Sensory Overload


Image by bbaunach via Flickr

Sensory overload.  There are some neurodevelopmental disorders that cause heightened sensory awareness.  People might need to brush their arms to be desensitized to the sense of touch.  Or use a vibrating toothbrush or wear shades even with little to moderate light.  I hear most about the senses of touch and hearing from my patients who will hit their head, scratch themselves, or do other self-injurious behaviors to self soothe.

Hearing about these people might feel like you are far removed.  However, many of the general population have some sensory issues although to a lessor degree.  These things come out when we are tired.  When we have multiple emotional stressors.  When we feel trapped or overextended.  It is linked to anxiety and so we may notice tension crawling up our skin or into our throats.  If we could escape we would.  Some people can push through this and make it until a window opens.  Some people end up reacting.

Today I found myself squinting more.  My energy was low and I yawned a lot during clinic which is rude.  My inner milieu had a lot to do with what I was bringing to the table and little to do with what was happening to me or around me.  However, there I was, a player in life.  I did my best.  And then the sound level started going up.  It felt like my skin was lifting up and contracting all at once.  Sound travels so it followed me around the house.  Before I had to put a dollar in the family money jar, I remembered my ear-plugs.  Ah.  Things went down a notch.  I could cope better.

Self soothing.  Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam, the much disputed early parenting book, tells new-by’s that babies need to learn to self sooth.  Parents are advised to let their babies cry at night until they quiet down, rather than pick them up and sooth them externally.  Thus teaching  a baby that they can’t use Mom or Dad as a sleep prop.

Many of us even as adults struggle with self soothing.  Awareness of what is bothering us helps.  Getting that awareness might be a deliberate effort or it might come effortlessly.  Either way, knowing what is the trigger helps to know how to respond.  Anyone can describe a time in their life when this didn’t happen and they tried to self sooth in a way that was hurtful to themselves or someone else.

Whatever the feelings are, whatever the stressor, self soothing should be something simple, easy and fairly obvious.  Today, I was surprised at how much better I parented with ear-plugs in place!

“Mommy, why are you wearing earplugs?”…

Question:  What do you think?  Agree or disagree?

Self Care Tip #32 – Self sooth simply.  Be a friend to yourself.