What to Do When You're Overstimulated: 6 Quick Fixes

Life is a lot sometimes, and knowing what to do when overstimulated can help you get your chill back.

Published June 5, 2024
woman feeling frazzled and overwhelmed

You're trying to listen in a meeting, but the light above you keeps flickering, and your phone keeps chiming about notifications. A co-worker down the hall is talking loudly on the phone, and your kid's teacher just sent a reminder that everyone needs to dress like their favorite book character tomorrow.

Too much sensory input and too many demands on your attention can be exhausting for anyone, but knowing what to do when you're overstimulated can help you give yourself a much-needed reset so you can enjoy your day. We've got real-world tips to help you re-center yourself, plus some hints to help avoid overstimulation in the first place.

Learn to Recognize When You Feel Overstimulated

Our world is a loud and busy place these days, and there are tons of sounds, sights, and smells vying for our attention all the time. If everything is going perfectly and you've had plenty of sleep, you might be able to deal with this without a problem. But if you're like most of us, there are times when it just becomes too much.

These are some of the signs you might be getting overstimulated:

  • Getting easily annoyed by sounds and bright lights
  • Feeling on edge or anxious
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Experiencing restlessness
  • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
Quick Tip

There are lots of overstimulation triggers, but some of the common ones are too much noise, bright or flickering lights, reading the news, playing video games, too much social media, and that extra cup of coffee.

What to Do When Overstimulated: Six 5-Minute Fixes

If you feel yourself getting depleted by the demands of daily life (and we know just how demanding it can be), you might really need a reset. Think of this as a grown-up version of a time-out, but instead of being a punishment, it's actually a reward. These are some of our favorite ways to get that self-care your mind and body are telling you need, and none take much time.

Put Away the Tech (Even Just for a Few Minutes)

worker having break and resting after solving task

We so get it. Everything is on your phone or laptop, and it's really, really hard to put it down. But giving yourself a five-minute technology detox can actually help you get back in touch with what you really need. That means turning off the notifications, or better yet, leaving the tech on your desk and walking away. Without the constant pinging and messaging, you'll get a few minutes of you time.

Move Your Body

While you're walking away from your desk (or couch), take a sec to get your body moving. You don't have to go into full workout mode. We're talking about walking out to the mailbox to check the mail, strolling around the block, or just walking around your house or apartment. This can be especially helpful if you have that restless feeling.

Escape to a Quiet Place for a Few Minutes

One of the biggest triggers for many people is too much noise. Whether that's a busy store or restaurant, your kids yelling, or the person in the cubical next to you, getting a little quiet can help a lot. Take five minutes and close that door, or get some peace any way you can. Everything will be waiting for you when you get back, and you'll be way more able to handle it.

Quick Tip

A distraction can help get you the five minutes you need to reset. We're not above putting something on TV for the kids and closing ourselves in the coat closet.

Dim the Lights if You Can

If you're getting burned out by bright or flickering lights, the natural solution is to spend five minutes in the darkest place possible. This works when it's not really the light that's bothering you, though. For instance, if you're in a museum and are overwhelmed by all the awesomeness, going to a room that's darker (like one of those alcoves with movie screens) can help you reset and enjoy the rest of your visit.

Stand in the Sun for a Few

We know we just said to dim the lights, but sunlight can also help. If the weather is decent where you are, try going outside for five minutes and standing in the sunshine. You can close your eyes and just feel the warmth on your skin.

Find a Scent You Love and Breath Deeply

woman smelling a rose flower sit on bed

Mindfulness is a great way to combat feeling overstimulated, but it's not always easy to do when you need to. A scent you love can help a ton. Take a few minutes to smell your favorite flower, herb, or essential oil, and just take some deep breaths. It may be just the reset you need.

Related: 18 Simple Ways to Practice Slow Living & Rediscover Life

Tips to Avoid Overstimulation

Life happens, but there are a few things you can do to keep it from making you feel overstimulated. These are some of our tried-and-true tricks to keep things from getting overwhelming:

  • Get enough sleep. Being tired can make it harder to deal with the stresses of everyday life.
  • Eat well (and enough). If you're hungry, it's a lot easier to get overwhelmed.
  • Take breaks. Build little breaks into your daily schedule to give yourself time to recover from the stressful moments.

Related: Navigating Life - What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Get Re-Centered and Beat the Overwhelm

You really can get your chill back when you're feeling overwhelmed. It's all about reading your own signals and knowing what to do when you're overstimulated. Getting re-centered doesn't take long, and it can make a huge difference in your day.

What to Do When You're Overstimulated: 6 Quick Fixes