6 Ways To Stop Stress From Sabotaging You

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Source: Morguefile

It’s hard to believe but there was a time in my life when I was dogged by one stressful incident after another. I could attract a stressful situation from another solar system! And this is the formula that not only killed those stressful programs stone dead, but led me to my vocation.

Number 1: Never Take Stressful Incidents Personally

It is very dangerous to IDENTIFY YOURSELF as a stress magnet—thereby adding emotional power—which through repetition encodes this erroneous belief deep in your subconscious mind.

When I realized that the world wasn’t out to get me I laughed. What arrogance we can have when we’re in a victim state! What would lead me to believe that the world revolved around me to such an extent that it had nothing better to do (with 7 billion souls in the game) than victimize me and watch me squirm for fun!

By taking each stressful incident personally I identified with it, branded myself as a victim of stress—thereby installing a program that set me up for similar experiences again and again I am a magnet for stress…I can see the evidence…and no matter how hard I try, I keep getting victimized

On brutally honest examination I became aware that there was a “poor me” pay-off that kept me repeating these experiences. This is how it went no matter how hard I soldier on, I keep getting covered in crap (look how bravely I keep putting myself in the line of fire)!

Ultimately, I understood that I was not the universal “stress target”. My self talk program changed to shit happens and I am unconsciously putting myself in its path! I am going to get out of the way from now on. And guess what? It stopped happening.

Number 2: Don’t Let The Stressful Stuff Pile Up

These are lots of little molehills—not one insurmountable psychological Everest. They are separate incidents and need to be dealt with separately one at a time. When we slip into overwhelm even things that have nothing to do with our direct experience get added into the mix. You hear something depressing on the news and you add it to your stress pack; a friend tells you a sad story and you add it to your stress pack. Something breaks or gets stolen and you add it to your stress pack.

Depressing news is all around us all the time. People tell sad stories all the time. Things break or get stolen all the time. That’s life. These things happen. Plans don’t always come together as we envisage them. Who gave you the stress franchise? It’s not just your experience. It’s every human’s experience from time to time.

Number 3: Learn From Repeating Stressful Situations

If SIMILAR stressful situations keep happening there is something YOU are not learning and applying that keeps them recurring. You are repeatedly using a strategy that you know from previous experience is not going to have the outcome you desire. So change the strategy!

I used to move on too quickly from my less-than-comfortable experiences, before evaluating the part I HAD PLAYED in them. I just put my foot on the gas and headed straight for the next disaster. But then having branded myself a victim, of course I couldn’t take responsibility—that would have blown my award winning victim role right out of the water!

Because I failed to take ownership I couldn’t relate it to something I was doing or not doing. Hey I’m the one being picked on I would tell myself, it can’t be me that’s co-creating this mess. So I never learned the lessons inherent in these experiences. I just kept stepping into the same pile of poo. It really didn’t occur to me that I could choose another route.

Sometimes it’s not what we are actively doing to keep this stress cycle repeating—it’s what we are NOT doing. It can be negligence, impulsiveness, people pleasing and not setting personal boundaries. It can be that we are not expecting a return on our efforts; undervaluing ourselves or being too unassertive.

Number 4: Set Boundaries

If you want to become immune to stress—start setting boundaries Protecting your wellbeing needs to be your first priority. From the moment I made respect boundaries top of my agenda on a daily basis in every level of my life—the stress disappeared.

Number 5: Are You Using Stress As An Excuse?

Accept that you are USING STRESS AS AN EXCUSE to evade responsibility and commit to action. Then things will change! Ask yourself how it is possible for someone as smart, capable and valuable as you to keep repeatedly experiencing these situations. It can only be an unconscious belief program that keeps drawing you back again and again. When I identified the part I was playing in this stress game and changed my behavior and beliefs—the stress cycle stopped. This is not for the faint hearted—brutal honesty is called for.

Number 6: Repetitive Experiences Are A Clue

The repetitive experiences in your life are a diagnostic clue. This is how self sabotage works—we unconsciously install a victim program with some kind of “pay off”. And for as long as we are benefiting from this “pay off” we will never solve the problem. We just keep putting ourselves in a position where the pattern repeats again and again—like lab rats pressing a button to get a reward. The names and places may be different but the dynamic is the same.

Mastering Stress

If you use these 6 strategies you cannot fail to defeat your stress saboteur. There will still be countless potential stresses around you on a daily basis.

  1. Never take stressful incidents personally.
  2. Never group all the stressful stuff together and make a mountain out of it.
  3. If SIMILAR stressful situations keep happening—there is something YOU are not learning and applying that keeps them recurring.
  4. One of the first skills to master if you want to become immune to stress is boundary setting
  5. Accept that you are USING STRESS AS AN EXCUSE to evade responsibility and commit to action.
  6. The repetitive experiences in your life are a clue to where the problem lies.

