2 Herbs To Relieve Anxiety

Emotional Healing - HSP Health Blog

Nervous system tree © by Mizrak

As a highly sensitive person, do you experience anxiety?

Highly sensitive people are like the nervous system tree above –  a large hypersensitive nervous system often on overhead.

Each HSP handles overstimulation differently.

Some who suffer from excessive stress as well as sensory overload, develop anxiety.

Could that be you?

Why HSP’s Need Strategies For Anxiety

Whether you feel you anxiety symptoms are manageable or whether you are concerned that your symptoms are chronic and increasingly debilitating, as a highly sensitive person you need to develop strategies to handle stress and anxiety.

Highly sensitive people cannot escape the affect of chronic demands on their nervous systems. At some point, the consequences of excess anxiety will show up as an illness. Excessive stress overtime raises the blood sugar. It puts the body into a state of emergency which draws on all the energy stores of the body.

No one can withstand a constant state of emergency on the body. If unaddressed many people develop metabolic disorder and eventually diabetes. Highly sensitive people are in danger of developing a chronic disease if they do not manage their stress and anxiety well.

What Can You Do To Relieve Your Anxiety?

There are some obvious things you can do for anxiety:

  • take stock of you life and consider what is essential and what is not.
  • remove anything that is draining your time and energy and making it harder to manage your stress levels. I know that this can be easier said than done, but it is important to do. There are ways to make it easier:
    • you can start small and do it gradually.
    • under other circumstances it is better to tackle the most anxiety producing problem first. Perhaps some people need to be told that you will be unavailable for awhile due to other commitments (you), or some activities that you feel pressured to do, community activities would be an example, will need to be tabled.
  • learn to meditate. It works wonders to relieve the brain and creates mental rest.
  • try to do a little exercise each day. Yoga, NIA and ecstatic dance can all be done in a few minutes and will help your stress levels.
  • get a good nights sleep. Your body will process the days events and help repair your nervous system during your sleeping hours.
  • healthy food and water make a difference as well. A good meal makes your body feel good and that helps relax it. The wrong food does not feel good to your body and creates its own form of stress.

How To Relieve Anxiety While You Are Changing Your Life

All of the above suggestions take time. Creating a healthy life for yourself is a process. It is important to make sure you can see it through. In order to do so, there are a number of Ayurvedic herbs that can help you relieve stress while you are making changes:

  1. ashwaghandha: this herb is a very well known herb considered the most important for relieving stress symptoms. Also known as Indian ginseng, ashwaghandha helps you resist many forms of stress. It improves your body’s defenses by strengthening your physical defenses, and provides healing for the nervous system. Ashwaghanda relieves symptoms of stress like insomnia and nervous exhaustion. It acts as a sedative to the nervous system which enables you to recover from nervous stress and exhaustion. In addition, it works on the brain and nervous system and is known to reduce cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol levels over time lead to metabolic disorder and create the conditions for other illnesses to energy.
  2. brahmi  is another useful herb to use. It fulfills a slightly different function. Brahmi works more on the brain to improve mental functioning, including cognitive function and memory problems. When under stress we often do not think well. Brahmi helps your brain function better under conditions of stress and anxiety.

Anxiety Relief Strategies

Relieving anxiety for highly sensitive people is a big challenge. Each person needs to develop what works for them.

It is important to make space for change in your life. Any healthy living practices will bring relief to the body but it is often better to make one or two changes at a time and fully integrate them. Although it is a process, it will result in more permanent change and make it easier for you to handle the anxiety you already have while minimizing the anxiety of change.

NOTE: HSP Health has an affiliate relationship with Lifespa.

FacebookGoogle+LinkedInPinterestShare/Bookmark

In Search Of A Real Conversation

I like a real conversation.

I do not like a faux conversation.

I do not like pretend conversations.

I do not like manipulative conversations.

It can be quiet around me.

What Is A Real Conversation, Anyway?

