The HSP World Podcast Ep. 38: Highly Sensitive Strategies To Decrease Your Anxiety
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Hi, and welcome to the HSP World podcast, a place and space for Highly Sensitives.
With each episode we have a conversation about an interesting HSP-related topic. We’re holding space with you because HSPs only make up 15 to 20% of the population. So most of the time HSPs are surrounded by non-HSPs, and HSP only convos are a bit different than non-HSP convos.
We feel it’s important for HSPs to hear the difference. We’re not coaches or therapists, we’re HSPs holding space with you. I’m one of your co-hosts Rayne and your other co-hosts are Tonya and Britta. Hey, Tonya…
Tonya: Hi, how are you today?
Rayne: I’m good. Thank you. How’re you?
Tonya: I’m good!
Rayne: Hey, Britta how are you?
Britta: I’m doing fine. Thank you. How are you?
Rayne: Pretty good. Thank you.
And so today, we want to talk about what are some strategies you use to decrease your anxiety. And we chose this topic because HSPs have a highly tuned nervous system. So oftentimes, when we’re overstimulated, our anxiety levels go up. So today, we want to chat and find out what each one of our strategies that we use to decrease our anxiety. So how do you decrease your anxiety? What strategies do you use Britta?
Britta: Um, well, over the years, I’ve, I’ve experienced, or I’ve been experimenting, rather, with, with several different strategies. And the ones that I really… are the most effective for me are, for example, taking a nice long shower to just relax. Or doing like the EFT tapping, that’s also a good one for me, that really helps. Going for a walk, just going outside exercising. Just doing any kind of activity that takes my mind off.
And one of the other ones that I just recently realized is something that really consumes my entire focus, like, I really love to make jigsaw puzzles. And when I’m, when I’m doing those, it’s like, I cannot think about anything else. It’s like I’m so focused on finding the pieces and where they need to go. That there’s this… It’s relaxing, because there’s no room for anything else.
So that’s that those are tricks that I’ve used. So physical exercise, the tapping, a shower, or just doing something that really focuses my, my mind are the ones that I’m going for right now when I feel it necessary.
Rayne: I like I like what you’re saying about when you’re doing your jigsaw puzzles. For me, that’s when I’m crafting when I’m doing when I’m making something or being creative. That’s typically the mind space, everything else just goes away. Because I’m focused only, which is funny, because, you know, in work environments, multitasking is like ‘everybody’s supposed to be multitasking’. But yeah, I found that I get way more accomplished when I’m single, single focused. Yeah, so I can relate to what you said there. How about you, Tonya?
Tonya: Um, for me, I think it’s interesting that you talk about tapping Britta, because I’ve, I’ve tried tapping, and I’ve done it before, but actually, if I’m having a really anxious feeling or episode, tapping makes me feel more anxiety.
Tonya: Yeah. So I just wanted to mention that for for some people who… because we hear a lot about tapping now, right? It’s becoming like really popular. I know, it helps a lot of people. But for me, if I’m in that anxious space, and I start, like, you know, tapping my body. It’s like, puts my energy in a really strange, strange place for me so…
So for me, breathing pranayama breathwork practice, especially the like a four to eight breath. So inhaling for four and then exhaling out of the mouth for extended eight or longer count. That’s my number one go to is my breath for sure. That really changes my energy.
Also, a consistent mindful practice for me is good. So just making sure that I’m set aside some time every day for that daily practice, so I can really focus on how it feels to sit with my feelings and be with my emotions and all of that without putting labels on them or judging them. And so having that consistent practice keeps me a lot more steady in my mindset.
Um, also going outside spending time in nature, spending time with my animals, my cats, you know, that’s really helpful to be around that kind of energy as well. So, those are kind of my, my, my top ones that that I do and yeah, I’m sure there’s a couple more, and they’ll come to me in the next couple of minutes.
