Last week at a restaurant in a state of potential overwhelmedness, I experimented with narrowing and widening my awareness and how it corresponded to navigating the sensory overload axis.
Here is what I found:
Widening awareness: Everything became brighter, louder, richer in detail, I felt very alive and connected to my surroundings. It did not feel overwhelming unless I tried to keep track of and participate in conversations, which would immediately create tension, towards overload.
Narrowing awareness: Detail in the periphery got dimmed down, my sense of self as separate from the world sharpened, my ability to coordinate my actions increased, but at the cost of a loss of joy, looseness, and liveliness, a kind of functional zombie mode.
I was reminded of the way alcohol narrows my awareness and dims my senses, the main difference being that it also has a relaxing effect.
I was also reminded of my Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes where I tried to combine a widened awareness with the ability to choose wise moves.
As a result, here is my new hope:
Maybe, with a bit of practice, I can avoid sensory overload by navigating the space of awareness, relaxation, and action coordination and learn to steer myself into positions from which social participation is possible and even enjoyable.