Helpful tips to manage holiday shopping sensory overload

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, it marks a time of excitement, festivities, and bustling shopping trips. However, for some people, the sensory overload that accompanies the holiday hustle and bustle can be overwhelming and challenging. In this blog, we'll explore some helpful tips to manage and navigate through the sensory stimuli that can make holiday shopping a daunting experience for some.

Before diving into the tips, it's important to recognise that everyone experiences sensory stimuli differently. Bright lights, festive music, and large crowds may be enjoyable for some, but for others, they can be sources of stress and discomfort. Tailoring your approach to holiday shopping based on your unique sensitivities is key to making the experience more manageable and enjoyable.

Making a plan with support

Consider pre-planning your shopping trips with the help of your support worker. Breaking down your shopping list into smaller, more manageable trips to specific stores over time can make the overall experience less overwhelming. Individualised support can be especially helpful in navigating online platforms, ensuring you can complete your holiday shopping stress-free.

Managing stimuli on-the-go

To reduce auditory stimuli, consider wearing noise-cancelling headphones. This simple accessory can create a cocoon of calm amidst the holiday shopping chaos.

Have a safety/exit plan

Feeling overwhelmed can happen to anyone, it is more common than you may think. Talk with your support network about establishing a safety or exit plan in case you find yourself needing a break. This is where your shopping plan comes in handy. Knowing where you are going on the day will help you form your exit plan. Having a designated safe space or exit strategy can provide reassurance during stressful moments.

Bring snacks and sensory aids

Pack a bag with snacks, water, or a sensory toy. Having these items on hand can provide comfort and distraction during the shopping excursion. Plan a special treat for yourself at the end of your shopping as a reward for navigating the sensory challenges.

Timing matters

Look for "Quiet Hours" at Shopping Centres: Some shopping centres including grocery shops and department stores that offer designated "quiet hours" where noise levels and lighting are reduced during the holiday season. Consider shopping during these times when the environment may be less stimulating. Additionally, exploring shopping options during earlier or later hours in December can also contribute to a more relaxing experience.

Consider outdoor markets

If indoor shopping centres pose challenges, explore outdoor markets for handmade goods. These markets often provide a more open and accessible space, especially when they first open in the early morning.

Make a plan that works for you

Every shopper is different. One of our supported hosted employees, Lucas, is getting ready to plan his Christmas shopping and we asked how he’s making a plan that works best for him and his shopping needs.

How do you approach your Christmas shopping? For example, do you plan, look up gifts online, go to specific stores etc?

Christmas shopping and gift shopping in general is an incredibly stressful time for me. The reason for this is that I never know what to get loved ones. I am asking myself “Would they like my gift, or would they prefer something else?” Often, I will ask them if there is anything that they would like. Sure, that might mean there isn't much of a surprise but at least there’s comfort and certainty that they will enjoy the gift. Sometimes, I will get something ridiculous but still cheap that the receiver might at least find amusing.

What is a tip you have for others about navigating Christmas shopping and how do you manage the stress and busyness of a shopping centre?

I find it better to do the shopping sooner rather than later. I would also suggest deciding on what I am purchasing before I am in the store so that it is a quicker shopping experience. That is not to say I am always following this advice as sometimes I am disorganised and stressed while shopping at the last minute. Organisation is key.

The holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, and to make your shopping experience enjoyable, it needs to be tailored to your unique needs. By understanding your sensory stimuli and applying personalised strategies, you can navigate holiday shopping with greater ease. If needed, as a last resort, the convenience of online shopping can also be a useful option.

Remember, everyone is different, and what matters most is that you find a plan that allows you to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest. Whether it’s a goal of yours or something to check-off your holiday to-do list, you can use these tips to take on your holiday shopping with confidence.

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