Rayne: It’s interesting, yeah, I’d have to say around around certain animals, some animals, like some cats, or some dogs, or, I don’t know, depends on the energy of the animal, how, how relaxed I feel with the animal, or how relaxed the animal feels with me, I don’t know.
Britta: The synergy of okay, where you’re at, okay?
Rayne: So what are some of this stuff, the things I do… well, so I avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks, because I find for me, they, they speed up my metabolism, and that tends to make me feel anxious. So, you know, as much as I love the taste of coffee, it’s just good it has to be a treat, a once in a while treat.
Let’s see, I practice a mindful meditation for twenty minutes in the morning. And that’s just basically focusing on emptying out any thoughts. So it’s sort of what you were talking about Britta when you’re so focused on like doing a jigsaw puzzle, except I’m focusing on, I’m focusing on nothing, if that makes sense. So it’s, it’s a little tricky. Especially when you want to be thinking about things, because I always want to be thinking about things and, you know, so it’s, um…
Tonya: Sometimes the quieter we get, the more things start to come up for us, right? So.
Rayne: Yeah, exactly, yeah. And then I’ll do a mindful movement meditation for, I don’t know, twenty to forty minutes in the morning, I’ll do that after the meditation. And that that basically, once I’ve emptied my mind, I find that really helps me focus on my body, and how my body, all the different parts of my body are feeling where I’m holding in stress, because, you know, it’s so bizarre to me that, you know, when you wake up, you’re relaxed, you know, most people are relaxed when they wake up but, you know, half the time I’m, I’ve had vivid dreams and if there’s all these things going on in my head, maybe it was a stressful dream, maybe it wasn’t. So it’s like why would you need to relax first thing in the morning, it is relaxing, but that’s what it that’s the way it is for me. So I find getting into my body feeling into how all the different parts are feeling, releasing stuff.
And a lot of it is about moving energy from my lowest chakra to my highest chakra. So focusing on doing that kind of a deal.
What else… I wake up early, and I give myself lots of time before my day starts.
This is, and this is a hack I’ve just started doing in the past I think past maybe maybe a year-ish or so.
Because I was so used to as a kid, you know, my mom would flip on the bedroom like wake up, it’s get ready for school. And you’d have fifteen minutes to get dressed, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, go to school kind of thing.
So it’s very different to get to completely turn that on its head and give myself lots of time. There’s absolutely no rushing. I and I really like that too because different ideas can come up. You know different things. It’s just, I don’t know. It’s just… I like it. It’s not a rushed. I don’t feel rushed.
Tonya: And we carry that energy with us all day, right? When we start our day like that, for sure. So that’s huge.
Britta: Just listening to you talking about it makes me think like, oh, I need that. But I also like to snooze. I’m a snoozer. So it’s, it’s difficult too. But I think the day that I do get up earlier, yeah, I find these moments of like, oh, okay, there’s even a moment to just do nothing and stand here and look like oh okay and breathe.
You know, because in the mornings, mostly, I need to get my kids to school, and then they’re not doing what I’m asking them. So it’s a very stressful thing. So that’s probably why I choose to snooze instead of getting up.
Tonya: And there’s, there’s a big difference too I can imagine. I mean, I don’t have children at home, right? So my day is going to start different and you have younger children, too. So that’s..
Britta: Yeah, yeah. So it’s, it’s a whole chasing game to get them out of the door in the morning before I even have time for myself. So I think maybe if I can get up earlier before them, which is already, I think I will need to get up at five a.m. or something because they’re like early birds, but, but it does allow you time to okay, just be with yourself for a while before diving into the day.
Rayne: Get your own time. Get your own time.
Britta: Yeah. Otherwise, you’re already giving, giving, giving and you’re feeling stressed out by the time it’s 9 am. Yeah, so anyway, sorry. I was interrupting.
Rayne: No, that’s, that’s great. That’s great. So another strategy to decrease my anxiety, I avoid shopping centers.