It probably sounds silly and perhaps a little whiney – but what is a real conversation?

It may be easier to talk about what it is not.

I have no trouble with people being pleasant with each other except when it becomes so rigid that real issues and problems cannot be discussed.

A real conversation talks about what is and needs to be.

When I see conversations that are stiffly pleasant, I often think people are talking to what they want life to be like rather than what is.

I don’t want conversations that feel like some sort of weird dream. I prefer a conversation that feels robust and timely. It should be present.

A real conversation is present.

A real conversation doesn’t nee to manipulate.

I have enough going on, I don’t really have the time.

A real conversation does not demand a big acting job on the part of others. There is nothing to gain or lose. There is just the getting on with it.

Real Conversation Is Slow

Real conversation is slow. It starts but does not necessarily end at the same time. I like the kind of conversations that feel like a kind of weaving of information, thoughts and feelings.

The results are not the primary concern, the exchange is.

It makes the conversation less about an agenda or result and more about groundedness.

Conversation can be a way to ground.

A real conversation does not have winners or losers.

A real conversation doesn’t have rules or authority. What is is the authority.

A Real Conversation Is Lighter

A real conversation is lighter because it doesn’t need rules, roles, poses, and agendas.

It is grounded in the present and stays there. There is no place to go. Just a place to be.

It’s also a place here anyone can be. There is no exclusion because we are all here in this present.

So a real conversation can make life easier and more enjoyable.

I also think it makes life more companionable, since there is no competition.

A real conversation is a place for friends.

HSP Identity: A Plant In The Right Place

My name is Lisa McLoughlin and I am from Green Alder coaching, based in the UK.

I would like to share a personal account of my journey to discover that I am an HSP.

Is There Something Wrong With Me?

Most of my life I felt like a weed— not belonging to my environment. Being a weed was a bad thing and needed to be fixed, eradicated, changed, and just a blot on the landscape.

I often wondered, “If only I could be like all the others…the ornamental and outrageously colorful, extravagant man-made plants (people)…perhaps my life would be easier on me?”

Well, what is a weed? ‘A plant growing in the wrong place’ is the commonly accepted description. But wait a moment, how are we to know it is in the wrong place?

The war on weeds began with the coming of intense farming and public opinion. Who’s to judge a plant and name it a weed when all it is doing is trying to survive? Surely, a weed is entitled to the same life as any other plant?

Despite mans’ persistence to eradicate weeds by hand and chemical weed killers (like the Extrovert Ideal), the war has never been won. The same old weeds show up in the same spots, demonstrating gritty resistance, and persisting through centuries of persecution.

You have to admire their tenacity!

It’s only recently that I have come to respect the weed and understand that it is a plant, that might not fit in with expectations of it’s environment, but it has just as many rights to thrive and flourish as any plant—often with useful properties and benefits to the environment. So, I am left asking, “What if a weed is entirely normal and just needs to stand proud and comfortably in its environment—room for us all?”

Harsh Words

So, my life—to date—has been built on the sense that I was flawed or damaged in some way and that my purpose in life was to fix myself and fit in with others around me.

“You will never set the world on fire…you are so quiet…you are boring…you are a swot…you are too sensitive….stop crying…toughen up…you have the McLoughlin bad-luck…you are self-absorbed…you don’t contribute” were some of the general comments I received through my childhood and adulthood.

I noticed the harsh words struck deep into my heart and I felt myself shrink into melancholy instead of flourishing in spite of them. The comments were like chemicals trying to eradicate the weed, so that an outgoing and colorful ornamental pansy would grow in its place—just like all the rest of the ornamentals’ in the garden.

How I Came To Feel Damaged

Deep down I quite liked myself. I loved my ability to paint & draw and my creative drive and imagination, my spirit, and the rich texture of my internal world.

I could quite easily entertain myself for hours and I thrived when my environment was nurturing and supportive of the unique me. I had an internal warrior-like fire of passion and persistence.

Why didn’t my inner brilliance show in my external world? Why couldn’t I shine and show who I really was?

Unfortunately, I had a tricky upbringing with a mixture of overprotective love from a mum wracked with anxiety and guilt, and a father who had a severe form of Multiple Sclerosis (since I was two-years-old). Boy, did my mum and dad struggle. But, they did the best that they could at the time.

My mum was cautious and my father was a gentle-giant of a man (an angel from heaven). My sister and I willingly tried to please them both; to make them proud, to soothe them, and make them happy. Due to our difficult circumstances, my sister and I were forced to grow-up before we were ready. I remember wrestling with my desperate need to stay as an imaginative child playing with my dolls, against the pull to be a responsible adult for my mum and dad’s sake. My sister and I were pulled into situations such as mopping my mothers brow as she cried herself to sleep (when my father was placed in a nursing home), or, at the age of ten, dragging my father from the front door to the living room chair—he crashed out of his wheelchair trying to let the dog in, whilst my mum was at an evening class. She found the three of us laid out exhausted on the living room floor.

It kind of deeply affects an HSP as you grow up. It blossoms and develops your kindness and empathy, but also caustically hurts to the point of feeling ‘damaged’ in some way.

The HSP Career Challenge

During my childhood and early adult life, I looked to external guidance on what I should do as a career— I just wanted to paint and draw. But I was gifted in school with regular ‘A’ grades. I confused everyone with my hard efforts to please, often waking at 4 am just to revise and get better grades; to make my mum and dad proud.

My internal compass went awry, and I reluctantly agreed to pursue the sciences which eventually led me to physiotherapy (a role that required extroversion, ability to be with many people and groups for long periods of time and constant interruptions from junior staff and NHS bureaucracy).

The whole of my physiotherapy career was a private hell. I tried self-improvement courses, numerous physiotherapy courses and general soul-searching to see if I could change myself and grow into the role—it never happened. I was glad to eventually find some peace with regular mindfulness meditation and yoga since 2008.

In my personal life I was naturally gravitating towards caring for the planet, positive news and healthy and nutritious food. Something inside of me was starting to take control and gain momentum—I liked the feeling. I became a voluntary Director of a Community Supported Agriculture Scheme (CSA) and trained in permaculture design.

I was instinctively averse to the regular negative news; depressing soap operas; seeing cruelty to humans, plants and animals; I even struggled to watch the harsh realities of a wildlife program. There was a continued tendency to feel overwhelmed in work (seeking solitude at lunchtimes), in my personal life, and I became frustrated that I did not seem to have the robustness as others did around me.

The Beginnings Of Change

As a misfit in my personal and work life, I eventually burned-out with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. It’s no surprise I was anxious, I had increasing pressures in a career I disliked, and my marriage was imploding.

I did not resonate with the label of social anxiety disorder, but it was a start for healing. I noticed myself shrinking and struggling with a husband who, although extremely supportive, did not know how to nurture me gently. He too saw me as broken; just like my family and me.

With a call to adventure and internally growing courage and inner trust, I had no choice but to follow my deep-down instincts—I realised that external advice and manipulation had not worked and was actually harming me.

I left my old life and gradually grew into myself.

My inner guidance lead me to coaching the quiet person, painting, drawing, Susan Cain, Elaine Aron, writing and to a beautiful replenishing and nurturing experience—my new life.  On this journey I serendipitously discovered I have been normal all the time—an introverted HSP. The power of knowing and feeling this label is immense.

I stand tall as a unique plant in exactly the right place!!!

Enhanced by Zemanta

20 Good Reasons to Have Clear Personal Boundaries

I was struck recently by the exceptionally high number of clients I see, whose inability to set firm personal boundaries is resulting in supersonic stress levels. Smart business people repeatedly compromised by unreliable colleagues, over demanding superiors or downright crooked clients; caring, supportive people with predatory partners or out of control children. People of integrity whose opportunistic friends, family or employees manipulate them mercilessly and drain their time and energy.