 There will always be stressful situations around you (just like everyone else) but they won’t have your name on them. They won’t follow you everywhere you go like a bad smell. Why? Because YOU will be consciously directing your life!

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Being Present: All You Really Need

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Source: Morguefie

Being present is often treated as something to strive for. It is a kind of Holy Grail of spirituality and well being.

Being present is where you live when your head is out of the way.

Why is it so elusive?

How Our Heads Get In The Way

It never ceases to amaze me how much our heads get in the way of living well and enjoying life. It happens so innocently, too.

Our heads which are in the business of helping us and trying to make sure we survive, grapple with our environments and questions about our lives and ourselves in an attempt to make our lives worthwhile. Our brains start at a very young age with the business of making meaning. Our immature brains do not know that when we are young we are unable to fully make meaning. However, our young brains are undaunted by what we do not know and plunge into the complex waters of meaning.

Our meaning makers bump up against the meaning makers of our parents and families as well as our cultures. A lot of mistakes get made in the area of meaning, resulting in prejudice and stereotypes that we then have to work awfully hard to eradicate.

Once we have made meaning, then we continually work with that meaning as we make a life in the world. So we are often drawn back to the past as we try to come to terms with mistaken conclusions we have formed about ourselves and others. So naturally being present is out of the question.

How we made meaning can affect our view of the future and whether or not we over focus on the future. If we learned to dread our environment as a child we may have a recurring and habitual dread and project that on to the future. If we experience a lot of chaos as a child we may come to expect that out future will be the same.

Childhood Costs Us Our Ability To Be Present

Inevitably we experience the holes in development of our families and out cultures as a child. These experiences, whether mild or severe, cause us to develop defenses around our selves and our relationships with others. We learn to fear, which takes us out of our natural loving natures. Fear and being present are antithetical to one another. Fear may be rational or irrational; when it arises it generally puts us into our heads and not in the present. Unless, of course we are being chased by a tiger, then we cannot not be present.

We lose our ability to be present in childhood for several reasons:

  • we have to survive and are dependent on others so we become attuned to our families as a survival mechanism
  • we learn the rules, roles and expectations of our culture which cause us to want to do what is expected
  • cultures create rewards for our conformity and we learn to seek those rewards as validation of our goodness and worthiness.

Belonging is nice but it is often achieved by giving up our true selves. Being popular can feel good and it can also become something that we come to depend on as a part of our identity. We may have gained many skills and experiences from childhood to adulthood. Often, however, we enter adulthood having bonded with our culture but having lost our ability to be present to the awesomeness of the living world.

Why It Is Hard To Be Present

Being present is difficult for a number of reasons:

  • being present reminds us of our aloneness. When being present, you are more aware of yourself as a contributor to the world with full responsibility for your actions and decisions. You are also more aware of the fact that no one can make your decisions or take your actions but yourself.
  • being present reminds of our anonymity or invisibility. Being present can make us aware of our actions wile at the same time reminding us that we are only one person in a multi-billion person tribe in a world with even larger numbers of other species. It can be humbling.
  • being present can remind us of how temporary everything is – so it can remind us of our own death.

Being present can raise fears that make it hard to take that leap of faith into the abundance that it offers us.

The Gifts Of Being Present

Being present means that you are awake to:

  • what is and also what is not
  • the limitlessness of time and space
  • the unknown and the treasures that you may find
  • the creative potential of each moment to manifest healing, and new ways of living
  • the freshness and innocence of each new moment
  • the gift of being alive which you share with all other beings
  • the courage of being present
  • the necessity of being present
  • the joy of being present.

All roads in life lead to the present. It is our shared home with all other living beings. It is where we decide to let go and heal. It is where we take a chance on ourself, someone else, and where we offer something new.

Being present is where the hope is.

See you there!

20 Good Reasons to Have Clear Personal Boundaries

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Source: Morguefile

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.

Who Has Difficulty With Personal Boundaries?

Although their stories are all quite different, these are some common threads of boundary challendthat connect them.

  • 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.

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!

20 Benefits Of Boundary Building

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.

Advantages Of Developing Great Boundaries

Boundaries spell R E S P E C T on every leveland 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?

How Highly Sensitive People Can Prevent Burnout

 

If you feel stretched beyond your limit you are not alone. The crushing workloads and stress of so many highly sensitive people  are a prescription for burnout.

You would think that avoiding burnout would simply be a matter of not crossing a threshold of fatigue.

Burnout is not that simple.

Many people in our fast-paced world burn out from the daily demands even if they are not highly sensitive.

