Overstimulation Is Real--We All Deserve to Take a Break
In 2022, the potential for overstimulation is real, from phones to smartwatches and everything in between. Even now, as I type away on my laptop, I can't help but ponder the previous eight hours I spent staring at an almost identical screen. I'm not naive. I know that technology--and the no doubt plethora of benefits we reap from it--is an integral part of our daily lives. I'm no technology shunner; I'm simply a mental health enthusiast.
Overstimulation Results from American Work Ethic Norms
Before diving into the juicy part of the discussion, defining the term in question is essential. According to the Collins Dictionary, simply put, overstimulation is "the act or instance of stimulating too much."1
I know what you may be thinking, vague much? Where others may see a vague definition and ambiguous language, I see an opportunity to interpret the words based on my individual needs. For example, I can be susceptible to loud noises, which may require extended breaks between client meetings. Other people, my co-worker, for example, may thrive in chaotic environments and invite noise to bolster productivity. We both excel at our respective jobs and produce the same work, but we utilize different approaches to protect our mental health.
America has a long-standing stance on hard work routed in the philosophy that if you work hard, you can achieve success. In 2014, Pew Research Center of 44 countries, an astonishing "73% of Americans deemed 'hard work' very important to getting ahead in life."2 For reference, the global median was roughly 50%.
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for hard work. I believe strongly in committing to a project and seeing it through meticulously and effectively. Although hard work in my book may be a "yes," work without limits is a resounding "no."
Although rarely explicitly stated, there remains a deeply rooted implicit expectation that work should be the top priority. Working long hours can lead to burnout and, yes, you guessed it, detrimental overstimulation.3 Our brains are not meant to stare at a screen all day; in this new reality, we must take the necessary steps to prioritize our physical and mental health.
Combat Overstimulation with Daily Strategies
We can do a lot to help ease the pressures of societal expectations and the stigma that hard work is the end-all, be-all of a successful life. We can only achieve success if we are well enough to create it. Success and wealth aside, mental health is a priority for a happy and fruitful life and is the foundation on which the aforementioned is built.
You didn't think I would dump all this information on you without providing tips to combat overstimulation, did you? According to Varleisha Gibbs, Ph.D., OTD, OTR/L, author of Self Regulation & Mindfulness:
"To deal with sensory overload at home, identify your triggers and either address or avoid them, depending on whether they are under your control. It also helps to decrease unnecessary stimuli in your immediate environment."4
Dr. Gibbs encourages individuals to decrease unnecessary stimuli and invite comforts. She suggests active mediation or walking around the block for those keen on movement. Like in yoga, the only rule is to do what feels good. So for those looking, let this be a sign to unplug and take a well-deserved break.
Collins Dictionary. (2022, July 6). Overstimulation definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary. Collins Dictionaries. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/overstimulation
Cooper, M. (2016, April 17). Americans are more likely than the rest of the world to believe hard works pays off. Quartz. https://qz.com/663691/americans-are-more-likely-than-the-rest-of-the-world-to-believe-hard-works-pays-off/
Levitin, D. J. (2018, March 22). Why the modern world is bad for your brain. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/18/modern-world-bad-for-brain-daniel-j-levitin-organized-mind-information-overload
Delgado, C. (2021, February 19). Feeling Overstimulated? We Asked An Expert What You Can Do About It. Architectural Digest. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/advice-for-when-feeling-overstimulated
Jack, J. (2022, July 7). Overstimulation Is Real--We All Deserve to Take a Break, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2022/7/overstimulation-is-real-we-all-deserve-to-take-a-break