For introverts, overstimulation can be as debilitating as lack of energy.

Sometimes, Overstimulation—Not Energy—Is the Problem at Hand

Yes, you have to manage your energy as an introvert. But frequently you have to manage overstimulation, too—so that it doesn’t fry you.

I’m sitting, all alone, in the 25-by-25-foot lobby of the dentist’s office, waiting for my kids to be done with their checkups.

This place is pretty nice—you know, for a dentist’s office. It’s carpeted, it features comfortable leather couches and chairs, and its brown and light gray color scheme is soothing, undoubtedly by design. It feels a lot like an outdoor-themed coffee shop, minus the aroma of hot brew 
and scones.

I’ve got my book with me, so I open it up to read a bit. In peace.

Just to my left, though, the TV 
is informing nobody at all about the wonders of Clorox detergent. Who knew you could be so happy about clean whites.

Just to my right and behind me, meantime—in what is technically a small separate room geared to children—a second TV is airing an old “Tom and Jerry” cartoon.

Above me, speakers play a local radio station’s tunes, just in case I didn’t hear Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” enough times in the eighties.

And directly in front of me, the two assistants who essentially run the office are either answering nonstop phone calls (ring! ring!) or are putting their headphones back on 
so they can, presumably, continue typing the dentist’s dictations for medical records.

I’m able to get through a few words of my book.

But soon I realize that I can’t—and won’t be able 
to—read today.

Not here, at least.

Because there is no peace.

There’s too much going on from an auditory input standpoint, even though none of the sounds is particularly loud.

Overstimulation Can Sneak Up on You

Discussions about introverts 
and introversion often focus on 
energy—specifically, how we introverts lose energy and how we gain it back.

Makes sense.

But we often overlook a 
related and equally important concern—the amount of external stimulation we are dealing with at any 
given moment.

Extroverts and introverts are wired differently where external stimulation is concerned.

Extroverts tend to need lots of external stimulation to feel their best. Introverts, on the other hand, need comparatively little of it before it becomes too much.

That’s why, at a party for example, it’s common to find introverts cozied away with one or two other people in a spot that’s a bit (or a lot) out of all the commotion. (This, of course, presumes that the introverts have shown up for the party at all.)

It’s why we introverts tend to gravitate toward quiet(er) places—particularly in nature, where there is not only less sound but also much more room to dissipate it.

And it’s why, if you’re an introvert yourself, you sometimes find yourself overcooking because of all the hubbub going on around you.

Just know, and remember: It’s not really an energy issue you’re dealing with in this situation, although you certainly can feel the drain.

Rather, it’s an overstimulation issue.

Give (Relative) Peace a Chance

Your solution, then, needs to focus not so much on finding ways to conserve or recoup your energy but, instead, finding ways to reduce—or even temporarily eliminate—the overstimulation that is making you want to strangle someone.

How did I do that at the dentist’s office?

For starters, I simply put my book away. I know from hard (stubborn?) experience that when I’m already contending with four sources of external stimulation, adding a fifth is just asking for it.

I couldn’t control the televisions in the lobby, nor could I do anything about the radio or the phone calls. So I decided to simply sit there. No book. No phone. No nothing.

Soon the radio was playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.

And I noticed that one of the assistants was silently mouthing the words to “sing” along.



Relative peace, at least.

Any way the wind blows.

6 replies
  1. Julie
    Julie says:

    This was LOVELY. And so relatable. Why have I never considered trying to control what I can (in this situation, NOT trying to read)?! Thank you!

    • Peter Vogt
      Peter Vogt says:

      Thank you, Julie, for reading!

      I imagine the question you’ve asked here was/is rhetorical, but just so you know … we’re so accustomed to situations like the one I described — to them being sort of the “norm” — that I think we’ve become largely unaware of them. And to me, that’s why we often don’t think about what we can do to try to control or at least alleviate them. Human nature at work!

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  2. Charlotte
    Charlotte says:

    So true! I work in a dental practice and usually feel overstimulated and frazzled by the end of the day. Quiet time at lunch, turning the radio off and opening the window for ‘outdoor sounds’ and then a walk home through nature really helps to get me back to a centred place of calm


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