12 Tips for Coping with Sensory Overload During the Holidays

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How to get through the holidays when you hate them. I am honored to have been interviewed for this article in The Fix, the largest addiction and recovery website.

By Olivia Pennell


I have had meltdowns because of too much noise, or too many people talking at the same time. I don’t like parties, crowds, or the demands of the holidays.

Can’t I just hibernate through the whole thing?

I don’t like Christmas. As the holidays approach each year, my anxiety becomes palpable. My senses become extremely overwhelmed. Conversely, I loved it when I was using. I had a false sense of merriment and festive cheer, which, in reality, was just masking my addiction with a seasonal excuse to use more. Today, I feel at the opposite end of that spectrum: I want to go into hibernation and I want it to be over, now. This is common for some people in recovery. However, it is possible to get through the holidays with a few simple tools which calm feelings of sensory overload and keep your recovery on a strong footing.

See also: 10 Holiday Foods to Keep Away from Dogs and Cats

There are also the pressures and demands to buy presents and attend celebratory parties, meals and events that I don’t want to go to. All-in-all, for someone in recovery-particularly an empath-this can lead to sensory overload. And I am not alone.

Dorri Olds, Freelance Writer and person in long-term recovery says this:

“I don’t like to be known as a Scrooge but bah humbug to the damn holidays. It’s a time filled with family obligations, work-related parties and I’d rather stay home with my dog. I’m recently single after my spouse relapsed on heroin seven months ago so I’m especially sensitive. I have cravings to drink and drug even though I’ve been sober a long time now. Seeing and hearing happy-looking couples clinking glasses at restaurants makes my neck and back tense up.

Walking around Manhattan this time of year gets stressful because of store sales and crowded streets of tourists bumping into me. At parties the smell of liquor wafts up my nose and pulls me towards it. I often leave parties quickly because of that and because small talk tends to make me feel lonelier. Sometimes it feels so awkward to leave early. I never know whether to try to quietly slip out or go find the host to say goodbye when I know I’ll get the big question, “Why are you leaving so soon?” Then I don’t know whether to tell the truth or lie about having to be somewhere.”

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