We seem to be living in an overstimulated society and are constantly being bombarded by ceaseless activities, forms of entertainment, social media and overflowing schedules. Not only are we in stimulation overload from external sources but we are also internally overstimulated as well.
Many of the foods we eat, drinks we drink, and thoughts we think are overworking our bodies, minds, and, in essence, our souls. Every day I help individuals who say they feel tired yet wired – basically they are exhausted but cannot switch off their mind or body. Learning how to unwind this process and truly relax can be difficult, but it starts with avoiding overstimulation, which is essential to avoiding burn-out, anxiety and insomnia.
What is Overstimulation?
Overstimulation involves exposing our minds and/or bodies to stimuli that is above and beyond what is healthy and appropriate for our level of tolerance. There are many things that can cause overstimulation but the most common that I encounter in clinical practice are:
- Internal Stimulants
- Too much caffeine
- Going to bed too late
- Artificial colours, flavours and preservatives
- Too much sugar
- Diet pills or supplements
- Excessive worrying
- External Stimulants
- Social media
- Taking work home
- No margin in your schedule
- Work deadlines and pressures
In appropriate and evenly spaced amounts these things are not harmful. In fact, our bodies are remarkably hardy and can tolerate quite a hit. The problem lies in when we have too many of these stimulants encroaching on our personal mental and/or physical space that we can start to feel the effects. Many individuals have so many of these things occur on the same day that it has become their norm.
How Our Times Have Changed
Consider two or so hundred years ago our lives were very different. We worked either in the home or on the land, usually in our family trade. We ate when we were hungry and rarely in excess due to limited supplies. Stress consisted of making sure there was enough food to eat for your family and a roof over your heads. You slept when the sun went down and rarely stayed up past that hour as lamps and fires were expensive to run. Most of all, if people wanted to contact you they did so in person, wrote you a handwritten letter delivered on horseback, and they often stayed for a shared meal as the journey home. Our days did not consist of processed snacks, double-shot extra large skinny lattes, emails that seem to multiply with every click, meaningless social media updates, having to wear multiple roles and responsibilities, and having to share your time between work, home, television and endless social commitments. In essence we had time to breathe, eat,
sleep, and live in peace.
How Do You Know if You Are Overstimulated?
If you ever feel the following consider that you may be suffering from overstimulation:
- Do you feel tired most of the time?
- Do you have difficulty switching off your brain at night?
- Do you feel exhausted but cannot sleep or rest?
- Do you feel agitated and unable to relax?
- Does worry and anxiety pervade your thoughts?
- Does your heart seem to skip beats or beat faster at times?
- Do you have headaches, a dry mouth, and/or muscle tension?
- Do you frequently fidget, cannot sit still, or feel uncomfortable with silence?
- Do you feel like you never have enough time?
- Do you feel energised after a meal or more tired?
- Do you use caffeine to give you an energy boost often?
- Do you feel like you want to give up but cannot due to responsibilities?
If you answered yes to any of these questions consider that you are likely suffering from overstimulation whether it be from internal and/or external sources. Luckily this process can be turned around.
Holistic Medical Doctor