It’s been exactly one week since we went to San Diego to embark on yet another Comic-Con. I am by no means an expert con-goer, but I can’t help but notice the sensory overload we experienced while there. It is a con that can test anyone. The sheer massive crowds, long lines, walking, fatigue, sounds, smells, and things to do can be overwhelming at times. It is hard to explain to those that have not experienced it first hand.
While the con is only 4 days long, you want to experience as much as you possibly can, but when you realize that there is so much to do that you cannot possibly even scratch the surface, it becomes overwhelming and then you must figure in long lines, travel times and availability. It begins to seem even more stressful. What I’ve learned from the past three years that we have gone to SDCC, is that you have to be in the moment. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan and go for the things you really want to do but even if things don’t go as planned, you usually find that there are other enjoyable things to do, see and experience.
I’ve also learned to recognize when I need to take a break. Walking through a sea of people bumping into you all day and the generally loud noises and crowds can ramp up anxiety quite easily. What’s good is that it’s usually not too hard to find a quiet spot to sit. They also have a room for those who need a quiet safe space. I’ve learned to recognize my anxiety level and check-in with myself often. This allows me to plan a bit to use my time better, so I might go to lunch in a quieter place. I can eat, hydrate, and get away from some of the sensory stimuli all at the same time.
Don’t beat yourself up if there is a line or situation that you just can’t handle being in anymore. Remember there is always something else going on. I suggest varying what you do. Take the exhibit hall in a little bit at a time and break it up with a good panel or offsite experience.
Sleep is fleeting at comic con but unfortunately, it is a necessity to live. Try to get as much sleep as you can or your body will force you to later. We’ve seen a few people drop from exhaustion right in front of us. Make sure you are drinking and eating properly as well. Stuffing your face at Carl’s Jr. before riding the Ferris wheel might not be the best choice. G
I think of my friends on the spectrum who experience these sensory sensitivities in everyday life and I have a new respect and admiration for the way they overcome these struggles. What helps you during sensory overload experiences? We would love to hear your tips and tricks!