Advertising
Advertising

10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

All my life, I’ve been highly sensitive, and this has certainly carried with it a number of challenges. As a teenager, I was unable to be around people who were eating, because I couldn’t stand the sounds they made, and have always been repulsed by the texture of certain fatty cuts of meat.

And instead of simply learning to understand why, I become extremely grumpy if I do not get time to myself everyday!

Throughout my journey, however, I have learned that being highly sensitive can also be a tremendous advantage. If we can learn to understand and manage our sensitivity, we can then cultivate our increased awareness and empathy.

These are just a few of the many lessons that can help sensitivity become a strength, rather than a hindrance.

1. We Should Learn To Understand Our Emotional Responses

According to the article 5 Great Lessons for Sensitive People from Power of Positivity, the strong emotional responses that highly sensitive people experience are due to empathy. We often feel what other people are feeling. Learning to manage this can require some awareness and practice.

In my own experience, I have learned to stop and examine my thoughts whenever I experience a strong emotion. If it is clear that the emotion is not coming from anything in my own mind, then I am able to see that it belongs to someone else.

Empathy without awareness can look very “selfish.”  When we don’t realize that the emotions we are experiencing are not our own, we only focus on bringing relief to ourselves. When we are aware of the source of the emotional response, we not only bring greater relief to our own mind, but we are also able to better understand the people around us.

2. We Should Realize That Understanding The Response Does Not Mean We Should Act On It

Power of Positivity cautions against immediately trying to “help” other people or act on the emotional responses we experience. Sometimes it is in the other person’s best interest for us not to become involved.

When we experience the emotional response and understand where it is coming from, we then need to look at the situation logically in order to decide what to do next.

Advertising

I have learned this lesson many times in my own life. When I am around people experiencing fear especially, I have a very difficult time not stepping in and trying to make that fear go away.

Through calming activities and understanding, I have had to learn to look at the situation in terms of what the other person needs, rather than my immediate need to stop the emotional response.

3. We Should Learn To Listen To Our Intuitions

This may seem like it is contradicting the last point, but it is not. According to Power of Positivity, logic and intuition are both necessary in evaluating a situation, and many people who are highly sensitive discount their intuition.

If we experience a “gut” feeling, especially as to whether we should trust someone else, it is important to listen to that.  Because highly sensitive people are taking in so much from our environment, we are able to evaluate a situation on a subconscious level, which results in a stronger intuition.

I have found that as I have overcome fears and misunderstandings, my intuition has grown stronger. Sensitive people are often very sensitive to judgement and criticism that we receive from others, which our minds often take to be the absolute truth.

The fears and limiting beliefs that stem from these misunderstandings – and they definitely are misunderstandings – can often lead us to feel doubtful about situations when it is not necessary. As we sift through and eliminate these limiting beliefs and doubts, our intuitions will grow stronger.

4. We Need To Seek Out Stimulating Conversation

In Huffington Post’s How Highly Sensitive People Interact With the World Differently, Lindsey Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to get bored in relationships if there is a lack of stimulating conversation. This is because we crave deeper, more meaningful connections and interactions with those around us.

Some of my best memories in my marriage are of long, drawn-out conversations while on the road, or even while sitting on our back porch.  My husband and I will talk for hours about everything under the sun – politics, religion, the meaning of life.

These interactions have led to a deeper, more fulfilling connection between the two of us.

Advertising

5. We Need to Schedule Some Alone Time

According to Holmes, people who are highly sensitive may become overwhelmed by busy, open offices or busy social activities. We may feel scrutinized by those around us, or we may become distracted by all of the sensory input around us.

Having time by ourselves each day will help us to focus better and decrease anxiety.

I live on a sailboat in a busy marina in the city and have very little privacy, so I have had to be creative in seeking out alone time. Sometimes, I wake up before everyone else and spend some time sitting on the dock, looking out over the water.

Other times, I find a quiet corner in Starbucks, where I can do my work uninterrupted. And alone.

