5 Steps to Overcoming Overstimulation

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In This Post

  • Why so many people struggle with feeling overwhelmed
  • 5 tips to help you feel more grounded and prevent feeling stress

We live in a world that is abundant in stimulation and overflowing levels of content. Where people and companies use our own psychology against us to distract us. They cause cravings and influence our behaviour, all for things that don’t truly enhance our lives. If the risk factor for overstimulation is access, we’re in the deep end! But don’t worry, with this guide to overcoming overstimulation, you can find peace.

It is no wonder that so many of us feel like we struggle with attention deficit and behaviour patterns that lean towards being compulsive or addictive. Whether that’s scrolling on your phone, an inability to focus on one thing at a time, or craving entertainment every second of the day. Seriously, when was the last time you commuted without your earphones? Overstimulation is almost guaranteed in our lives.

The good news is that we are able to adjust our environment and approach to help give us our attention back. Our brains are like a muscle, with the right training we can learn to focus and adjust our behaviours to help us reach our goals more easily. Neuroplasticity, the ability to change and modify the structure and function of the brain, is possible. Here’s how to use it for your own benefit.

1. Make Boredom Your Friend

We all know that feeling. Whether it’s 3pm on Friday afternoon, or you’re in the middle of a long meeting, boredom doesn’t feel good. But while boredom feels bad, it can actually be quite good for us. From boredom, if we push through it, rather than giving in to quick fixes (social media, sugary snacks, etc.), can come a sense of peace, simplicity and insight. Being bored allows us to re-engage with a task or an environment more meaningfully. Thus it can lead to more rewarding outcomes compared to procrastination

In our day to day lives, we regularly experience extremely high levels of stimulation. So, when we come to do more complex tasks that require a deeper level of attention, it can be difficult to sustain our focus.

Dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with reward and motivation pathways) is not released in the same intensity during slower tasks like reading and writing. The high that we get from quick fixes like social media is why you feel resistance and difficulty focusing when switching between these two types of tasks.

This inability to focus can be frustrating in the moment. It can feel really tempting to give yourself 5 minutes of something more engaging. But, giving in at the first sign of boredom begins the negative cycle of procrastination and resistance. And unfortunately, these difficult tasks are likely to be necessary and important.

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2. Restructure & Reduce

Avoiding overusing technology and reducing your engagement with highly stimulating activities. Especially before you do a task that will require a deeper level of concentration. It is key for more sustained focus.

If you know there are challenging, focus-requiring activities for you to complete in a day, consider restructuring your schedule to complete the tasks that require the most focus first thing in the morning. Do these before you give yourself time to do more engaging activities like scroll on your phone.This should help negate some of the resistance you feel. As your brain hasn’t yet got something much more exciting to crave.

3. One at a Time

Doing things purposefully, one task at a time, is difficult if you cannot focus for long periods. However, if you can avoid switching to a different task completely, this will allow your brain to gently ease back into the task you are working on.

As silly as it sounds, if you are working on a task and you need a break, or you feel your focus drifting, try simply standing, or sitting in a chair next to your work environment and don’t do anything else.

Your brain would rather engage with the difficult task you are working on, than do nothing at all. So, giving yourself the time to refocus, without causing further distraction, will allow your brain to come back to engaging with the task at hand. This is really effective for me personally when writing, or doing slower tasks.

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4. Seek a Little Discomfort!

By reconceptualising your understanding of and relationship with boredom, you can bring much more peace and focus to your life. In the same way, it is a good idea to also reconceptualise your understanding of pain, resistance and difficulty.

It is normal, and expected, to live with some level of discomfort, stress and pain in your life. Think how you would survive without paracetamol, let alone all the other pleasurable and comfort-inducing things we have!

From these discomforts usually come growth, new experiences, learning and satisfaction. Of course, there are some levels of discomfort and pain that should be circumvented and prevented. But, for many of the small annoying inconveniences in our lives, there truly is benefit to a little struggle.

Whether it’s pushing through your workout, or pushing through the horrible feeling of boredom while typing an essay, pain and discomfort are worth tolerating. If you live in complete avoidance of discomfort, you risk living a very sheltered, unfulfilling life. Doing things that are meaningful and difficult is a great way to make sure you are constantly growing and living to your fullest potential.

5. Add Balance

Now you are at the point where you are able to focus on your tasks with reasonable ease and you are seeking small elements of discomfort in order to ensure growth. You are doing well! If both of those feel a bit much, the following brain-balancing suggestions might put you at ease.

A key factor for overall well-being that is highly researched is the benefit of spending time in nature, connecting with others socially, specifically serving others, and sleeping well. These are all things that can help you holistically. Allowing you overall to feel a greater sense of peace and fulfilment in life. These things will help bring you balance in a very overstimulating world.

Reconnecting with nature and spending time outside (minus the earphones!) is one of the greatest ways to ground yourself and relieve anxiety. The modern world is incredibly different to the world our brains evolved to live in. So, it makes sense that letting ourselves exist in a more ‘natural’ environment helps us to be more balanced.

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Some Extra Tips

Similarly, no matter how introverted you feel, humans are a social species. Spending quality time with those you love and care for is good for both your mental and physical health. As studies have shown, having a good social network is a key factor indicative of health later on in life.

Sleeping is important too. Both the quality and quantity can have huge impacts on your wellbeing and how balanced you feel. Getting too little sleep, or poor-quality sleep has physical implications on the structure of the brain. It is no surprise that our ability to focus and withhold the temptations offered by overstimulation are impacted by this.

Coming to terms with the fact that life will at times be boring and cause you discomfort aims to ensure that when you are in those moments, you can respond with more control. Thus, hopefully leading to more intentional, purposeful behaviour. Doing things like going for a walk, or doing the washing up without the podcast or music on is good for you!

Other behaviours like socialising with friends, getting a good night’s rest and spending time in nature are too. They can bring you a sense of calm, help you be more mindful and more grounded. If you constantly feel rushed or like your life is busy and chaotic, consider how you can change the way you engage with tasks and boredom in order to feel a greater sense of peace and focus.

To Put it Minimally

  • The world we live in today is fast, stressful and overstimulating – so it’s no wonder why so many people feel stressed out by day to day life
  • Avoid constantly filling your time with things to occupy your attention – by making boredom your friend you can slow down mentally and feel a greater sense of calm
  • By delaying when you do the more brain engaging tasks (like scrolling on your phone) until after you’ve done your more focused work (like reading or writing) you give yourself a better chance of being able to focus
  • By focusing on doing one task at a time, or doing similar tasks together, you can avoid the mental fatigue that comes with quickly switching between activities
  • Understanding and accepting that there will be mild levels of discomfort in your life is a game changer – when you learn to accept these as challenges to face, rather than things to avoid, you are more likely to be resilient and successful
  • Add balance to your life by practising all the healthy foundational habits – like eating well, sleeping for long enough on a regular schedule, socialising with quality people and moving your body

Recommended Reading

If you enjoyed this post and would like to dive deeper into the topic, use our Amazon affiliate links below to get a copy of the books used to help make this post.

Dopamine Nation – Anna Lembke

Brain Wash – David Perlmutter MD, Austin Perlmutter MD, Kristin Loberg

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman