Overstimulated Mom Symptoms and 20 Soothing Ways to Cope

Overstimulated Mom Symptoms and 20 Soothing Ways to Cope

An overstimulated mom is tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. Her nervous system has been bombarded with sensory information in the form of shrieking rambunctious children, crying babies, and the countless demands of motherhood. 

She may experience strong feelings of anger and irritability, and feel like she is losing control. She may even experience feelings of anxiety and panic.

Ongoing sensory system stimulation coupled with sleep deprivation and a never-ending to-do list leads to fried nerves and emotional dysregulation.

While some mamas are more prone to experience overstimulation than others, the demands that come with young children and the mental load of motherhood can rattle even the most resilient and grounded of mamas.

When left unchecked, chronic overstimulation can lead to burnout, relationship problems, and serious mental health conditions.

In review, here are some symptoms that point to mom overstimulation;

  • anger
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • emotional dysregulation
  • feelings of loss of control
  • difficulty focusing
  • hyper-aware of sights, sounds, smells, and bodily sensations
  • overwhelmed

In good news, there are great ways moms can cope with overstimulation. Here are 20 tips to get started! 

20 Practical Ways to Cope with Mom Overstimulation

The first step to managing overstimulation is to identify your sensory triggers. After identifying these triggers, you can more easily recognize when you are becoming overstimulated and can activate your arsenal of coping mechanisms.  

1. Prioritize Sleep

Creating a solid routine around sleep is essential for an overwhelmed mom.

I am easily overstimulated during the day when I do not get enough sleep. On the other hand, when I am adequately rested, I find that all the sensory inputs of the day do not rattle me. I also have more energy to redirect my children to grounding activities when I’m well-rested.

Even when I want to stay up late after my kids go to bed, I have finally learned that this is generally a bad idea. I know that I want to function better for myself and my family, so I do my best to head to bed early. 

I also focus on sleep hygiene, and make sure that my sleep environment is set to get some quality zzzs. This means having a dark, cool, and calming room. We have a sound machine quietly humming and I wear soft comfortable pajamas. I use a couple of blankets for layering and keep a water bottle by my bed. 

2. Minimize Visual Clutter

One of my favorite ways to deal with overstimulation is to declutter and create a minimal landscape in my home. This means having a clear countertop and tabletop and consolidating toys in a basket. It means getting rid of junk mail and all the pesky odds and ends that somehow find their way into our homes. It also means doing my best to refrain from retail therapy and unnecessary shopping. 

I constantly try to keep all the excess clutter in check so that on those days when I’m reaching my sensory threshold, I can at least look around me and feel a sense of calm.

3. Curate Your Home with Soothing Sensory Items

To combat unpleasant sensory stimuli, you can sprinkle soothing sensory stimuli around the house.

minimalist home with plant decor

Here are some ideas to create a calming sensory experience at home;

  • Cozy blankets
  • Sound machines
  • House plants
  • Aromatherapy diffuser
  • Beautiful artwork
  • Lots of clear spaces

4. Acupressure

Over my 10 years as a massage therapist, I witnessed the profound impact our bodies have on our sense of well-being. When we encourage our bodies to relax, our minds follow. While I’m not a professional acupressurist, there are many websites with basic directions for the layperson to follow to practice self-acupressure.

Among the many acupressure points that Hackensack Meridian Health recommends for stress relief, I’ve picked 3 that are doable and helpful for an overwhelmed mama. These points are easy to access and gently massage during an overstimulating day as a busy mom.

Locate the following 3 points and gently massage them in small circular motions;

  • The webbing between the index finger and thumb
  • The top center point of your head
  • In between your eyebrow

5. Schedule Daily Quiet Time

While I certainly use screen time to entertain my 4-year-old from time to time, I am trying to get away from this. The main reason is that when he is watching TV as his “quiet time”, he is not learning to focus and sustain his attention on his self-directed activities.

I want him to learn to use his internal resources and creativity rather than rely only on outside sources of stimulation and entertainment.

The second reason is that kids’ brains are not getting true quiet and relaxation time when hooked on the TV. The TV emits blue light which is stimulating to the brain additionally, most kids’ shows are full of bright lights, are action-packed, and have rapidly changing scenes. 

A more restorative quiet time can be spent in a calming room with simple toys, drawing materials, sculpting materials, and books.

Moms can use quiet time as well to release built-up stress and gather their energy for the rest of the day. 

6. Deep Breathing Exercises

While moms can not fully check out and take a nap when responsible for watching children, they can take some deep breaths at any given moment.

I like to practice my deep breathing exercises as I’m waiting for my 4-year-old to brush his teeth or make his way to the potty.  

7. Connect with Water

Whenever I am feeling overstimulated, putting my hands under running water or taking a big drink of water helps soothe me.

hands in soothing water

Even when you can’t take a relaxing bath, you can take moments to consciously connect with the soothing effects of water when washing your toddler’s hands. Or when bathing your kids or doing dishes.

Soothing mom overstimulation is all about finding small creative ways you can realistically manage overwhelm in the middle of a hectic day. 

8. Go Outside

Some fresh air can do wonders for both mom and active kids. It can help improve everyone’s mood and bring balance and calm.

mom outside in nature with kids

If you don’t have a backyard where you can let kids run wild, try finding the closest park or nature walking area. You can give your kids small buckets and tell them to collect their favorite rocks and sticks, while you take a few moments to do some deep breathing exercises and enjoy the scenery.  

