Hate Fireworks? 3 Ways to Avoid Overwhelm This July 4

Emily Boynton Fact Checked
Seattle July 4 Fireworks
© Vuelyfe Media Creation Corporation / Stocksy United

Loud. Bright. Smelly. Fireworks might be celebratory fun for some, but for others the pyrotechnics are a one-way ticket to sensory overload.  

If you find the onslaught of crashes and flashes from July 4th fireworks overstimulating, you don’t have to simply grin and bear it. And you don’t have to skip the festivities, either.  

“Do some self-assessment on what you want out of the situation. Do you want to be a part of the celebration or not? If so, what do you need to make that happen? It’s about knowing yourself and getting creative about what you want to do,” says Alana McVey, an advanced clinical psychology trainee at the University of Washington.  

Whether you want to find ways to enjoy the displays without feeling overwhelmed or celebrate sans explosions, you’ve got options for an enjoyable holiday.  

First things first: determine what you want and advocate for yourself 

It’s OK if you find fireworks frightening or disturbing — or if you just plain don’t like them.  

“We are all wired differently in terms of our senses. We know some people are more sensitive than others to certain stimuli,” McVey says. 

Ask yourself if you want to attend a celebration with fireworks. If you do, you’ll want to plan some coping strategies (more on this in a minute). If not, it’s all about communicating your needs to your loved ones, and for that, McVey recommends the DEARMAN method.  

“DEARMAN is a strategy that comes from dialectical behavioral therapy. It’s a skill for asking for what you need and saying no effectively without harming your relationship,” McVey says. 

DEARMAN is an acronym, where “DEAR” stands for what you say, and “MAN” represents what you do. It goes like this: 

  • Describe the situation.  
  • Express how you feel.  
  • Assert what you are asking for.  
  • Reinforce what you need and reward the other person. 
  • (be) Mindful.  
  • Appear confident.  
  • Negotiate.  

So, if your friend is pushing you to go see fireworks, you could say the following: 

Hey, thanks for the invite. I actually find fireworks to be really overwhelming (describe). I would feel more comfortable skipping the celebrations (express). I’m planning to stay home, but I would love to get together next week (assert). Thanks so much for understanding (reinforce). 

During the conversation, be mindful if your friend changes the conversation, appear confident by making eye contact and negotiate if need be (maybe you see them for a picnic earlier in the day before the fireworks begin).  

Ways to cope on July 4 if you don’t like fireworks 

Lots of folks find fireworks jarring, but McVey has tips to make things easier.  

“Not every strategy is going to work for every person, but in general having a toolkit of strategies helps people feel less overwhelmed,” she says.  

Lessen the sensory stimulation 

Think about which senses get overloaded when you watch fireworks, and then take steps to dampen some of those effects.  

This could mean watching fireworks from afar, wearing sunglasses or tinted glasses, using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones or putting on a favorite lotion to block out the smoke smell.  

Use soothing skills 

If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can try to self-soothe by taking some deep breaths to calm your nervous system plus engaging your other senses.  

Having something tactile to engage with, like a soft sweatshirt you can feel or a smooth worry stone to rub can be helpful if you struggle with heightened sensory experiences, McVey says.  

It also helps to have a plan of what you’ll do if the event starts to feel like too much. Maybe you take a walk or maybe you make sure your car is available so you can leave if you need to. Asking your friends to check in with you during the show is also a great way to invite support.  

Plan new ways to celebrate 

If you decide to skip the show, there are still plenty of ways to have some fun.  

“If you’re able, just avoiding places with fireworks might be a good call,” McVey says.  

Need some inspo? Plan a midday barbeque, host a picnic or go to a lake-themed gathering. At night, gather friends to watch a July 4th themed movie or for themed desserts (rocket pops and s’mores, anyone?). Plus, if you’re outdoorsy, getting out of city limits and camping can be a fun way to avoid the noise altogether.  

Firework-free festivities mean you can enjoy the day the way that works best for you.