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The Biggest Fight of the Highly Sensitive Person (Part 2/3)

The Biggest Fight of the Highly Sensitive Person (Part 2/3)

A three-part series on how to thrive a highly sensitive person. This is Part 2.

Imagine you and your friend go to the gym for a week.

She does light walking on the treadmill 2 times this week for 30 minutes each time. You run 90 minutes for 5 days.

Whose muscles have worked more? Whose muscles need more rest to get ready for next week’s training?

You or your friend?

It’s the same situation between HSP and non-HSP.

In Part 1, we came to understand that HSPs come with an innate ability to notice more. More of what? More of the subtleties. The subtleties of what? I have to say..of everything.

If you’re an HSP, this will not require much explanation. You’ll get it right away.

You pick up details happening around you that 80% of people miss.

Tim looks pensive. He didn’t yesterday. Seems like he’s having trouble getting his words out. There’s a kind of heaviness in his voice. He also seems distracted, lost in his thoughts. Meanwhile, his wife Rita doesn’t seem to be looking at him. She’s addressing everyone else in the group, but she’s not looking at Tim. Something seems wrong. Maybe something has happened between them.

You tell your friend Sandy “Did you notice Tim and Rita both seemed different today,”

Sandy shrugs. “Nope. Should we get more cake?”

Classic case. Sandy doesn’t see these subtleties. You do.

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For HSPs, noticing the subtleties isn’t just restricted to noticing people. It could be anything in the environment. The room smells different, it smells like my childhood friend’s perfume. This song has few beats that sound like the song on the radio yesterday.

Do you make these things up? How come you pick up things that 80-85% of the people around you don’t see? Is this some disordered hyper vigilance? Is your awareness intentional? Something that you manufactured? Something that you consciously control?

Your higher awareness is part of a trait that you have and that others don’t. It’s biological. There are brain differences that make HSPs more attentive to stimuli.

“Most people walk into a room and perhaps notice the furniture, the people—that’s about it. HSPs can be instantly aware, whether they wish to be or not, of the mood, the friendships and enmities, the freshness or staleness of the air, the personality of the one who arranged the flowers.”Dr. Elaine Aron

What then happens with this higher awareness?

HSP’s Depth of Processing

Along with higher awareness, HSP brains also deeply process all the extra information coming in. HSP brains automatically start organizing this data and start to make sense of it.

Notice how you saw the subtleties of Tim, but then your brain automatically starts processes the information to organize it?

“Tim looks pensive” doesn’t stop there. The HSP brain automatically starts the deep processing. “He didn’t yesterday”…

In other words, HSP brains not just have a higher awareness, but also an innately greater ability to process that awareness inside of them.

All this means that HSP nervous systems have to work harder to process all the incoming data coming into them.

This is where the difference between you and your friend’s weekly gym routine is the correct comparison.

You worked harder in the gym, you need more rest. HSPs nervous systems work harder than non-HSPs (because of the extra awareness of subtleties). HSP’s nervous systems need more rest. As simple as that.

The HSP noticed Tim, compared him with the Tim from yesterday, noticed Rita, compared her with the Rita from yesterday, then noticed Rita with Tim, Rita with the others. Phew!

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Sandy bypassed this whole thing. All she noticed was the cake missing from her plate.

So of course, the HSP nervous system is more stimulated than Sandy’s.

What does stimulation feel like?

It’s a physical thing. It’s a bodily reaction.

First, it’s important to remember that stimulation happens for all human, and several non-human species. Sandy salivates when talking about cake. A dog’s tail wags when you talk to it with adoration. A baby smiles when you talk to it with love.

What is all this? It’s stimulation. It’s a reaction that shows up in your body in response to environmental stimulus.

When it’s within a trait’s comfortable range, stimulation is what drives us forward. Sandy makes a decision to walk over to the dessert table. A dog walks closer to you so you can pet it. A college student decides to major in architecture after being mesmerized from his trip to the Taj Mahal. A couple decides to adopt a foster child after their eye-opening trip to a foster home.

Without stimulation, there is no motivation to initiate action. If the image of a cake didn’t excite Sandy, she’s having little reason to want to fill her plate with it.

It’s really when stimulation is outside your optimal comfort zone, then it can feel like hell.

Your body feels a little zapped. Uncoordinated. It feels like you’re about to crash into a mental shut down. There’s an overload on your system, and you cannot think straight. Perhaps your heart pounds faster, brain starts working on overdrive, thinking becomes flustered, it’s a feeling of “feeling too much.”

HSP can reach this state faster and more often than 80-85% of the population.

Why does that happen?

My response is “Why should it not?”

You’re sensitive to nuance. Your trait makes you take in a lot of nuance. What else do you expect should happen other than the nervous system responding?

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You: Tim. Rita. Tim yesterday. Rita yesterday. Tim and Rita. Rita and Tim.

Sandy: Cake.

Now this sounds like a problem doesn’t it?

If over stimulation felt like a tender walk through a rose garden, then HSPs wouldn’t be so upset.