9. Stretch

When stress builds up in our bodies it leaves us feeling tense and uncomfortable. Taking a moment to do some simple stretches can help release some of this accumulated tension. You can do a quick body scan, and take note of anywhere you feel tight. Then take a moment to move your body and stretch out that area.

Whenever I feel tension building in my body, I redirect my kids to our carpeted room so that I can roll around on the floor and get some stretching in while they play. 

You can also get your kids involved and teach them simple yoga poses. The Cosmic Kids Yoga channel on YouTube incorporates storytelling with yoga poses to keep little ones interested.

10. Redirect Kids to a Grounding Activity

Use the inherent soothing qualities of materials like play dough, clay, and kinetic sand to get your kids to take it down a notch. These sensory play materials give kids something to sink their hands into and focus their attention on. I make a big batch of DIY play dough or homemade kinetic sand now and then so that he has plenty to work with.

Another favorite grounding activity in our house is building blanket forts. My son loves bringing a flashlight or star projector light into a fort and spending some quiet time in it.  

11. Put on Soothing Music

Putting on some calming meditation or acoustic music can help slow down the energy of a hectic household.  

12. Wear Comfortable Clothing

When moms are overstimulated by loud noises and small children frantically moving around them all day, a tight waistband digging into the belly or a scratchy sweater can just add to the overwhelm.

Adding soft fabrics and loose clothing to your wardrobe can bring calm and comfort to an overstimulated mom.

13. Turn the Lights Down

Simply turning the lights down or drawing the curtains for a short time can be calming during a chaotic day.

14. Schedule Quiet Alone Time

While quiet alone time is not an option when caring for young children, it is essential to schedule this time for yourself with the help of your partner or childcare provider. 

15. Know Your Limits

When it comes to schedules, it is easy to fill them up with more than we can realistically handle.

I try to limit scheduled activities to one or two a day. This gives us all time to have some downtime before and after outings to regroup.

16. Find a Hobby or Activity that Helps you Release Stress

There’s no way to completely avoid stressors in this life, so figuring out a healthy way to manage and release accumulated stress is the next best thing. This looks different for everyone, but some popular stress-relieving hobbies include taking walks, taking baths, reading a good book, crafting, coffee dates with friends, yoga, or recreational sports. 

17. Use a Talking Stick

My 4-year-old came home from preschool one day with a stick decorated with pipe cleaners and jingle bells and announced that it was a talking stick. I thought this was a great idea and we now use it while eating dinner. I also pull it out when I need to get a word in during the day and my child is struggling to stop talking. 

18. Create a Calm Corner

Cozy blankets, pillows, a calm jar, a stack of books with beautiful illustrations, some twinkle lights, and a small table with simple art supplies can turn a small corner into a calming haven. You can direct your child to this corner when you need a moment, or you can both go to this corner to read a book together.

calm corner for young children

19. Create a Chore Calendar

In addition to decluttering, regularly tending to chores helps maintain a soothing environment at home. Writing down which days chores need to be done can help keep you on track. 

20. Teach Your Kids Relaxation Routines

Change sensory overload to cuteness overload by watching your kids engage in relaxation routines. We usually associate relaxation practices with adults, and we picture a mom holding a cup of tea with a book in her lap.

Picture this though, your 4-year-old holding a mini mug and making a honey lemon tea to sip on. Or your young child selecting a bubble bath pod and soothing bath toy to take a relaxing bath with. Or how about your little one meditating on a DIY calm jar made with glitter, water, and dish soap. These are all adorable and simple ways to add a little quiet and calm into the day when you need a mom break.

Seeking Professional Help

Outside of exercising your coping mechanisms at home, you may need professional support if those self-help tactics are not cutting it. Some parents of young kids may have conditions and temperaments that make them more susceptible to overstimulation, and they may need a little extra help. For example, a highly sensitive person or someone with an anxiety disorder may especially struggle with sensory overload while caring for young children. 

Sometimes we all need some outside help and that is why those services exist. You can seek help from a clinical psychologist, a mental health counselor, or a healthcare provider.

Or if you need help with basic household chores and have the funds, you can hire someone to clean your house or help organize your home.

For childcare support, finding a babysitter, daycare provider or some activity groups can be helpful.

Finding a Balance

Raising children is incredibly hard work and for many parents, overstimulation is simply par for the course. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the negative impact that overstimulation can have on tired parents. 

While there is a lot that is out of our control, there is a lot that is in our control. By implementing strategies like prioritizing sleep, setting up calming environments, directing our kids to grounding activities, and instituting quiet time, we can successfully manage overstimulation symptoms. We replace overwhelm and irritability with deep breaths and an arsenal of self-care tools. 

I always remind myself that one day I will miss the gleeful chatter and shrill shrieks of my children. I will miss the commotion that comes with the hustle and bustle of everyday life with kids. I will miss the piles of toys and dirty dishes. There will be so much that I will miss. 
So I reflect on this in quiet moments and acknowledge that I will gladly take the overstimulation that comes with having children; I know that my memories with my family will be among what I love most about my life when I look back on it.

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