You’re driving your car to work. The heat hasn’t kicked in.
Suddenly, you notice that you forgot to cut off a sewn in tag on the back of your shirt collar. It’s irritating your skin.
Sadness and frustration wash over you as you witness a child being drug by the arm through a cross walk a bit too fast for her tiny legs to keep up.
Down the road despair for the death of a tiny animal creeps in to your heart as you swerve to avoid what others blow off as just road kill.
A few minutes later, you walk in the door to your toasty office and the frown on a coworker’s face tells a story others seem to miss, and your day hasn’t even begun. Can you relate?
This is the world of the Highly Sensitive Person.
The HSPs Heightened Nervous System
As Highly Sensitive People, we are sensitive to light and color, harsh or excessive smells, loud, repetitive and unexpected noise, particular tastes and textures of food, and to the things and people around us us. We are sensitive to subtle changes and differences in our environment and, although not always recognized, we are sensitive to things unseen, such as electrical frequencies (EMFs), other’s emotions, and even the spirit world.
Highly Sensitive People are also empathic. Meaning, we are able to pick up on the emotions of others. And, it’s not just a matter of reading a person’s body language, like Tim Roth does on the TV show Lie To Me, although HSPs are exceptional readers of body language as well. We actually feel and carry other’s emotions as if they are our own. We absorb everything. And, what’s really disturbing is that most of us don’t know we are Highly Sensitive People and that not everyone shares our abilities.
It can be easy to want to shut down, stop seeing, stop feeling, and stop sensing, especially when our sensitivities make us feel physically dis-eased. But, that is to merely exist, to just breathe in and out, and who really wants just that? Well, maybe during meditation, but not in day to day life. Life is for living abundantly and joyfully through our senses. Reducing sensitivity overwhem is important if we want a life of joy.
Yet, some of us feel cornered, held back, and cheated by life, by our sensitivities. And, for those of us who feel that way, if we are not careful, we can end up believing we are victims of a cruel fate or negative karma, especially when we don’t understand why we are the way we are.
Highly Sensitive People, Emotions & Overwhelm
But, first, what is overwhelm? Overwhelm is experienced any time we feel, think, or experience something we feel we cannot handle. Overwhelm leads to negative emotions, which come from, both, our conscious and subconscious thoughts. Emotions are not just something in our minds. They are, indeed, molecules of energetic expression meant to precede a physical action, which, in turn, is meant to offer us relief. HSPs reach overwhelm faster than others because we process emotions more physically than nonsensitive people do.
Emotions have the power to trigger chemical responses in the body, which impact our immune systems. Headache, stomach issues, chronic pain and phobias are symptoms caused by overwhelm to the nervous system by emotions. When we leave our emotions unresolved or misdirect them without a positive physical outlet, an action, we become dis-eased. Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, and other autoimmune disorders to appear due to sensory overwhelm, sometimes called overload.
Plenty of Highly Sensitive People have been given clean bills of health by their health providers and/or told their condition is all in their mind. After experimenting with strict diets, exercise, and prescriptions for anxiety and depression that don’t work, some HSP opt for self-medicating with recreational drugs or alcohol just to survive their senses. The good news is that by engaging in the right body-based therapies we can give our emotions the positive outlets (actions) they need for reducing sensitivity overwhelm.
Why Sensory Avoidance Increases Sensitivity
Much of the energy drain Highly Sensitive People experience comes from trying to avoid our sensitivities rather than using them. In some circles this is called sensory defensiveness, which means you become defensive and avoid whatever stimuli makes you feel uncomfortable. Avoidance behavior only creates more sensitivity because of the energy required to sustain resistance and the additional stress it causes. It also leads to isolation, low-self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
I often tell people that if they are in the midst of a panic attack to use up the energy that’s trying to be expressed. Don’t resist. Walk briskly, run, dance in place, shadow box, take several deep breaths, or stamp your feet very hard. In other words, use up the adrenaline. I also say to use your senses.
Senses are like fine muscles. Stop using your senses and they’ll over-react, exaggeratedly to your emotions and the world around you. By engaging your senses in positive body-based activities often your senses will help you to maintain energy, balance, and calm. This creates joy.
Why ‘Mind-Based’ Therapies Don’t Work for HSPs
There are several theories as to what causes sensitivity. You can read about them most anywhere. But, how you came to be highly sensitive isn’t as important as knowing what to do about it. Often, HSPs seek counseling thinking it will help towards controlling their sensitivities, only to discover it does not help in reducing sensitivity.
That’s not to say mind-based therapies (counseling, journaling, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, hypnotism, meditation, etc.) are not beneficial to Highly Sensitive People having suffered ongoing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and Near Death Experiences (NDEs). These therapies can help to prevent, manage, and even erase unhealthy thoughts and emotions. And, who doesn’t need that? However, being a Highly Sensitive Person is not the same as having an anxiety order and should never be confused as such.
