How to cope with sensory overloads and relax

Stephen McHugh
This post was last updated on
June 9, 2023
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Sensory overloads are where certain stimuli like light, sounds and smells are too much for us to process. And those of us with an autistic spectrum disorder can find these situations especially testing. Below are measures that I find can be useful when reducing the effects of sensory overloads.

Quiet rooms

These can be useful when a particular situation becomes too much for you, such as a gathering with lots of people. This approach can help you to relax more, and gather your thoughts. You can be in a quiet room until you feel the situation has quietened down to a more manageable level for you.

By talking to people you can trust about your feelings in advance, they might be able to make appropriate arrangements for you and point you in the right directions to these areas. 

Don’t be hard on yourself

Being in a place with a large gathering and thinking about how to try and join in may be both difficult and mentally exhausting. One thing I do here is think about things I’m good at, obstacles I’ve overcome in my life, and the values others may see in contributions I make, such as demonstrating my piano playing skills.

Identify times when it gets most challenging

Situations that can get challenging for me during social situations, is when there is a larger gathering of people, which can mean more in the way of noise. In addition, there may be many different conversations going on at the same time, and it can therefore be harder to know who to engage with.

I have always found it easier whenever I’m engaged with smaller groups of people. Having said that, knowing that there may be a social event can help me to be prepared mentally.

Do something you enjoy

Ideas for doing things that you enjoy can include going out for a short walk to a quiet area and listen to the sounds and sights of nature. You could try listening to music too. These activities, I find, can help to instill a sense of calmness in you. And if you enjoy Sudoku puzzles, why not bring a book with you containing puzzles for you to do to pass the time.

And finally

Having said all the above, I find I’m now at the stage where I’ve improved to the extent that I’m able to cope with most social situations without special measures where there are likely to be increased stimuli like sounds, lights, and more.

What measures do you use to help you cope with sensory overloads? Feel free to let me know in the comments section below. The more we can share, the more we can help others out there.

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