Coping With Sensory Overload In Social Settings


This brief article could probably help people who are shy, or others who may deal with social anxiety but I wrote it because I deal with sensory overload and it affects my ability to think clearly in most situations, including social settings. Like the picture above – sensory overload is so bright & explosive that it washes away clear thoughts. Sensory overload causes moment to moment actions to become cluttered with confusion, stress & indecision.

Sensory overload has affected me, since my brain surgery in 2010. I can only handle a very limited amount of noise, conversation & cognitive engagement. This makes social occasions stressful rather than enjoyable. For this reason, I have to spend large amounts of time by myself. This has been a huge adjustment because I have always been very gregarious & enjoyed planning social gatherings with my friends. It is my goal to become more comfortable in social settings so I have written a list tips of noted below to help me enjoy this part of my life again. 

Define your stressors

Ask yourself what things trigger your sensory overload & write them down. Even if you want to blow a stressor off as insignificant, you should still write it down if it causes you stress. Once you have identified your stressors, now it’s time to write down what things you could do to reduce the stressor or to help you cope with it better.  

Think about what you would like to talk about and write it down

Don’t skip this part! Writing down your thoughts commits them to memory & you will need that when you enter a noisy, stressful atmosphere that causes your mind to go blank.  Here are a few suggestions. Stick with current events, stay positive, ask open ended questions & listen intently, tell jokes or stories, give sincere compliments. Now start writing!  

Arrive early

This gives ample opportunity to converse, get settled in & take advantage of your  physical & mental energies while you still have them. Walking into a large crowd triggers a stress response that is hard to recover from so make it a habit to arrive early.

 When around other people, pick out a few specific people to talk to

This will settle the mind & help you stay focused rather than becoming lost in a sea of confusing thoughts. This will make it much easier to have meaningful conversations with friends or associates. 

Ask for help!

If you feel anxious or disoriented because of sensory overload it is alright to ask for help. You can say….. I’m feeling tired & overwhelmed, will you walk me to the door or help me find a quieter place? From my experience, I need to be around less activity and noise before my brain will feel settled and calm down.


I have also learned that I must keep my expectations reasonable..Although a proactive approach will help, I should not expect this problem to be eliminated altogether. It feels encouraging to know that this hardship is only temporary. One thought that helps me is found in the Bible at Jeremiah 29:11. It says; “‘For I well know the thoughts that I am thinking toward you,’ declares Jehovah, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” God sees our daily struggles & promises to give us a peaceful future. I have lost a lot but the Bible really gives me hope & makes me feel better..


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