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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 August 8, 2019

How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

Staying focused and maintaining high performance in a hectic work rhythm leads to stress and mental exhaustion. So how to improve brain memory naturally?

The good news is that the negative effects of increased cognitive efforts can be prevented: brain foods, combined with healthy sleep regime and exercise, improve memory, concentration, and intellect.

What’s more, cutting many foods that we consider “generally harmful” out of the diet improves brain function and reduces brain health risks.

How does food improve brain health? Research proves that specific elements contained in the food positively influence molecular systems and support cognitive function.[1] Here’s how:

  • Amino acids support neurotransmitters, endogenous chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells. This helps keep the brain sharp.
  • Glucose is the main source of energy for human brain. Almost all energy that the brain consumes is derived from glucose.
  • Fatty acids strengthen nerve cells. They bring essential nutrients into brain cells and keep harmful toxins out.
  • Antioxidants protect brain cells by inhibiting oxidization, reducing its negative effects, and removing oxidizing agents from the body.

Knowing what substances are good for brain health, it’s easier to choose a diet that improves memory, maintains brain health and protects it from damage factors. Many foods are known to have positive effects on cognitive health, so anyone can choose their favorite ones to include in their daily diet.

10 Foods That Improve Your Brain

1. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, contain fatty Omega-3 acids that the brain needs for its healthy function, and antioxidant vitamin E that protects nerve cells and reduces brain health risks.

Whole grain, beans, and seeds – sunflower, pumpkin and others – are also a great source of amino acids and zinc that improve memory and contribute mental clarity.

Nutritionists recommend consuming nuts and seeds as a healthy snack – a handful of them is enough to satisfy midday hunger and to cover your daily requirement of brain-supporting substances.

2. Salmon and Other Fatty Fish

Salmon is another source of omega-3 fatty acids that maintain brain health. Essential fatty acids contained in fatty fish, such as tuna, herring and sardines, have a protective effect on brain in the aging process by reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In a shorter-term perspective, they show positive effects on cognitive-behavioral health: they significantly reduce the risk and the symptoms of depression, ADHD, and anxiety.

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3. Dark Green Vegetables

Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, green leafy vegetables are known for their positive effects on general well-being and sharpness of mind.

Additionally, such veggies as broccoli, avocado, or kale are powerful cancer fighters. They contain vitamin K that fights lack of concentration, prevents Alzheimer’s disease, and works as an anti-aging substance.

Spinach, kale, and chard also contain brain-boosting vitamins B and iron that helps transfer oxygen to the brain.

4. Dark Chocolate

We often assume that healthy food is not tasty and our favorite sweets are unhealthy, but that’s not quite true.

Combining the useful with the pleasant is possible when it comes to chocolate – and the darker the better: the best choice is 70% cocoa and more. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that stimulate blood flow to the brain, and such elements as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium that boost energy and support many body functions.

Consuming cocoa improves cognitive function , reduces stress, and protects mental health.

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with carotenoids that safeguard fat in the body. As brain is mainly made of fat, this function is especially important for it.

Tomatoes are a great source of two carotenoid types: lycopene and beta-carotene. They are powerful antioxidants that protect brain cells from free-radical damage, regulate cell growth, have anti-aging effects, and improve memory.

6. Eggs

Many of us mostly consume eggs as a source of proteins, but they have much more value for our health. They contain choline that regulates enzymes essential for mental health.

Eggs are a safe way to consume cholesterol that strengthens brain cells and structures. Apart from that, eggs are packed with antioxidants and healthy fats that nurture and protect the brain.

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7. Berries

Berries are a great source of vitamins that help our body function properly. They contain vitamins C and K, antioxidants, fiber, and many other important nutrients.

Dark berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, are a source of flavonoids that improve brain health and boost memory.

And while fresh berries are usually a seasonal treat, dried and frozen ones are also rich in healthy nutrients and can be consumed throughout the entire year.

8.Green tea

Green tea has been being used as a medicine throughout the centuries.[2] The list of its benefits for health and well-being is very long – but we’ll focus here on its positive effects on brain. It is extremely rich in antioxidants that protect brain from harmful free radicals and reduce the risk of cancer.

In 1494, Japanese scientists identified in green tea an amino acid called L-theanine. It promotes relaxation and facilitates sleep, helping maintain concentration, regulating emotions, and boosting cognitive abilities.

