When The Bright Lights Blind: Handling Overstimulation
In the era of ever-increasing stage and festival productions, here are some ways to enjoy the awe and beauty while managing overstimulation.
It’s hard not to be awe-struck by Eric Prydz’ HOLO, Tale of Us’ Afterlife showcases, or even the improving production values of even just our local scenes. With the ever-increasing production that more and more artists are bringing to their events, I’ve got to take breaks because of the sheer shock value of what’s coming to the forefront. However intense events might be, the inclusion of more immersive, audio-visual, electronic experiences makes for better and more vivid memories to be formed for all of us supporting our favorite artists and genres.
With EDC Las Vegas just passed and festival season still in full swing, for many, especially those new to the scene and those sensitive to overstimulation, these types of experiences can be overwhelming and discourage plenty from enjoying events as much as they want to. I fall into the latter, and even as someone madly in love with electronic music and incredibly appreciative of the time and creativity artists put into these, it gets hard at times to keep up. So in order to find a balance I’ve come up with a few tips to help maximize the experience while minimizing the stressors:
1. High-Fidelity Earplugs
While the opening entry in this set comes off as a broken record, it’s one that is stressed enough. Protecting your hearing from the jump sets you up for success, be it for the night, or the length of your raving/music career. While foam earplugs will do the basics of protecting your ears, it makes having conversations and coordinating with friends on the dancefloor nigh-impossible. A small $20-$40 investment will give you a lifetime of protection from the high-hertz onslaught of modern sound-systems, while letting you enjoy conversations and the depth of modern sound design for years to come. You can even take it a step further for around $100 and get ones custom molded to your ears for the perfect fit. They’ll do wonders for making sure you can filter through what you want/need to hear, and prevent you from being overwhelmed by all that’s happening at once.
The second entry on this list may seem a tad out of place, but hear me out: sunglasses help a ton for the more immersive laser and light shows that are becoming more commonplace in the scene. Even for indoor shows, a pair of sunglasses will help for dealing with the strobe effects, which as mesmerizing as they can be, can also make it difficult to function at times. Protecting your eyes as well as your ears wherever you can will do wonders for keeping stressors to a minimum. In addition to protecting your eyes, they also help the more socially anxious among us. Making eye contact at an event is hard at times, and it feels stressful to try to maintain it in such a stimulating environment, with sunglasses, you’re focused less on looking at them, and more time hearing what they have to say.
3. Buddy System
The first time my rave crew suggested a buddy system, I remember laughing and asking if we needed safety tape as well. Needless to say, that take didn’t age well, and it’s now one of my most recommended tip to both new and easily-overstimulated ravers. The buddy system is simple, but open ended: this could be someone who sticks with you the whole night, or at the very least someone who knows where you are. Having this in place helps a ton when you’re overstimulated, because you have someone who can double back and make sure you’re okay, and just knowing you have that safety net in place makes it much easier to enjoy yourself at the function.
4. A Retreat
If all the above fail to calm you down and help you deal with the stressors of the modern rave, it’s important to set aside a retreat spot near the back of either the room or the crowd, somewhere where the music isn’t so loud and the lights aren’t so bright that you can come to, sit down, and get your bearings. There’s no shame in this, even our favorite artists retreat to their green room before or after their sets so they can make sure they’re in the right headspace to give you the best experience possible. You as a fan don’t have to feel like the exception. I’m willing to wager that your favorite artists would much rather you have thirty minutes of great memories than two hours of anxious memories. This also works well with the Buddy System, as I guarantee your friends would want to know you’re in a spot where you can recharge and enjoy yourself while they enjoy their own experience.
5. Read The Room
This tip is probably the least rigid. Knowing what type of crowd you’re around and knowing what you can and can’t handle does wonders in preempting being overstimulated. This varies event to event, of course, as some crowds are more rowdy than others, while some are much calmer. One of the first things you should do when arriving is scan the crowd, decide if you’re more comfortable being in the more dense sections in the crowd, or if you’d like to be closer to the back or the exit. Having this level of self-awareness allows you to set the tempo for the course of your night, and lets you always feel in control of how the night goes.
6. Know Your Baseline
Learning what you react to and establishing an understanding of your mind and body is one of the most important ways you can make sure you’re always setting yourself up for success. After all, the event is yours to enjoy, and having clear and decisive boundaries will help you do just that. If you enjoy recreationals, consider your baseline and environment first. Don’t try something new in an already over-stimulating environment. Also, knowing how you typically react to said recreationals will help you identify when you’re reacting differently, and can retreat to a safe space until you reach baseline again.
7. Be Honest
My last tip should be obvious, but situations make this hard at times. We all want to be able to keep up with our friends and the rest of the crowd, but sometimes our limits don’t let us. Being honest about what you can and can’t handle is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re not less of a “real” raver for being honest that something is too much, the rave has always been a haven where one can be themselves and accept themselves as they are. Preserving your peace is the easiest way to make sure you have nothing but good memories at the rave.
Electronic music events are meant to be social activities shared among friends, and a much larger group of “friends” you just haven’t met! However, each one is trying to create those magical moments that come when sight, sound, and audience come together in perfect harmony. Many do this through over the top production, which is great for some, but challenging for others. It’s important to know yourself, and know those around you, so you can both share those magical moments and jump in when someone needs a little help. Above all, #LookOutForEachOther!