A blurry rope bridge in first-person.

The (Over)Stimulating World That We Live In

Stimulation is not a new concept, but few of us in this world have the capability of, or have the willingness to, sit back and see what this constant stimulation is doing to our well-being. For someone like me, someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the stimulation coming from every direction can not just be overwhelming, but it can have long-lasting effects on the brain. This isn’t just the case for an ADHD brain, and non-ADHD brains can be severely impacted by the amount of stimulation presented to it at any given time.

What Is Stimulation?

Stimulation may mean different things to different people. For many, being stimulated is the feeling of being around or excited. This is a wonderful feeling; when it comes from the appropriate source. Stimulation can also be defined as the raising of the levels of certain chemicals in our brains; in this context we are thinking about stimulation at a physiology level. W will be referring to stimulation in this sense for the purpose of this article.

The human brain needs stimulation; that’s a fact. When you sleep, your brain is very active (or stimulated), this type of stimulation is good for the brain. Sleep, allows your brain to disengage from some of the “keeping you alive” activities, and performs more “repair and restore” activities.

Anything and everything that may interact with one of our five human senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell) can be considered a stimuli. Our brain takes the information that our senses send it, and react accordingly.

What Stimulates Us?

In 2022, there are more stimulation’s than I can list, and certain stimuli will impact each of us differently at any given time. Let’s run through a fictitious day-in-the-life.

06:30 – Wake-up and check your phone
06:45 – Take a shower while listening to music on the radio
07:15 – Leave for your hour long drive to work, driving above the speed limit
07:45 – Get McDonald’s breakfast and a coffee on the way to work
08:30 – Get to desk at work, open your laptop with a modern screen that uses light in the 415nm – 455nm range.
10:30 – Refill your coffee
12:00 – Eat lunch. Your didn’t pack one, so you use your earnings to buy takeout.
16:30 – Leave work for hour long drive home, driving above the speed limit.
17:15 – Stop and buy gas; purchase a lottery ticket with it.
17:30 – You’re tired from working all day, so you order a pizza for supper.
18:00 – Call kids for supper. The kids have been off school for 3 hours, and have spent that time playing video games.
18:20 – Kids finally make it to the table because they “just need to finish what they’re doing”.
18:25 – Kids done eating and return to video games.
18:45 – Kids “snacky” because they didn’t eat a complete meal for supper.
20:00 – Kids bed time routine begins.
21:30 – Kids are in bed.
21:45 – You get into bed. Watch some television and grab your phone to check for updates.
22:30 – Attempt to fall asleep
23:30 – Finally fall asleep.

Sound familiar? It should. I’m sure that most of you can look at your day-to-day and find some aspect of using stimulants to make the discomforts of our lives, bearable.

So, How Is That A Problem?

If you read the list above and thought, “that doesn’t sounds so bad”. You’re not wrong. Stimulation’s are subjective. One thing that stimulates your brain, may not stimulate my brain in the same fashion. For those who are unable to modulate their senses, or for those who process stimuli differently, the day above may be disastrous. How so? Let me explain.

Not all of our brains are able to modulate the amount or the type of stimuli that it processes at any given time. As someone with ADHD, I process all the stimuli in my environment regardless of whether or not it is relevant to my current physical state. This is a perfect example of executive dysfunction. The brain lacks the executive function, in that moment, to quiet the stimuli that are not relevant.

Should I Change My Habits?

Nothing, necessarily. You may find that you get just enough stimulation for your lifestyle. If that’s the case, good for you! But, if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed in situations where others don’t seem to be, or you find that your days are a roller coaster of energy and emotion, then you may want to consider that over-stimulation may be your issue.

This may sound counter-intuitive to some. Why would over-stimulation be causing you to experience low energy, motivation, or emotional stability? It’s because the brains function isn’t simply on/off. The brain, as well as the body, must be maintained a balanced state. This dynamic is called homeostasis and is your body’s way of self-regulating itself according to the current moment. For example, It is what makes your body sweat when the body’s temperature increases in the response to exercise.

In Summary

  • The human brain is constantly stimulated from various sources.
  • The human brain is only capable of processing certain and specific information at any given time.
  • Brain neurological diversity has a big impact on how stimulants are modulated.
  • The human brain requires balance, and achieves this through the process of homeostasis.
  • Overstimulating the brain means giving it too much of what it doesn’t need, when it doesn’t need it. You’ll feel like you’ll want more, and will never get enough. It’s because your brain can’t intrinsically care about what it needs to, if the neurons are busy processing other stimuli.