Calming Your Senses During the Holiday Season

Deborah Health Guide
  • I worked in retail sales for over three years, all of them spent in stores in large shopping malls. The first store I worked in, Victoria's Secret, was in a beautiful mall in Boston called Copley Place. Everything about the mall was soothing - the peach marble interior, the low lighting, the waterfall and the softly playing classical music. The stores were all high end, like the beautiful Brentano's bookstore with its many art books. At Christmas time white lights decorated the mall tastefully. Something about the way the mall was built kept it from being too loud, and the foot traffic, while healthy, wasn't overwhelming. I loved my job, and despite the long hours, I never felt tired.

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    I subsequently moved home to Connecticut and worked in several stores in a somewhat different mall, the Stamford Town Center. The decor was much starker and brighter. During the holidays the music and the decorations were both loud. Forget classical music - this was strident Muzak carols. The decorations were huge colorful metallic ornaments with blinking colored lights. The mall foot traffic was very heavy normally, but during the holidays it took forever just to walk down one hall. The chatter from the crowds was overwhelming. My eyes hurt and my ears hurt. At the end of the day I was always exhausted. I was doing the same job, but the environment was radically different.


    Does this sound familiar? Some of us with ADD/ADHD are also sensitive to certain types and levels of sound, color, smell and touch. While we can control our environment at work and at home to some extent, during the holidays it may seem like your senses are being assaulted everywhere you go by bright colors and blinking lights, loud music and way too many people jostling against you.


    What we need to do is give our jangled nerves and senses some soothing input. This may seem like a low priority during the holiday season, but it should help keep you from spending a lot of time being exhausted and cranky.


    Try to counteract some of the effect of the sounds that have been grating on your ears by listening to soothing nature sounds or new age music. You may pooh-pooh that kind of music normally, but there's a reason why it is played in spas and other places that are meant to relax you. I personally love the sound of water and can feel my blood pressure dropping when I listen to it.


    If you spend any amount of time in crowded shopping areas, you need to balance it out with a healthy amount of alone time. Otherwise, the press of people at parties and gatherings will grate on your already sensitive nerves. I know, I know, it's hard to find that time when you're so busy and there are so many social events, but better to squeeze in more alone time than spend all your time at parties wishing you had.


    Do whatever works for you. Experiment with different music and sounds until you find something that makes the tension drain out of you. Sit in a room with low lighting if that feels calming to you. Give yoga or meditation a shot. The most important thing is to recognize that many aspects of the holidays are going to irritate your senses, and find some way to re-balance yourself.

Published On: December 01, 2009