Are you someone struggling with sensory overload or do you wonder why introverts need more alone time? A common misconception about introverts is that they’re anti-social. Not true. Introverts desire meaningful connections with others and love conversations about deeper life issues. Particularly in midlife, we’re more intentional about enjoying authentic relationships.

The intuitive trait of INFJ introverts helps them ‘see’ more than what others say. We naturally absorb others’ energy, good or bad and this can be exhausting, and drain our energy, or sensory overload.

We notice body language and tone of voice. And we also listen for the unspoken messages that others communicate because we want to understand people beyond their social masks.

Why Highly Sensitive Introverts Struggle with Sensory Overload

Dr Elaine Aron, Author of The Highly Sensitive Person notes that highly sensitive persons make up about 70 per cent of introverts. She adds that HSPs have a sensitive nervous system. This could be due to the introvert’s empathic edge to absorb others’ emotions, good or bad.

Why Introverts Relish Solitude

To prevent sensory overload, I have to limit how much time I spend in anxiety-provoking environments. It’s also why I fare better when focusing on one or two people or small groups in social settings.

But what else can introverts do to manage sensory overload? Below, I share several ways I’ve found helpful to reduce becoming overstimulated.

Nine ways to decrease stimulation and avoid becoming overwhelmed

  • Turn Off the Lights

Michaela Chung suggests simply turning off the lights in a room, and dimming a space can reduce stimulation. I also having a candle flickering on my desk while working.

  • Close Your Eyes

In midlife, my energy lasts longer if I rest somewhere in the day. I like to wear an eye mask to reduce natural light and quietly rest on my bed, allowing my thoughts free reign. Resting during the day for a brief period recharges my batteries and gives me the mental clarity to get some bonus writing done later in the day.

  • Turn Down the Noise

I love to listen to music while I write. But sometimes, when I really need to focus my energy to concentrate, turning down the music and having complete silence is helpful. 

  • Limit Your Choices

I enjoy dining out because it’s a welcome break from cooking. But moreso because it’s an opportunity to connect with the people I love.  What I don’t like about dining out is the wide selections on some menus.  Having too many choices can be overwhelming. To mitigate this I like to do a light research of new restaurant including a look at the menu online to see which dishes I may enjoy.  Because once I enter a new restaurant a great deal of energy goes into getting comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.

  • Limit Digital Time

The same goes for reading and online surfing.  Right now, on my desk are ten books I want to read at the same time. There’s an equal number of tabs open on my desktop and other digital devices because I’m always busy connecting ideas and need to search and verify the information. This can be mentally exhausting.

  • Choose Online/Distance Learning

Where and how we learn is important to conserve the energy of introverts.  Online or distance learning reduces extended interaction with others. Flexible learning hours can also work better with our natural energy peaks because it allows us the freedom to study at our own pace and peak learning times in a day. As a lark, or morning person, I have stronger mental clarity in the early mornings and am most productive to learn and work.

  • Low Key Hobbies

Because introverts need less external stimulation to engage in activities that bring them joy, we prefer low-key activities such as reading, walks in nature, or gardening. I love to build jigsaw puzzles during the holiday season. Also, sewing and crocheting, making art, or cooking and baking. I enjoy watching a movie or television series. In summer, I love to swim or go for scenic drives.

  • Reduce To-Do List

Before and immediately after social events, I find it helpful to reduce how much I do. Understanding your energy reserves will help you determine how much you can handle on a day that calls for more social interaction.

  • Pace Your Social Energy

With a deeper self-awareness about my energy reserves, I carefully choose the types of social activities I engage in. Introverts tend to prefer one-to-one or small-group socializing over bigger groups and busy social settings.

As you can see, there are multiple ways to reduce sensory overload that leads to exhaustion. Learning to understand and manage your natural energy reserves can lead to a more enjoyable life and help you thrive on purpose in midlife!

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