Do you have to turn off those Sarah McClaughlin commercials about saving the animals on TV? I always do. I cant handle them.
My heart hurts too much to bear ANYTHING on TV with an animal in distress. I run to the clicker and turn it off quickly!
I am so sensitive.
Lately the California Wildfires and various shootings also trigger my highly sensitive nature. I’m sure they do for many of you too.
I’ve heard it called a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP. I really don’t love labels but this does seem appropriate for me.
I recently got home from 14 days selling ‘various stuff’ at a busy flea market. I had an indoor booth.
My boyfriend and I were trying to find a way to make some extra money to pay our bills for the winter. Since he works on the weekend as a photographer I agreed to ‘go try it’.
How bad can it be to sit there and take peoples money at a Flea Market? I thought.
Well, it had been over 3 years since I was around that much stimulation. I’ve been for the most part at home, writing, driving to the store and to my therapist, cleaning house and petting cats.
Honestly I THOUGHT I was ready to do it. I THOUGHT I was strong enough mentally to deal with the crowds.
I found out that I am not ready. I am still highly sensitive and I am still in my panic/anxiety recovery ‘process’.
I am SOOO glad to be home and out of that atmosphere. My amygdala feels worn out from the experience, to be honest. It was highly triggering for me. Although I ‘got through it’ and survived it — it was not fun.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM 14 DAYS AROUND CROWDS OF HUMANS?
1. I don’t thrive in certain settings.
2. It is obvious that I have heightened and hyper vigilance.
3. I still have a high startle reflex and my panic still attacks me in unknown situations.
4. I am highly sensitive in places with a lot of people. (Crowds are too peoply for me…I tell my therapist)
5. Various and/or startling noises( ie: incessant or loud barking dogs, sirens etc.) can unnerve me.
6. Bright, flashing and/or fluorescent lighting can be triggering.
7. Too much PRESSURE being put on me feels scary.
8. Feeling looked at/glared at and/or expected to make a lot of chit chat or small talk is also triggering for my panic.
Melody Wilding wrote a wonderful piece on medium about this subject which seemed to validate what I was feeling.
Some signs you might be an HSP. Highly Sensitive Person:
- You have a low annoyance threshold. It’s particularly hard for you to work in noisy (sirens going by are the worst), overly bright, or aesthetically abrasive environments. You have trouble concentrating if you feel slightly uncomfortable. You also might be extra-sensitive to fragrances or coarse fabrics.
- You love connecting with people, but at a big party you’re most likely to be found in a quiet corner chatting with a few people, getting into deep, far-ranging topics (or hanging out with the resident dog or cat).
- You are deeply moved by art, literature, or music and often unexplainably affected after witnessing the pain or suffering of other human beings. This is why HSPs tend to excel in careers like medicine, teaching, and even social entrepreneurship, but it also means HSPs need to be mindful about the news and content they consume.
- You cry more easily, both from sadness and happiness.
To see if you are a Highly Sensitive person you can take a self-test designed by Elaine Aron here.
HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE HAVE A GIFT NOT A CURSE
I KNEW that I just wasnt ‘thriving’ in that Flea Market atmosphere. I never have. I’ve always been far more inspired when alone!
I wasn’t inspired or feeling alive in there. To be honest I could barely breathe at times.
I read that in order for HSPs to thrive, they might want to shift their mindset to view their high sensitivity as a gift rather than a curse, despite cultural norms and naysayers who tell them otherwise.
Maybe the fact that we are so damn sensitive to stuff just means we are made differently than others , but — thats OK! We are born that way.
As it turns out, there is actually research on this innate trait, high sensitivity. The scientific term is “sensory-processing sensitivity” (SPS). People who are highly sensitive are born that way; it is not something they learned.
Do you relate to any of these traits of the Highly Sensitive person?
I know I do. The Highly Sensitive person:
- has a rich and complex inner life
- is deeply moved by the arts and music
- gets easily overwhelmed
- has difficulty performing a task when being observed
- easily startles
- is sensitive to pain, caffeine, and hunger
- is attuned to inner bodily sensations
- readily notices sensory changes
Researchers linked this trait to positive qualities but also to mental illnesses
This is why it is critical to know if you are a HSP, so you can seek out relationships and environments that are healthy for you.
THE BRAIN OF AN HSP IS JUST “DIFFERENT”.
There are biological reasons for all the components of this trait.
A HSP’s brain is wired differently and the nervous system is highly sensitive with a lower threshold for action. There are also changes at the macro brain level. The areas associated with this trait greatly overlap with the brain areas that support empathy!
Also, they have a hyperactive insula, which explains their heightened awareness of their inner emotional states and bodily sensations. This hyperactivity explains their sensitivity to pain, hunger and caffeine.
How to make the most of your high sensitivity
- Reduce the number of intense stimuli in your environment.
- Limit the number of tasks when multi-tasking.
- Avoid burnout by noticing early warning signs, such as feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
- Get your thoughts and deep emotions on paper so that they won’t cloud your brain.
- Try mindfulness meditation, especially to deal with high sensitivity to pain. This will teach you to acknowledge pain as the sum of sensations suspended from the label of pain.
- Take advantage of your creativity: draw, color or write.
- Take advantage of your predisposition for higher empathy to strengthen relationships — to become a better co-worker, and to assure your self-worth.
- Be comfortable in your sensitive skin, own it and never be ashamed of it.
- Be honest about your predisposition to be a HSP, especially in close relationships. But, don’t forget to highlight the positive aspects like:
More empathy, deep thinker, able to see things from a different perspective, appreciation of arts and music, and others’ positive qualities.
So for all of my fellow sensitives let’s embrace it! We are needed in this world!