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Many types of Chronic Illnesses are affected by sensory overload. It can make symptoms worse and make treatments inadequate. But what is Sensory Overload? It occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment around them. Too much noise in itself may not be enough to tip the scales but if bright lights are also there the brain can be impacted.
For me, too many sensory factors at one time can trigger significantly worse than normal Hemiplegic Migraines. A public place with fluorescent lighting, loud noise and strong smells is a definite recipe for a severe Hemiplegic Migraine.
Unfortunately, the holiday season is full of crowded rooms, music, smells and lights and that can spell trouble for anyone that has issues with sensory overload. Here are some steps to take to avoid sensory overload this holiday season.
6 Ways to Avoid Sensory Overload
- Know your Limits – This one is probably the most important step you can take. Knowing how many sensory factors you can tolerate and how much can help you avoid exceeding your limitations.
- Step Away – Many families, including mine, are loud and boisterous when they get together. A crowded room with everyone loudly talking over each other can be enough to put someone into sensory overload. Trying to keep up with 10 different conversations at the same time can be draining. If you find yourself in this situation, just go outside for some quiet time and some fresh air. Do not wait until you it your limit to do this!
- Avoid Flashing Lights – Flashing lights alone is one of my main migraine triggers but lights can also contribute to sensory sensitivity. When you have control over the lighting in holiday decorations, always opt for non-flashing lights and use LED lights if possible.
- Keep Decorations Simple – Christmas doesn’t need to explode in your house in order to celebrate the season. Too many decorations around the house can heighten your senses and contribute to feeling overwhelmed. Set a theme of 1-2 colors and keep the decor low key.
- Avoid Scented Candles and Other Scented Decor– Whoever invented cinnamon brooms deserves to be some sort of harsh punishment! Add to the room a few holiday candles and some peppermint smells and that is a house designed for a sensory nightmare.
- Plan Ahead – Always go to Holiday functions with a plan of what to do if you start to feel sensory overload setting in. By thinking ahead to what you might encounter at an event, you can prepare for your response.
Like I said earlier, exposure to one of these things may not be enough to take you over the edge but the holiday season is full of these.
Lights, music, smells and large gatherings all create opportunities to overload the senses. Many chronic illnesses are impacted by sensory overload and it can make the physical symptoms worse. Taking some steps to avoid hitting your limits can help ensure that you can enjoy the holiday season.
You can also learn other strategies to handling the holiday season in my post, 5 Ways to Survive the Holidays.