How Noise Increases Your Stress—and What to do About It

by drlazarus on May 1, 2017

What can you hear right now?

Take a moment to focus, perhaps close your eyes, and consider the sounds around you. Is there a fan in the background? Music playing? Do you hear the cars from the highway outside? Is it loud enough that you are distracted, or are you surprised by all the noise you can hear?

All living beings who are capable of hearing sound use these sounds to detect information about the environment, including cues for danger. While this has served an important role throughout human development, in today’s world, people are exposed to far too much noise. Chronic exposure to noise, especially at high levels, can greatly increase stress, making you more irritable and increasing the chance of a major fight with your family or friends. Many clients who seek couples therapy in Highlands Ranch admit that environmental stress and noise have an effect on their relationship. This stress can result in negative health outcomes including decreased sleep, increased risk of heart disease, and lower mental performance. Have you ever been driving a car, looking for an address, and turned down your radio? Talking GPS devices aside, people have been doing this instinctively for decades to help them “see” better—but it’s more accurate to say that it helps your brain than your eyes. That’s right, you really can think better when you turn down that noise!

Unfortunately, in many areas of our lives, we cannot “turn down” the noise. While you wish you could, you probably cannot “mute” your chatty coworkers, and your children cannot “mute” their classmates—no matter how much it could help you to focus and concentrate. People aren’t the only source of problem here; environmental noises have been compared to smog, “polluting” the air in the same way as a black factory smokestack can pollute a city. With the constant interruption of dinging cell phones, people living in increasingly close quarters, and tiny little Bluetooth devices delivering social media right into our ears, sound can be almost impossible to avoid!

Fortunately, you have some options. While a Littleton ADHD Counseling expert can help you learn tips to stay focused, that noise will still be there! One of the best is to simply assess your personal environment for noise level. If you always leave a TV or radio on by habit, consider trying a day without noise. You may find that your stress levels are lower, or that you can be more productive. At night, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can be a lifesaver—those same tools can also help you get some peace and quiet at work. Reducing or removing noise, even on a temporary basis, can help promote mindfulness and relaxation. You can address noise through structure as well, such as placing carpet or rugs in your home, using doors or curtains to separate rooms and serve as noise barriers, or fixing or oiling squeaky doors, fans, and other appliances throughout your home. In a noisy world, few people appreciate silence, but it can be a positive addition to your life.

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