How to Function In the Midst of Overstimulation
Imagine yourself standing at the corner of 47th Street and Broadway, the belly of the beast: Times Square. All senses are alert and overwhelmed – dozens of variously sized mega-tron advertisements, bight flashing lights, unorganized traffic with frustrating tourists bumping into you – yet seemingly immobile – smells of burnt peanuts and boiling hotdogs, the murmurs of thousands of layers of conversations, Broadway promoters singing enthusiastically, loud-mouthed strangers yelling and fighting, modern jesters and naked musicians – It is near terrifying enough that it is the most highly avoided neighborhood to be in if you are a true “New Yorker.” Way too much is going on at any single moment. I quickly fade into a twitching zombie, desperate to escape to a more low-key side street.
Manhattan is the epicenter of American overstimulation; Bright lights, dimly-lit smoke filled nightlife, ceaseless street noise, echoing sirens patrolling every intersection, all resulting from a dramatically overcrowded population of nearly 2 million, all inside of 23 sq. miles. Being part of Generation-Y, I inherently have A.D.H.D., so being able to focus and relax are true obstacles and challenges in this fast-paced city.
I have always been familiar with New York City. My parents are from Bayside and Bay Ridge, but decided to move upstate and raise my brother and I in a small farm town. Not much goes on in Warwick, New York. The world is silent during the day, and even more silent at night, aside from the chirping crickets and other various calls of nature. The lack of diversity and action had me eager to experience a city lifestyle; I didn’t learn to truly appreciate the soothing ambiance of the peak of a mountain until I was fully submerged in the metropolitan lifestyle. I went from tracing crisp constellations to over-exposed red skies, absent of starlight. I moved from driving for miles without passing a single car to passing and interacting with hundreds to thousands of strangers on a very daily basis. This transition has left me conflicted in how to balance out everything going on around me, with my own mental clarity and health in mind. This issue of overstimulation is shared by millions of people not only in New York, but in cities and settings all over the world.
How can we function in the midst of overstimulation? Overstimulation psychologically induces anxiety and creates a response of fear within the brain, often causing us to shut down and reject whatever may be in front of us. Finding ways to disconnect or calm ourselves regularly are the only ways to maintain sanity is such an intense environment. Here are a few suggestions on how to de-stimulate, relax and recuperate to make life seem more manageable again.
GO A WEEK WITHOUT A CELLPHONE
There have been periods of time where I didn’t have a phone due to various reasons and I found much peace and more room to think without the constant distraction. See how you like or how you manage and most importantly, see what you learn.
DO A SOCIAL MEDIA CLEANSE
The addictive nature associated with constantly being connected to anyone you have ever known, often results in FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out. Disconnecting for a few days will feel refreshing and it gives you space to enjoy your delicious lunch without needing to post a picture and check-in.
GO TO A PLACE OF NATURE ONE DAY OUT OF THE WEEK
Even in the big city there are quick ways to escape the concrete jungle and find a little Garden of Eden. Google or Yelp can easily navigate nearby hikes, bodies of water, and scenic rural routes to explore.
CONSIDER A MEDITATION PRACTICE
Silencing all the thoughts racing inside your head is easier said than done. Deep breathing, yoga, and self-hypnosis are a few methods of meditation. Try taking a long deep breath in, stretching over 8 seconds. Hold your breath for another 8, and slowly release your breath over 8 more seconds. Doing this a couple of times will undoubtedly calm your tensions and help you relax.
A good work out can be very therapeutic. Though you may be exhausted and drained, a good little bit of cardio and sweat will get your heart pumping and your brain releasing endorphins to help ease your mind and lighten your mood. Try hot yoga- you will sweat your worries away, while mixing in some meditation to quiet your mind.
COME HOME & DIM THE LIGHTS
It has been said that bright lights can intensify mood, be it positive or negative. It turns out that dimming the lights doesn’t just come in handy for romantic evenings. Sometimes dimming the lights can significantly help settle you. At times having less detail to focus on helps bring your attention inward.
TAKE A BATH
Many of us are accustomed to rushing through our showers and grooming habits. Taking a bath consciously helps you relax – allow yourself to enjoy the hot water, the silence and melt into the experience. There is no rush. Only your health.
MAKE MORE TIME TO READ
Books captivate and intrigue the mind as just as much as television or movies but they tend to stimulate the creative and imaginative parts of your brain rather than visually stimulating you. Opening up a good book is a quick passport out of whatever it is you’re in the middle of.
SCHEDULE A MASSAGE
Our muscles store our stress and emotion so a good rub down can help release all of that built up tension. Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend a fortune! Do a little research into local salons and spas and compare prices – In NYC you can find a great $40 1-hour body massage from many Chinese owned massage parlors.
CONSIDER ESCAPING THE CITY
Many people choose to commute over investing in Manhattan real estate because coming home to their own peaceful property in the suburbs with a quiet backyard and chirping crickets is much more appreciated than being a 15 minute crowded walk to work every day. Deeply consider whether or not your living situation could use an adjustment.
LIGHT A CANDLE OR SOME INCENSE
By bringing your focus to one thing only it allows you to melt into the moment. Overstimulation is a result of too many things going on at once so when you focus on a single occurrence it tends to dissipate a lot of the anxiety that comes with feeling overwhelmed. The aroma of a candle or incense can also ease your mind as well as settle your focus. And hey if you feel like taking it up a notch, go ahead, get that lava lamp!
While implementing some of these suggestions may take some effort and patience at first (changing your routine always feels a little odd at first, especially if feeling relaxed is not something you’re use to), give yourself time to be willing to explore with what resonates best with you.