Sensory Overload and ADHD

Jump to:

You know that you can easily be overwhelmed by too much of anything: to much to do, too much stuff in your space, too much to try and understand.

But did you know that your senses can be overwhelmed too?

If you’ve ever driven past an area where a skunk just perfumed the air then you know what it’s like for at least one of your senses to feel overwhelmed.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of posts on Facebook and Twitter about kids going back to school and how the moms are doing the school shopping and meeting the teachers.

For some ADD Moms, that can be a recipe for sensory overload.

For starters, most classrooms, especially elementary school ones, are enough to give you sensory overload just by themselves.

They have stuff on the walls, on the blackbaord and even hanging from the ceiling. Everywhere you look there is something to see or read.

Now add in a room full of adults and kids with that accompanying noise. You’ve got people to meet, things to remember from the teacher, and friends to say hello to. You’ve also probably got a handful of papers that you need to keep track of and attend to later.

All of this adds up to sensory overload – too much noise and activity and stuff hitting you all at once.

And it’s not just school. Sensory overload can happen anywhere at anytime. Ever been totally distracted by a piece of clothing that was irritating you?

So what do you do when sensory overload happens?

First, prepare for it.

If you know that you’re going someplace that is new or that has a lot of activity going on, get ready before you are assaulted.

Pack some highly flavored mints in your bag or bring a drink. Not water this time. When you feel overloaded, pop the mint or take a sip of your drink. The pleasant taste will momentarily distract you from what’s going on. It can sometimes be enough to help you regroup.

Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. I know that even then, sometimes your favorite shirt just rubs you the wrong way. I’ve found that taking a mild pain reliever can take the edge off when I can’t change what I’m wearing.

Before you go in, take a few deep breaths. That will help you calm down beforehand.

Find the ladies room right away so you’ll know where it is and while you’re at it, see if you can find a quiet place within the noise. Now you have two places to escape if you need to.

If there are important things to remember, see if there are any friends or friendly faces around so that you can ask if you need to. And be sure to connect with the person in charge after things wind down just to make sure. At the very least, you can ask for a way to contact them for more questions.

Try to sit up front if you can. If you have nervous energy, find something quiet to play with, like your rings or your pen.

Finally, do your best to just breathe and relax.

Picture of Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

Read More