Tonya: So like big crowds and stuff? Yeah. Yeah, I can see that for sure.
Rayne: Like, it’s not that I can’t I can do that those things. But then when I do I have to be mindful of how long I’m in those environments, because I’m going to pay for it with an introvert hangover the next day, you know, or, you know, I’m going to feel frazzled at the end of the day. So it’s not that, not that I can’t do it. It’s just that is it worth it? Do I really? Is it? How much, how much benefit am I receiving from doing that kind of a thing? So, so, yeah, I do that I was shopping centers.
What else? Oh, I have my notifications turned off on my phone. Because hearing those constant dings, and whatnot, that will start to make me feel anxious. So I set it up so that, you know, I check in when I’m ready to check in or when I feel I need to check in.
Tonya: That’s a really good one.
Rayne: That seems to help me keep things up. Because for me, it’s not just like one thing causes me anxiety. It’s, it’s a multitude of things. And if they build up and if there’s too many, or they’re too strong, that’s what’s going to start spiking my, how I feel, my anxiety levels, right.
Tonya: Yeah. So that noise, I think that’s something that as HSPs, too, that we really struggle with. It’s just all the noise coming at us all the time, from all the different things. So I used to have like CNN, I don’t even know why. But I had CNN alerts on my phone. And I was like, you know, you know how that is like every hour it’s like another tragedy. And I haven’t, I turned those off, it’s been almost four years ago now. Or longer than that, actually, when there was a transition of government in the U.S. I just turned it off. And I don’t watch TV news anymore. If there’s news, I want to I’ll read it, instead of watching it on the TV I’ll read like print news instead.
Britta: That’s a really good one. That way, yeah. And I only read, I like to stay aware of what’s going on. But I very intentionally choose which articles to read and which not because I know it could throw my day off. So that’s a really good strategy that you brought up…
Tonya: Or I get it second, or I get my news secondhand. Like, I’ll ask my husband because he follows all that stuff. And you know, he can process it fine and all that and so I’ll just say oh, you know, what’s, what’s going on? And he’ll say, oh, did you see this news story? And so I get it through him as opposed to the you know, the the urgent crisis to crisis moment. Yeah, moments that the, that the news gives us to keep us watching right to keep us scared all the time.
Britta: Yeah, that’s a really good one. That’s a really good one.
Rayne: Absolutely. What else? Um, okay, another thing that can cause me anxiety is, if my email inbox starts getting like super full, and I’ve got a lot of unread messages or you know, all that kind of thing. So that can start making me feel anxious.
So, one thing I do is I keep it clean, I just keep it clean. I just I deal with what needs to be dealt with, dealt with, unsubscribe from stuff that’s irrelevant to me. Maybe it was at one point relevant now it’s not. So just, I find that helps me a lot, because opening my email and seeing a whole bunch of messages, that’s just like… Even, even though it doesn’t, even though it might be nothing, you know, and it none, none of them require an instant response. It’s just the number of them and the feeling that oh, I’m, I’m, I am supposed to get back to people right away kind of a thing, right? Where that may not be the expectation at all right?
It can cause me anxiety if I get invited to things. So stupid but…
Tonya: It’s not stupid.
Rayne: I know, right? Because it’s, I don’t want the person to feel, I want the person to know I appreciate their thoughtfulness that they invited me. But at the same time, I don’t want to commit right off the top of my head. Because first of all, it depends on the day and the time and the where and the how long. And it depends on a lot of things.
So, yeah, but I’ve, but I’ve, I’ve been doing pretty good with managing that one by simply just saying, I really appreciate, you know, your invitation, thank you for inviting me, and I’ll get back to ya. And I do get back to them.
You know, I might ask them a few more questions or do whatever kind of a thing to… And maybe I’ll say, okay, you know, yeah, I can go but you know, I’m just going to be there about a half hour, okay, I’ll popping in and kind of popping out. Because I you know, I want to be there for you and appreciate and that kind of thing, right? So but I’ll just kind of give it a little bit more time because depending on what else I have going on that day, I, you know, who knows, or that week, it just might not be doable, kind of thing, right?
