Overcoming Overstimulation as a Mom (and Tips to Unwind)

If you're an overstimulated mother, learn where you're triggered and tips to find calm amidst the chaos.

It’s not all fairy tales and rainbows, mamas. In between the cuddles and games, many mothers can relate to the overwhelming experience of being an overstimulated mom.

Whether you're managing the dynamic energy of high-strung kids, tackling challenges linked to ADHD overstimulation (for yourself, or your kiddos), or embracing the unique experiences of an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), this guide is tailored to resonate with the authentic, relatable side of your journey through motherhood. Keep reading to get into the the real, messy, and beautifully imperfect side of being an overstimulated mom life and learn a few tips to help you process that overwhelm.

Why Moms Might Feel Overstimulated

Let's dive into why being a parent can sometimes feel like a whirlwind of emotions, leaving us in a state of overstimulation. Picture this: You wake up to the delightful chaos of breakfast requests, (or demands) school preparations, and the ever-present laundry mountain. Adding to the mix, a bonus layer of societal expectations and pressure – the invisible checklist of being a ‘perfect parent.’

As Mothers, we find ourselves wearing a lot of hats – chef, chauffeur, problem-solver, and comforter. The weight of these responsibilities, coupled with the expectation to keep it all together, can lead to a profound sense of overstimulation. The incessant noise, both literal and metaphorical, creates an environment where sensory overload becomes a frequent companion, and social media is perpetuating the narrative that parenthood should be blissful, but the reality often involves a lot of self-doubt, uncertainties, constant decision-making, and an unrelenting ‘go, go, go!’ pace of life.

Reasons You Feel Overstimulated as a Mother

The hat-wearing isn’t limited to simply handling the everyday tasks; it's about managing the emotional and mental load that comes with motherhood. Remembering when to take the laundry out of the dryer, which kiddo has a field trip this week, what gift to get for the upcoming child’s birthday party, etc. etc. are all a part of that mental load. Thinking about all the things you have to simply remember, is overstimulating in itself! So, when you feel that overwhelm creeping in, know that you're not alone in this experience – it's a shared journey of ups, downs, and everything in between – and it’s especially easy to get triggered when you’re doing all of the things, all of the time. Recognizing your personal triggers and understanding the psychological aspects of overstimulation are your first step in finding effective solutions. (We have a lot of support for triggered parents in the Conscious Mommy Community!)

Identifying Your Personal Overstimulation Triggers

In order to curb your overstimulation as a mom, first you’ll need to do the work of recognizing when or where you feel triggered. Do you notice your blood pressure rises when you’re in a long grocery store checkout line and your kids are bouncing around the candy bars? Or maybe when you’re cooking a meal and there’s chaos in the kitchen. By noticing the moments we start to feel like everything around us is spiraling out of control, we can better course-correct our reactions to it. When you learn how to sense these moments of overstimulation in advance,  you can take targeted actions to regain control and create a more peaceful environment for yourselves and your children.

Hot To Stop Overstimulation in Its Tracks

So, how do we course-correct? The short answer: with self-reflection and creativity. If you know your child gets pretty dysregulated if they have to wait in a long checkout line, try making a counting game to pass the time, “how many orange wrappers can you see?” or for older children, make it a math problem by encouraging them to practice addition by adding up 4 different packs of gum. If it works for you, you can let them pick one pack as a prize if their answer is correct. If you know that meal preparation really puts your overstimulation into overdrive, try setting the kids up with a game in the other room before you begin making dinner. Get creative–these simple diversions for your children can often allow you a few moments of peace to keep your focus, quiet your thoughts and call in the calm. And, oftentimes, just having that opportunity for reflection and recognizing that your triggers are piling up is the first in line of defense in limiting the overstimulating things in your path.

