I never actually tried my dog’s tranquilizers.
But every year, I was sorely tempted take just one.
At the first “pop” of fireworks, Shatzi would start quaking and panting. I’d dose her up until dawn, all the while wishing for an equally simple way to dial down my own sensitivity to light and sound.
As a Highly Sensitive Person, I find the 5th of July is my favorite day of the year. I wake up and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s 364 days until I have to deal with all the bright flashes and loud noises of another Independence Day celebration.
aka: HSP Purgatory
If you, too, become overwhelmed by an abundance of visual and auditory input, here are 7 practical things you can do to ease your sensitivity to light and sound, especially before, during, and after a bright, loud day like the 4th of July.
1 — Pack your HSP Comfort Kit
Very few items on this list are specific to your sensitivity to light and sound.
But practicing self-care in all areas will make you less reactive to bright lights and loud sounds.
On the flip side, letting yourself become cold, hungry, and dehydrated will make you super-duper sensitive to the already overwhelming lights and sounds.
Remember: the root word of “comfort” is fort, which means strength. So preparing and packing your HSP Comfort Kit is part of being sensitive and strong.
Here’s my list; customize it to meet your own constellation of sensitivites:
- Ear plugs
- Noise canceling headphones
- White noise app
- Unscented sunblock
- Sensitive eye cream
- Lip balm
- Nail clipper with nail file
- Layers of clothing
- Change of shoes & socks
- First Aid Kit (including Sunburn care)
2 — Pre-decide how much you can take
We often try to pack a lot of people and places and events and activities into one day on the 4th of July. None of the things we do is bad. In fact, each one may actually be wonderful … on its own. But piling them all one on top of the other can be overwhelming, especially without a strategy.
So think through your day and pre-decide how much you can take of
- People — Will you be dealing with crowds of strangers? Mingling with your own peeps?
- Places — Where will you be celebrating? At the beach with sand and salt water? At a park with ants and mosquitos?
- Travel — How far will you drive? How bad is traffic likely to be? Will parking be convenient or a pain in the neck?
- Events — Are you going to a parade? sporting event? concert? All three?
- Meals — Are you cooking? Ordering take-out? Firing up the BBQ?
- Fireworks — Will you view them from home or go somewhere to see them?
Pre-decide what’s most important to you … and what’s optional. And then give yourself permission to re-decide as needed.
3 — Schedule check-ins with yourself
Set your alarm to go off every 1-2 hours. When it does, ask yourself:
a) How am I doing?
physically? emotionally? relationally? energy-wise?
b) If nothing changes, how much longer can I keep doing what I’m doing?
You may realize that even though you’re not feeling great, you really can hang on for another few hours. Or you may recognize that you’re 5 minutes from a complete meltdown. Either way, it’s good to know.
c) What one change could I make that would increase my endurance?
Do you need to:
- Sit down? Stand up? Take a walk? Take a nap?
- Stop listening to an escalating “discussion”? Practice some breath prayers to release anxiety?
- Engage with someone and really listen? Apologize to someone you snapped at?
- Drink some water? Eat a high protein snack?
4 — Plan your exit strategy
If you have one, take a 2nd car.
No 2nd car? Prep the Uber or Lyft app on your phone.
If you can’t leave, seek sanctuary. Hide away in a back room … or or, if all else fails, a bathroom!
5 — Embrace the overwhelm
Before I knew about being a Highly Sensitive Person, I used to berate myself for feeling so drained by 8:00 PM. Now, I know it’s going to be overwhelming … and I choose to do it anyway. It’s just one day. And for me, the fireworks at night make it all worthwhile.
Some of my favorite memories are of 4th of July nights, with a band playing patriotic songs and the crowd singing along and the beauty of the fireworks lighting up the sky — it’s all SO magical!
6 — Practice extra self-care The Day After
This may mean taking a day off, or simply being intentionally aware that the 5th of July may be an off day. Either way, when you’re intentional about extra self-care, it’s unlikely that you—or anyone you live or work with—will pay a too high a price for Independence Day.
7 — Use Your Tools
Before, during, and after the big day, use your tools:
Learn more about your sensitivity to light and sound
In doing research for a couple of upcoming posts on light sensitivity and sound sensitivity, I found “HSP Wellness: The Highly Sensitive Person and Coping With Noise Sensitivities” enlightening, especially in terms of mechanical, organic, and intermitent noises.
How do you take extra good care of your HSP self on days that are likely to provoke your sensitivity to light and sound?