Managing Sensory Overload

Last updated: June 2018

For many community members, grocery shopping and other errands often provoke Sensory Overload. Here are some strategies from our community members for shopping without stress:

Shopping tip: shop at odd hours

“Have found that smaller stores are easier to tolerate, I go at odd times when less rush going on.”

“This is exactly the bright side of still working a late-shift job - I can go shopping on the odd times!”

“I try to go on weeknights as the stores tend to be way emptier.”

“Now that I've reached senior status, I get to go on senior discount days. Most customers have the same problems and the help is more patient.”

To avoid Sensory Overload from grocery store crowds, many community members do their shopping at odd hours, or go to smaller stores. Because grocery stores tend to be busiest during Saturday and Sunday daytime hours, many of you find that less popular times (such as Friday/Saturday nights, early in morning, or late at night) allow you to shop without feeling overstimulated. As suggested by one community members, senior discount days (which vary by store), may also make your trip more comfortable.

Shopping tip: bring a list!

“Since I usually forget my shopping list on the kitchen counter anyway, that makes it even harder for me to remember the things we needed.”

“I downloaded a grocery list app on my phone. I can't function without lists”

“I too plan my grocery shopping for non-busy times and am organized with a detailed list.”

Like Sensory Overload, some MS patients experience cognitive changes in the form of memory loss. When shopping, many community members say that they have trouble remembering what they need, especially when surrounded by the noises, sounds, crowds, and smells of the store. To make shopping easier, many of you use a detailed list (either on paper or on your phone) to stay calm and organized. Before leaving the house, you might also want to organize the list by department (produce, deli, frozen, etc.), so that you can literally “go down the list” as you walk through the aisles.

Shopping tip: online ordering + store pickup

“This is why we do grocery orders online and do curbside pickup. Don't have to deal with all of the stress.”

“Our local grocery store offers pickup....I think I actually save money because I do not impulse buy things.”

“This is why Kroger ClickList is amazing! You can shop at your own pace online, triple check your list, pick it up”

“Online shopping for curbside pickup or delivery at a nominal fee can help eliminate this issue at the grocery store (for me).”

“ShopRite will fill your order and you can drive there and pick up your groceries... they put your purchases in your car for you.”

To avoid the Sensory Overload of shopping, many of our community members have found affordable ways to order online. Depending on your local grocery stores, many of you have access to curbside pickup, a drive-through, or other forms of pick-up service. According to many of our community members, online ordering allows you to limit noise and distractions while you shop, and gives you the flexibility to browse the store at your own pace. In addition to grocery stores, other retailers (such as CVS, Target, and Walmart) also offer curbside pick-up in some areas, so if you find this strategy helpful, consider online ordering for your other shopping trips too!

Shopping tip: delivery

“Don’t go! You can purchase most of your staples from Amazon through “subscribe and save”. Free shipping and 5% discount if you have at least 5 items in your package…Amazon also has a “pantry” where you can get most of your groceries. Many local grocery stores will deliver your produce, dairy products, and meats.”

“You might want to look into HelloFresh and get some of your meals delivered each week. Excellent meals and no waste.”

“I have definitely become addicted to shopping online. It's so much easier not dealing with crowds of people.”

“I haven't been in a store in almost two years…Thank God for grocery delivery service in my area.”

For many community members, the best way is to avoid Sensory Overload is to have the necessities delivered. In many areas, grocery stores now offer free or low-cost delivery, and many of you find that the extra fees outweigh the stress of shopping. Many major retailers (like Amazon) also offer delivery services on non-grocery items, and our community members say that delivery discounts are also available, especially for frequent users or when you register for automatic shipments. Similarly, some of you have found that meal delivery services help you to avoid the stress of grocery stores, and avoid food waste! If you’re feeling overwhelmed by in-store shopping, consider looking for a delivery free-trial offer in your area, and see if delivery is worth it to you!

To manage Sensory Overload, our community members use of variety of strategies from avoiding crowded restaurants to shopping online. If you experience Sensory Overload, try one of these ideas, and let us know what’s working for you!

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