Tonya: Something else that that I do when I’m feeling I don’t want to I don’t know if I want to use your word extreme. But when I’m when I’m really feeling anxious about something, like something kind of big happens in my life. Instead of keeping it in, what I’ll do is all talk to myself out loud and kind of talk it through,
Rayne: Oh, you’ll do the record yourself on video thing?
Tonya: I can i can record myself on video sometimes. Or sometimes I’ll just walk around the house and I’ll just talk to myself and just kind of talk it out.
So all you know all that stuff that’s, that’s going on in my head, right, instead of keeping it all up there. And it’s just all swirling, I feel like by using my voice and kind of putting it out into the world, into the universe, into the air. It really helps me it really, it’s very calming for me. And I’m sure it probably has a lot to do with how I grew up and not having a voice when I was growing up and not being able to express all those things out loud that I was feeling and experiencing and all the trauma and everything.
Now by using my voice to talk about out loud, it’s just it’s very calming to me. And it really brings me, really brings me into a much better, much better space. Okay, first of all, first I’ll do my breathing. But then after that, if I still need more, then I’ll start talking to myself for sure.
Rayne: So do you do it and do like refer to yourself in a third person or how do you do it?
Tonya: Sometimes. Sometimes I’ll use my name. Sometimes not. Sometimes I’ll just just start talking random stuff or talking about things that I see in front of me like, oh, there’s boxes. Oh, there’s the you know, oh, look at the bird out the window. There’s a tree.
You know, just kind of like I guess it’s a way to make myself more present. Yeah, as well. And I kind of calling attention to what’s around me. So not necessarily even. So yes, talking about what I’m feeling anxious about. But at the same time, really putting myself in a, in a present space like, okay, not necessarily even strategizing about what I can do to fix it or change it. Just talking about what’s going on in that moment in my mind around me, but saying it out loud.
Rayne: Yeah, excellent. That’s, that’s pretty cool.
Tonya: I don’t have a lot of people around me either so, it might be different if you have a house full of people, or you know, you’re you’re in the office or something, maybe take it, maybe take a trip to the to the bathroom or a walk around the block on your break or something, and then you can do it.
Rayne: Okay, another strategy I do to decrease my anxiety is, I plan my days. And I don’t pack too much in.
So before, because I didn’t like grocery shopping and doing all those kind of, you know, going to the mall, all those kinds of things, what I would do is I would, I would wait until I had a bunch of things to do. And then I would schedule them all for one day. And I would go do them all just to get them done and get them out of the way.
But the problem with that strategy for me was then I had an introvert hangover the next day, because inevitably, you know, one errand back they’re back to back all day for a whole day. It was like, introvert hangover the next day. It was awesome, because I got everything done, but at the same time, I had to pay a price for it.
So now I do it differently. Now it’s like, okay, you know, if I’m going to, you know, if I’ve got a doctor’s appointment, well, I know, there’s probably going to be a two three hour wait at the doctor’s office. So it’s like, that’s it. No, you’re not going to plan anything else for that. That’s enough. You’re around tons of people and whatever then right?
Which isn’t to say I don’t kind of leave some room for what do you call it, like spur the moment stuff. Because I will. But I’m just a lot more cognizant of, you know, what, what different situations… are high sensory, high sensory environments that are going to impact me.
And yeah, that’s pretty much yeah.
Tonya: How do you schedule your day Britta? Especially with, with kids at home, and then also working from home?
Britta: Yeah. Yeah, most of the times, well, during the week, when they go to school, it’s the first part of the day is all about them, getting them ready to school, packing lunches, driving them because they don’t take the bus because we’re, we’re out of the school district, well sort of, so I have to drive them so it’s fifteen minutes, then I walked him to the doors and then it’s a whole thing. And then I come back home or I go some do some grocery shopping because like the supermarkets are really close to the school. And then I come back and that’s when my working day starts.