Why People Have Boundary Issues

Although their stories are all quite different, these are some common threads that connect people with boundary challenges:

  •  They are all natural born givers and people pleasers.
  •  Their personal boundaries are weak or non existent.
  •  Their goals are fuzzy.
  •  Their empathy triggers and guilt glands are super-sensitive.
  •  They are popular.

And that’s the clue.

Sometimes the personal price you pay for this kind of popularity can be way too high. Depending on others to peg your value is a fast track to stress. Why?  Because it means other people control your choices in everything you do. They always have the leverage advantage.

This not only leads to self sabotage but it can be dangerous too.

The Danger Of Approval

Being overly dependent on other’s approval can make you go against everything you value, if the threat of exclusion from what you perceive as any kind of “inner circle” is terrifying enough. The plots of many thrillers are based on exactly this dynamic. We all crave validation and respect but at what cost?

An inability to set healthy boundaries means sooner or later someone is going to have to pick up the slack—and your place in the popularity polls will plummet. The reason everyone loves you is probably because you do what they want—at the expense of what you want.

Whose life is this anyway?

Although it wasn’t always comfortable, growing up a wild child in a small town with an eccentric family certainly put people pleasing in its right place for me. I learned at an early age not to care too deeply about other people’s opinions. And this immunity to popular opinion helped me make my own rules. As far as I was concerned, if my actions gave those with empty lives something fascinating to focus on, I was performing a community service!

When people praise or validate you, accept it; enjoy it, but don’t become dependent on it. You know whether you have done well or not. Next time you are tempted to cave in order to win popularity, consider these

20 Benefits Of Boundary Building

  1. Setting boundaries saves time.
  2. Setting boundaries builds respectful relationships.
  3. Setting boundaries increases productivity—yours and everyone else’s.
  4. Setting boundaries enables a team to work as a team—everyone is headed in the same direction, towards the same clear goals.
  5. Setting boundaries builds accountability within your team—no passing the buck.
  6. Setting boundaries stops you feeling overwhelmed, resentful, victimized and stressed.
  7. Setting boundaries frees up energy and enthusiasm.
  8. Setting boundaries fosters confidence, leadership, and organizational abilities.
  9. Setting boundaries generates respect.
  10. Setting boundaries aids concentration and decision making.
  11. Setting boundaries creates a healthy balance between giving and taking.
  12. Setting boundaries allows you to take care of your own wellbeing.
  13. Setting boundaries leads to a happy, balanced life.
  14. Setting boundaries minimizes misunderstanding and conflict.
  15. Setting boundaries gives you a sense of control in your life.
  16. Setting boundaries makes delegating more effective.
  17. Setting boundaries teaches family and team members to think for themselves.
  18. Setting boundaries vastly improves communication—everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them.
  19. Setting boundaries goes a long way towards preventing bullying.
  20. Setting boundaries gives you an authentic sense of authority. Your boundary building expertise automatically acts as a map for the people who relate to you in any way.

The Benefits Of Strong Boundaries

Boundaries spell R E S P E C T on every level—and shape the way people respond to you. If you put inappropriate parts into a machine that is vital for production, will you get maximum production?

Success requires putting the right people, with the right qualities, in the right place, for the right reasons—in every area of your life. Yes you might well have to do some reshuffling to accomplish this. And people pleasers find this very painful. They would rather struggle on for years, having their relationships, careers or health sabotaged, dragging the deadweight of dead wood behind them, silently picking up the slack and stressing themselves into ill health—than just take a stand.

Drawing firm boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough about the bigger picture, to take the necessary actions.

It doesn’t mean you don’t like someone. It means you understand where they belong in your life—and where they don’t. It just means you are placing the right components in the right place to maximize the chances of a successful outcome for all. And yes, when you first install personal boundaries, you will face criticism. Not everyone will understand why, and some will take it personally, but they will get over it. And the wear and tear on your stress-o-meter will be worth it a thousand times over.