For highly sensitive people the problem of burnout is amplified by their naturally higher stress levels caused. The overstimulation we experience is caused by a fast paced, noisy and sensory intense world.

Sources Of Burnout For Highly Sensitive People

Burnout can come from many sources for highly sensitive people:

  • work because we are increasingly expected to be as highly productive and fast-paced as our economic system demands
  • creative burnout since HSPs tend to be highly creative. Creativity does not follow a rigid schedule. However,  the expectation is that it will. Creativity can create pressure all by itself, but with time pressures added, creative burnout can be a result.
  • high empathy can result in serious burnout problems. Our empathy may cause us to dig deep and be extremely conscientious which is an added demand that we place on ourselves. It may not be rewarded, but is something we do to be at peace with ourselves.
  • too much sensory stimulation from all forms of noise, light, chemicals, and electronics to name a few can add also to our burnout potential.
  • toxic relationships, at home and at work are contributing factors as well.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is not just an emotional problem. Merriam-Webster  defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

These factors sound simple and probably reflect the reality of non=HSPs. However that does not mean that they do not apply equally to highly sensitive people.

In the case of HSPs, both can be serious factors because our need for rest is high and frequent and because many forms of work do not suit us, in particular all forms of drudgery.

But there are additional factors for highly sensitive people:

  • the rest we need from being around people too much
  • the rest we need from all forms of excessive stimulation:
    • light
    • sound
    • fabric and touch
    • entertainment
    • crowds
    • high pressure situations
    • competitive situations
    • toxic social environments

Work burnout can also occur

  1. when the work we are doing doesn’t suit our skills or interests.
  2. when we know we are not interested in a particular job or task and force ourselves to do it too often
  3. when our work environment is fear-based and highly political
  4. when we have too many emergencies, both at work and at home
  5. when we are sick or a family member is sick causing us to burn the candle at both ends.

Work is a particularly challenging subject for highly sensitive people since we have the need for work that is meaningful, self-paced and our “calling.”

All these factors – the presence of some or absence of others create stress for highly sensitive people. Since our systems are so sensitive, poor health habits will only make all of the potential burnout factors worse.

When we are well we can withstand some turbulence in our lives. When rough spots last too long they start to debilitate us. Life is not meant to be a long emergency.

Assessing Burnout Potential In Your Life

To assess burnout potential in your life, evaluate each aspect of your life below on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being low in stress and burnout potential and 10 being extreme burnout potential.

  1. consider your physical condition:
    • if you are strong and have physical reserves, you may be an HSP who has the ability to withstand long-term stressful situations.
    • if you are an HSP with lower resilience, you need to be careful about how much stress you tolerate and make adjustments to prevent physical burnout.
    • you become fatigued easily
    • you are sick or get sick easily
  2. consider your work situation.
    • are you valued?
    • are you doing work you love r is a lot of it drudgery?
    • do you have the skills you need to succeed in your field?
    • do you work with people who are good for you including taking your sensitivity into account?
    • is the organization well managed so that you are not affected by constant emergencies?
    • do you have to overwork too much?
    • are you compensated well? Are your benefits good?
  3. consider your relationships.
    • start with your family. Is it a warm, loving and supportive family? Are you accepted or are you generally frustrated by the disregard and unhappiness in your family?
    • do you have close supportive friends who accept and understand your sensitivity?
    • do you have a community you are a part of that is also supportive of your HSP trait?
    • are you happy with your social life?
    • are your work relationships good and productive?
  4. consider the time of year.
    • are there certain times when you are more overloaded than others and at risk of burnout?
    • are there times when the people around you are overloaded and your responsibilities increase as a result?
  5. consider the overall stress conditions in your life?
    • do you have burnout in some or two area spilling over into others and are you able to take time to heal?
    • do you see the potential for burnout to develop in any area in the future?
    • when you look at your burnout assessment how does it look to you? piece of cake? manageable? serious burnout potential?

There are no right answers and no score to determine your burnout potential. Your assessment is a map of your current situation so that you can easily get a high level view of your current situation.

With your assessment in hand, it might be useful to consider whether your burnout challenges are people challenges, time management challenges, or a need to develop skills. Sometimes we lack a skill set that could make our life easier, save time and reduce stress.

Steps To Prevent Burnout

Anyone can suffer from burnout. Highly sensitive people are likely to be more quickly affected than others by a high demand culture. But there are some steps you can take to insulate from the worst effects of burnout.