I choose to believe being sensitive is a way of being and not a disorder. And, while mind-based therapies work very well for trauma and abuse issues, they will not reduce overwhelm caused by a genetically sensitive nervous system. For the HSP to reduce overwhelm it requires something more. It requires body-based therapies.
The HSPs 7 Paths to Reducing Sensitivity And Overwhelm
#7. The Spiritual Path, (also The Path of Spirit) which corresponds to the Crown Chakra, the colors Violet, Gold and White, the essential oil Frankincense, the gemstones Amethyst and Crystal, the food Purple Grapes, and understanding of ourselves and others. Remedies for The Spiritual Path may include introspection, connecting to a higher power, and learning to protect one’s self through ritual.
#6. The Path of Intuition (also related to The Path of Sound), which corresponds to the Brow Chakra, the color Indigo, the essential oil Vervain, the gemstone Lapis lazuli, the food Plums, and extra-sensory perception (the 6th Sense). Remedies for The Path of Intuition may include meditation, an area of study, or turning to unconventional methods of intuiting.
#5. The Path of Sound, which corresponds with the Throat Chakra, the color Blue, the essential oil Vanilla, the gemstone Turquoise, the food Blueberries, and expression. Remedies for The Path of Sound may include using your voice, speaking up, and expressing how you really feel.
#4. The Path of Touch, which corresponds to the Heart Chakra, the colors Green and Pink, the essential oils Lavender and Jasmine, the gemstone Emerald, the food Avocado, and love. Remedies for The Path of Touch involve learning to love yourself and others unconditionally.
#3. The Path of Sight, which corresponds to the Solar Plexus Chakra, the color Yellow, the essential oil Cedar, the gemstone Citrine, the food Yellow Squash, and personal power. Remedies for The Path of Sight may include intellectual stimulation, playfulness, and a healthy support network.
#2. The Path of Taste, which corresponds to the Sacral Chakra, the color Orange, the essential oil Sandalwood, the gemstone Moonstone, the food Pumpkin, and intimacy, as in closeness. Remedies for The Path of Taste may include healing negative emotions associated with the pelvic region, such as surgery, miscarriage, unhappy sexual experiences, or sexual abuse.
#1. The Physical Path (also The Path of Smell), which corresponds to the Root Chakra, the color Red, the essential oil Patchouli, the gemstone Ruby, the food Licorice, and survival of our body on the physical plain. Remedies for the Physical Path may include diet and nutrition modifications, sound sleep, exercise, and work.
Chakras are the energy centers located along your spine responsible for maintaining spiritual, emotional, and physical health. A blockage in any of your chakras will create specific dis-eases depending on the chakra affected. For example, a blockage (low energy) in the Solar Plexus Chakra may cause stomach problems, such as acid reflux or loss of appetite. Emotional disorders might include confusion, irritability, or loneliness. It is important to know that when one chakra is unbalanced it affects the energy levels of the other chakras.
It is well worth your while to investigate any possible energy blockages you may be experiencing. Once you know where these blockages are located, you’ll be able to choose appropriate, therapies to create better balance between your senses (The 7 Paths), which will you in reducing sensitivity. You will find the majority of the therapies helping to create and restore chakra balance are body-based therapies involving the senses.
A Quick Approach to Reducing Sensitivity
If this information sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and you are beginning to feel overwhelmed, don’t despair.
Although it is helpful to have ideas and methods made available to you as far as diet and remedies are concerned, especially when you suffer from stressful symptoms and syndromes, you don’t need to take aura tests and read a bunch of literature to understand how to use your senses in positive ways. There’s a quicker approach for reducing sensitivity.
Try this exercise. Think of all of the things you have thought about doing over the past few days, months, or even years. What have you wanted to do more of, but haven’t? Perhaps, you’ve wanted to listen to music more often, visit friends, take a walk on the beach (HSP need expansive settings from time to time), spend more time in bed sleeping, hug more, laugh more, buy a new fragrance, make that traditional pot roast, or send someone a thank you card. Stop wasting energy avoiding these things. Avoidance is resistance. It wastes your energy. Spend your energy wisely through your senses of Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch, and Smell, doing what you truly enjoy. However, remain moderate and try not to over-indulge any one particular sense.
Within just a couple of weeks after engaging your senses in the body-based therapies of your choice, you should notice you feel better and have more energy, both, physically and mentally. These therapies help for reducing sensitivity. Avoidance, drudgery (boredom and monotony), and negative emotions begin to fade away. You begin to trust your emotions not to make you react fearfully. Self-esteem begins to rise.
That’s not to say you will never have another negative emotion, but, ultimately, by taking action through your senses you can empower yourself to truly live life instead of merely surviving, perhaps for the very first time. However taking these steps for reducing sensitivity will make your life a lot better.