Overstimulation is a common challenge for countless people around the world today. Your experience of being overstimulated may be caused by an underlying mental health condition or simply the result of a constantly interconnected and fast-paced world.

Whatever the cause, finding tools that offer relief can greatly improve your ability to manage your time, keep up with responsibilities, and improve your overall mental health.

What is Overstimulation?

Overstimulation happens when your brain is receiving too much sensory input from your body. When a person gets overstimulated, they can feel like their attention is being pulled in a million directions at once, which can quickly lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed.

For example, you might quickly become overstimulated if you’re in a large crowd. The sounds of overlapping voices, the press of bodies against you, and the heat from so many people in one place can lead to sensory overload and spark a feeling of fear, anxiety, or restlessness.

But overstimulation can even happen in places such as work, school, or home. When you’re at the office and have dozens of emails coming in, customers on the phone, and frequent notifications from your smartphone, it’s easy to become overstimulated and overwhelmed.

Causes of Overstimulation

Getting overstimulated can happen to anyone, though some people experience overstimulation more frequently or easily than others. People with certain underlying mental health conditions may be more likely to become overstimulated.

Some common mental health conditions that can lead to overstimulation include:

These mental health challenges are directly related to changes in brain functioning that can make it more likely for a person to feel overstimulated, though it can present differently between individuals.

In both anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, for instance, overstimulation may be tied to an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, and heightened sympathetic nervous system activity can make people feel as though they are constantly on edge or alert for danger.

In over-stimulating situations, this can lead to rapidly increasing signs of stress, overwhelm, or anxiety. The body is put on high alert and sends signals that a person needs to escape the situation in order to feel safe.

Signs of Overstimulation

While everyone experiences overstimulation differently, there are a few key signs of being overstimulated that indicate that it’s time to try some new coping skills. Common signs of overstimulation include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased heart rate
  • Faster breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Physical discomfort
  • An urge to remove yourself from the situation
  • Covering your eyes or ears
  • Difficulty focusing

Getting overstimulated can quickly grind your day to a halt, interfering with your ability to focus on tasks, take care of your responsibilities, or keep a calm mind. But there are steps you can take to find relief from being overstimulated and start feeling better.

7 Tips to Find Relief From Being Overstimulated

There is no single strategy that helps everyone in terms of overstimulation. What works for someone else may not work for you, so don’t be discouraged if the first thing you try isn’t the right fit. Instead, try using several of the strategies listed below to see what fits with your needs.

1. Leave the Situation

Sometimes, the best way to get relief from being overstimulated is simply leaving the situation that’s causing you to feel that way.

Of course, this isn’t always an option — you may not be able to leave your workplace, a college class, or a family gathering — but when possible, taking even a short break can do wonders to help you calm down from overwhelming environments.

The truth of the matter is that many overstimulating situations aren’t truly mandatory, and you can step out at any time you like.

If going to a street festival leads to feeling overstimulated, you can leave the festival and find relief. If a grocery store is overwhelming on a Sunday, you might be able to skip shopping today and go during quieter hours on Monday.

Leaving the situation addresses overstimulation directly — by removing yourself from the overly stimulating environment. Removing yourself from a barrage of sights, sounds, smells, and frantic energy can help you find peace and restore your clarity of mind.

2. Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness techniques can help you stay connected to the present moment rather than getting carried away by sensory experiences that can quickly become overstimulating.

Mindfulness isn’t an action itself but, instead, a state of mind. But there are a few techniques you can use that can help encourage this state of mind and cope with over stimulating situations.

Deep Breathing

Breathing exercises are often used to help promote a state of mindfulness. A simple strategy you can use in an overstimulating situation is known as box breathing, which follows a few simple steps:

  1. Inhale deeply for four seconds through your nose.
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds.
  3. Exhale deeply for four seconds through your mouth.
  4. Hold your lungs empty for four seconds.

Repeat this pattern of breathing several times, until you start to feel grounded and present.


Meditation is a practice that can’t always be used in the moment but can prepare you with the ability to enter a more mindful state at will. Consider trying a guided meditation practice or simply sitting comfortably and paying careful attention to how your thoughts appear.

With enough practice in meditation, you not only learn what it means to enter a truly mindful state, but you also gain the ability to enter a mindful state at will.

