Children are loud! And let’s face it, very needy! They need lots of attention especially from their mother. All mothers love to take care of their children, but sometimes this mental strain leads to stimulation overload or more commonly referred to as sensory overload.
Before children, you probably didn’t find yourself easily agitated by everyday noises, smells, or interactions with others.
But after children you may find yourself on edge more often then not. It’s even more apparent if you’re parenting more than one child.
You’re emotions, energy, and attention are being pulled in different directions throughout the day which leads to feelings of being overwhelmed, and sometimes even anger.
If you find yourself asking the question, “Why am I so angry all the time?” it’s time to take a step back and see your surroundings may be causing sensory overload and the symptoms that go with it.
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What Is Sensory Overload?
Science is constantly evolving and with it comes new disorders we never hear of before! Sensory Processing Disorder is fairly new and is not fully considered a diagnosis within itself.
However, it is seen in children and adults on the autism spectrum, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia.
All though someone may not have a diagnosis of any of these disorder it’s not uncommon for moms and dads alike to complain about sensory overstimulation from parenting children.
Now, this doesn’t mean you are suffering with Sensory Processing Disorder necessarily.
(You need to talk to your health provider about sensory processing disorder if you believe this may be an issue for you). However, even with the knowledge of sensory processing, unfortunately, there’s no way to cure it except to recognize and manage it.
In general terms, sensory overload occurs when all our senses are stimulated at once leading to too much received stimulation. Healthline gives a wonderful analogy for this: Think of your brain as a giant and complicated computer system.
Your environment sends information to your brain through your senses. Then, it’s the brain’s job to interpret all this information.
But when there’s too much sensory information, your brain (or computer system) cannot “prioritize what sensory information it needs to focus on.” After this happens, your brain and thought process become “stuck.”
You find yourself feeling and thinking that you no longer wants to be in the environment and run away or simply get away from the sensory simulation your brain is being overloaded with.
Related Articles: 14 Incredible Sensory Toys For Children With Autism
Signs Of Sensory Overload
You Cannot Filter Out Information
Your thought process is breaking down. You’re having trouble concentrating to the point that you’re having trouble finishing a task because you can’t focus. This includes a task you’re in the middle of completing!
If your child is making the same babbling sound on repeat, you cannot focus on anything else except the sound your child is making. If you’re sensitive to smells, your brain cannot focus on the task at hand because all you can think about is that certain smell.
That’s because your brain cannot filter out the sensory information leading to a lack of focus and attention on anything else. This is the feeling of being “stuck.”
Since your brain cannot redirect your attention onto something else and away from the sensory overload, you may start to get the feeling that you need to stop the noise or the smell because you don’t want to be around it anymore.
You’re Extremely Agitated
Because your brain is sending you signals to run away, you may find yourself becoming increasingly agitated and if you cannot filter out that sensory stimuli your agitation will slowly build up till you are feeling downright angry. Some parents are able to keep their agitation under control.
For other parents, agitation boils over to manifest itself in anger to where you’re feeling “on edge” and yelling at your kids.
Don’t worry there’s no judgement here! Some parents are just yellers and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent!
However, if you’re sick of feeling extremely agitated and cannot pinpoint why you’re so agitated, it may be time to think about the sensory information around you that your brain is trying to process.
The source of that extreme agitation may be a sensory overload.
Everything Seems So Loud
Children are loud and boisterous. Many times, younger children exercise their voices by screaming just because they can! All parents everywhere find this to be an everyday occurrence of parenting children. Kids will be kids!
But it is an extreme nuisance for parents! Parenting children comes with increased noise, especially when you have more than one child in the home.
More children equals more noise. Before children you probably didn’t notice all the different noises around you.
Now you cannot filter out the sound of kids toys, babbling, talking, screaming, TV… It’s all too much for your brain to handle.
No wonder you cannot concentrate and are becoming irritable!
You Have A Heightened Sense Of Stress
Do you ever find yourself feeling overly stressed, but you don’t know why? When your spouse asks you why you’re so stressed, you cannot name one specific stressor.
It’s simply EVERYTHING causing you stress!
It’s possible that you’re stressed due to sensory overload and simply do not recognize it is your senses being overly stimulated.
You’re Having Anxiety
Anxiety takes many forms. It can display itself when you least expect it. Anxiety is more than just an overwhelming feeling of stress.
It comes with an feeling of dread and panic when faced with everyday situations and changes to your environment. Anxiety can even take the form of panic attacks.
For some, anxiety may display itself because of sensory overload compared to actually being anxious. Believe, me it is hard to tell the difference!
Many times anxiety arises out of the blue and you don’t know why. It may be that your brain has stopped working and anxiety has taken over in response to the stimuli around you, therefore leading to a sensory overload.
If you’re experiencing anxiety and you can’t figure out why, it may be sensory overload.
Remember, there is a difference between feeling an overwhelmed occasional stress compared to displaying signs of anxiety each day. Anxiety is typically much more long lasting in your life than compared to a stressful time in your life.
I’ve seen an influx in the amount of parents reporting online their personal experiences with sensory overload. To make matters worse, moms are reporting it more than dads!
So, what’s the big deal about experiencing sensory overstimulation? Well, frankly- it leads to burnout.
It’s so important to recognize if the environment around you is overstimulating your senses and your brain is not working well because of it.
While it may not mean you have sensory processing disorder, it does mean that you need to take a step back and figure out ways to manage and cope.
I know because I struggle with sensory overload on a daily basis and do find myself feeling burnt-out with parenting. Especially because I am parenting a four-year-old with autism.
It’s difficult to constantly hear the noises from toys, repetitive rocking and clicking sounds from my son (stimming), and a two-year-old toddler crying all at the same time.
It’s too much for my brain to process, I literally go blank in the middle of trying to complete a task.
Then, all I am left with is an extreme feeling of agitation, overall stress (for no reason), and sometimes, anxiety attacks. Many times, I do break down and cry into my hands as I am left feeling like a mom from hell.
There’s just so much going on in my household at one time, that it’s all so hard for my brain to process.
If you’ve ever felt this way as a parent- You are not alone!
Reach out to other parents and you will find more and more parents are realizing what sensory overload is and are not left (like me) finding what their sensory triggers are that lead to anger and stress and what they can do to help themselves cope with overstimulation.