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  • Writer's picturetovahstutoringcomp

5 tips to help with over stimulation in the workplace

I personally would rather an end result that is developed by someone that is confident in what they've developed, rather than something that is rushed.

Over stimulation in the workplace

Over stimulation in the workplace is very common. We all have deadlines and problems to solve. And isn't it always the way that everything seems to pile up towards the end of the year or when things aren't working out at home too? Life most definitely isn't smooth sailing. Although! It is manageable, if you have the tools to get you through these troubling times.


It is common that you could be over stimulated. This can happen when the room is very loud, fast, chaotic, lots of busy wall displays and things to view. Perhaps you have a lot of tasks to complete and people to communicate with at the same time, and your brain is finding it overwhelming to bounce between many things at a fast pace. Like a cup of water, if you keep adding drops of water, they will eventually pour over the sides.

Usually when we are over stimulated, we only notice one or two senses that are irritating us e.g., it is too loud, or things are moving too quickly. As a teacher, loads of kids running around or yelling can be overwhelming. But in reality, over stimulation will occur when your brain is switching between many areas around you that are "threatening" or is attention grabbing. If you return to the "Cavemen era" and think about the human instinct, our fight, flight and freeze systems occur when we sense danger. So, we will notice when things are different to normal. In the classroom when someone moves quickly, it is natural to look over to them. This is because our instincts are communicating to us that something might happen that could put us at risk. In the office, it might be that you see someone stand up and move from their desk. In the wild or in the "Cavemen era", this would be the equivalent to seeing leaves move in the bushes or an animal appear. This is just one example from the sight sense. When you add the dynamic of spatial awareness e.g., the person approaches you, are you at an appropriate distance to interact with them, then you will notice your instinct heightens as the level of importance of needing to notice (danger) increases. If two people move at the same time, your brain will be wanting to look at both places to assess the situation. Adding more people, the brain will bounce between each "danger".

Now add in any noise...

Noise was used by animals and humans to alert, communicate and intimidate. When we hear it now, our hearing sense knows this and will assess what the noise is to ensure you are safe. So, your brain is now moving back and forth between what it sees, how close it is to you, and what the noise is telling you. Now add the remaining basic senses of smell, feel and taste. Maybe you can taste your mouth drying up and smell many different body odours and/or the stuffiness of the room. Maybe you can feel the temperature of the room isn't comfortable or your chair is making parts of your bum and back ache, tense or numb? Maybe you can feel the socks in your shoes are slightly pressing against your toes? Maybe there is a bit of hair itching your head within your hair tie? Maybe you have tension on the sides of your eyebrows? Maybe your wrists feel heavy or uncomfortably warm laying on your laptop. There are all these little factors alerting your brain at the same time as noticing a bigger factor of the person moving towards you. Your brain is letting you know which areas of the environment and yourself that can impair your safety. Then there are words on the walls on posters, mess on the ground, email alerts, having the knowledge that you've brought important items from home in your bag that you need to take care of (e.g., cell phone, credit cards, car keys), there are things that are lurking in the back of your brain that will alert you later that you are preparing for like picking up the kids, cooking dinner, paying bills, checking the doors are locked when you go to bed. These are all being prioritised in your head and juggled with what is in front of you now. This is what causes over stimulation. Too many things are being juggled in your head and determined what is important and what is not a risk to your safety. These days, we may not necessarily be in situations of "dangers" in terms of life and death in the workplace, but rather the dangers might be an effect on our delivery, the way people perceive us as workers, how people react to us in the environment, which in turn, can be seen with the same severity when it comes to our anxiety and work stresses 9if we get fired, we can't pay bills and buy groceries etc.).

On top of all this, you might have mental/physical/emotion impairments and triggers to counterbalance too.

Just after writing this, I remember why things get overwhelming so quickly.... but I always have a few ways to remedy the situation, and here they are:

TIP #1:

Ease one of your senses.

By closing your eyes and breathing or putting on noise cancelling headphones, you are aiding a sense that is struggling to cope. Being an introvert, I tend to find noise overwhelming, so by wearing headphones in the times where I can sense my tipping point, I find it doesn't eventuate. Instead, I find myself managing and balancing myself to solve the issue(s) at hand. I can also hear my breath instead and that provides me with a consistent rhythm that is soothing.

You can do the same by easing some of the other senses. In terms of your feeling sense, you can focus on lowering your shoulders and other areas you feel are tense in your body. Exhaling deeply is a way your body tells you that relaxing those muscles needed to happen and it is thanking you for listening to the alert.

By closing your eyes and breathing or putting on noise cancelling headphones, you are aiding a sense that is struggling to cope.

TIP #2:

Have mindfulness tasks that you can do in public which will ground you.

It is important to have things that you can do to ground yourself in public places which need to be practice in public situations, means that at any given time, you can save yourself from feeling overwhelmed. My favourite ones are:

1.) Making sure I notice every time I exhale through my nose and notice where the breath touches on my face. Does it hit the lip every time, and if not, where else does the breath reach?

2.) Counting slowly. I find simple counting has a simple rhythm the way breathing works. Each number flows in minims (two beats) if you think in a simple rhythm format (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and). So, I just count in this rhythm and eventually I reach the end of my stresses or until it grounds me.

3.) Look around the room and say what they are in your head. Start from one side of the room to the other, then start again from the other side. Repeat process with what you see and hear. You can break it down to colours and sizes also.

TIP #3:

Plan, prioritise and remove

If you like a good list, then this one will be great for you. Itemise and acknowledge your problems, your situations and your tasks into three columns; do now, do tomorrow, do another day and try and focus only on the things in the do now column. Make your way through these things in order as it is likely you have already put them in an order of necessity.

TIP #4:


Giving yourself a mindfulness distraction will provide a rest period for your mind. Choose something to focus on like eating yoghurt and watch the way you tear off the lid, which corner you start with, which fingers you use to grip the lid, how much or how little pressure you use to hold the corner of the lid and tug to release the seal. Follow through this whole process with your senses in slow motion and look at all the details that go into this simple action.

TIP #5:

Take the break (hear me out on this one)

Sometimes we need to work, work, work even through our breaks. But it is a double-edged sword. When doing this, you are burning the candle at both ends and in fact, will find yourself worse off or may end up having to redo things or placing more effort into your tasks. With good food, hydration and having a moment to recentre yourself, you will find you can do more with your time. It doesn't feel that way in the moment because we naturally go, "I've only got a few hours to get this done so I better keep going", but if you gave yourself 10mins or a half an hour to reset, you'll have the energy to move with quality. I personally would rather an end result that is developed by someone that is confident in what they've developed, rather than something that is rushed. You can always see the areas that didn't needed more thought and time. So, take the break! The end result will always be better if you have a rational and focused mind.

With good food, hydration and having a moment to recentre yourself, you will find you can do more with your time.

Take care of yourself. You know your body. It has been communicating with you your entire life. You've learned how to aid a sore tummy and you know when to feed yourself when you are hungry, so you can learn how to prevent over stimulation too. It just takes practice.

Time, Experience, Manaakitanga.

Tovah O'Neill

Tovah's Tutoring Company Ltd.


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