So that’s why I thought what Rayne was saying about the time for yourself that’s sometimes missing or I do it already when I’m in front of my computer, that’s when I have my breakfast and so there’s not really a time to ease into the day and have some time for yourself while you’re doing nothing. So that’s actually something that I might be adding to my day. If I can drop the snooze.
Tonya: Just try to drop it, just try to drop it, but it’s like what like, like one day a week or something right? Like that’s what I work with with a lot of my yoga students is you know, we’re not trying to switch it. Switch something on and off right?
Britta: Like a cold turkey.
Tonya: Yeah, yeah, yeah, just just try one day. Just say Okay, on Tuesdays, I’m going to do this and just start with that and see how that goes for ya. For a month or so.
Britta: Yeah, and it’s also if I know if I’m really if I’m staying inside of this routine that seems to work better. So if I can go to bed fairly early. Then I feel a lot better in the morning to get up and I don’t need to snooze as much although I still like it but okay. Yeah, otherwise, I just still feel tired from the day before. And I feel like I haven’t recuperated or how do you say that, recovered from from everything that happened like the day before? Or the days before. And then it just builds up. And then yeah, that’s not a good way to start today.
But it I actually should start doing more before it gets started. So there’s really this this time for me before the kids wake up.
Rayne: Yeah, the “you” the “you time” so you to regenerate and you to recover and give, give yourself what you need your, your space and time.
Britta: And because oftentimes, also, with meditation and things, I don’t really do meditation, because as I was actually thinking about that, Tonya, when you said like the breath work, and the EFT is causing you more anxiety, I have it the other way around.
So when I focus on my breath, it’s really funny when I just, I’ve tried it before, lots of times and focusing on my breath gives me anxiety.
It’s like, I don’t know it feels, it feels like I’m hyperventilating then. So it’s focusing and then oh, oh, oh, no. This is not working. Oh, no, I’m not breathing right. And then I just, I just, yeah, almost panicking sometimes. So it’s really funny how that works. It’s it’s really, it’s really crazy. And I know a lot of people have told me ‘Yeah, but you have to focus on your breathing and, and it will make you feel better.’ And I’m like, no it won’t.
Because I will feel like I’m gonna, I can’t breathe. Oh, no, this is no good. You know, like this whole thing in your head that starts playing. And that’s, that’s not what you want. It’s supposed to be relaxing. It’s turning into the opposite.
So what does work, which I found is what you were saying, is it the box breathing that you say like, you start with like, but you’re counting, it’s not just focusing on breathing without anything else, or without occupying your mind, but it’s really counting in your head, like breathe in, like 1-2-3. And then hold 1-2…, and you’re keeping your mind busy with the counting. And that’s different. If I can keep my mind busy and not focusing on what is or isn’t working inside of my body. That that’s a lot easier to do than just having my free spirit go crazy.
Tonya: Yeah, you can definitely do breathing practice breathing practices where you have something to focus on. Yeah, for sure. For sure. That’s, that’s definitely something that that’s helpful. If you can’t just really like sit with it. Or if you feel like you’re doing doing it wrong quotes you know. Yeah, yeah, that’s giving you anxiety.
Rayne: You know, I think it’s really I’m really enjoying this, because it’s interesting to hear, you know, tapping doesn’t work for you, Tonya. And, you know, not thinking of anything and just breathing doesn’t work for you Britta.
And I think that’s really important to note that, you know, for HSPs, we’re all very individual. You know, we grew up in different environments, we’ve adopted different strategies to help us, we’re, we’re unlearning some, we’re learning new ones. We’re doing all kinds of things. So, I think it’s really important not to kind of, you know, stick yourself in a box and go, well, everybody says, you know, it’s this kind of, you know, yoga breathing, everybody should be doing it, and you should be doing it and it should work for you.
