What is understimulation and what does it do to you?
In contrast to overstimulation, understimulation does not stimulate your nervous system much for a longer period of time. Few (new) stimuli come in and there are therefore few impulses to process.
This can be the case when you take a longer period of complete rest, do little to nothing, don’t get around people or set yourself little to no challenging goals. You may then become completely relaxed, but it can slowly but surely start to feel as if you are living in a cocoon, as if you are no longer fully alive or in contact with the here and now. Above all, the step to re-expose yourself to certain stimuli can seem increasingly larger and more difficult.
It can sound very pleasant and healthy in itself; nothing to do at all, no stress. After all, everyone needs relaxation and I dare to say that a highly sensitive person should seek that relaxation just a little more often.
Yet there is also such a thing as ‘healthy stress’, or rather: ‘healthy tension’. In order to remain active, driven and motivated, we need a certain amount of tension or a certain degree of stimulation. This also applies to highly sensitive people. It is difficult for someone else to determine how high that degree is for you. The challenge is to investigate that for yourself.
How do you notice that you are being understimulated?
It may seem obvious; you also notice that you are becoming hypothermic or malnourished. But why can understimulation creep in unnoticed? That could have everything to do with the pleasant sensation of relaxing after a busy period in which you may have become overstimulated.
For example, if you don’t have to do much of yourself for two days and you like it, you can think on the third and fourth day that you are doing well and that it is just what you needed. So you can go on unnoticed for a long time and adopt a lifestyle that is so low-stimulus that life just seems to ripple on and you stand on the sidelines watching.
Possible signs of understimulation:
- Experiencing lack of inspiration
- A rested, yet dull and matte feeling
- The feeling of being a spectator of your life
- Being glowy for no apparent reason
- Fear of failure / fear of threshold
- continuous passivity
- Sudden shyness/shyness
- Loneliness and/or boredom
How do you prevent understimulation?
Okay, it should be clear: it remains important to seek frequent and sufficient relaxation and we probably agree that this is even higher on the list for us as highly sensitive people. But how do we manage to keep the balance somewhat and not go overboard and become understimulated? I think we’re already well on the way if we include the following points during our next intercalated ‘watch out’…
- slow down
Let yourself get used to the rest if you have experienced a lot of stimuli. For example, allow yourself an evening with few stimuli, but plan something the next day where you will be exposed to an acceptable degree of stimulation. In this way, reduce to a day that is completely low-stimulus if you need it.
- Schedule a few pleasant ‘musts’
Set yourself some pleasant goals. What do you want and can do during your rest period, so that you still experience a pleasant degree of stimulation? Maybe you want to visit a certain city and get among the people for a while. Or visit a relative for a few hours. Make these agreements with yourself and prevent them from being too noncommittal.
- Alternate ‘me-time’ and ‘we-time’
It is wonderful to be completely alone after a busy period. But before you know it, all the impulses come in way too hard when you have to get back among people after your rest period. It is therefore desirable that you see and speak to someone again after a day or two of full ‘me-time’. Even if it’s just for a few hours. You feel yourself what you need.
- Look for pleasant stimuli
That can be anything, depending on what makes you happy. For example: visiting museums, shopping, strolling through markets, attending workshops, going to the movies or to a performance. As long as you gain new impressions.
- keep moving
Walking, dancing or exercising will keep your brain stimulated and keep you aware of your body. It keeps you grounded and gives you positive impulses.
It’s a cliche, but here too it’s all about balance. And yes, we can’t always stay in balance, but sometimes we’re moving in the right direction. In my opinion, for highly sensitive people, the balance between overstimulation and understimulation can sometimes be difficult to find, because in my opinion we are more likely to acquiesce in that understimulated state.
What is your experience or idea about this? I like to read it!