What do you think?

Love Your Defenses!

So many defenses.

I feel like my life is often about bumping into defenses of one kind or another.

Dealing with defenses feels like walking through a field of hay.  With each step you meet  a new stalk(defense) that obscures your vision and parts as you walk only to reveal a new defense.

Often the defenses I bump into are the defenses of other people.

I dislike bumping into them because in doing so the relationships changes – often not for the better.

When defenses show themselves, the relationship door usually closes even if only for a moment and we realize we are not welcome.

That happens to highly sensitive people a lot.

Of course, sometime defenses are our own because we get hurt and our healing is not easy.

What Are Defense Mechanisms?

According to Dictionary, a defense mechanism is:

an unconscious process, as denial, that protects an individual from unacceptable or painful ideas or impulses.

Defenses are a way for us to like ourselves in painful circumstances. They are a way for us to make sense of something that does not work for us.

They are a way of taking care of ourselves.

Denial is an important word here because defenses are often meant to protect us from a shock to our systems, and sense of self that we are unable to process and handle.

Defenses Can Create A Healing Space

I respect defenses even if I consider them to be toxic sometimes.

I understand that they have a purpose.

In the case of people who have suffered a serious trauma they can be life saving by creating a space for the healing process. I don’t think anyone should be denied their healing space.

We highly sensitive people are often harmed, sometimes seriously. Our ranks have many who have suffered serious child abuse. We can have defenses as a way of protecting ourselves from further harm.

Often however, we know that our healing takes a lot of time and the world has little patience with our healing needs. So our defenses can protect us from intolerance that only makes our pain greater.

At least that has been my experience.

Sometimes Defenses Do Not Help

Sometimes our defenses may create a healing space for us but not necessarily help us heal. It could be that in spite of ourselves we are reinjuring.

It could be that we have been and are subjected to the wound of prejudice and it does not heal.

It could be that our injuries are so serious and grave that we need a lot of time for healing. Then we need to be kind to ourselves.

It could be that we are in a situation that causes us ongoing pain. Perhaps for some reason we are unable to make a change that will make the situation better.

Sometimes we have to accept the world as it is – with all its faults, let go of it, and make the life we deserve.

What Our Defenses Are Missing

Sometimes our defenses miss a lot.

They can miss our deservingness.

They can miss the generosity we receive.

They can miss our creative gifts.

Sometimes our defenses want something that is not there and will not be. As long as we seek what we are missing we will not have a better life that we can create.

I admit it is hard to let go.

Handling Your Defenses

Defenses deserve to be taken seriously.

We can use them as clues that we are missing something and often not what we think.

We can use them to be good detectives for our well being and the well being of those around us.

We can get that denial out on the table and ask it to help us see what needs to be seen.

We can appreciate ourselves for caring about ourselves and each other.

We can let our defenses lead us to something better, kinder, and more rewarding.

But first we have to open the door and go wading in the field of our pain to hear what it is telling us.

When we do we will be greeted by a breeze of relief, and healing.

Bullies And Introverts: How HSP’s Can Help Themselves

Bullies And Introverts - HSP Health
Creative Commons License photo credit: thienzieyung

Bullies and introverts do not mix.

How Bullies And Introverts Are Different

Bullies and bullying can be a troublesome challenge for highly sensitive people, who are most often introverts and there are many reasons why that is the case:

  1. HSP’s are usually not very aggressive and usually do not have an aggressive agenda. Bullies often have an aggressive agenda.  So the goals of bullies and introverts are usually in conflict and they often lack common ground in their interactions.
  2. Bullies are very territorial; HSP’s not so much – they are more holistic and complex.
  3. HSP’s are not necessarily the greatest fighters. Bullies may sense that and that may be one reason that bullies go after them. HSP’s have a more poetic nature which bullies may not be able to relate to.
  4. HSP’s are not the fastest people at most activities. Because of the volume of information that highly sensitive people process, they cannot be fast.  It takes time for HSP’s to arrive at opinions and conclusions. Conscientiousness is one of an HSP’s best qualities, but it means that they can be taken advantage of  by an aggressive person.
  5. Bullies often use pressure to obtain a result; introverts do not respond well to pressure.
  6. HSP’s tend to have a holistic and sometime fairly complex worldview which is the antithesis of a bully’s us vs. them thinking.
  7. HSP’s often dislike competition because they are less adversarial in their viewpoint; a bully may see life on more competitive terms.
  8. HSP’s tend to be introverted by nature and for self protection.  As a result, they may not be well known to their social peers, and may even seem standoffish. Therefore, their social support may be weak and it may make it harder to obtain assistance when dealing with a bully.

How HSP’s Can Handle Bullies

Handling bullies is a difficult challenge for highly sensitive people. Assuming you need to put up with a bully in your life, here are some things you can do to make your life easier in dealing with the bully:
  • don’t expect to change a bully. They are not likely to appreciate your sensitive nature.
  • let your sensitivity help you by enabling it to increase your perceived value in others. High perceived value will translate into greater respect and make you less of a target for bullies.
  • bullies often look for easy targets. So make it hard for them to see you as a target. You may not be friends but you don’y necessarily have to be enemies.
  • if a bully is hard for you to handle  directly, try interacting with associates and developing your relationships among people who interact with the bully. A bully will not attack someone if in doing so they lose face.
  • make your perceived value as public as possible. The less visible and known your value is the easier it is for a bully to take advantage of you.
It is extremely important for highly sensitive people to attempt to create a social presence and counteract the isolation that can make them vulnerable.  Cultivating a social role that creates the perception of value among peers can be great insurance.  Bullies and introverts may not make great natural friends, so social self protection can be a good investment.

Criticism Is Not Problem Solving

Criticism

Inner Critic © by anthom

Much has been written about criticism and the inner critic.

So why another article?

It seems to me that we take criticism for granted as an OK thing to do.

Perhaps it is our consumer culture run amok. Isn’t complaining how you get something done?

Maybe to some but I think we need a rethink about this topic.

Does Criticism Really Solve Problems?

I don’t think so.

Criticism is not problem solving. Criticism often feels intense, but criticism can be deceptive because it feels as if we are doing something when we are criticizing someone or something. However, more often than not we are not really doing anything when we criticize except putting our displeasure on someone else.

I am not suggesting that all criticism is a mistake – far from it. Without displeasure and criticism we could not improve and progress.

However, all criticism is not equal. In our consumer culture, convenience is an expectation and the absence of it often treated as a problem. This is one  kind of criticism that deserves questioning. Were we promised a convenient world?

Criticism And The Need To Be Right

Criticism can often feel strange or a little bit unreal. After all, the sun does not rise and judge us. The wind does not criticize us. A red light will not mouth off at us when we are driving through it. So criticism is our personal expression of some sort of disharmony, dissonance or displeasure.

Implicit in any criticism or judgment is the thinking that there is a right way to think, be, or do something. This is another form of criticism that deserves questioning.

One of the biggest difficulties people have in relinquishing their critical views is that they may feel that their point of view is perfectly reasonable – and they may be right. However, the result of being right and reasonable creates an obstacle to problem solving. Instead of seeking solutions to problems by opening themselves to ideas, many people turn others into the “problem” and are off and running trying to fix their identified “problem”.

Curiosity: The Missing Link

So what is wrong with this picture?  For starters, something is missing.

One thing that is missing is curiosity. Curiosity is a wonderful way to find a bridge between perceptual differences. Curiosity is about possibility whereas criticism is often about lack.  Curiosity can help us see better when we are willing to learn.

