How to Deal with Sensory Overload

Do you struggle with sensory overload? I struggle with bright lights, the assault of loud noises, and any kind of motion that kickstarts my vertigo. Sensory overload is a painful struggle.

For example, exposure to strong odors gives me headaches and nausea. For that reason, I have to be careful about what kinds of cleaners, laundry detergents, and soaps I use. I enjoy products with a lemony scent or other light fragrance. I haven’t been able to wear perfume in years, nor can I be in the same room with someone wearing strong perfume or cologne for very long. I tend to use natural products because the smells are not overpowering. I really like Melaleuca cleaning products for that reason.

When I’m with a group of people, even my family, constant interaction exhausts me. I love the time I spend with loved ones, but after about three hours I just need to lie down and be alone. I call that relational overload. I consider myself to be an “extroverted introvert,” but fibro has diminished the extroverted side of my personality. That’s an emotional burden I could not have anticipated before my diagnosis.

When in a public setting that feels overwhelming, it helps just to step outside and get some fresh air, or go into another room to give my overstimulated mind and body a chance to relax. When my son got married a year ago, I knew it was time to go home just three hours into the event. I had reached my social and emotional limit. I missed the dancing and cake-cutting, but my son understood. I felt like I accomplished a lot just by being there.

Temperature is another overload trigger. If I get too warm, I get nauseous and weak. If I get too cold, my pain increases and it’s difficult to move around. Summer is my favorite time of year. I love flowers, the smell of freshly mown grass, and singing birds. What I don’t love are humidity and high temperatures. The winter is beautiful when it snows, but because of the incredible cold, I tend to hibernate. I’m less likely to schedule any appointments during the coldest months.

Here are some tips that might help you with sensory overload:

  1. Open windows to disperse strong odors.
  2. Using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones for help with loud noises.
  3. Avoid piping hot or extremely cold water.
  4. Get a smart lightbulb so you can adjust the color and intensity of the light.
  5. Find natural cleaning products with a fresh, mild smell.

It’s helpful to know your specific triggers and address them in the best way for you. It’s OK if others don’t understand — it’s not about them. This is all part of a good self-care plan. ,


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