I’m writing this while in the throes of major overstimulation. This overstimulated mama could use a time-out. But that’s not happening any time soon.
My son, who is almost 2.5, is talking a mile a minute these days. He wants to listen to music, too, specifically any soundtrack from the Cars movies. On repeat.
“Sing Thunder Hollow,” he says, or “sing racing cars.”
“Loud, Mama,” which means crank up the volume.
I used to be able to hang, but lately – I can’t. Our refrigerator’s ice machine is turning on, an unpredictable but frequent low rumble in the background of any moment. It sounds like a threat, like the fridge is working overtime, like it’s going to break. That’s the way this overstimulated mama feels right now too.
If you Google tips to overcome overstimulation, the best advice is to crawl into a dark corner.
In yoga philosophy, crawling into a dark corner, more or less, is called pratyahara, or sense withdrawal.
But what happens when you literally cannot stop what you are doing to recover from overstimulation because your kiddo is pawing at you, begging you for a snack bar with an urgency that contradicts the reality that he ate not even 30 minutes ago?
This week I’ve been finding and trying new coping strategies. Ones that work for a mama who may not be able to retreat into a dark corner at any given moment.
This is what I have come up with:
- Taking a big deep belly breath
In through my nose, let my belly balloon and relax, and slowly out through my mouth.
- Withdrawing one sense at a time
Try this by cupping palms over the eyes or ears. The first time I covered my eyes with my hands, my son said, “See your eyes, Mama.” This could be tricky to accomplish. But maybe you turn it into peek-a-boo with the cute and charming source of your overstimulation.
- Activating one sense at a time
I’m loving my husband’s body weight right now. One of his firm hugs or when he lays on me in bed both help a lot. Each action triggers the proprioceptive system, which lives in your muscles and joints. It’s the sense of self-movement, force, and body position. A weighted blanket might serve the same purpose. A heated weighted blanket does double duty – activates the proprioceptive system and the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm this overstimulated mama.
- Noting my symptoms
An early one for me is interruptions to the interoceptive system, which alerts you to basic bodily functions like thirst or hunger or a full bladder. I could go all day without ever feeling hungry or like I need to pee. I still do those things, but it’s more when I process why I am rationally feeling off, like I haven’t eaten anything for a while, I should probably do that.
My eyes have been especially tired lately. So tired I wonder if I might need a new glasses prescription. But no – my eyes, like the rest of my body, are just exhausted from taking in all the stimulation that comes with motherhood. The little hands on our bodies, the noise, the clutter. OH GOD, THE CLUTTER!
Another early symptom of being an overstimulated mama was my urgent need to organize. I ordered a handful of Sterilite containers to streamline the aesthetic of toy storage.
Our body is made up of so many individual systems that work together to keep us alive. It helps to know that what I’m feeling is real on a biological level – my overwhelming overstimulation is my body’s way of saying I feel unsafe or this feels wrong.
Some other ways I battle overstimulation:
- Keeping a to-do list.
It helps to get the ideas swirling in my brain down on paper.
- A mantra.
I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.
- Avoiding the ever-present toddler power struggle with playfulness.
This week we’ve entered a new stage of toddlerdom. So much of parenting is reacting to where your kid is, and almost never anticipating it. This burst of sensory input came out of nowhere. And it turned me into an overstimulated mama.
My son now has a greater understanding of the world about him, and his place in it. His needs and wants and words have meaning, and of course, he wants to express himself. We all do!
But I keep getting caught in our power struggle. He doesn’t want to put on his mittens. I keep insisting that he does or we won’t go outside when I’m the one who wants to go outside in the first place. Instead, of trying to overpower his will with my own, I could try to put his mittens on my own hands. Turn it into a joke. Offer him my own mittens. Defuse the tension with humor and make us learn to be more accommodating and gentle with each other.
Are you ever an overstimulated mama? What are some strategies that worked best for you to diffuse the situation?
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