Curiosity takes a fixed position and opens it up to new ideas. It enables an individual to engage a conflict with beginners mind and find a solution to whatever the problem is. Being curious softens self righteous and entrenched positions.

Criticism often comes from a fixed perspective because it assumes that a “right” answer in advance so most differences will be seen as wrong.

A fixed position is often outcome oriented so an individual with a fixed perspective will have more difficulty understanding an unexpected result than someone who recognizes the fluid nature of processes and the potential and likelihood of different outcomes.

HSP’s And Criticism

Highly sensitive people are frequently faced with many critics because of their different perceptions, talents, and processing capabilities.  They will often be misunderstood.  By trying to shift the interpersonal ground from criticism to problem solving  by inviting curiosity they have a greater chance of improved outcomes for themselves and others.

For Additional Information:

Toxic Criticism

Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity


5 Ways HSP’s Can Minimize Social Anxiety

lone little boy
Creative Commons License photo credit: nandadevieast
For highly sensitive people, social anxiety is an especially serious problem because HSP’s are different and because their values, perceptions and experiences often do not mirror the Western competitive model.

You know how it feels when you have a social event to attend and your anxiety levels start to rise. HSP’s are likely to feel particularly anxious and often want to mentally prepare for anything they do including socializing. It is hard, however, to prepare for something that is spontaneous. If a highly sensitive person expects hostility or a lack of acceptance, their social anxiety will likely be even greater and it will be harder for them to enjoy the event and the people there.

Highly sensitive people are the holistic thinkers of the world which means that HSP’s do not have a combative mindset. As a result they can be slow to respond to an aggressive individual which can create social discomfort and embarrassment.  Verbal aggression can be very hard to handle for HSP’s because of their empathetic natures.

HSP values are the opposite of the capitalistic model. That so many people embrace competitive individualism in the United States is not an accident since the cultural system deemphasizes community.  Because the values and goals of our society are different from HSP communitarian values, highly sensitive people have a challenge because they do not share common cultural ground with many other people.

Highly sensitive people can be wonderful friends, a characteristic which can be the basis for effective socializing. Here are 5 approaches that help HSP’s develop perspective and effective choices about social situations:

  1. Think of your common ground with others as a human common ground not  necessarily a cultural one.  Your capacity for friendship is a way to elevate people around you and enables you to lighten up. By adopting the role of friend, you are less at the mercy of how others identify you, since you have decided your role in advance. No matter what the outcome of a social interaction, you can be at peace with your positive role.
  2. Accept that you cannot win them all.  You are not a failure if  you are not friends will all people.  You may be inclusive and friendly but that does not guarantee that someone else is. Many people think modesty, humility, generosity and kindness are weaknesses and you probably will not change them.  If your values are very different from the people close to you that can be a hurtful situation – one that has to be dealt with by strong stress relief practices and cultivating supportive friends. Long term painful family situations often require therapy.
  3. Be selective about your involvements.  If your job requires huge amounts of energy due to negative politics and a lot of negative competition, make sure you balance your life in off hours with restorative activities.
  4. Look for roles that you are comfortable with that you can play in social situations. Many highly sensitive people are incredible knowledge resources.  Others are healers.  Use your strengths to establish your value with a group; it will help minimize or neutralize  perceptions about your being different and help you to be accepted.
  5. Beware of lightworker fatigue.  I hope this does not become a new class of illness. There is a change in human consciousness that is happening at this time, but it will take time.  Many highly sensitive people are part of the process of change, but it is very hard work.  It is important for HSP’s to respect themselves for their hard work. Taking care of your health and practicing serious stress reduction techniques, will help you be more effective in the long term.
How to minimize stress? Ultimately, taking a long term view, pacing yourself, being a good friend to yourself and others, and good self care can help highly sensitive people reduce their social anxiety so that they can enjoy other people more.

Causes Of Social Phobia

.
Creative Commons License photo credit: CMMooney

It is useful for highly sensitive people to understand the causes of social phobia which often result in the crippling self consciousness and which can contribute to the HSP tendency to have an introverted personality.