Here are 9 things you can do to prevent your sensitivity from turning into full blown burnout:

  1. strengthen your body first.  Improve your energy by getting a great night’s sleep, exercising, keeping hydrated and eating well.  Detox your body since toxins can build up causing debility over time. Take herbs to support your nervous system and defuse the impact of stress on your body.
  2. learn to meditate to relieve stress and help you with emotional balance. A long term meditation practice can help you detach from toxic people and helps restore your nervous system.
  3. make a list of all the areas of your health that you need to work on and set priorities for them.
  4. research on the internet about areas of your life that need significant improvement. Do not be afraid to tackle large issues like career choices and family problems.
  5. do not be afraid to cut back on commitments that are too draining.  Your other commitments will benefit from your improved attention. You are not responsible for others expectations.
  6. upgrade your skills to keep yourself marketable and functioning well and minimize job stress.
  7. for the tasks you hate, you have several options: drop them if they are really unimportant, break them up into small bite size work units so that you only have to so it for a short time, delegate them, or trade your undesired task with someone else’s undesired task. Avoid drudgery. It is notoriously draining for HSPs.
  8. determine what is most important to you so that you increase your time spent on your high value activities and therefore increase your satisfaction. It will cushion you from less pleasant experiences.
  9. treat burnout as a life-time concern that you can eliminate but taking good care of your life. It is a serious challenge for HSPs but one worth taking on.

Everyone’s life matters and everyone deserves to enjoy their life.

HSPs need to learn to say no. You do not have to carry the world on your shoulders.

When you are flexible, mindful about commitments and your highly sensitive nature and take excellent care of yourself you are doing what is necessary to beat burnout.

Preventing burnout is one of the most important things a highly sensitive person can do.

It is worth the effort.

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Do You Suffer From Emergency Mind?

Do You Suffer From Emergency Mind? - HSP Health Blog

Emergency (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

When we afraid everything around us looms large and chaotic.

Lately though it seems that fear has become the norm and we are living in a perpetual state of emergency.

Perhaps it has always been this way but I am noticing something else at work that needs questioning.

Emergencies Are Not Innocent

Emergencies have become a way of life for many of us.

Notice our entertainment. They are mostly about emergencies. Whether depicting our health care system, focusing on national security, or relationships, many of our movies and television entertainments are based on the idea that life is an emergency.

Of course, we have some emergencies – some of the time.

However, I think we need to ask why emergencies have become the norm for our lives. It seems to me that we have been suffering from emergency creep for a long time, and now emergencies have reached a critical mass to the point that we may not recognize life without them.

Emergencies are not innocent. They take huge amounts of energy and resources. When they occur, they replace any other priorities. A continual state of emergency is a great way to control the social and even political agenda of a family, community and society.

The Consequences Of Emergencies

When an emergency is over we are often poorer for it.

If we have a hospital emergency we certainly understand the enormity of the bill, even if paid by our insurer.

When we have major storms, it is obvious how much damage is done to the physical plant of a community but also how disruptive of the ives of the people affected it is.

It takes no imagination to grasp the horrendous losses created by wars.

Occasional major emergencies create small disruptions.

Large and continuous emergencies do much more:

  • they make it impossible to plan. What is the point of planning anything if those plans will be destroyed by the next emergency.
  • they create a situation where people lose planning and life creating skills.
  • they consume resources that would be allocated differently without the emergency. Sometime they even take basic necessities. When you are taking care of an emergency, you may need to neglect rest and healthy food. If you do so as part of an emergency lifestyle, then you will end up sick and become an emergency yourself.
  • as people who have studied evolutional psychology will tell you, war stops all growth. So if you want to keep a people down, start a war or other major emergency. They keep people from thinking beyond surviving for the day – day in and day out..
  • they consume everything around them. The giant sucking sound that we have been hearing for a long time is the sound of emergencies taking over our lives.

Emergencies And Highly Sensitive People

Emergencies can be particularly damaging for highly sensitive people. Not only are they intense and overstimulating situations, but they are exceptionally harmful as a lifestyle.

Highly sensitive people are unlikely to make emergencies their chosen way of life because:

  • the continual adrenaline rush is very damaging to us.
  • we already suffer from stress. Emergencies are stressful situations on steroids.
  • it feels like a superficial way of living
  • emergencies do not bring out the best in us.
  • stress is so debilitating that we will not be able to work in a constant state of emergency
  • they do not use our best attributes: our intuition, insights, wisdom and creativity.
  • we cannot sustain them.
  • we do not want to sustain them

It is unfortunate the degree to which emergencies dominate our lives.

Highly sensitive people cannot afford the effects of continual crises. They are damaging in too many ways.

HSP’s are wise to notice emergency creep and work to minimize it in their lives.

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Tips For The Urban HSP

As an HSP, I sometimes think I must be truly nuts to be living in New York City, a place that seems like the very embodiment of the word “overstimulation.”

Crowded, loud, bright and always on, it can be a nightmare for the senses.

