Estimated: 3 minute read

Navigating Adulthood: A Guide to Managing Your Sensory Needs

Posted on
side profile of a woman, red and flue light waves in front of her face causing sensory overload

Sensory needs aren’t exclusive to children. Adults, too, have unique sensory requirements that significantly impact their overall well-being. Just as we mature physically and emotionally, our sensory experiences evolve. For some adults, sensory sensitivities can be a challenge to navigate in daily life. Whether you’ve recently recognized these needs or you’ve been managing them for years, we’ll explore the importance of these needs and offer tips for meeting them effectively.

Understanding Sensory Overload

Sensory needs refer to an individual’s requirement for specific sensory input to feel balanced and comfortable. Sensory overload is when something in our environment is overstimulating to our senses. This can look like anything – a smelly street, loud doctor’s office, cramped elevator, or clothing rubbing against our skin. It can be challenging to manage sensory needs because there are many things that can trigger a response. At times, it can make events such as seeing friends in public challenging. For example, if you go to a coffee shop, the loud machines, smell of coffee, and the amount of people present can lead to sensory overload.

Identify Your Triggers

It can be helpful to sit down and identify which of your senses impacts you the most. This can help you identify which sense(s) are regularly impacting your life and which are infrequently impacting your life. Once you identify your triggers, then you can create a plan to manage your needs in that area! Common signs of sensory overload include: irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating and focusing, exhaustion, headaches, tension, and an increase in stimming.

Evaluate What You Have Tried

Take a look at what you have tried in the past when you’ve noticed that you were feeling overstimulated. Once you have a list, ask yourself if those methods have worked and how often you’ve tried them. If it doesn’t work the first time, challenge yourself to try it a few more times! It’s also helpful to evaluate if there are any improvements or variations you can make to your techniques.

Create a Sensory Kit

Create a list of each of the 5 senses and rank them based on impact. Then create a kit for each sense with items or techniques that create a sensory-friendly environment.

For example, if you are susceptible to noise, you can gather items such as noise canceling headphones or earplugs. You can create a soothing playlist or you can distance yourself from the noise by going outside for a bit. If you experience sensory overload with smell, limit fragrances, or try going fragrance free, and keep rooms ventilated. If you are in a setting where you can’t control the environment like a social gathering try going outside for fresh air.

Creating a list or physical kit with helpful items in it makes it easier to take them with you when you go out. Place items in a box or a portable bag and keep it in your car to have at all times. 

Managing your sensory needs as an adult is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and self-care. By recognizing your sensory profile, identifying your triggers, evaluating past coping skills, and creating a sensory kit, you can manage your overload. By recognizing and addressing your needs, you can enhance your overall quality of life and promote better emotional and mental health.

Health and Healing Therapy can help.

At Health and Healing Therapy, our team of skilled and compassionate therapists is here to support you on your path to emotional well-being. Whether you’re dealing with sensory overload, anxiety, or any other mental health concerns, our therapists are equipped to provide the guidance and tools you need to thrive.

Contact us to schedule a complimentary 15-minute call today to see if therapy is right for you.

Nina Iraheta wears a light blue sweater and has long dark hair streaked with blonde. She has a bright, kind smile.

About Nina Iraheta

In my free time I like to read, hang out with my cat, and attend live shows. I love a good suspense/thriller book, however I also love to spend the night singing along to my favorite artists at live shows! I also love to enjoy nature, go hiking, and it is a hope of mine to visit all of the national parks in the United States!

View my therapist profile.