Deborah Ward

Sense and Sensitivity

Sensitive and Stressed

Whether you are aware that you're stressed or not, your body knows it.

Posted Mar 04, 2012

Highly sensitive people absorb more environmental information than other people, and that includes both the good and the bad. Absorbing information is tiring. It's a largely unconscious process that uses up a lot of energy. And when there's too much of it, such as constant noise, lots of people, and busy schedules, we become overwhelmed. It's this state of overwhelm that wears us down.

All too often, we're moving so quickly and trying so hard to meet everyone's demands, we don't even realise we're stressed or that we've taken on too much. If you've ever felt like you're swimming with your head barely above water, you're probably stressed. And yet most of us just keep swimming.

What the mind won't deal with, however, the body will. Highly sensitive people absorb not only information, but feelings and energy as well. Working or living with angry or negative people, for example, means that you're absorbing their negative feelings. And even positive experiences, like going on vacation or getting married, can create a lot of stress as well, simply because of the excitement.

So whether you are aware that you're stressed or not, your body knows it because it is constantly taking in sensory information and emotional energy like a football player at an all-you-can-eat buffet. But too much of anything can be bad for you. So in the same way that eating too much sugar can eventually bring on diabetes, too much stimulus will make a highly sensitive person sick. HSPs are susceptible not only to colds and flus when things are getting too much, but often to other unusual physical reactions to stress as well, such as hives, rashes and other skin conditions, headaches, hair loss, irritable bowel syndrome, as well as anxiety disorders.

These symptoms, however, are a sign that something is out of balance. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It knows when you're overwhelmed with doing too much, or not getting enough sleep or staying in toxic relationships, even if you don't.

As HSPs, we need to take care of ourselves and try to avoid getting overwhelmed. Doing too much, being around lots of noise and people too much and engaging in relationships with negative people will eventually make you sick. Avoid negativity as much as you can and try to find a balance. A busy day at work is often unavoidable, but try to go for a walk at lunch or listen to relaxing music to get centered again. Exercise is an excellent stress reliever, and the key is doing something you enjoy, whether it's swimming, running, tennis or yoga. HSPs are also often highly creative people, and a regular creative outlet will provide a healthy release for all the feelings you've absorbed. It doesn't have to be ‘great art'. It's the process of expressing yourself that matters.

It's important to recognise that as a highy sensitive person, your needs are different from other people's. You need more sleep, more quiet time, more creative time and more time in nature. Take that time, do what you need to do to feel relaxed and recharged and both your mind and your body will thank you.