Some might relate this to a panic attack and clinically the symptoms are similar because you may find your heart is racing, your blood pressure is pumping in your head, your vision can often get blurry and the sounds around you change as does your breathing. But is this a panic attack or do we just become overwhelmed by the sensory overload?
Is sensory overload a panic attack? Personally I don't think so. Sensory overload is a common problem for people living with chronic pain. We feel things "more" and as a result our senses can become easily overwhelmed and over stimulated. It's not a panic attack...think of it as a breaker switch in your electrical panel at home...a switch was overloaded and the breaker blew...lights out.
Have you ever felt this way? It's an uncomfortable feeling isn't it? It can almost make you feel small, helpless, insecure....just to name a few. What caused it for you? What did you do about it?
- abrupt loud noises
- temperature (extreme heat/cold)
- smells...perfumes/colognes...food smells...environmental odors etc
- texture of clothing...too many layers...heavy to carry/wear...clothing too tight
- crowds...pushing and shoving...noise levels...lack of personal space
- sounds...screaming crying babies and young children...power tools...horns honking in traffic etc
- over tired brain and body
- not feeling well
- fluorescent or bright lights...harsh to the eyes
Sensory overload usually comes in a combination whammy too with you experiencing many things at once and you're overwhelmed to cope. It's okay. It happens. But what do you do when you're feeling over stimulated? here are just a few suggestions to try the next time...
- meditation and visualization for relaxation....focus on your breathing and calm your body response
- sit in a dark and quiet room removing the sensory overload of lights and sounds
- use your coping tool box for things to bring you down safely and calmly without causing harm to yourself
- plan ahead - write a list of things you need so that your time in these "trigger" areas will be lessened
- if the mall is a trigger...go at times of the day most likely not to be busy (very early in the morning or late at night and not on the weekend!)
- bring along your music and headphones to block out the other sounds of the mall
- talk lovingly and encouragingly with yourself during this time...do not beat yourself up for feeling this way okay? remind yourself that you're okay and you will get through this...be patient with you
- communicate clearly to those with you how you are feeling and what you need...if that is to leave the area temporarily until you can return or even if you need to leave and go home...express your needs clearly and nicely!
When feeling overloaded, whether its from your pain, your emotions or just life in general...there are things you can do to bring yourself down safely and without causing harm. Please do take the time to find what will help you when you're feeling overwhelmed and overloaded by life. We may not be able to avoid this from happening again...but we can prepare ourselves for it when it does. Prepare yourself okay?
take good care of you