12 Ways to Combat The Sensory Overload of Motherhood

  1. Create a Calming Routine: Establish a daily routine incorporating moments of calm and self-care. Even taking as much as five-minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning before the kids get up or indulging in a soothing bath before bedtime are great ways to give your mental to-do list a break and put the focus on being present for yourself.
  2. Delegate Responsibilities: Don't hesitate to ask for help. Mothers often bear the mental load along with the physical one, and sharing responsibilities with your parenting partner, family, or friends can alleviate the burden and create space for a bit of rest and hopefully, a little relaxation.
  3. Mindful Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises to center yourself during hectic moments. A few minutes of mindful breathing can make a significant difference in managing stress. Box breathing is a practice. Breathe through your nose for a count of four, hold for four, exhale through your nose for four.
  4. Limit Screen Time: For both you and your child, reducing screen time minimizes sensory overload. Doom-scrolling through Instagram may feel like an escape, but studies have shown that continued scrolling can produce more feelings of anxiety and depression–both of which contribute to feeling overstimulated. Engage in activities that promote face-to-face interaction and real connection.
  5. Create a Comfortable Space: Designate a calming area in your home where you can retreat when the world feels overwhelming. Personalize it with items that bring you peace like a snuggly blanket or good book. Even tucking away into a cozy area in a quiet closet for a five-minute moment of ‘me time’ can help regulate your overwhelm.
  6. Establish Boundaries: Learn to say no and set clear boundaries. Prioritize your well-being and decline additional responsibilities when feeling stretched thin. If your child’s school is asking for bake-sale volunteers and your mind jumps to thoughts of your kids flinging cupcake frosting around your kitchen,  this might be an area where you need to practice setting boundaries and saying ‘no’ to any tasks that aren’t true responsibilities.
  7. Connect with Other Moms: Share experiences with fellow moms who can relate to the challenges of motherhood. Building a supportive community provides invaluable emotional support. If your child 0-2, a local mommy and me is a great way to find others in the same boat. For older kids, playgrounds, kids gyms and story time at the library are good options.
  8. Prioritize Sleep: Lack of sleep exacerbates feelings of overwhelm. Stress and overstimulation can make it hard to get good rest, but good rest can help limit stress and overstimulation. It can be tricky, but you can make sleep a priority by establishing a consistent bedtime routine for both you and your child, powering down your devices and practicing a mindfulness meditation or gentle exercise to release built-up tension and clear your mind at the end of the day.
  9. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a mindset of gratitude by reflecting on the positive aspects of motherhood and moments that occurred during your day. Even if it was something small like a text from a friend that made you laugh, focusing on joyful moments shifts your perspective during challenging times.
  10. Embrace Imperfections: Despite what all of your favorite influencers may portray, it’s okay not to have everything figured out. Embracing imperfection involves acknowledging that there will be days when things don't go as planned–but you still showed up and gave it your all. By letting go of the unrealistic expectation of perfection, you free yourself from unnecessary stress and create space to appreciate the genuine, joyful moments of connection with your kids.
  11. Get Outdoors:  Spending time outdoors can be a powerful antidote to the pressures of everyday life. Whether it's a stroll in the park, a hike in nature, or taking your dog for a walk around the block, being outdoors provides a change of scenery and a connection with nature. The trees won’t argue with you, I promise! Sometimes the simplicity of just getting a few breaths of fresh air is all you need to untangle your thoughts and regulate an overstimulated mind.
  12. Seek Professional Support: If feelings of overwhelm persist, consider seeking professional support. A therapist or counselor can provide a safe container for sharing your personal triggers and provide coping strategies tailored to your specific situation.

Thriving in the Midst of the Chaos

Navigating the journey of motherhood is undeniably challenging, yet it holds immense potential for rewarding experiences. By grasping the reasons behind overstimulation, incorporating practical tips, and confronting specific challenges, every parent can effectively manage the overwhelming aspects of parenting. It's essential to acknowledge that seeking support, prioritizing self-care, and embracing the imperfections inherent in this beautiful journey are not signs of weakness but rather empowering choices. In the midst of the demands, remember that thriving as a parent involves finding a balance that suits your unique circumstances and allows you to savor the small moments along the way.