If you let it.

I’ve lived here for nearly 15 years now, and I’ve found ways to make it work. (I have a bit of a dream writing job, and this is one of the only places I can really do it, which is why I don’t leave, in case you’re wondering. Also, nearly everyone I love is here, which adds weight to the case for sticking around.)

 Attitude For An Urban HSP

I think the lessons I’ve learned as a Big Apple HSP can be helpful for all, particularly those who might be living in other, smaller urban environments. I think you have to start by just seeing city life slightly differently than many. Here, I think there’s often a default attitude of, “Only in New York! Gotta love it!” when, for example, you’re on a crowded train at 9 a.m. and all of a sudden theres’s a mariachi band furiously playing, mere inches away from your face.

No.

You actually don’t have to love it. (I suspect very few people love it, but I applaud their generally optimistic ability to pretend that they do.)

So here are a few of the survival tips I’ve come up with to make being an NYC urban HSP work for me.

Protect Your Hearing

1) Get good headphones, and don’t be afraid to use them.
I’ve always been shocked that so many people are willing to put up with the crappy white headphones that come with an Apple product. They make my ears sore after only a few minutes of listening, and they don’t fit well enough to filter out ambient noise (nor do they stop everyone around you from hearing your music, one of my big pet peeves about public transportation these days: if you’re not wearing headphones yourself, you are more often than not subjected to the contents of someone else’s).

No, I’m talking about getting some of those little rubbery ear buds, or, if you’re loaded, a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones (they’re on my wish list). A little of your own curated music can radically change a walk through a chaotic city street, a subway car filled with yammering people and blaring conductor announcements, or a store where four overly cheerful salespeople come up to you within the span of a minute and say, “How ARE you today? Can I help you find anything?” Just point sheepishly to your headphones, as if they are surgically implanted in your head and totally beyond your control, and move away.

2) If you’ve got a smartphone, get a white noise app.
Music is good in many situations, but I find that when I need to really concentrate on reading or writing something, it’s too distracting. My white noise app is the best thing about my iPhone by far. Mine lets me create my own mixes of soothing sounds: beach waves crashing and light rain! Tree frogs and oscillating fan! Or just plain old white noise. Actually, brown noise, which is softer than white noise. Check it out, you’ll see what I mean. Any of these will instantly reduce my HSP stress by half. It’s also genius for hotel rooms while traveling (more on this in my upcoming sleep tips post).

Protect Your Boundaries

3) Make subway rides work for you. As Elaine Aron might put it, use your boundaries. Don’t worry about everyone else’s feelings so much. My instinct is generally to try to make other people feel good, so I’m not all that comfortable saying no or shutting things down even when I really need a break from human beings (which is pretty often).

But I’ve found that in order to stay sane, you have to just power through that instinct and be a little protective of yourself. For example: when riding on the train, someone sits down next to me eating an egg sandwich. She seems perfectly nice otherwise and part of me doesn’t want her to feel like a leper if I get up and move. But you know what? An egg sandwich smells disgusting, and it’s ruining the precious half-hour of down time I have in the morning. So I’m gone.

Ditto someone who’s having a loud, laughing cell phone conversation next to me. Or twitching just slightly oddly in a way that suggests they might be a bit off. Or wearing pungent perfume. Just get up and move. You’ll feel so much better when you do.

Similarly, when I’m leaving work and someone tries to catch me and take the train with me, I generally come up with a reason to split off (“I have to make a call first,” or “I have to run an errand”). I find that when my subway ride gets diverted into chitchat or small talk, I tend to reach my destination feeling depleted and annoyed, which reduces my ability to be present for whatever my next activity was. So I just find non-mean ways of getting out of the shared subway ride.

It’s best for everyone.

The Challenge Of Smelly Air

4) Get an air filter
One of my least favorite things about New York is the smells. And I’m not even talking about the stereotypical pee and garbage aromas, which tend, in my experience, to be a bit overstated. No, it’s the cooking smells that really do me in.

Apartment building living just inevitably comes with having to share the air with other people who like different food than you, and if you’re an HSP, those odors can feel like a punch in the face. Someone down the hall from me must, I think, own a deep fryer, because nearly every night it smells like Popeye’s in the hallway. This is not OK. This smell makes me deeply sad. But I can deal with it, because I have a pretty decent air filter going in my apartment’s entryway. It also just offers some psychological support, knowing I have a little mechanical sentry between me and the olfactory chaos going on outside my door. (In a pinch, I find that a Yankee Candle also works pretty well. Who knew? But it’s nothing compared to an air filter.)

Bottom line, just because you live surrounded by other people doesn’t mean you have to feel violated by their ill-advised culinary choices.

