With the weather getting hotter and schools being over, festivals start to become a popular choice of entertainment again. With the music going on, crowd cheering and dancing, lights moving and changing colors it might sound just like a fun night out to most, but it is possible to feel overwhelmed really easily in such places.
What is happening?
You might start to feel that your heart beats faster and breathing becomes harder. Things that normally don’t bother you like people accidentally touching you while passing or the bass of the music might become irritating. You might feel fear and anxiety and experience hardships at moving rationally because of the panic you are experiencing. Most commonly you may have an urge to cover your ears to ease these feelings and sensations.
Why is this happening?
All humans have different levels of processing what is going on around them. So, in a place with so much going on at the same time, sometimes the brain cannot decide what to concentrate on. In those kinds of situations we might feel irritated from the sound and crowd, anxious, in stress and panicked because it is a lot to take in at the same time. This is what we call “sensory overload”. It is basically too much stimulation happening at the same time for our brain to handle.
While these feelings are more likely to come about from unwanted noises such as construction works or a group fight, it is possible to feel those symptoms in what we consider a fun and friendly environment such as festivals, concerts, and parades due to their intense visuals and sounds.
What to do?
The first and best thing to do is getting away from the place and finding a quieter and relatively empty space. If you are in a festival, try to move away from the speakers and get out of the crowd. Find a place to sit down and try to block the noise and the lights as much as possible by closing your eyes and covering your ears with your hands if needed.
Try to concentrate on your breathing to turn it into its normal pace. This will help to slow your heart rate to its normal pace and will help you reduce the anxiety symptoms. It will also keep your attention away from all the things going on outside.
Drink a lot of water and stay still for a while. This will help you to calm down and let the feeling of panic go away. Staying hydrated is always important for the body to work efficiently.
If this is not the first time you experienced this situation it is better to go explore the area and find spots that are suitable to take a break beforehand. This way you will know what to do and where to go clearly when you feel overwhelmed and need to have a small time out.
Enjoy the festivals but always take care of yourself first.
Lipowski, Z. J. (1975). Sensory and information inputs overload: Behavioral effects. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 16(3), 199-221.
Billur Godek is a third grade undergraduate Psychology student in Turkey and is part of the Willingness International Summer Internship Programme 2019. Her interests briefly involve environmental psychology and its effects on both mental and physical health.