With a critical eye, I examine it… The bird looks a bit distorted.
The watercolors look good in some places but could be better in others. I got the right mix of water, color, and brush strokes in some areas. In others, well, not so much.
These thoughts run through my mind as I gaze at my recent attempt at a watercolor of a chickadee.
I have no idea how to watercolor, and I’ve just started learning. I have four brushes and a palette of twelve colors, and I have yet to learn how to mix the primary colors to get more colors.
I’ve been learning by watching YouTube tutorials. I shake my head.
Then I smile as I take a fresh look at the painting.
Because it isn’t about the painting but the feeling it gave me when creating it.
I felt relaxed and ‘zoned out’ while listening to uplifting music.
Relaxing as I was playing and learning how the amount of water, the amount of time, the amount of paint, and the different brush stroke techniques contributed to the final result.
My artwork is good for the first attempt, and I’m proud of it.
Our nervous systems are designed to pick up on a lot of sensory information, much more so than a non-HSP.
The HSP Trait is found in 15-20% of the population. In hunter/gatherer days, humans created tribes, so in a tribe of ten people, one person was almost guaranteed to have the HSP Trait.
The HSP Trait is nature’s way of trying to ensure the survival of our tribe.
We’ve come a long way from the hunter/gather era, and in our highly complex, noisy, and busy world, it’s no wonder having the HSP Trait has its challenges.
Because the world is designed for most of the population, and 80-85% are non-HSP’s. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a factor to remember.
So let’s look at the three main categories, or ‘influences’ that affect Highly Sensitives and some ways to deal with these influences.
The three categories are;
- Outside influences,
- Sensory influences, and
- Emotional influences.
Let’s first look at how outside influences affect us and what we can do about it.
In our day-to-day lives, we need to do things like go to school, work, do chores, run errands, pay bills, exercise, work towards a goal, have some enjoyable downtime, and spend time with loved ones.
But time pressures can cause severe stress for a Highly Sensitive. Having too much to do in too little time is stressful for anyone.
So imagine yourself as a battery. Some things recharge your battery, and some things deplete your battery.
Often Highly Sensitives feel overwhelmed because their battery is depleted.
Either because they’ve been trying to live as a non-HSP (see “trying to fit in”) or because they have unrealistically high expectations of themselves.
Some more examples of things that can deplete a Highly Sensitives battery are spending too much time watching or listening to the negativity in the news, spending too much time on social media, and saying “yes” to “help someone out” too often.
Consider adjusting your busy schedule. Remember the tortoise and the hare story? Slow and steady wins the race.
Consider prioritizing what you need (that recharges your battery).
What usually ends up in this category are things like;
- eating healthy,
- drinking enough water,
- getting enough sunlight,
- spending time in nature,
- getting adequate sleep,
- ensuring you have enough alone time/downtime,
- spending time doing things you find uplifting and/or positive (like watching or going to a comedy show),
- and investing in healthy relationships (yes, we can have a relationship with our pets, so your cat, dog, bird, or whatever totally counts).
Prioritizing what recharges your battery will help you create boundaries for yourself and others and make it easy to turn down things that deplete your energy.
Recognizing where your battery level is and ensuring you’re doing what you need to do to make sure your battery is fully charged, or at least not at the almost flashing light stage, will do wonders for you.
Let’s move on to the next one, sensory influences.
Because a Highly Sensitives nervous system is finely tuned to pick up on many stimuli, it’s crucial to understand that combining these things or any one thing can also contribute to battery depletion.
- Unexpected loud noises,
- Bright lights,
- Crowded places,
- Ringing phone or text message alarms,
- Strong smells,
- Loud noises and even
- Loud chewing.
Now depending on how your Highly Sensitive Trait works for you, you may notice you are more affected by auditory than visual sensory influences. So sounds may affect you more than light.
You can use headphones, earbuds, or earplugs to weaken the sound level from outside stimuli when working with sound influences.
You may be affected by light stimuli. Some Highly Sensitives get headaches or sore eyes from direct sunlight. Easy fix: pick a shady spot and bring some sunglasses if you go outside. If you’re inside, pull the shade down or pull the curtains closed.
Sunlight may not affect you, but fluorescent lighting does. For instance, I noticed a minor headache each day after work at one workplace, and my eyes felt sore. This was different for me, and it had something to do with the lighting at work.
I requested a full spectrum bulb above my workstation instead of the fluorescent light. Once it was replaced, there were no more sore eyes and a minor headache.
If one of your sensitivities is a reaction to strong smells, there’s a lot you can do about your home environment. Avoid using strong-smelling cleaners and perfumes, air spray room deodorizers, scented candles… you get the idea.
