The 24/7 Job: Parenting. Constantly moving, no break and no time to regulate. 

Parenthood is awesome, but it definitely comes with its own challenges. Some days the busy household, screaming, tantrums, high pitched playful noises, partner demands and a stressful day at work, all add up. This reaches a point where you feel as if your head is spinning from the chaos and you snap undeservedly at your children and partner. This leaves you with guilt and questions like “Am I a bad parent?” or “Am I not cut out to be a parent?”. This feeling is normal, and it is called over stimulation.

What does it mean to be over-stimulated? 

Over-stimulation is a term which refers to being overwhelmed by sensory input or when sensory input is “too much” for your brain to handle. Being overstimulated causes us to become more irritable, forgetful, emotional and often results in us snapping at our partner or children, or even having an emotional breakdown.

Becoming overstimulated can’t always be avoided, especially as a parent. It is possible to become overstimulated at school sport events, if your baby cries, at a friend’s birthday party, doing groceries in a busy shop or just being stressed by work situations.

It is very important to be aware of your sensory profile and triggers, in order to know when you need to regulate.

Common sensitivities to be aware of and which could cause us to become overstimulated:

  • Visual sensitivity: getting frustrated with disorganised spaces, feeling overwhelmed by bright coloured walls, disliking fast-paced TV shows,  getting easily distracted by movement in your environment (such as the children running around).
  • Auditory sensitivity: Disliking noisy environments, getting frightened by sudden sounds, difficulty concentrating with the TV/ radio or children playing in the background
  • Tactile sensitivity: Disliking grooming activities such as applying lotion or brushing teeth, being hyper aware of the tags of your clothes, disliking your hands getting dirty, disliking touch or having people in your personal space.
  • Vestibular sensitivity: Dislike merry-go-rounds or swings and getting car/ seasick.

How can I regulate if I feel over-stimulated?

Self-regulation skills are a person’s ability to master  moods, self-soothe, delay gratification and tolerate transitions.” (Anazalone & Lane, 2012). It is important to regulate in order to function optimally and be the best parent you can be. Children also depend on their parents to help them regulate. It is therefore important for the parent to be regulated in order to assist their child to regulate.

Ideas to regulate: 

  • Take time out: Give yourself 10 minutes to take a warm bath and relax. You can put on calming music or white noise to help create a calming environment. 
  • Exercise: Make time to exercise, move your body, clear your mind and get some fresh air.
  • Deep pressure: Use a weighted blanket to help soothe yourself whilst sitting in the living room, watching a movie or lying in bed. You can also wrap yourself in a blanket as it would provide deep pressure which is calming.
  • Oral-proprioception: Drinking through a straw/suck water bottle throughout the day or eating something crunchy or chewy. Sucking and chewing provide oral proprioceptive input which has a calming effect.
  • Deep breathing: use deep breathing techniques to help you relax. 

As a parent, it is a given that you would become over-stimulated at times. By knowing your triggers, you can better implement self-regulation strategies when needed to help cope with the sensory input from the environment. 

Written by Tanya Kriel, Bright Eyes Therapy. 

For more information you are welcome to contact us on 0836161662 or email us at

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