How many of you reading this know you are highly sensitive? Raise your hands. How many of you have met the highly insensitive person? Let me see the hands.
Yes, I see them. Many, many hands. Raised up high and all jazz fingers a wiggling.
We live in a world where highly sensitive people (also called Sensory Processing Sensitivity) are the minority. Dr. Elain Aron suggests this number is 15 – 20 percent of the population. Since we make up a much smaller part of the whole, it’s our job learning how to not only live, but thrive in an insensitive world. It’s our job to take care of ourselves. Knowing this changes everything.
Sensitivity is a Blessing….and a Curse.
First things first. Walking around in the world not knowing you are a highly sensitive person is not only confusing, exhausting, and overwhelming – it’s dangerous. That’s right. I said it. Dangerous. Sensory overwhelm feels like a shock. The body processes it as an emergency situation and will respond in a few different ways. 1.) It will flood the body with cortisol, a hormone which helps aid us in a crisis, but in the long run will erode health. 2.) It will shut down different areas of the body in order to maximize energy for survival (fight or flight response). 3.) The body will take what nutrients/energy are available and immediately expend them in an effort to flood the musculature for immediate strength. These reactions to sensory overwhelm are ancient survival instincts which when used properly help us survive in life threatening situations. They quite literally will save your life.
Except, when we are experiencing these these same physical symptoms in the absence of real danger. When we are feeling perceived danger due to sensory overwhelm, the body is taxed in unhealthy ways.
Everyone’s different so understanding how your sensitivity works for/or against you is a great starting place. Step one, Am I a Highly Sensitive Person? You should take Elaine Aron’s self-test as a starting point. As a quick reference here are a few tell-tale signs of high sensitivity or Sensory Processing Sensitivity:
- You have vivid, breathtaking emotions that run deep and don’t turn off.
- Empathy is an understatement – you feel others feelings as if they were your own. As an extension to this, you also might feel worry, anxiety, or the negativity someone is holding (as though it is your own).
- You prefer to be alone rather than joining into public or social functions.
- During tense situations in movies you are overwhelmed with the content and feel anxious, cry, or bolt from the room.
- You care for others and go out of your way to make them feel comfortable in your home, office, or during conversations.
- Difficulty saying “no.” This may drag on you for days if you said no to someone. This is a complicated topic because it involves feelings of responsibility, manners, and helping others which are all tied into the HSP.
- Our powers of observation are incredible; intuition, making connections, and a deep knowing are all evidence of this ability.
- If things are messy, disordered, or loud in your space you won’t be able to focus or concentrate.
- The quote at the top of the page is something you’ve heard many times in your life.
Protect Your Sensitive Self
‘We. Are. More. Sensitive. And you know what? That’s okay.
Different people are sensitive in different ways. We are more sensitive physically and emotionally. To not know that and try to live in the world creates tension in the body, mental stress, feelings of exhaustion and depression. We feel isolated and outside of society because we need to ‘turn off’ from the constant sensory stimulation of the world. Cell phones, TV’s, and the rapid way we are consuming massive amounts of information alone is overwhelming. That’s not including relationships, grief, loss, and illness.
Once we recognize sensitivity and start unraveling what it is and how it operates in our life – we can relax a little. Knowing is better than not knowing because we can take steps to protect ourselves.
Be protective of yourself and your one life you’ve been given.
For right now, today, in this moment let’s just say there are no do-overs. The life you’ve been given today is what you were blessed with. Life is a great gift, and not to be underestimated or undervalued. It is precious, sacred, and you are only given so much life – so don’t waste it. By protecting and valuing your space, time, and energy you are honoring your life and the precious purpose of it.
The first thing we must evaluate when we discover we are sensitive is our home. What changes and improvements can we make in our home environment to make it a place of safety and protection?
Places that are surrounded by trees, flowers, beauty and have animals nearby are good for de-stressing, laying a foundation for positivity, and will let you unwind easily.
Use ambient sound at night for getting restful sleep if you need it to De-sensitize from the stress of each day.
Take out any stimulation in your bedroom like T.V., cell phones, and other distractions (especially bill piles, business items, or even you’re home phone receiver).
These are just a few ways to start protecting your space.
I’ll write more on toxic relationships, healing plants in your home or office, and how important animals are to our feelings of safety and security in my next blog post.