The high sensitivity trait comes in a “package” with both gifts and challenges. My approach is that the gifts far outweigh the challenges. Therefore, overall, being highly sensitive is a blessing. However, the challenges need to be addressed in order to enhance your life experience. Ignoring them could lead to unnecessary struggles and suffering. One of the main challenges of this personality trait is sensory overload. Because our nervous system is wired to take in so much information and take it in on such a deep level, finding balance is key. In this guide, you’ll make acquaintance with my Top 3 most effective ways to achieve INSTANT relief from sensory overload.
Sensory overload: What it is and how it impacts the body
Simply put, sensory overload is when our senses take in more information than our brain can keep up with processing. This gets us into fight/flight mode and several stress responses are released in our body, on the chemical, cognitive, and emotional levels. Highly sensitive people can be more prone to sensory overload. The effects can be quite detrimental, especially if we repeatedly get into a state of sensory overload. Therefore it’s vital that we stay alert so that we can prevent it, and reduce its impact on us once we pass the threshold for what our nervous system can handle at that point.
1. Schedule downtime regularly
Once you get into a state of sensory overload, the best solution to get relief is of course to remove yourself from the source(s) of stimulation. Even better: schedule time regularly in a low-sensory setting, so that your nervous system gets a chance to “catch up”. By doing this, you will reduce the frequency with which you reach that threshold where sensory stimulation becomes sensory overload.
A great rule of thumb is to schedule two hours of “downtime” per day and one day off per week. This time will preferably be spent alone, or in any case, in a low-sensory setting. This means no social media and no loud interactions. This time can be dedicated to meditation, your daily personal growth habits, reading, spending time in Nature, etc.
Training yourself in the high sensitivity trait is key to optimizing the trait. Optimizing the trait, in turn, allows you to customize your life experience to a larger extent. As HSPs, because we are so aware, we have the great privilege of having multiple choices available to us to create our life experience in our own image. Awareness equals choice. For more information on this topic, please read “12 AMAZING benefits from raising your vibration” and “You Create Your Own Reality: Why Being Highly Sensitive Is A Great Privilege”.
2. Spend quality time in Nature
Being in Nature nourishes the Soul. While it’s beneficial for everyone, it’s ESSENTIAL for highly sensitive people. Spending quality time in Nature is an immersive experience where your entire being gets a chance to relax. (I’m not talking about artificial intelligence here, but “immersive experience” for real!). By “quality time” I mean that you forget about any problems, worries, or concerns you might have as you enter this sacred space, and allow yourself to just be. It’s also imperative to stay away from distractions from your smartphone or other devices to benefit fully from the experience.
A few years ago I decided to move to a small town next to a large forest that exudes peace: the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau. This was before Covid-19 and working from home. At the time I was working in Paris, which meant three hours of daily commuting. Guess what? Even with those longer workdays, my overall energy level improved dramatically thanks to the recharge I got in the forest during weekends.
As a bonus, the longer workdays helped me focus on the positive aspects of my everyday life. I simply couldn’t afford to be drained with negativity or insignificant details. As the saying goes: “don’t sweat the small stuff!”.
The therapeutic effects of spending quality time in a forest are sometimes referred to as “forest bathing”. This term was coined by Dr. Qing Li, author of the book “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness” (2018).
Alternatives to be exposed to the benefits of Nature
Of course, Nature isn’t necessarily a synonym for forest. It could be a beach, lake, river, waterfall, mountain… Choose whatever setting suits your needs and preferences best.
Maybe you feel that moving to Nature isn’t an option for you. There are still things related to Nature that you can do to get relief from sensory overload. Here are some examples:
*Go outside to get fresh air every morning before work (ideally 20 minutes or more).
*Schedule time during weekends and vacations to go to Nature, even if you have to travel some distance to get there (it’s worth it, I promise!).
*Use essential oils derived from forest trees (in a diffuser).
*Listen to recordings of calming sounds of Nature and/or guided meditations with sounds of Nature in the background.
3. Try the experience of a float tank
Another immersive experience you can try for relief from sensory overload is a float tank. A float tank is basically a small, individual pool designed explicitly for sensory deprivation (some larger versions can be used by two people simultaneously). The water contains enough salt for you to float effortlessly, similar to the Dead Sea in Israel. Your session in a float tank typically lasts for one hour, and you spend most of that hour in silence and in darkness. There can be some calming music and soft light at the beginning of your session to help you relax, and towards the end to prepare you to exit the experience.
There’s more to it than just relaxation. When all the interruptions and distractions from the outside world are cut off, you really get to spend quality time with yourself and gain more body awareness. Some people have spiritual experiences during their sessions of sensory deprivation. For me, this image of floating without any interruptions or distractions whatsoever from the outside world represents with perfection the notion of surrender. Just let go, knowing you’re safe. For more inspiration on surrender, please read my articles “Top 3 Best Spiritual Practices” and “You Too Can Become An Alchemist”.
The most tangible effect for me immediately after the session in the float tank was feeling more joyful! Underneath all the layers of external influences, joy is always present. The same holds true for spending quality time in Nature, or any downtime really. Joy, peace, serenity, and clarity are all present within us. They might be buried under tons of layers of external influences. Nevertheless, they are still there. Balance truly is key so that we can have the best of both worlds: both the inner and the outer worlds.
What do you experience when you practice sensory deprivation as part of your self-care routine? Connect with me on social media and let me know!
About the author
Susanna is a Highly Sensitive Writer, Energy Worker, and Psychologist on a mission to help raise Human Consciousness. She offers 1:1 sessions as a certified Emotion Code and Body Code Practitioner, as well as group workshops about Conscious Manifestation.