Quick tips on sensory overload and anxiety
- Quick tip 1Learn what triggers a negative reaction.Learn what triggers a negative reaction.
Are crowds and noise a problem? Plan your trip for a time when there won’t be a lot of people. Or make it clear that you’ll leave early if you or a family member experiences sensory overload.
- Quick tip 2Take time to prepare.Take time to prepare.
Talk about what to expect before you enter a situation that could be overwhelming. Build in time for some jumping jacks or toe touches to help regulate the sensory system. Pick out comfy clothing the night before so no one wakes up worrying about what to wear.
- Quick tip 3Brainstorm strategies.Brainstorm strategies.
Find a calm time to talk about ways to make things less stressful. For instance, would it help to ask Grandma to give high fives instead of hugs? Or to explain to your host that there are certain foods you just can’t eat?
People with sensory processing challenges often feel anxious. That’s because they can’t control every aspect of their daily lives. Something can pop up that makes them extremely uncomfortable. Bright lights. Loud noises. Strong smells. All of these can create stress — and sensory overload.
Most people have no trouble organizing the information they get from their senses. But kids and adults with sensory processing challenges struggle with it.
Some may be much more sensitive to things like sounds, sights, textures, flavors, and smells. They may try to avoid sensory input they can’t tolerate.
Other people may be less sensitive to these things. For example, they may seek out — or not notice — strong flavors, flashing lights, or loud music.
Some people are both oversensitive to some things and undersensitive to others.
Anxiety is more common in people who are oversensitive. They often worry about what lies ahead. Sources of stress may include:
- Trips to places they know to be noisy or crowded, like the mall
- New places that they might find intolerable
- Feeling unprepared or worrying that something unexpected may happen
Learn more about sensory overload and anxiety — and how to help.