Body Scan

A body scan is a simple strategy of connecting to your body and focusing your attention, which can prevent you from getting overstimulated by things outside of your control. A body scan is a systematic approach of drawing your focus throughout your entire body, feeling each body part in turn to help soothe your central nervous system.

Typically, a body scan is done while either seated or lying down. Starting at the top of your head, notice how your body feels and where your muscles are tense, and intentionally relax each muscle and tendon systematically.

Work your way down from your head to your neck to your shoulders, arms, torso, and, ultimately, your legs and feet.

By the end of the scan, you should feel entirely relaxed and experience substantial relief from overstimulation.

3. Limit Technology Use

Technology can rapidly become a source of frequent overstimulation. Social media, phone calls, text messages, news alerts, and video games all compete for your attention, sending notifications and buzzing alerts to draw you back in.

If your smartphone or computer is one of the contributing factors to your feeling of overstimulation, consider limiting your technology use during times when you need to put your attention elsewhere.

Alternatively, you can set up certain periods throughout your day to limit your technology use so that you can have true downtime without constantly being pulled in different directions.

People will commonly refrain from technology either in the morning or the evening to allow themselves to either prepare mentally for the day or relax and unwind without getting overstimulated.

4. Time Management

Time management can be a key tool in limiting overstimulation for people who live busy lives with competing responsibilities. When your calendar is filled to the brim, and you’re still trying to add more things to your daily schedule, try using these simple time management tips to help:

  • List your priorities: Go through your tasks to determine what’s important and what’s urgent — if it’s both, do it now; if it’s neither, eliminate it; if it’s just one or the other, either delegate the task or reschedule it for when you have time
  • Take breaks: It can be easy to get overstimulated when you’re working non-stop, and scheduling time away from tasks can help restore your focus
  • Set boundaries: Setting healthy boundaries and saying “no” can help you avoid spending time where you rather wouldn’t and becoming overwhelmed

Learning time management takes practice, but it can do wonders for your experience of overstimulation.

5. Cultivate a Calming Environment

If you’re feeling overstimulated in a place where you spend a great deal of time, such as at work or home, consider whether your environment plays a role in your sensory experience. A messy or chaotic household, for instance, can contribute to the feeling of sensory overload.

To create a more calming environment, start with decluttering the space where you spend the most time. Clear your desk from anything distracting or tidy up the living room where you spend most of your time.

Next, try to minimize the level of noise in your environment. This might include closing the windows, using noise-canceling headphones, or playing white noise to drown out distracting environmental sounds.

Finally, add things to your environment that help provide a sense of calm and comfort. For many people, this could be plants or natural materials, but it could also be anything that gives you a feeling of relaxation.

6. Grounding Strategies

A grounding strategy is a technique used to connect you to your individual senses rather than letting them wash over you all at once. The most common grounding strategy is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, where you connect with each sense in turn:

  • Notice 5 things you can see
  • Notice 4 things you can touch
  • Notice 3 things you can hear
  • Notice 2 things you can smell
  • Notice 1 thing you can taste

By going through and providing in-depth attention to each sense, you’ll often find that it becomes easier to filter out distractions from your environment and find relief from overstimulation.

7. Seek Professional Help

If the above strategies aren’t working quite the way you hoped, and your overstimulation is starting to interfere with your daily life and responsibilities, consider reaching out to a virtual or in-person therapist for help.

Therapists have an abundance of tools to help people overcome overstimulation and identify whether an underlying mental health condition may be partly responsible for your symptoms.

Working through your challenges with a therapist isn’t always easy. It is an act of self-discovery and personal growth that can take time, but the rewards of seeking treatment are often worth the effort.

With a therapist at your side, you can learn effective strategies for preventing overstimulation, recovering from feeling overstimulated, and addressing any underlying mental health concerns you may have.

Start Treatment at Plus by APN

At Plus by APN, our team uses a comprehensive suite of therapeutic services and treatments to help our clients achieve recovery from all manner of mental health challenges. Call APN today at 424.644.6486 or fill out our confidential online form.


“How to Manage (and Even Overcome) Sensory Overload.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 22 May 2024, health.clevelandclinic.org/sensory-overload.

“Sensory Overload: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/sensory-overload. Accessed 8 June 2024.