Create Your Own Lifestyle

5) Get a dog
In a way, this might seem odd advice, because a dog does come with its own set of stressors: they cost money, they require lots of attention, they may wake you up barking at absolutely nothing in the middle of the night. But if you get a good one, they can also offer a brilliantly convenient excuse for getting out of things and living a lower-key life than you might otherwise be expected to do as a city-dweller.

Everyone in your office going out for happy hour, and you’re sort of expected to go, even though the thought of being stuck in a noisy bar making small talk makes you want to bang your head against a wall? Don’t sweat it, you have to go home and walk the dog. Sorry! Additionally, your dog will ensure that you must go on multiple rambles around the neighborhood daily, which is a practice that’s highly beneficial for soothing the HSP’s system. Which brings me to my next tip.

6) Live near a park
It doesn’t have to be Central Park (or your city’s version of Central Park). But if you have someplace you can get to reasonably easily where you can be among trees instead of human beings, that’s going to increase your quality of life a whole lot. (As well as your dog’s.) Go regularly. Go every day. Take deep breaths and always know, when you’re in the midst of the urban circus, that this will always be here waiting for you. Don’t live near a park? Make it a habit to walk through one on your way to work, if you can. Get off the train a few stops early and incorporate a park walk into your commute.

7) Get plants
Plants! It’s like having a mini park in your apartment.

8) When all else fails, Xanax.
Just kidding. (Not really.)

The Importance Of Fatigue

Tala
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ryan Kilpatrick

Listen to your fatigue.

Fatigue is an important message from our bodies, emotions and spirits. Western thinking and cultural practices treat fatigue, at best, as an inconvenience. Such thinking is a mistake and particularly problematic for highly sensitive people.

What Fatigue Does For Us

All living things need renewal to be healthy.  If we do not make time for renewal, we are depleting and ultimately destroying ourselves by ignoring a natural part of the life cycle.

Unfortunately, we humans have been operating this way with ourselves and the environment for a long time as if people and the environment are simply part of a larger factory system. One of the consequences is the growing numbers of sick people on the planet.

Highly sensitive people are fortunate to be holistic not linear or mechanistic thinkers. But HSP’s need to protect themselves from the linear, mechanistically organized world of production capitalism which is destructive for their health.

On a personal level, most of us can cope with a certain amount of fatigue and not feel too debilitated.  We may not be at our best, but on occasion that may be an acceptable compromise. However, how we handle that short term fatigue can have serious impacts.

Most short term solutions for fatigue are nothing more than one form of stimulant or another:

  • stimulants like coffee and sugar snacks throw the body further off  balance, and create a temporary boost while depleting us later. It’s a kind of deficit spending for the body.
  • working harder is another often used approach. Many people have to work long hours that are not really suited to their natures. One Ayurvedic doctor told me that working six hours a day was considered far superior for health and more natural for us than our current culture of long hours and 24/7 availability.
  • distraction can help us pump ourselves up. Loud music and entertainment can create a high of sorts but it is mentally induced, not actually restful and may negatively affect the nervous systems of highly sensitive people.
  • food is a frequent choice for helping with fatigue and actually a rational one since food supports our health and ability to function. Unfortunately one of the challenges extremely busy people have is that much of our food supply is processed and full of all sorts of chemicals as well as corn syrup and other ingredients that increase weight and act as stimulants to the body. Fatigue can therefore contribute to weight issues. Processed food also increases the clogging of our bodies that Ayurveda calls “ama”, the creator of imbalance and disease.

Fatigue is important information that needs to be listened to. From a process point of view, it can provide valuable information about how to manage ourselves and our work that can support long term effectiveness. It can help us learn how to pace ourselves. All of the unhealthy ways we have of handling fatigue in the short term affect our perseverance and staying power in the long term, because they take a weakened state of being tired fatigue, and make it worse.  Over a long period of time, inevitable chronic problems will develop.

Ayurveda takes a different approach to  healing fatigue – it recommends strategies based on the type of fatigue: mental, emotional or physical. MAPI, the premier US site for Ayurveda has a great article on Wiping Away Fatigue, and offers some tips and case histories of how some individuals were able to recover from fatigue.

Highly sensitive people have an additional problem in that their sensitivity and conscientiousness will add to their work burden and make them more easily tired. An HSP with stress or other disorders will have even greater chances of becoming tired easily. By taking poor fatigue handling strategies off the table and working with the body’s nature, HSP’s start to level the playing field on fatigue management.

Because of their sensitivity, highly sensitive people have a chance to let fatigue become a wonderful early warning sign for them to protect their health and enable them to be at their best.