Social Phobia is sometimes referred to either as Generalized Social Phobia, which NIMH states is the most common anxiety disorder, or Social Anxiety Disorder.

In 2008, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released the results of a study: Social Phobia Patients Have Heightened Reactions to Negative Comments. The researchers used functional brain imaging tools, fMRI, to map brain reactions to a variety of negative verbal expressions.  It was found that those people with social phobia had heightened brain responses only to negative comments about themselves.

The study made evident that people with social phobia are extremely afraid of being judged by other people.  The researchers were able to observe that two different sections of the brain became activated when negative comments were made to people with social phobia: the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) which is involved in the sense and evaluation of self and the amygdala which is central to emotional processing.  According to the Free Library, “the medial prefrontal cortex is involved in imagining, thinking about yourself and “theory of mind,” which encompasses the ability to figure out what others think, feel or believe and to recognize that other people have different thoughts, feelings and beliefs from you.”

This would suggest a connection between criticism and fear in the person with social phobia.  In this research, the concern in the patient was raised by criticism, but only criticism towards themselves generated a brain reaction.  It raises a question about criticism that is worth exploring: why would one person be afraid of criticism and another would not be afraid?

As we learn more and more about our brains, it is becoming apparent that one way our brains develop is through social interaction.  The social group has been the cornerstone of our survival and our education from the earliest days of human history. When we are young we need  the support of our families and social group, and therefore must get along with them for our survival.  Rejection by our families is a serious matter, and in a child, will be perceived as a matter of life and death.

Therefore in families where criticism is perceived also as a rejection, a child will have a different experience and reaction than a child who grows up in a family that accepts him/her and criticism is not a sign of rejection.  In other words, when the child experiences affection in spite of a criticism they can have a different experience than the child who has the experience of criticism which is delivered in a rejecting or abusive way.

Since the medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala areas of the brain are activated when social phobes are criticized, the implication is that criticism implies a serious imminent threat.  Many people with social phobia are HSP’s, which means they are different. For them, criticism may be seen as threatening because being different raises the potential of rejection by the group and therefore jeopardize their survival.

Perhaps being different for many highly sensitive people has meant the experience of significant early rejection or a significant fear of rejection that causes their brains respond to all criticism with concern.  Highly sensitive people can reduce their phobia if they can accept their uniqueness and find a way to make their uniqueness a valuable contribution to their social groups.

The Loneliness Problem

MARUYAMA Zoo - Loneliness. © by MJ/TR (´・ω・)

If we took a survey of HSP’s, how many would say they are lonely? Loneliness is not the same as being alone. Being alone and enjoying it come from our full engagement with life.  Loneliness is something else.

Loneliness often feels like we have been graded and found wanting.  It feels like a suffocating prison to which we do not hold the key. When we experience loneliness, we often experience it as a form of rejection. Sometimes it feels like we are in a different place from everyone else, and so we feel the loneliness of our difference. Our inability to find or share common ground can give rise to feelings of loneliness.

Being a highly sensitive person inevitably invites lonely feelings just because of who we are.  Because we perceive and experience differently we are often at a disadvantage in our relationships. On an interpersonal basis sharing differences in perception and experience is not so difficult.  The greater difficulty comes from not really sharing the language of a culture that is the basis for interpersonal exchange. The sensitivities and values difference that come from a holistic living experience are hard to integrate into an us vs. them culture.

Highly sensitive people have much to give in a world that often does not want what we have to offer. Our hearts are so big but they are often big by themselves. It feels like you are out on a limb in a world that wants to chop it down at any moment.  Very risky! Yet you cannot do otherwise, because you would then be betraying yourself.  So you therefore carry the torch even if no one can see it, even when you feel foolish, hoping that at some point the world will stop long enough to see that there is no them, and that then you will not be lonely any more.