6 Ways Highly Sensitive People Can Celebrate The 4th Of July (Without Getting Overwhelmed)

people viewing fireworks

July 4th celebrations honor the United States' birthday. That is certainly worth celebrating! After all, on this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed.

However, if you're a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) or love someone who is highly sensitive to noise, the 4th of July might aptly be described as a bad dream stuck on replay.

Especially given that this year the celebrations may be 'extra'; we'll celebrate July 4th and commemorate that we can now safely gather (thank you, vaccines!). Freedom feels extra liberating after more than a year of quarantine. For most people. So you're probably even more desperately wondering how to handle celebration as a Highly Sensitive Person. 

Because, for the 15-20% of men and women who are Highly Sensitive, the year of quarantine was more like a soothing bath than a bad memory. That is, with all due respect to the many people who lost loved ones to the virus. The celebration, for HSPs, will be the hard part. 

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What are Highly Sensitive People? 

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are born with the trait of sensory processing sensitivity. The way their brain works is as if everything is enhanced. Kind of like high-definition television. Maybe even to the point of too-muchness. That is, sounds are tooo loud, smells are tooooo strong, crowds are overwhelming - especially in combination. 

Extreme sensory discomfort occurs and elicits a sense of too-muchness. The sensory stimuli create a fight or flight response. HSPs may reach a point where they must leave the scene, retreating to a quieter, calmer, comforting setting. This is nothing personal. It is essential in order to recalibrate the nervous system. 

HSPs and celebrations can be a stressful combination

When a non-HSP thinks of July 4th, what comes to mind is something fairly exciting. Images of parades, fireworks, barbecues, beer, hotdogs, and loud music likely come to mind. The more, the merrier!

If you're an HSP, many July 4th activities are like nails on a chalkboard. Aversive, annoying, a source of painful overwhelm, all cementing a strong desire for the festivities to be over.

But HSPs are patriotic folks too and want to celebrate. Just maybe not with fireworks, crowds, mosquitoes, and 90-degree temperatures. The preferred alternative would be something indoors, where it is quieter, cooler, and uncrowded. 

HSPs are not party poopers. Their nervous system is simply extraordinarily fine-tuned and responsive. 

RELATED: How To Tell If You’re A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Or An Empath

So how do you handle a July 4th celebration as a Highly Sensitive Person?

1. Do your best to have your 'batteries charged' before the gathering.

In other words, be sure you are as rested, hydrated, nourished, and comfortable in your clothes as possible. 

2. Develop clear cues.

Have a signal you can use with your partner/family when you need a 'time out' to recalibrate or to communicate that you're ready to leave.

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3. Have an escape plan.

Bring your own car, or be prepared to Uber home if your family wants to stay longer than you do. 

4. Use protective equipment.

For fireworks, consider wearing earplugs. Or having earbuds in your ears with music playing that you enjoy.

5. Prepare an alternative.

Perhaps plan your own alternative low-key celebration - watch the fireworks on television in your air-conditioned den, with your favorite popcorn and a couple of other people you can be yourself around. And who will understand your preference to go to bed at a time that's close to your regular bedtime. 

6. Engage in self-care.

Most of all, have self-compassion that this particular Americana tradition is not on your top ten list. That's ok! How about showing your patriotism in other ways? You can hang an American flag, show pride in our country, and honor the country's history in many other ways. You don't need loud explosives, hotdogs, or beer to do that.

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Dr. Elayne Daniels is a non-diet, Certified Intuitive Eating specialist and clinical psychologist in MA. If you would like to learn more about the freedom to derive pleasure from food and to be comfortable in your own skin, visit her website or send her an email.