After Sports Magazines Give Cover-Story Attention To The Outstanding Performance ADD, Stress and Overstimulation – Living Too Close to Edge

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ADD, Stress and Overstimulation – Living Too Close to Edge

A growing number of adult clients are coming to a therapist’s office with stress and inattention, leading them to worry that they may have ADHD. Often they are just overstimulated and overwhelmed.

We feel stressed when the world changes too quickly, with too much to do and too little time. We feel stressed when the emotional world around us is tense or threatened. Through emotional contagion, we feel stressed when those around us are stressed.

Both good and bad changes can stress us out. Think of a new parent, bride or groom-to-be who needs to “learn the tricks” in their new job. For most of us, stress is unavoidable and often enough to improve life, but stress is hard on the body and brain. We still deal with anxiety by fight or flight the same way our primitive ancestors did. Chronic stressful situations flood our brains with neurochemicals and our bodies tune into yellow alert, ready to flee from an enemy or predator.

scan for danger

With this mindset, we are evolutionarily prepared to scan the world for danger. This is perfectly appropriate for those who live in real fear, but for most of us, obnoxious co-workers, our unsympathetic spouses, bad drivers on the road next to us, miserable economies Conditions or our melting ice caps point to the cause of our stress not as life-threatening dangers that evolution prepared us for. Yet we use them to explain and justify our hyperarousal by pointing them at disturbing stimuli in the world.

This made our experience seamless. We feel like we can explain why we feel threatened. However, this may not be the whole truth.

So what are our feelings?

We are often just “overstimulated”.

Our lives are filled with activities that we consider necessary or unavoidable.We suffer from “information overload,” where too many choices and tension create anxiety, and if we don’t, we risk falling behind Do everything, try Everything, glued to our TV and computer screens. Every trip to the supermarket or mall is an overstimulating exercise.

Hyperstimulation and ADD

Richard Restaker, a professor of neurology at George Washington University, notes that attention deficit disorder is becoming more prevalent in both children and adults.He notes, “With the increasing demands on attention and focus, our brains try to adapt by rapidly shifting attention from one activity to another—a strategy that has now become almost a survival strategy. Necessary conditions.” Restak continued quoting the comment wired Evan Schwartz, the magazine’s cyberspace critic, argues that attention-deficit disorder may be “the official brain syndrome of the information age.”

Almost everyone you talk to feels like their lives are moving too fast.

We scold our preschoolers when they’re dawdling at breakfast, and we grind our teeth when our teens can’t find their notebooks. As we commute to work in the chaos of rush hour, we are outraged at bad drivers and careless pedestrians.

The pace of the workplace has been accelerating. Friendships and coworker relationships happen across time zones on the Internet. Conference calls have replaced face-to-face meetings. Canadian executives wake up at 2 a.m. to check on their Japanese subsidiary from their BlackBerrys. The TV spot features the small-town family doctor talking to his patients over Skype while he’s away on vacation. Information processing and information generation are beyond, and certainly beyond, our ability to digest the results. Our bodies feel tense. Our minds are exhausted.

At our personal overstimulation point, we break down.

Overstimulation is unpleasant and repulsive. We literally experience it as an attack…an attack on our senses, our emotional balance, and our ability to understand and control what is happening to us.

When we reach our personal overstimulation point, we can act like overtired, overwhelmed children. We can break down and ask others to take care of us, we can be poor and intimidating towards others as we try to control what happens to us. We may lash out in anger, run away inappropriately, or isolate ourselves too strictly.

Sometimes our bodies instead break down and experience psychosomatic or stress-induced illness. We can become hypersensitive and worry about physical pains because they provide an acceptable reason to get away from unpleasant overstimulation.

Reducing overstimulation reduces stress.

Since a large portion of the stress we experience may simply be overstimulation and sensory overload, psychologist and sensitivity expert Elaine Allen, Ph.D., suggests we can do something practical about it.

Instead of breaking down in the face of overstimulation-based stress, we can reduce our immediate stimulation levels by acting consciously and responsibly. We can work proactively to reduce the general level of stimuli we are exposing ourselves to. She suggests some strategies:

Purely Physical Strategies to Reduce Hyperstimulation Levels

  • When you feel your stress rising, take a break from it temporarily or completely.
  • Close your eyes for a moment, 80% of our stimuli come from sight.
  • Limit your use of stimulants like coffee, tea, and soda, especially before entering a highly stimulating environment.
  • Get outside: exposure to fresh air, natural random sounds.
  • Use water to reduce stress: take a bath or shower, drink water, walk around or listen to running water, fountains, etc.
  • walk.
  • calm down
  • Adjust to a more relaxed posture.

Psychological Strategies to Reduce Overstimulation

  • If the situation makes you overstimulated, give yourself advance permission to limit engagement…or withdraw.
  • Practice meditation training, which can calm you down and allow you to refocus.
  • Cultivate and value inner resources such as spiritual or philosophical beliefs and develop a foundational belief that the world is safe and supportive.

Interpersonal Strategies to Reduce Overstimulation

  • Respect your limits and ask others to respect them too. Monitor your interpersonal boundaries.

Strive for optimal stimulation levels

Humans perform best physically, intellectually and emotionally in an environment that provides them personally with the optimal level of stimulation; neither too low nor too high. A little thought about the cumulative nature of overstimulation can help you lower your physical and emotional stress levels and stay within your comfort zone.

refer to:

Richard Restak (2003) The new brain, how the modern age can reshape your mind, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, p. 45

Dr Elaine Allen, (1996). The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. New York, Broadway Books

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