I’ve always had intense reactions to things.
Like dropping the phone and throwing myself on the bed sobbing at age 5 when my dad called to tell me my new sibling was a brother instead of the sister I thought I’d been promised.
Like having such paralyzing embarrassment after farting in my third grade classroom that I couldn’t pay attention to anything for the rest of the day. And then being further mortified when I got called on and didn't know what we were working on.
Like being so stimulated by parties as a teen and young adult that I couldn’t totally fall asleep when I got home. I just kept dreaming the party and having bizarre conversations in my half-awake half-asleep brain. The next morning I'd come to exhausted. I had literally been partying all night in a liminal state.
Big emotional reactions are so draining. And embarrassing. Rumination and overanalyzing take any scrap of energy that’s left.
You can also get so bound up in worrying what others think that you have a hard time taking action on what's important to you, even if it's simple.
When I was older I realized not everyone mulled over each conversation a hundred times before uneasily letting it slide off their emotional plate.
I was stunned.
How can you say this is no big deal? You don’t remember what you said? She’s mad at you and you’re this calm??
It was hard for me to believe that others could just shake things off with such ease and not spend hours thinking about what had taken place, worrying what the other person was thinking, or beating themselves up for saying something that was foolish in retrospect.
I felt like somehow I was doing things wrong.
Like my brain was weird and defective because it thought about this stuff so much. From then on I just tried to keep my oddness under wraps. No need to incur criticism—another thing that made me extremely uncomfortable.
Only much later did I start to realize that my strong reactions were connected to my highly sensitive neurological system which takes in more information (including other people's emotions), feels more strongly about it, and processes it more deeply.
This reprieve gave me permission to look into the why and how of these reactions and what I could do about them. I found that, on the one hand, nothing’s wrong with my nervous system, so it doesn’t need to be fixed. On the other hand, I wanted to use less energy overthinking so I had more to put toward the positive work I knew I was here to do.
The answer was learning to respond rather than react to my emotions.
Sounds so simple, right? Well, in a way it is.
Responding rather than reacting is something you can train your brain to do by learning to bypass the limbic or emotional/irrational brain. That sounds complicated but the remedies are common things like breath work, mindfulness, solid sleep, journalling, and keeping your daily stress low.
Please don’t smack me.
I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, right. If I could keep my daily stress low I could sleep soundly, be mindful, and do deep breathing. But that’s not what’s happening, so what now?
Well, as you might have guessed, there’s no magic pill, but by doing these things one step at a time, you can reach a place of where it’s possible to breathe and decide how you’re going to respond to a situation that used to trigger you into a big reaction.
With more calm in your everyday life, stress lowers. Understanding what you need as an HSP and how to take the small steps to get your cup filled on the regular makes all the difference in the world.
I’m so confident that you too can do this that I’ve created an 8-week program so you can integrate these practices and experience that calm for yourself in the shortest, simplest way.
When you put the small steps into place you’ll be able to serenely respond to situations, reduce overthinking, and instead use your brain for things that are really important to you. You’ll be able to relax knowing that no matter what’s going on in your life you can handle it.
What a way to stride into the holidays!
I invite you to think about who you could be if you were able to stop worrying about your reactions, let go of constantly processing your interactions, and end the feeling that stress and exhaustion are running your life. What would that look like? What would it feel like?
I’ll be back Friday with another thought-provoking, information-packed email, and I’ll tell you more about this fantastic fall program.