But overstimulation of the nervous system can feel like all hell broke loose. Particularly because most times, you haven’t asked for it. It all happens outside of your control. The awareness of the subtleties is automatic. The deep processing inside the brain is automatic. The over stimulated nervous system from doing all this extra work is automatic.

And what happens when we experience things that we don’t understand or have control over?

Fear.

The first step to thriving as an HSP is to understand over-stimulation and stop calling it fear.

Unless you know about your trait, chances are you will not understand how awareness and over-stimulation are working through your trait and into your life experiences.

All you know at a conscious level is that you are “feeling too much”, as represented by the physical symptoms you feel. Heart racing, breath shallow, palms sweating, foggy thinking, overwhelm etc.

Unfortunately, because over stimulation can have the same physical tone as anxiety and fear, the temptation to confuse the two happens quickly.

“It is important not to confuse arousal with fear. Fear creates arousal, but so do many other emotions, including joy, curiosity, or anger . But we can also be overaroused by semiconscious thoughts or low levels of excitement that create no obvious emotion. Often we are not aware of what is arousing us, such as the newness of a situation or noise or the many things our eyes are seeing.” — Dr. Elaine Aron.

When you label over-stimulation of the body as fear “I must be afraid if my heart is beating faster”, then what do you think happens?

Next step is that you will look for a trigger. Then you hypothesize. With an exceptional imagination of an HSP, most certainly you will find something to be afraid of. “I must be afraid of meeting new people socially.”

“Once we do notice arousal, we want to name it and know its source in order to recognize danger. And often we think that our arousal is due to fear. We do not realize that our heart may be pounding from the sheer effort of processing extra stimulation.” — Dr Elaine Aron.

If we misinterpret over-stimulation as fear, soon enough it becomes fear.

But unlike fearing an object outside of you, you start fearing whatever’s going on inside of you.

To a certain degree, you can avoid external stimuli like an airplane, large crowds or whatever it is that scares you outside. But how do you escape from your own self? You cannot. There is no way (or need) to change your inherited trait.

“Why is my heart pounding so fast?” is a scary position to be in when all you know about heart-pounding is that it’s something that happens when you watch a scary movie. Or when a dog barks up on you from behind. Or when your school principal yells at you.

You have come to relate heart pounding with fear.

“If my heart is pounding, I must be afraid of meeting these new people.”

But when you know your trait, you understand that your heart doesn’t just pound when you face obvious danger, but also when you are automatically aware of “too much” or “too new” sensory stimulus.

“Ok, so it’s the “newness” of everything that I am unconsciously picking up on that makes my heart pound. That woman seems cold and aloof: I don’t like the vibe. This man seems nervous: I wish I could help him relax. Meanwhile, I am uncomfortable with how long this event is: Wish I knew. I also feel that my heart is pounding, I can feel every single beat.”

There is a big difference between the two states.

With the first, you are faced with symptoms that you don’t understand. With the second, the understanding of the trait helps reduce the symptoms.

Without having much control over the symptoms (heart-pounding), the first situation leads you to anxiety. But the second allows you to understand your trait and hang in there without freaking out.

Big difference.

Once HSPs stop confusing over stimulation with fear, they’ve freed themselves up significantly. The fight to overcome fear is an honorable endeavor, but the fight to overcome a trait is hurtful one. The HSP trait doesn’t need to be fought. It needs to be understood. It asks you to make a good plan to optimize life using the strengths of your trait, not struggle with a life that rejects it.

In Part 3 of this HSP series, we’re going to do just that. We”ll take specific steps to stop the war against our sensitivity and start thriving from who we really are.

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Featured photo credit: Highly Sensitive Person via unsplash.com

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Namita Gujral

Anxiety Coach

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Last Updated on October 29, 2018

What Causes Brain Fog? (7 Things You Can Do to Prevent and Stop It)

What Causes Brain Fog? (7 Things You Can Do to Prevent and Stop It)

Brain fog is more of a symptom than a medical condition itself, but this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Brain fog is a cognitive dysfunction, which can lead to memory problems, lack of mental clarity and an inability to focus.

Many often excuse brain fog for a bad day, or get so used to it that they ignore it. Unfortunately, when brain fog is ignored it ends up interfering with work and school. The reason many ignore it is because they aren’t fully aware of what causes it and how to deal with it.

It’s important to remember that if your brain doesn’t function fully — nothing else in your life will. Most people have days where they can’t seem to concentrate or forget where they put their keys.

It’s very normal to have days where you can’t think clearly, but if you’re experiencing these things on a daily basis, then you’re probably dealing with brain fog for a specific reason.

So what causes brain fog? It can be caused by a string of things, so we’ve made a list things that causes brain fog and how to prevent it and how to stop it.

1. Stress

It’s no surprise that we’ll find stress at the top of the list. Most people are aware of the dangers of stress. It can increase blood pressure, trigger depression and make us sick as it weakens our immune system.

Another symptom is mental fatigue. When you’re stressed your brain can’t function at its best. It gets harder to think and focus, which makes you stress even more.

Stress can be prevented by following some simple steps. If you’re feeling stressed you should avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine — even though it may feel like it helps in the moment. Two other important steps are to indulge in more physical activities and to talk to someone about it.

