Does this sound familiar?
You’re going about your day when something catches you completely off guard. In a flash, your body comes alive with energy, your head is foggy, your thoughts spin, and your hands feel clammy. Your emotions are huge, overwhelming. Shame, anger, and/or fear overtake you and you want to lash out/hide/run away. You might feel frozen.
When I was younger, I was looking for permission. Permission to be me.
Looking back, I see that I was carrying around a wound. A wound that created the belief, "I don't fit in and something is fundamentally wrong with me."
We're here. We've arrived at THE HOLIDAYS (insert dramatic duh-duh-DUH music). What a mixed-bag the holidays are. Some people love them, others hate them, and most people fall somewhere in the middle.
Here in the U.S., we're about to celebrate Thanksgiving. At this point in history, Thanksgiving is a day where families typically share a meal together and (maybe) think about what they're thankful for.
However, what happens when your family is....complicated (in-addition to turkey, you're being served passive-aggression, arguments, and stress)?
A little while ago, The Sensitivity Summit took place. Did you get to see it? It was an amazing experience to speak amongst a group of experts in the field of high sensitivity. I received an enthusiastic response to my talk, so I'm very excited to get to share the recording of my talk with you. The recordings are being kept private, so this is the only place to access it!
I went into this talk planning to focus on the resilience of Highly Sensitive People (which we did), but we also ended up delving quite a bit into HSPs and trauma. I also shared about my own childhood hardship and the ways it affected me as an adult.
Do you ever feel at as loss as to what to do with your emotions? They can get so big and intense sometimes, you may not know what to do with them.
You might fear that if you fully surrendered to them, you'd become totally overwhelmed, never stop crying, or become non-functional.
I used to think that there were only a couple options when it came to emotions: let them control and overtake me or keep them suppressed and locked away. So most of the time I'd choose to compartmentalize them, stuffing them down by disconnecting from myself or distracting myself with social media or comfort food.
We’re solidly in Summer now, and here in Colorado, we've gone from having a snowstorm in May to temperatures in the 90’s in June! The above photo is a gorgeous view of the mountains from where I am.
Not only has the weather been in a state of flux; It's also been a time of massive transition personally:
5 weeks ago, I moved homes.
A week later, we wrapped up Intuitive Warrior’s Flourish Program.
In the midst of all that, I'm engaged and planning a wedding.
We all know that grounding and restorative activity like Hatha yoga or swimming can help calm our sensitive nervous systems. But what about when you want something high-impact? What about when you want to push yourself?
I remember walking into the “Cardio Sculpt” class at my gym. I was in the mood for something challenging and intense. I had energy to burn and was ready to channel it. I was feeling motivated and confident…until the instructor turned on the music.
If you’re like me, you want to feel proud of who you are and confident in being you. Sometimes, you do: you love your intuitiveness and appreciate the powerful and profound way in which you see the world.
But you still question yourself and everything around you, constantly turning over every stone in your mind. It seems like you're bombarded with so many more feelings than others, and that you feel them more deeply.
Sometimes we wonder if something is wrong with us.
Perfectionism is the pursuit of an ideal way of being: how we act and look or what we achieve, for example. These ideals are often culture-created but can also come from within.
Purpose-driven Highly Sensitive People are at risk of falling into the trap of perfectionism. You may think there’s an “ideal you” out there that, once attained, will make life smooth sailing.
Dear HSP, I know how painful that is. And I know I could tell you how loveable you are right now, in this moment, exactly as you are. But I know it's not as easy as that.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Your stomach clenches as you watch the news, and you feel the suffering of people you’re hearing about.
Your friend or family member is struggling and you don’t just feel sad for them; you feel their pain in your body, almost like it’s happening to you.
Your child is crying, and their distress is excruciating to witness. It’s hard to detach and let them “just cry it out.” Or, if you’re not a parent, just hearing a baby scream can upset you and quicken your pulse.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), other people’s feelings affect you. A lot.
People don’t even have to tell you how they’re feeling for you to know that they’re frustrated or stressed. You pick up on their mood through their facial expressions, tone and energy.
Do you ever dream about going a week without feeling overwhelmed? The idea of sailing through stressors without feeling battered by them can seem out of reach.
You sometimes know what’s causing your stress: traffic was awful or your relationship with your significant other is rocky, for example.
Other times, you have no idea why you’re feeling the way you do. Life is just...TOO MUCH. Everything, from the rush of daily life, to other people’s energies, to that stressful situation you can’t figure out how to solve- it all adds up to a feeling of exhaustion and burnout.
As Highly Sensitive People, we process everything so deeply- the things we hear, see and feel (to name a few). And we take our responsibilities seriously- sometimes to a degree that overwhelms us.
If you're not sure whether you're maxed out, here are some of the symptoms of burnout (graphic courtesy of journey_to_wellness on IG):
Signs of Burnout:
For over a decade, a certain group of people have come into my office for therapy. They’ve sat opposite me and shown me how people judge them, and how it’s affected the way they judge themselves.
I see people constantly second-guessing their decisions, questioning their feelings and reactions. They didn't start doing this on their own; their upbringing contributed to these patterns of behavior, this way of being.
As a therapist who works with highly sensitive people (HSPs) — and a highly sensitive person myself — fellow HSPs often ask me, “How in the world do you do what you do? I could never be a therapist!”
Of course, I know what they’re really asking: “How do you not take on all the emotion of others? How do you empathize so deeply and not get overwhelmed or exhausted?”
I understand their question completely.
With spring here, it's impossible to miss all the ads and articles about 'spring cleaning'. I like the idea that as new growth sprouts up from the natural world, we have the opportunity to start fresh in our physical world too.
Wouldn't it be great if we could also start fresh in our bodies, hearts, and minds? Rarely, however, will you hear talk about 'emotional spring cleaning'.
Emotional spring cleaning is the opportunity to hit the refresh button on mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. Particularly as Intuitive Warriors (Highly Sensitive People), we have the tendency to hold onto things- thoughts, feelings, energies, and memories.
Brooke Nielsen, LMFT
Brooke Nielsen, LMFT has dedicated over 10,000 hours to supporting Highly Sensitive People as a psychotherapist and global HSP consultant. She practices psychotherapy in Boulder, CO and specializes in working with sensitivity and healing of trauma (EMDR). She's also the founder of Intuitive Warrior, an online platform offering resources and support to Highly Sensitive People worldwide. An HSP herself, Brooke went years feeling overwhelmed and anxious before learning how to support her finely-tuned nervous system. She considers it a joy and an honor to get to pass that knowledge and support on to others.
You are a gift to the world. You aren't alone. We need you here.