration problems
  • The world around you seems unreal
  • You experience a sense of fear
  • You break out in a sweat
  • Your stomach is rebelling
  • Your muscles tense up
Man with hand and sweat on forehead

Chronic overstimulation

If your body does not recover sufficiently from all the stimuli, you can get chronic overstimulation.

Just like with acute overstimulation, stimuli hit you hard. However, these are not processed so that your body does not get the chance to recover.

Your nervous system remains continuously alert and your body no longer comes to rest. This can give you all kinds of complaints.

  • You are easily irritated and easily lash out at others
  • you get depressed
  • All kinds of fears arise
  • you get emotional
  • You have a chronic headache
  • Bad sleep is nothing new for you
  • Your muscles always feel tense
  • You sometimes have palpitations
Woman who can't sleep

Many people think they are suffering from a physical ailment. As a result, they experience even more stress and become even more tense. The danger of chronic overstimulation is that people often end up in a vicious circle.

Getting enough rest is very important in both acute and chronic overstimulation. However, there are other ways to prevent and stop overstimulation.

Which these are is discussed in detail in the tips. Let us first examine how the different phases of overstimulation proceed.

Man thinks with finger against sleep

Phases of being overstimulated

Earlier I talked about the differences between acute and chronic overstimulation. Chronic overstimulation is almost always based on acute overstimulation.

Causes of this can be a hypersensitive nervous system, high sensitivity or a medical condition.

Being overstimulated doesn’t just happen. It is a process that builds up and takes place in different phases.

Cubes stacked on top of each other

Annek Tol, coach-counselor and trainer specialized in high sensitivity and author of the book ‘High sensitivity professionally seen’, drew up the Circle of Overstimulation.

According to Annek Tol, overstimulation is an accumulation of stimuli during 4 phases.


Phase 1: Daily incentives

Every day new stimuli come to you. These stimuli are ‘normal’ stimuli and can be found in relationships with others, your family life, your work, etc. Your body processes these stimuli almost immediately. You don’t dwell on it and in normal circumstances it doesn’t bother you.

Incentives from everyday family life

Phase 2: Extra overstimulation

Temporary events can give you extra incentives. Think of an exam, a pregnancy, busy periods at work, etc. Your body needs a little more time to process these stimuli.

You think about it yourself a little more often and you may be tense for a while. Once these temporary events are over, you recover from these overstimulations quite quickly.


Phase 3: Short-term overstimulation

At parties, for example, you may be confronted with short-term overstimulation.

You can also experience acute overstimulation through family gatherings, meetings or reactions from other people.

Short-term overstimulation by being at a busy party

Your body has to put in some extra effort to process these stimuli. You can help your body with this by taking time to rest.


Phase 4: Long duration overstimulation

Long-term overstimulations are stimuli that you cannot process at all and after a while cause mental and physical problems. These stimuli can be caused by built-up tensions or stress, relationship problems, fears, etc…

Do you want to stop overstimulation and enjoy life to the fullest again? Then carefully read the tips below.

Booklet with title 'top tips'

7 tips to stop and prevent overstimulation

Dealing with overstimulation is not easy. It is certainly not the intention to ‘feel nothing more’‘.

It’s about getting better at handling stimuli so that you no longer feel they are controlling your life.


Tip #1 Take enough rest

Taking time to rest – both physically and mentally – is the most important thing to prevent overstimulation.

This way your body can recover from all the stimuli that you have built up over a certain period of time.

Man lies quietly on the beach reading a book

How you take rest depends on the phase of overstimulation you are in. If you have gained too many impressions during a family gathering (phase 3), feel free to withdraw for a while in a room where there are no impressions at all.

If your overstimulation is the result of prolonged stress (phase 4), then slow down a bit. If necessary, be guided by a psychotherapist.


Tip #2 Live healthy

A healthy lifestyle can help prevent overstimulation. This of course includes sufficient rest, but also sufficient exercise and a healthy diet.

Woman sitting on the couch and eating a healthy meal with fruits and fiber

These things make you more resilient so that you can deal with stimuli more easily. The better you take care of your body, the easier it is to deal with stimuli.


Tip #3 Get to know yourself better

Take the time to get to know yourself better. If you know what triggers your irritation, you can deal with it in a more efficient way.

The better you know yourself, the easier it is to set your limits. Make it clear to others where your limits are.

Man reaches out for coffee and laughs

Tip #4 Don’t compare yourself to others

Everyone is unique and everyone has their own way of dealing with stimuli. It makes no sense to compare yourself to someone who does not receive incentives so strongly.

Concentrate on your own state of mind and your own health. If you need more rest after an intensely busy day, accept this and take that rest too.


Tip #5 Make choices

Making choices is very important to avoid overstimulation. If you are easily overstimulated, limit the amount of activities to what you can handle yourself.

Man with two roads in front of him, he must choose one

Check for yourself who or what you spend your energy on. Dare to say ‘no’ to people and activities that you know will give you too much stimulation.


Tip #6 Set imaginary boundaries

By setting imaginary boundaries, you can perfectly keep out overstimulation. If you are confronted with too much noise, light or other stimuli, close these boundaries around you for a while. This way you avoid overloading your mind and body.


Tip # 7 Regulate your emotions

Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapist Tom Falkenstein, founder of the European Center for High Sensitivity , sees emotion regulation as one of the solutions to overstimulation.

Woman looking down with her hands together

Emotion regulation is the ability to regulate and change very intense and unpleasant feelings. The goal is to make sure that your feelings don’t negatively affect your life.

I would like to introduce you to some typical skills of emotion regulation. These will certainly be able to help you stop and prevent overstimulation.

Four pictures of emotions and woman pointing to a
  • Be understanding of yourself when you experience negative emotions, just as you would be understanding of a friend in the same situation.
  • Convince yourself – with a mantra if necessary – to stay calm.
  • Try to react differently in certain situations so that you can handle these situations better.
  • If you feel tense, use relaxation techniques or practice breathing techniques.
  • Use your imagination to better manage your emotions. Think of a place where you can completely relax or that evokes positive emotions in you.

I hope these 7 tips will help you with your overstimulation. If you have any tips of your own that work, share them in the comments below. Help each other and also yourself!

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