Coping With Sensory Overload Post-Injury: Navigating Heightened Sensitivity

Posted on November 16, 2023

Recovering from a brain injury often brings unexpected challenges, one of which can be sensory overload. This heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and touch isn’t just overwhelming; it can significantly impact daily life. But fear not! There are strategies to manage these sensitivities and make your environment more comfortable. Let’s explore some practical tips to help you or your loved one navigate this aspect of recovery with greater ease.

Understanding Sensory Overload

First, let’s understand what sensory overload is exactly. 

Sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experience over-stimulation from the environment. For someone recovering from a brain injury, this can mean that normal levels of light, sound, or touch feel unbearably intense. It’s like the volume of the world has been turned up too high.

Strategies for Managing Heightened Sensitivity

  1. Creating a Sensory-Safe Space: Identify a room or a quiet corner in your home where you can retreat when feeling overwhelmed. Use soft lighting, minimize clutter, and have comforting items like cushions or a favorite blanket.
  2. Light Sensitivity Solutions: If bright light is a problem, consider using dimmer switches in your home. Sunglasses and hats can be lifesavers when venturing outdoors. Also, explore the option of anti-glare screens for computers and mobile devices.
  3. Managing Sound Sensitivity: For those sensitive to noise, noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can be a great investment. In your living space, soft furnishings like carpets and curtains can help absorb sound.
  4. Tackling Touch Sensitivity: If touch sensitivity is an issue, focus on clothing and bedding. Soft, natural fabrics can be more comfortable. Be mindful of the textures that feel good and those that irritate.
  5. Gradual Exposure: Slowly and gently expose yourself to varying levels of stimuli. This can help desensitize your heightened responses over time. Remember, this should be a gradual process.
  6. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like deep breathing, meditation, or gentle yoga can help manage the stress and anxiety that often accompany sensory overload.
  7. Professional Support: Occupational therapists can provide personalized strategies and support to help manage sensory overload. Don’t hesitate to seek professional advice.

Creating a Supportive Environment

For caretakers, understanding and patience are key. Small changes in the home environment and daily routines can make a big difference. Be observant and responsive to the survivor’s needs, and maintain open communication to understand their specific sensitivities.

Dealing with sensory overload post-injury is undoubtedly challenging, but with the right strategies, it can be managed effectively. Creating a comfortable environment, using adaptive tools, and gradually exposing yourself to different stimuli can significantly improve your quality of life. Remember, every step you take in managing these sensitivities is a stride towards reclaiming your comfort and confidence in the world around you.