I avoid the mall’s perfume area and the grocery store’s cleaning supply aisle. Instead, I use natural cleaners like baking soda and vinegar.
You can also limit how often and how much time you spend in crowded places if you notice your battery feels too depleted afterward.
And that ringing or buzzing phone?
You can turn off the notifications and the ringer.
Because really, how many life or death emergencies are there that depend on you answering every call or text message immediately? Of course, we’re talking about your personal phone here.
But we could also be talking about your work phone. Set your schedule in blocks, setting aside one block of time to make and/or return calls.
But what if your job involves using your phone as a communication tool?
In this case, you’ll need to prioritize people and conversations and what would be better conveyed by a text or email you can spend more time on.
Moving on to the last one, and the most important one for Highly Sensitives, emotional influences.
It’s essential to recognize that having the HSP Trait means you are different from most of the population.
Different means different; it doesn’t have to be negative or positive.
In this way, Highly Sensitives need to manage unrealistic expectations they can have for themselves.
Keeping up with the Joneses or comparing yourself to what is mainstream is the wrong path, the path of unrealistic expectations.
So first, realize the only person you can realistically compete with is yourself. It’s helpful to use positive affirmations if it feels good for you.
Remember when first trying affirmations that it can feel “weird” or “wrong,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you, just that you’re uncomfortable trying this “new” thing. If you keep at it, you may find it helpful after a while.
Reframing is another helpful tool you can use.
Many Highly Sensitives can sometimes feel misunderstood by others, usually because of how they socialize. Highly Sensitives socialize somewhat differently than non-HSPs.
This isn’t to say they can’t adapt and socialize for set amounts of time like non-HSPs. Still, things like listening to gossip, participating in it, or watching or being involved in rude social interactions depletes a Highly Sensitives battery.
If you notice you’re overanalyzing every little word or gesture of social interaction you had with someone, a helpful tool to note is if you are remembering the conversation a certain way. The other person is remembering it from their own perspective.
Highly Sensitives can have strong emotional reactions to beauty and violence, and negative words can ‘feel’ like violence to a Highly Sensitive.
So while you may be overanalyzing every word or gesture that occurred, the other person may have forgotten it and moved on.
Meanwhile, you’re losing sleep replaying the conversation repeatedly in your head.
This usually happens when we feel close to a person, or we’d like to, and we feel like we said or did something ‘wrong.’
Now we may have.
This is when it’s an excellent time to practice reflection. Perhaps we did say something too harshly or in an accusatory way (e.g., “You didn’t call me when you said you were going to, so I guess I’m not that important.”) This is a manipulative blaming statement and not likely to get a positive response.
In this case, because we’re human and usually these types of methods of communicating are what we’ve been taught and what we see as ‘acceptable’ (but aren’t) social norms in a lot of forms of media, we can, after reflecting, apologize and state simply what we meant in a way that expresses our “feelings,” (e.g., “You’re important to me, and I look forward to sharing time with you. I’m sorry for what I said the other day. I’m working on not being so reactive.”)
When we’re practicing reflection, we may realize we haven’t been looking after our own battery (meaning we were feeling overwhelmed because we haven’t been giving ourselves enough recharge time, and consequently, we lashed out verbally at someone else, usually someone we feel close to).
Or perhaps, during a conversation we had with someone, we were setting a more assertive boundary where there was a weak one (or non-existent) and experiencing ‘push back’ or the other person’s discomfort.
Their discomfort isn’t ours to fix or solve; it is a sign that we’re on the right path. Again, reflecting in a way where we don’t assume all the responsibility for the interaction is a good way forward.
Practicing reflection is the opposite of overthinking. Reflecting allows us to step back from the situation and assess it compassionately towards ourselves and others.
This way, we can develop positive ways to move forward. In contrast, overthinking keeps us in a circular loop with no exit.
Most Highly Sensitives (about 70%) are introverts and benefit more from small group or one-to-one social interactions.
So don’t worry about it if going to that party with a hundred people doesn’t do it for you or if you go and stay only an hour – it’s about doing what’s best for your battery.
This isn’t to say that a Highly Sensitive can’t be a public speaker or deal with many people daily because they can. Public speaking is a skill that can be learned and practiced.
When considering your battery, though, planning ahead and giving yourself a down day or two after a big event or days when you’ll deal with many people is essential.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the Outside, Sensory, and Emotional influences, it’s easy to see how, like watercolors, they can blend into and affect one another.
Too many sensory influences can affect our emotions, too many outside influences can affect our senses, and so on.
When we explore and learn more about how our HSP Trait works for us, we can find innovative ways to deal with them, keep our battery charged and enjoy living our 5D colorful life.
Have you noticed how sensory influences affect your emotions?