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Can't Stand Noise

Question:

I’m trying to figure out why I get so irritated by the noise around me these days?

I have a co-worker who is constantly chewing on ice and I can’t stand the sound of it. She then starts eating chips or whatever and she rattles the paper and the whole time I’m thinking, “Will you please hurry up and get done so you can stop all the paper rattling.”

As I sit and listen to this on a daily basis I feel like I’m going to explode at any minute. Sometimes I have to get up and leave the room before I say something I’ll regret later.

Also, I can’t deal with the conversations going on around me. It’s usually 2 or 3 people talking, but, it seems like it’s a million people and I just want quiet.

How do I stop getting so irritated by all this crap?

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Answer:

You are describing a malady of modern man. Here, in the twenty first century, we are surrounded by incredible amounts of stimuli that have the cumulative effect of making us feel stressed beyond our ability to cope. What are these sources of stress?

1. We live in a noisy world. Between traffic noises, jack hammers used to tear up streets of set foundations for new buildings, loud music, jet planes overhead, advertising on the radio, internet, television, buses, and the general chaos of modern life, we gradually come to feel sensitive to the smallest things. In addition:

2. Everyone worries about terrorist attacks, the economy, finding a job, getting laid off from a job, drug abuse, crime, random violence and more. It all becomes too much to deal with. If you think about it, I am sure you can find many more stresses to which we are subjected than the few I have listed here.

Each of us is built differently and, therefore, have a different threshold of tolerance or intolerance of these pressures. What you experience as “too much noise,” may not be true for another person. People manifest their stress in different ways. In other words, there is great variability in how people react to these things. However, at one point or another, most of us come to experience “sensory overload.”

Sensory overload can result from other psychiatric and neurological disorders or, it can result from stress. I cannot know this for sure nor say it with any kind of authority but, the way you explain it, leads me to believe that your experience of sensory overload is a result of all this stress we experience. Do not forget the personal stresses you probably experience in your personal life outside of work.

How to deal with sensory overload?

You need to find ways to reduce the effects of stress in your life. Among these are doing such things as: yoga, meditation, exercise and giving yourself leisure time for pleasant activities.

Pleasant activities include: listening to quiet, soft music. In fact, if you could use your ear phones at work to block out the noise and listen to soft music, it would go a long way to reducing these irritating things. In addition, a walk in the park, nature hikes, and any type of relaxing and stress busting techniques that work for you are all good.

If this problem persists despite all you have done, consult your physician and get a referral to a good psychotherapist or psychiatrist. It is always possible that you have an anxiety disorder of some type and need more help with it than you can provide for yourself.

Best of luck.

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