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Besides that, you can consider keeping a stress diary, try relaxation techniques like mediation, getting more sleep and maybe a new approach to time management.

2. Diet

Most people know that the right or wrong diet can make them gain or loss weight, but not enough people think about the big impact a specific diet can have on one’s health even if it might be healthy.

One of the most common vitamin deficiencies is vitamin B12 deficiency and especially vegans can be get hid by brain fog, because their diet often lacks the vitamin B-12. The vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to mental and neurological disorders.

The scary thing is that almost 40 % of adults are estimated to lack B12 in their diet. B12 is found in animal products, which is why many vegans are in B12 deficiency, but this doesn’t mean that people need animal products to prevent the B12 deficiency. B12 can be taken as a supplement, which will make the problem go away.

Another vital vitamin that can cause brain fog is vitamin D. More than 1 billion people worldwide don’t have enough vitamin D in their diet. Alongside B12 and vitamin D is omega-3, which because of its fatty acids helps the brain function and concentrate. Luckily, both vitamin D and omega-3 can be taken as supplements.

Then there’s of course also the obvious unhealthy foods like sugar. Refined carbohydrates like sugar will send your blood sugar levels up, and then send you right back down. This will lead to brain fog, because your brain uses glucose as its main source of fuel and once you start playing around with your brain — it gets confused.

Besides being hit by brain fog, you’ll also experience tiredness, mood swings and mental confusion. So, if you want to have clear mind, then stay away from sugar.

Sometimes the same type of diet can be right for some and wrong for others. If you’re experiencing brain fog it’s a good idea to seek out your doctor or a nutritionist. They can take some tests and help you figure out which type of diet works best for your health, or find out if you’re lacking something specific in your diet.

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3. Allergies

If you have food allergies, or are simply a bit sensitive to specific foods, then eating those foods can lead to brain fog. Look out for dairy, peanuts and aspartame that are known to have a bad effect on the brain.

Most people get their calories from corn, soy and wheat — and big surprise — these foods are some of the most common foods people are allergic to. If you’re in doubt, then you can look up food allergies[1] and find some of the most common symptoms.

If you’re unsure about being allergic or sensitive, then you can start out by cutting out a specific food from your diet for a week or two. If the brain fog disappears, then you’re most likely allergic or sensitive to this food. The symptoms will usually go away after a week or two once you remove the trigger food from the diet.

If you still unsure, then you should seek out the help of your doctor.

4. Lack of sleep

All of us know we need sleep to function, but it’s different for everybody how much sleep they need. A few people can actually function on as little as 3-4 hours of sleep every night, but these people are very, very rare.

Most people need 8 to 9 hours of sleep. If you don’t get the sleep you need, then this will interfere with your brain and you may experience brain fog.

Instead of skipping a few hours of sleep to get ahead of things you need to do, you’ll end up taking away productive hours from your day, because you won’t be able to concentrate and your thoughts will be cloudy.

Many people have trouble sleeping but you can help improve your sleep by a following a few simple steps.

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There is the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise, which is a technique that regulates your breath and helps you fall asleep faster. Another well-known technique is to avoid bright lights before you go to sleep.

A lot of us are guilty of falling asleep with the TV on or with our phone right by us, but the blue lights from these screens suppresses the production of melatonin in our bodies, which actually makes us stay awake longer instead. If you’re having trouble going to sleep without doing something before you close your eyes, then try taking up reading instead.

If you want to feel more energized throughout the day, start doing this.

5. Hormonal changes

Brain fog can be triggered by hormonal changes. Whenever your levels of progesterone and estrogen increases, you may experience short-term cognitive impairment and your memory can get bad.

If you’re pregnant or going through menopause, then you shouldn’t worry too much if your mind suddenly starts to get a bit cloudy. Focus on keeping a good diet, getting enough of sleep and the brain fog should pass once you’re back to normal.

6. Medication

If you’re on some medication, then it’s very normal to start experiencing some brain fog.

You may start to forget things that you used to be able to remember, or you get easily confused. Maybe you can’t concentrate the same way that you used to. All of these things can be very scary, but you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

Brain fog is a very normal side effect of drugs, but by lowering your dosage or switching over to another drug; the side effect can’t often be improved and maybe even completely removed.

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7. Medical condition

Brain fog can often be a symptom of a medical condition. Medical conditions that include inflammation, fatigue, changes in blood glucose level are known to cause brain fog.

Conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, anemia, depression, diabetes, migraines, hypothyroidism, Sjögren syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Lupus and dehydration can all cause brain fog.[2]

The bottom line

If you haven’t been diagnosed, then never start browsing around Google for the conditions and the symptoms. Once you start looking for it; it’s very easy to (wrongfully) self-diagnose.

Take a step back, put away the laptop and relax. If you’re worried about being sick, then always check in with your doctor and take it from there.

Remember, the list of things that can cause brain fog is long and it can be something as simple as the wrong diet or not enough sleep.

Featured photo credit: Asdrubal luna via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Food Allergy: Common Allergens
[2]HealthLine: 6 Possible Causes of Brain Fog

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