Sensory Overload: 4 Tips to Help You Manage It as a Mama


What Is Sensory Overload?

Two children sitting in a wagon

When the sensory information that our brain is processing becomes too much for our brain to handle, we move past a state of sensory dysregulation, and into sensory overload. This is neurological. Your body literally releases stress hormones and the blood flow into your brain moves to the primitive or lower centers of the brain (like fight or flight state). Click here to read my previous post about sensory processing differences in motherhood.

Know the Signs

Have you ever experienced any of the following during a hard time with your kids?

  • Extreme irritability
  • Difficulty focusing
  • An urge to close your eyes or block your ears
  • You want to escape
  • “Wound up” and taking a long time to get back to your normal self 
  • Uncoordinated or off-balance 

If the answer is yes, then you have experienced sensory overload. And YES, sensory overload can happen even to people who don’t have a sensory processing disorder or a sensory processing problem. 

A brother and sister walking through an underwater tunnel

Identify Your Sensory Triggers

First, I want to challenge you to recognize what your sensory triggers are:

  • Find a time of day when you notice yourself feeling a little flustered like you can’t imagine yourself having a conversation with another adult at the same time.
  • Think about what is dysregulating you. How many sounds are you processing right now? What are you trying to do at this moment? Are you feeling time pressure to finish a task? How much mess/clutter is around you? What is touching you? How comfortable is your body position and clothing?
  • Try this out for a few days and make a note of times of the day when this seems to repeat itself. 

Create a Sensory Overload Plan

Now that you have an idea of what your unique sensory experience looks like, let’s talk about a sensory overload plan to get you back to a calm, regulated state, and be able to parent the way you want to:

  1. First, STOP! Notice what is happening around you and which of your senses are bothering you right now the most.
  2. What can you do to change the environment to not experience this sense? (Tip: yelling at your kids is very unlikely to do the trick here as kids respond to anger by crying, pushing, screaming, etc.) 
  3. Simplify what you need to get done. 
  4. Take a break! 

A brother and sister enjoying a sensory experience at the zoo

If you are interested in learning more about our sensory system and regulation skills, drop me a note in the comments below!

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Jacqui is an old soul and finds joy in all things vintage. If she could live in this VW van while singing old tunes with her guitar, she would! She holds a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in speech language pathology. Through singing, she grew an interest in the relationship between music, language, and the brain. She is passionate about combining music and creativity into her multi-sensory approach in order to improve overall use of functional communication skills in a more hands-on way. She is even more passionate about her amazing husband of 10 years and their two children, Joshua and Jovi. She is a wife and a mama before being an SLP and social emotional coach; but, lately, she has found so much peace in the human ability to create herself to become the person she has always wanted to be at any given time, and accepting that that person will evolve time and time again. She is honest and transparent about all things motherhood, marriage, and mental health. She sparks her creativity frequently through singing, music, painting, writing, and creating as her therapeutic outlet. She invites you to follow along @createyourselfco (previously @diyspeechiemommy) on Instagram, Facebook, and Etsy to experience her journey of what was once only DIY, speech therapy, and motherhood to what has now become a more holistic approach-- how she has evolved by creating herself to become the person she has always wanted to be simply by CREATING; and how she has created programs to give parents the tools to create sensational connection with themselves, but also with their children. <3