9. Sage and rosemary

Adding these herbs to your favorite dishes not only improves the taste, but also sharpen the mind, alleviate fatigue, and increase mental clarity.

These herbs contain over 40 active compounds that benefit brain health and enhance cognitive activity. They promote focus, concentration, and calmness, which is essential for alertness and long-term memory.[3]

10. Red wine

While high levels of alcohol are destructive for overall well-being and for brain health in particular, small amounts of red wine are refreshing and vivifying for brain.

Studies have shown that red wine, alongside with it relaxing effect, also improves the brain’s ability to remove harmful toxins by regulating the glymphatic system, reduces the risk of inflammation, and improves cognitive abilities and motor skills.[4]

5 Foods That Harm the Brain

We’ve figured out what food is healthy – but knowing what is to avoid is also essential for maintaining brain health, good memory and sharp focus. Here’s a list of the most harmful foods that impair memory, impact mood, and increase health risks:

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1. Sugary Foods and Beverages

Studies prove that higher sugar levels in the blood not only result in excessive body weight and increase the risk of diabetes – they also expose you to the risk of dementia.[5] That’s why rep lacing sugary drinks and foods with healthier products is essential.

Consider consuming unsweetened tea, water, vegetable juice, and unsweetened dairy products instead.

2. Trans Fats

Trans fats, or unsaturated fatty acids, in small amounts occur in natural and healthy products, such as dairy and meat, where they’re are not a major concern. Much more harmful are industrially produced ones, which are used in snacks, packaged baked goods, and fast food.

As there’s a relation between the intake of trans fats and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, World Health Organization introduced a guide to eliminate trans fats from the global food supply.

3. Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbs include sugar and highly-processed grains – for example, white flour. Due to their high glycemic index (GI), they are considered harmful to brain: foods high in GI impair memory in both children and adults, increase inflammation risks and can cause degenerative diseases.

A healthy alternative is whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruits.

4. Aspartame

A thing that is considered “better than sugar”, but in fact is not better at all. It is efficient for losing weight because it has zero calories, but its components – phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid – have negative effects on cognitive abilities, mood, and alertness.

A healthy choice recommended by experts is reducing the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners in your diet, or cutting them out altogether.

5. Alcohol

While experts mention positive effects of moderate amounts of red wine on brain health, the excessive consumption of alcohol can cause severe problems that everyone needs to be aware of.

Reduction in brain volume, metabolic problems, disruption of neurotransmitters are the most frequent negative effects. They cause memory loss, behavior disorders, and long-term brain damage.

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Keep alcohol consumption moderate, or avoid it at all, especially if you already have any health risks.

Bonus Advice…

Just eating healthy food sometimes is obviously not enough for improving cognitive performance in the long-term perspective. The key to achieving the best result is getting healthy nutrients consistently. That’s why carefully balancing your daily meal is essential for staying focused and productive.

Here’s some advice on what foods you can choose for your daily diet to boost your memory, concentration, and brain health:

Breakfast

A full and healthy breakfast is an efficient way to start your day productively – so never skip it!

Oatmeal, berry smoothies, and eggs are traditional breakfast meals, and they are a great source of memory-boosting nutrients.

Lunch

It’s sometimes tempting to opt for fast food or packaged baked goods, but stay away from them if you want to stay healthy and energized.

Sandwiches and salads with fish, green leafy vegetables, whole grain and chicken are a great choice for a light and healthy lunch.

Dinner

Again, don’t turn fast food into a habit – such options as seafood and fish, salads with tomatoes and green vegetables, kale, and whole-grain products energize your body and are a better choice for brain health and overall well-being.

Snacks and Desserts

Cookies and candies are a popular (and not really healthy) option for a snack or a dessert. Instead, try choosing healthier meals for your snack. Walnuts or almonds, fresh fruit or berries (depending on the season), or fruit and nut mix give a powerful energy boost.

And don’t forget that dark chocolate is also a healthy choice for a dessert!

The Bottom Line

Improving and maintaining memory, focus and cognitive abilities is crucial for a full and active life. Choosing healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy ones helps support brain health in both short-term and long-term perspective. Keep your diet consistent, and combine good food habits with exercise, healthy sleep regime and reasonable work-life balance to achieve best results.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Evans via unsplash.com

Reference

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