Tonya: It gives you more anxiety, right? It does it if they’re saying, Well, this works for everybody, or, you know, this is the popular thing to do, but it doesn’t work for you. So it gives you more anxiety, it makes you feel bad about yourself. All that kind of stuff can just yeah, it can it can be detrimental, as you’re kind of finding your way to what works for you.
Rayne: To what works for you. Yeah, yeah, it’s that, that, that I find, I find that really cool to just just to note that, that, you know, what works for me may not work for somebody else, and what works for someone else may not work for me. So these are, that’s why it’s so wonderful that we get together, and we share the different things because there’s always something new to try.
And that’s why I liked when you were saying Britta you know, well, maybe if I don’t snooze kind of thing. And I think it’s, I think for me, what’s really helped me to try and to keep trying adopting new things that are helpful for me is just having that exploratory… um kind of just experimental mindset.
Like, I don’t know if this is going to work or not? I don’t know if this is going to be helpful or not? So I’m just gonna go into it with an open mind and see what happens and if it helps it helps, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. And I’m not losing anything, I’m not gaining anything right at the moment, I’m just checking it out, seeing what it does, how it works for me. And then I like that because it avoids any anxiety I feel because well this is what it’s supposed to be doing this for me. But again, just because… And who knows? Maybe you know what you were saying Tonya about the breathing or the tapping for you Britta, maybe that works for the majority but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everybody, you know?
Tonya: And also, what what works for me today may not work for me tomorrow too, right? So tapping right now where I am in my life is not good for me, but a year from now, six months from now it might be. So it’s just kind of being in tune with ourselves as well, to know that ‘oh tapping is dumb it doesn’t work blah-blah-blah’. No it might work later, right? Just kind of being open to that, and knowing that we need to pay attention to what our bodies and our minds need and kind of going with those changes and knowing that, like I said, something that works today might not work tomorrow as well. And like you said Rayne, being open to that as well.
Rayne: To trying.And for me too, I’m HSS also, High Sensation Seeking, I can get bored, I can get bored with routine. I can get bored with things. So I have to really I have to see evidence that no, this is really helping you, you know, on a day-to-day basis. So this is something, irregardless of what else you want to explore and get curious about, which is great, um you know, there are certain things that are helpful for you that you need to be doing on a daily basis kind of thing. So, which is funny because, you know, sometimes it’ll be, it’s funny, sometimes I’ll be like it’s like yeah, yeah, that’s the adult thing to do. And other times I’ll feel like rebelling against it, which is funny because really I’m rebelling against myself. Things we do.
So, um I want to thank you Tonya and Britta for sharing your experiences and thank you to our Highly Sensitive listeners for sharing your space and time today. Feel free to join us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. And if you’d like to have a conversation with us please email your topic to [email protected] and we’ll be in touch.
If you enjoy our podcast you can support us by making a donation at www.hsp.world.
Join us for our next podcast where we’re going to be delving into “Emotional Self-Care for Highly Sensitives” What is that? So we’ll see you then. Thank you again Britta, thank you Tonya.
Tonya: Bye see you next time.
Britta: Thank you, bye.
Music credit: Journey Starts From One Step – Musik av Gvidon
Love your podcast! Every episode, I feel like I get exposed to new perspectives, and learn new strategies for relating to the HSPs in my life. Thank you!!
Will Robyn and Thomas be returning in future episodes? You three have great chemistry!
Hey Laurence, that’s so cool! Thank you! As far as I know Robyn and Thomas were excited to start other projects. We just started playing with creating the HSP World podcast and were having fun, and before we knew it we’d created 36 episodes! Which is pretty cool. I kinda see it like HSP World is a sandbox to play in, play in this project, play in that one, HSPs are invited to play. It’d be cool if they’d like to join in the future. And thank you again for sharing how much you enjoy the podcast, it makes a difference to hear it resonates for you.