Are You Storing Stress?

Your body will tell you when you need to relax.

Posted Sep 12, 2013

Highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress. We are constantly absorbing information from our environment as well as picking up tension, frustration and stress from other people. Similarly, sensitive people can become stressed by seemingly harmless everyday places and activities like parties, supermarkets, meetings, tv violence, public transport, unfamiliar environments, noise and crowds.

Living life in a less than sensitive world means that HSPs need extra rest and time to recover. But when it gets too much, all that stress can often show up in physical ways. Sensitive people also tend to develop allergies and sensitivities to certain foods, environmental and chemical agents. They are vulnerable to blood sugar disorders, migraines and headaches, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, intense PMS symptoms, skin problems, as well as asthma, colds, flu, and infections.

Many of us have spent so much time coping as a sensitive person that we aren’t even aware of how stressed we are. We have learned to just accept the noise in the office and don’t notice how many times we flinch when someone slams a cupboard door. But it slowly takes its toll on our sensitive nervous system until we feel exhausted or need to retreat from the world. Sometimes we end up with physical ailments that seem to have nothing to do with what’s going on in our lives.

Stress triggers a ‘fight or flight’ reaction in your body, which is an instinctive way of trying to cope with perceived danger by fighting it or running away. To prepare for either of these reactions, your body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol, to boost your blood sugar levels and blood fats (triglycerides) to give you energy. The trouble comes when instead of releasing all that energy and stress hormones, they remain in the body and create harmful conditions.

Some people believe that the kind of physical response you have directly reflects your emotional condition. So feelings like resentment and bitterness can cause pain and inflammation and an inflexible attitude can create stiff joints. Repressed hurt feelings can present themselves as arthritis while deep hatred, guilt or grief can eat away at you like cancer. Back pain may be an indication of feeling lack of emotional support. Negative feelings such as shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, anger and hate will weaken your body, while positive emotions such as joy, love, understanding, forgiveness, acceptance and trust will strengthen it. Eye problems can suggest there is something you are not seeing clearly. A stiff jaw can indicate a lack of expression.

When I was going through a stressful period in my life, I decided to go running, but after a few hundred yards, my hips became so stiff and sore that I could hardly walk. And then my calf muscle balled up like a fist. At first I thought I hadn’t warmed up properly. But pain in your hips and legs often reflects emotional pain, causing soreness due to a sense of lack of support and an inability to move forward in life. What I needed, as with most situations with HSPs, was not to try harder, but to be gentler with myself and give myself the time and compassion to heal. I slowly started to strengthen and stretch my muscles, while also writing about my feelings in a journal, both of which gave me the strength and support I needed. When the emotional wounds healed, the physical wounds healed as well.

 The important thing is to recognise that your mind and your body work together and affect each other, so when you experience physical symptoms, they can be an indication that your thoughts and feelings are experiencing the same kind of pain. You can begin to heal your body by looking at the feelings that caused the pain or illness. By expressing those feelings and releasing that negativity, and giving yourself the love and compassion you need, you can heal your mind and your body.

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