To learn more about your body type or dosha:

Feelings—A Sensory Tracking Device For An Overstimulated World

Feelings are our sensory feedback system. They provide us with vital information that we need to take care of ourselves and keep ourselves on track. But we’re trapped in a blizzard of ever increasing stimuli.

The sensory pressures many of us are exposed to on a daily basis are enough to kill a cage full of lab rats. Sensory overload is becoming a way of life—but are our biological systems designed for this kind of sensory terrorism?

Overstimulation Affects Sensory Processing

Over stimulation occurs when exposure to sensory experiences is too overwhelming for our nervous systems to successfully process.

Picture a busy street, shopping mall or club where the smell of exhaust fumes, smoke, perfume, sweat, food and ‘fresheners’ compete for air space;voices talking, singing or shouting, screaming children, car engines revving, horns blaring, sirens wailing, the crescendo of jet engines, electronic screeches, burps and beeps, mobile ring tones, the drone of television commentaries and public address systems, deafening music, being pummeled, jostled and pushed in a crowd; the visual impact of blinking lights, rapid video sound bites, speeding vehicles, billboard advertisements, a chaotic kaleidoscope of colors, movement and flashing lights, people dancing or running or vehicles roaring by in a blur.

A relentless flood of sensory experiences like these overwhelming our nervous systems can lead to sensory shut down, angry outbursts or irrational behavior, because we cannot efficiently process this level of conflicting stimuli.

Media And Social Stress Add To Overstimulation

Added to this, the daily news media’s drip feed of tragedy and chaos, destruction, deprivation or looming disasters create a palpable level of mass anxiety.

Now pile more bricks onto this relentless load—intense personal challenges like job loss, financial debt, divorce, abuse, disease or death of a loved one. Add the burden of personal trauma, loss or low self esteem and we have a recipe for emotional disaster. We are creating a culture dominated by stress, tension, and fear—a response pattern characterized by high frequency brain waves termed beta waves. We are functioning on high alert all the time. Our senses are in danger of disintegrating in a sea of excess stimulation, while our emotions become mired in confusion, pain and powerlessness.

No wonder many of us have lost contact with our feelings—a vital feedback system.

Because it’s a way of life, these pressures are incremental and cumulative. They build up over time until we’re caught in a spiral of emotional turbulence—or shut down. And since our feedback system has been disabled, we don’t realize how deeply we’ve been sucked into this destructive vortex.

The advertising media then swamps us with a smorgasbord of chemical quick fixes, to further shut down our sensory alarm system! Unsurprisingly, when greeted with the traditional how are you—we respond robotically, fine—even if we’re in the middle of a meltdown or have succumbed to emotional paralysis!

The truth is many of us no longer know how we feel. We’ve just resigned ourselves to being victims of our environment.

In the next installment of this blog we’ll talk about Reconnecting with your Feelings.

 

Suffering The Human Blind Spot

I am human and I have a blind spot.

We all do.

It has been called a lot of things: reactiveness, shortsightedness, mindlessness, ignorance.

The labels really do not matter, because labels do not help us understand ourselves better.

In fact, if we react to the labels, they may make our situation worse.

What Is Our Blind Spot?

Like all other animals, we are all vulnerable. Our brains are organized to discern and respond to threats. When we are not being vigilant, we are pleasure seeking creatures.

Most of the time we operate in one or the other way of being, trying to minimize threat and maximize pleasure.

We, therefore, turn the world into one or the other: a source of potential harm or potential pleasure.

Our vision and brains can keep us stuck in the vicious cycle of going back and forth between pain and pleasure.

Our minds categorize everything according to our desire to minimize pain and maximize pleasure.

This is why wise people tell us that our desires can create problems for us.

It is not so much that our desires are a problem, it is what we do about them.

What We See Is What We Get

Our vision is the beginning of our perceptual system.

Our vision system is one of the largest systems of the brain. It sorts everything in our environment and processes the information.

It is not clear at what point visual inputs turn into cognition. However, it is clear that our visual system is the beginning of our perception.

Our visual system may be more important than we realize. According to MyBrainWare, vision is responsible for 70% of what we learn. That is a lot of our learning!

Our visual cortex is thought to be a part of the brain which plays an important role in visual cognition. It stores information, which we then retrieve as we interact with our environment.

Scientists believe that once we identify something, we respond to most things in our environments based on our expectations which derive from past conclusions about something in our environment.

The way our vision and brain is structured, it would seem that we are not naturally open to new views and perceptions. Perhaps our brains do not want to rethink every conclusion on a moment to moment basis.

Perceptions And Identity

Changing perceptions is, therefore, difficult.

When we form an opinion or conclusion, that information is stored. In a way you could say that we own what we perceive.

It is probably also true that we personalize our perceptions. They become my perceptions.

