It's not nice to be told we can't do something, or know we can't do some things other people can. It is, to be fairly obvious, limiting.
Anyone who has overload related to an illness or condition, will probably find in literature or be told by doctors not to do certain things. These are often numerous and the fun things we want to do, so it can seem horribly unfair. It can be avoiding bright lights, busy and noisy places, all kinds of tasty foods along with beer, wine and spirits, oh and coffee and chocolate and lots more. So that night out looks very different when all elements of a dinner date could cause migraine, anxiety, a Meniere's attack or trigger other things.
An additional problem to navigate is that sometimes 'it' is OK, but not always, and not in ways you can predict. So it becomes a gamble, to risk doing the normal thing you want to do, like meeting friends in a pub vs. staying at home isolating and insulating yourself. Not doing normal and social things has the potential to lead to more physical and mental health problems, so getting the balance right is the key; finding the limits yourself to keep physical and mental health optimal.
There are some jobs, friends or lovers and some environments that may no longer be compatible with these new limits to keep an optimal balance. Making significant life changes shouldn't be taken lightly and serious thought needs to be given, so responsibilities, loved ones and dependents aren't negatively affected. It can be hard to make different choices, but health and happiness can be enhanced and overload reduced when these elements are in balance.
So limits are not for others to impose on us, but for us to choose for ourselves and they needn't be limiting, just healthier, happier choices. There are some events and activities worth the gamble of migraine, anxiety or sensory/information overload, because the benefits outweigh the costs. The rest of the time we can make more choices to stay on the right side of our limits, because on the other side is overload or worse.
Having an excitable brain doesn't just mean being excitable as a person. We all have excitable brains to a degree, but some people are more likely to be affected by, for example migraine (1 in 7) and anxiety (1 in 20) and there are many other common conditions where overload is involved. Such as challenges from sensory overstimulation and processing of emotions and information for people with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, sleep and mood disruptions.
When we were babies, most of us will have been told at times that we were 'overtired', but what does that mean? When we're tired, we sleep to reset and calm our brains, so being overtired must be more than just being very tired. Young and developing brains are easily overstimulated and quickly filled with experiences, so there seems to be a point where we can no longer normally process information or experiences, and our behaviour changes. These behaviour changes in an overtired child are often negative, from detached and grumpy to raging and irrational, but last only until sleep resets and restores. However. being overtired doesn't make going to sleep easy and there can be knock-on effects into the next day.
In the overtired and overstimulated state, the brain can't relax and process so it takes a while to allow the backlog of events, emotions and information to process. We often call this an inability to 'switch off', so we understand our brains are running at a high speed, but find it harder to 'switch off' and often can't stop at the point before we overload or get overtired.
Many people pump themselves up on caffeine or other stimulants in the day, but then need relaxants like alcohol to calm down and sleep, so ups and downs are common and although can work in the short term, are not a long-term solution and often don't work at all.
If we're overloaded and overtired, then we're not at our best so maybe we should remember we're not that different to toddlers, filled with stimuli and experiences, and when our excitable brains overload we can have tantrums too, or migraine, anxiety or other problems.
It probably is decadent but also thoroughly unlikely for most of us, among all the competing priorities, drains and places to be. It used to be more acceptable and possibly encouraged, but now it seems like a lack of ambition to want to have a nap. It is pretty much accepted in an 'always on' culture that we don't get enough sleep, especially with a busy job and family, so surely we don't have time to nap?
In Spain the midday siesta made sense to beat the heat and benefit from being awake in the cooler parts of the day, but now it's discouraged in cities for being a drain on GDP. But is a nap more than just extra sleep and can it have a bigger benefit on our physical and mental health than we realise?
The benefits of napping have been studied and one even went as far to suggest that a couple of naps a week can have a protective effect on the heart in certain situations. The benefits to overloading brains are subtle but if sleep helps the brain reset and calm down from the excitement of being awake, it makes sense for a nap to help reset it too. Studies have suggested that napping does indeed have the potential to improve alertness, creativity, cognitive processing and more.
So if a nap can stop our head from popping shouldn't we all make the time? It can be a helpful tool to have up our pyjama sleeve, but unfortunately it's not guaranteed to always work. Managing sleep patterns to get enough, but not too much sleep, seems to be the best way to not trigger migraine at least. As ever complex variables are at play, but if you are overloading and haven't had enough sleep, treat yourself and see if it helps to have a nice snooze.
Animals use their whiskers to sense the world and threats around them, without this sensory information the world is more confusing, scary and potentially dangerous. We all experience the world differently, but our reactions, thoughts, senses and emotions can differ hugely from day to day as well. A good night's sleep, that feeling of nothing getting in your way, or everything and everyone being too complicated, who knows what each day will bring? It's true that some things are more difficult to handle, but sometimes the easy things are too much and the harder challenges a breeze. If our overloaded system jams, we can either become overly sensitive or not as aware of what's happening around us.
Overload from migraine and anxiety often causes heightened sensitivity to sensory information, lights, smells and sounds, so it can help to wear headphones or sunglasses (blinkers) and avoid noisy, complex or busy people and places. Or if totally overwhelmed a simple and fun activity can help bring sensitivity and processing back to normal. Often there is no choice in a busy day to take things easy, so bilateral stimulation is a helpful technique that can rebalance mental processing and sensitivity, and quickly restore a calm and centred mind.
When our whiskers aren't working it narrows our perspective so we can miss the nice, normal sensations, sights, smells, sounds and thoughts and dwell on negative things instead. It's always good to check on our feelings and sensitivity during the day, so can be better prepared to avoid overload and be kind to our whiskers.
Hooray indeed. it’s what our parents typically told us, but it’s not much fun and can be easy to ignore. From sweet snacks to a salty lunch and a few too many drinks in the evening, the opportunity to over-do it is never far away. There are widely documented long term effects of too much salt, sugar etc. but there are also day-to-day overloading effects on the brain and body.
Our bodies are chemical engines after all, converting food into energy and our system can react according to what goes in, so we kinda are what we eat. Much of the time we are immune to the sensitivities of overindulgence, but sometimes it triggers things like migraine, anxiety, stress and makes some conditions worse.
What causes this, why it sometimes hits and sometimes doesn’t is a bit of a mystery. Overloading is more that just one thing and sometimes our metaphorical cup isn’t so full, and other times it takes just one more thing to overload.
For Meniere’s disease, change in diet is the advice given to try to avoid symptoms and ‘attacks’. It is thought that damage to a small sac behind the ear called the endolymph changes the fluid balance and this causes vertigo and discombobulation. So it is thought that maintaining a low level of salt and sugar may keep this endolymph fluid stable and limit these symptoms. It's not easy to stick to such a dull diet and it isn't guaranteed to help, but some people swear by it.
Many people with migraine are sensitive to foods too, although food triggers are still not clinically proven or understood. Swings in sugar and then insulin levels, hypoglycaemia, can bring on migraines and it is easy to attribute a migraine to consuming things like cheese, coffee, red wine, and MSG. It is more complex though and foods probably don’t always trigger Meniere’s and migraines and there are other factors at play that aren’t obvious, like combinations of weather, pressure, stress and sensory overstimulation.
Moderation is more than just food and drinks and it doesn’t always work, but maybe it can help. So as boring as moderation is there is definitely something in it. So maybe three cheers is a bit much, so here's one cheer for moderation.