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What To Do About Sensory Overload

What To Do About Sensory Overload

More and more people are coming forward with their sensory struggles.  Children and adults on the autism spectrum frequently have sensory issues in everyday life. 

But more adults are talking about their sensory issues due to the condition called sensory processing disorder.

Although the disorder is not considered an official medical diagnoses, children and adults alike can relate with the symptoms. 

Many adults who never had sensory issues in the past are suddenly finding their brains to be “stuck” more often than not once they become parents. 

Parenting children is hard enough.  However, trying to filter out and process the constant noise inside your home is enough to put any parent into a sensory meltdown.

If you’re finding yourself displaying some of the common signs of sensory issues like lack of focus, anxiety, and irritability, don’t suffer in silence. You can’t ignore your sensory issues forever!

There are ways to cope with the overwhelming sensory input around you involved in being a parent. Give some of these coping strategies a try when feeling a sense of sensory overload.

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What To Do About Sensory Overload

Deep Breathing

Don’t knock it till you try it. Deep breathing seems ridiculous at first, but it’s actually quite effective.

When your brain cannot process so much sensory information at once and often times you’re left feeling overwhelmed, irritable and anxious. To lower your anxiety and irritability, focus on your breathing.

Begin to breath in for four to six seconds and out for four to six seconds. This, will help not only slow your breathing down, but focus your mind on counting, inhaling, and exhaling.

You can continue this until you feel your anxiety and irritability fading.

Safe Space

Everyone deserves a safe space inside their home. A place where you can go when things get too tense or whenever you’re feeling anxious. However, many parents find it difficult to find space away from their children.

Many times the cause of sensory overload in parents is due to excessive household noises (screaming, crying, toys, electronics, etc.). It’s not anybody’s fault, your kids are just being kids. But this is all so hard for the brain to process.

If you find yourself becoming increasingly irritable or anxious by your children climbing on you or loud noises, try to remove yourself from the environment. This doesn’t mean leaving your house entirely and leaving your kids behind.

This means finding a space in your home to separate yourself and have a few moments of privacy. Wherever your children cannot bother you for a few minutes.

For me, my safe space is in the kitchen. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I separate myself from my kids by going in the kitchen. It has a baby gate and it gives me a few moments to do some deep breathing and even eat a couple pieces of chocolate without being picked on and climbed on by my kids.

Ear Plugs

Ear plugs are a God send for sensory issues. Not only do they work well for children with sensory issues, but adults as well.

I’ve found them to be essential in my life now and feel like I can’t live without ear plugs. I now wear them at home multiple days a week to relieve anxiety with the surrounding noise.

Ear plugs will block out some of the noise to help calm your emotions. However, they are perfect for parents because you can still hear whatever your children are doing as long as they are in sight. If my kids go to their room I cannot hear them.

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Weighted Blanket

A weighted blanket works great for when the symptoms of sensory overload are at their worst. If you find yourself no longer able to concentrate on anything, extremely irritable toward others, or on the verge of a panic attack because of sensory input, you need a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets provide deep pressure to help you feel calm and give you a sense of security.

Change The Temperature

Many people describe a sensory overload as their brain being “stuck.” Changing the temperature around you could possibly snap your brain back into it’s normal thinking pattern compared to only focusing on the sensory input that’s bothering you.

You can change the temperature by stepping outside your home for a couple minutes; going for a walk; or splashing cold water on your face.

Changing the temperature is the best for when you’re just beginning to notice the symptoms of sensory overload.

Identify Triggers

This is hard to do, but so essential for what to do about sensory overload. A ‘trigger’ is something that causes you to be overwhelmed. For every person it’s different.

Personally, my sensory trigger is when there are too many competing noises. For instance, if my oldest son is running through the house, my youngest son is babbling, and there’s a TV going in the background all while I am trying to work… It’s too much for me and I steady become more and more irritable and downright angry at times.

When you experience a sensory overload or complete sensory meltdown, you always need to think about what was happing in your environment before you started to have sensory overload symptoms.

It will take some time to figure out. Eventually, you will realize what triggers set you off and when you do you implement some coping strategies like ear plugs and changing the temperature to avoid sensory overload on your brain.

Turn off any unnecessary noise

Do you ever get lonely and use background noise to fill the void? I’m guilty of this! My kids do not care or sit and watch what’s on TV, but sometimes I keep it on as background noise so I feel a little less lonely. (Motherhood is tough sometimes).

However, TV or music in the background along with all the competing noises from your children only adds to the sensory input your brain is trying desperately to process. That’s why one of the earliest ways to help sensory overload symptoms is to turn off any unnecessary noise in your environment.

While you can’t mute your children, you can turn off any electronics and toys (hopefully) that are aiding the the overall noise around you.

Final Thoughts

Sensory overload is very real! Unfortunately, the brunt of sensory overload is happening to mothers everywhere. I’m not saying every mother deals with sensory issues… But more and more are beginning to notice them.

Sensory issues are hard to deal with and it does take a while to recognize the symptoms and what to do about sensory overload. It’s not easy to live with and I never noticed my own sensory issues until my oldest son was diagnosed with autism.

Then, I started to examine all the sensory information that bothers me. Plus, the noise and stress only got worse with the physical and emotional demands of being a mother with more than one child. Multiple children equals more sensory input. Especially noise!

The two best things you can do for sensory overload is to first identify sensory overload symptoms and work to identify your sensory triggers. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and downright angry for no reason, that’s a huge indicator that your brain can’t process all the sensory input around you.

Instead, your brain becomes “stuck” and you no longer can focus on anything else except the endless noises of electronics, kids toys, and children’s screaming and crying.

Thankfully, there are ways to relieve this ‘sensory stress’ on your mind by trying some of the above tips on what to do about sensory overload!

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