6. We Should Not Avoid Conflict

Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to avoid conflicts, because the emotions we experience during them are often overwhelming. However, the empathy that we experience can be a strong asset in problem-solving situations.

Experiencing the emotions of those around us can help us to better problem creatively, if we are able to stay calm.

Staying calm in conflicts has been key for me. It has also been important for me to realize that experiencing the other person’s emotions is not the same as experiencing their thoughts.

I still need to ask questions, rather than assuming that I know why the other person is feeling the way that they are.

7. We Need To Eat Well

In her article 8 Tips for Empaths and Highly Sensitive People on The Spirit Science, the author states that people who are highly sensitive need to eat foods that help to improve our mental states.

Advertising

She recommends plenty of raw foods and greens, but adds that the appropriate diet for one person may be different for another.

In my experience, I have found that eating whole foods, with a great deal of protein, has helped me to stay calm and to improve my own mental state. Drinking a great deal of water and limiting caffeine have also helped to decrease my anxiety.

8. We Should Seek Out Scents That Appeal To Our Senses

According to the article, essential oils and incense can help to create a calming environment for someone who is highly sensitive. Scents like lavender, bergamot, spearmint, and tea tree oil are most recommended.

I have found that I do not enjoy spending time in a home or room that does not smell good, and I often burn candles in order to create a pleasant aroma. And in vanilla, my favorite scent by far, I have found the most calming reaction.

In the winter, I will even boil a pot of water, vanilla, and cinnamon to achieve the scent to feel most calming and pleasant.

9. We Should Become Aware Of Our Stress Responses

In her article Highly Sensitive People: Desensitizing Your Fight or Flight Response: Creating a Sense of Safety in Your Life by Changing the Meaning of Your Experiences from Online Counseling, Ewa Schwarz states that when a highly sensitive person becomes overwhelmed, their fight-or-flight response is triggered.

This response is designed for short-term survival, and chronic fight-or-flight is harmful to the body and mind.  Becoming aware of this stress response and learning to minimize it is key to decreasing this feeling of being overwhelmed.

Learning to calm my body and mind has been very important in my journey. I have used breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and even walking to calm my stress response, so that I am able to move forward and process the situation around me.

10. We Should Examine And Redefine The Things That Cause Us To Feel Overwhelmed

According to Schwarz, the fight-or-flight response is triggered when the mind goes into an emotional reaction after making connections between the current situation and past experiences. The mind is detecting a threat in the present moment, based on its understanding of the past.

Advertising

Yet this is merely a perceived connection. In order to change our mind’s perception, we can go back to the initial assumption whenever our minds go into reaction.

Why are we seeing a connection? The connection is based on meaning that our mind has given the current situation.  When we can redefine the situation and stop seeing this meaning, we can diffuse the triggering event.

This has been absolutely key in my journey. When I am emotionally triggered, I stop and examine the thoughts behind the emotion. I then ask myself a series of question to determine why I think what I do, so that I can find the underlying assumption and redefine it.

This has helped me to become overwhelmed much less frequently.

I’ve often thought of a highly sensitive mind as being like a wild horse. It’s amazingly powerful, but it will take some time to train that horse and gain its trust.

With a lot of patience and perseverance, it is possible to train that horse and take advantage of its amazing power and strength.

Featured photo credit: Crystal/carianoff via imcreator.com

More by this author

From Kids To The Elderly: Wisdom On How To Live Your Own Life 9 Signs That You Are Actually A Shy Extrovert 9 Bad Things Happen When You’re Too Nice A Little Of Both? 12 Signs You May Be An Ambivert! 10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

Trending in Communication

1 When Should You Trust Your Gut and How? 2 What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life 3 7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside 4 Focus On Yourself, Because Most Of The Time No One Really Cares 5 10 Principles for Success to Live Your Dream Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

Advertising

Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

Advertising

4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

Advertising

Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

Advertising

Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

Read Next