My perceptions eventually turn into my identity.

They have become solidified.

Are Perceptions Fixed?

Our perceptions when they become fixed become our way of relating to the world.

We take in perceptions, create a model for the world, and then act on that model.

Our perceptual model becomes our reality and we treat it as fixed.

It is likely that our perceptions will remain fixed until we put them under the microscope.

We need to examine and be open to changing our views because our perceptual model does not take into account an ever changing world.

That is its blind spot, its achilles heel and ours.

Culture And Perception

How role does culture have in all of this?

It seems to me that if we want to be open to changing our perceptions, we need time to do so.

When we are willing to go slowly and reconsider our perceptions with care, then we have the ability to continually refresh the perceptions that are the basis of our actions.

However, when we act quickly we inevitably acting based on past concluions. Therefore, we are reinforcing those perceptions and  any biases and prejudices they contain.

Therefore, if you want serious change, you really need to be open to moving slowly and deliberately.

The Bias In Favor Of The Status Quo

Our perceptions, cultural structures and a high speed culture all serve to reinforce the current system we live in.

The overstimulation and demands for instant gratification serve mindlessness. It is a heroic act to move in the direction of mindful living.

Rethinking our perceptions is just part of life, a necessary and responsible activity as part of our participation in this world. It is how we overcome our blind spot.

When a few brave people venture into being present and mindful, it becomes easier for others.

It is a great way to participate in society in a gracious way and to be compassionate toward ourselves and others.

It is really just doing one’s part.

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An Easy Way To Discharge Stressed Out Energy

Nature is one of the most powerful and natural healing modalities available to us and yet it is largely untapped as a healing resource.

We highly sensitive people are more vulnerable  to a stressed nervous system  from the high levels of stimulation that are so rampant in our western culture.

Over my lifetime I have tried many modalities to relieve myself from the excessive stress out feeling I get from being ‘out’ in the world. What I have found is that Nature is the one consistent place my body, mind and spirit automatically relaxes and comes into a state of harmonious synchrony.

One way nature creates this nervous system balance is by helping us to shift our attention from thinking to sensing. The sights, smells, sounds and general energy level of nature is a lot more harmonious and attractive than the loud and discordant stimuli so often found in cities, the workplace and even our homes when the T.V is on.

How Your Heart Field CanRelieve Stressed Out Energy

Studies have shown that when you shift to sensing you alter the electromagnetic field of your heart. This causes the heart rate to slow as well as bringing the two parts of the nervous system into a dynamic state of alert relaxation.

The quickest and easiest way to bring yourself into this state which scientists call coherence is by actively seeking out that which you find attractive. Appreciation for beauty activates the heart’s energy field. Science has shown the size of the heart’s electromagnetic field is much larger than the brain’s. This means that the rest of the body and mind will entrain to it which creates that much sort after state of relaxed ease and openness.

The more you practice direct perception and appreciation the more you will move out of ordinary thinking and into pure consciousness. It is in this state you are able to deeply rest, rejuvenate, decompress and discharge all the chaotic stressed energies that are the seeds of so much dis-ease.

Even if you are not near natural wild places you can still look around you and seek out the beauty of nature. You can actively notice the gentle sway of a tree branch, the rustling of leaves in the breeze, the fluffy white clouds silhouetted against the deep blue sky or the delicious fragrance of daffodils coming into bloom, signaling spring and a time of rejuvenation and new beginnings.

Appreciating Beauty Mediation

Try the following ‘Appreciating Beauty Meditation’ taken from Empowered Nature Meditations; for Personal & Planetary Healing

1. Look around you and find something that attracts your attention. It would be better if this were something from nature such as a rock, a tree, or a flower. Gently bring your full awareness to the object you find beautiful. Become aware of the elegance of its shape, the intensity of its color, the light on its surface, and the specific presence of the item. Ask yourself what makes this item unique?

2. Imagine you are taking in the essence of this object. Breathe in its best qualities as if you could absorb those qualities into yourself.

3. Look at the tiniest detail and notice how each aspect contributes to the whole.

4. Now look at the entire object and sense its grandeur even though it might be small and subtle. Practice going from the small to the large view. Now try to see the object as huge, and then bring it back to normal size.

5. Blur the focus of your vision slightly and try to see a glow around the object. Can you sense a radiation of any kind from it? Ask yourself what is it you like about this object? What aspects stand out for you? These are the qualities that you already possess.

6. As you go about your day pay attention to your surroundings. Look for what you find beautiful around you. Appreciate the beauty and breathe it into yourself.

To further enhance your ability to create natural healing for yourself, please enjoy this recorded healing exercise: Appreciating Beauty For Natural Stress Relief- MP3