Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)?

Do you experience more stress than the average person? Are you overly sensitive to external stimuli. Chances are, there is nothing wrong with you or your coping strategies.

Instead, your brain may be more sensitive to stress than the average person. You may in fact, be what Dr. Elaine Aron has coined “A Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP).

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Neurological differences found in HSP’s.

Brain scans show that HSP’s have “heightened activity in empathy-related brain regions” including the anterior insula (insular cortex), highlighted in the brain scan below.

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The intensified response of highly sensitive people (HSP) to stress is not a choice – it’s biological. HSP brains are wired differently than the average person. This fact has been clearly supported by scientific research.

Self Test: Are You Highly Sensitive?

  1. Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  2. Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  3. Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  4. Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  5. Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  6. Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  7. Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  8. When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?        

Source: HSP Self-Test                                                                                            

Harnessing HSP’s Strengths.

The main challenge for most HSP’s is to acknowledge their heightened emotional sensitivity, understand their unique emotional needs, and finally to employ distinctive strategies for coping with stress.

Helpful websites and resources below –

  1. A Guide to the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) by Dr. Judith Orloff
  2. Coping Strategies for the Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Ted Zeff
  3. How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Dr. Elaine Aron
  4. Highly Sensitive People in the Workplace by Janine Ramsey
  5. With Care, You and Your Sensitivity Will Flourish by Deborah Ward

Cherish your sensitivity. It is your superpower.

You hold the key.

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Even though we often have little control over the “outside forces” in our lives, we can always make a positive difference – from the inside out.

Start here. Right here. Right now. Be still. Breathe in gratitude. Be thankful for this very moment. Start small. Notice your passing thoughts. Let go.

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Awareness empowers.

Notice the exact time it is right now. Say today’s date out loud. Look up at the sky. Wink at the clouds. Stomp your feet on the floor. Smile with gusto.

Slowly bring yourself back to this moment.

Grab onto the coffee mug you are holding. Inhale the rich scent of the sumatra you are drinking. Feel the warmth of each passing breath.

Feel the texture of the clothes you’re wearing. Wake up to the sound of your voice. Whisper. Sing. Shout it out!

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Dance a little dance. Stand up tall. Anything and everything that shifts you from outer space to inner spirit. From not enough to overflowing.

Positive change begins within.

Come back to yourself. Back to the grace of your magnificent spirit. Into the beauty of your incredible form. Feel the rhythm of your beating heart. Sense the pulse of life itself. 

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Everything you need to transform yourself and the world already exists within you. You matter. You truly matter. But you have to believe it to see it. Feel it to know it. One gentle, uplifting thought at a time.

You hold the key.

Your happiness depends on it.

Most people fight against what brings them despair instead of openly receiving what brings them joy.

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Shift your focus. Change your life.

Consciously accept the good that already exists in your life.

Your health. Your freedom. Your vision. Your voice.

Accepting what is does not lower the bar.

Quite the opposite.

Acceptance opens your eyes to all the favour that exists in your life.

Your hope. Your creativity. Your community. This moment.

And it’s that good feeling that motivates you to strive for more of what’s right for you. Instead of fighting against what’s wrong for you.

Begin by accepting what is.

Moment by precious moment.

Your happiness depends on it.

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 Applying this Post in Everyday Life

  1. The 3 to 1 positivity to negativity ratio is one way of applying this post in your everyday life.
  2. Specifically, each time you criticize something about yourself (or any area of your life); you must acknowledge (accept) three positive aspects about the very thing you condemned. Hence, the 3 to 1 positivity ratio.
  3. For example, each time you put yourself down for not having enough friends, you need to accept three wonderful aspects of spending time alone. (Freedom; Spontaneity; Peace of mind.)
  4. This daily practice helps dampen the adverse impact negativity bias (a type of cognitive distortion) has on your life.

Failure is the opportunity to begin again.

Ask someone how they feel about failure in the midst of it; life as they know it is over. 

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Ask someone how they feel about failure one year later; life as they know it has been transformed. 🦋 

5 Ways to Feel Strong in the Midst of Failure:

  1. Take a long deep breath. Be still. Don’t Rush.
  2. Find a safe place to challenge your fears & beliefs.
  3. Rest. Take a long walk. Eat a nourishing meal.
  4. Learn something new. Have Fun! Self-Discover.
  5. Imagine. Envision. Explore & Begin Again!

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Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

What’s your stress threshold?

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Recently, a fellow blogger asked an excellent question regarding tipping points and stress response.

They were curious to know if each of us has a tipping point when it comes to stress management.

And if so, how does it differ from person to person.

I love questions like this because they encourage me to dig deep, reflect, and imagine new ways of perceiving stress.

Stress Thresholds.

Tipping points and thresholds are often used synonymously in the literature. Especially when discussing economic, historical, and ecological phenomenon.

That said, there is a clear distinction between thresholds and tipping points in psychological applications.

Thresholds are more individual (unique to each person), while tipping points are more universal (shared by the majority).

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Which is why I see each person’s stress response as more of a stress threshold than a tipping point.

  • Thresholds vary from person to person (e.g., Type A vs. Type B), situation to situation (e.g., Work vs. Personal), and are based on individual strengths, challenges, and personal history.

See diagram above to help understand how thresholds affect your individual stress response. This graphic also depicts why a certain level of stress (below threshold) can be good for you.

  • Assess when you cross the threshold from your optimal stress zone (eustress) into your overload stress zone (distress).

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Situational Stress and Thresholds.

In addition to overall stress response patterns, thresholds differ from one situation to the next.

Situational fluctuations in thresholds reflect our strengths, challenges, and personal preferences.

We may be good at some things, but we are not great at everything.

  • For example, the more challenging academic work is for me (high stress threshold) the more I flourish. (Above Left Photo) ❤️📚
  • While this is not the case with other areas of my life (low stress threshold) and thus I tend to react (too quickly) when under pressure in certain personal situations. (Above Right Photo) 😂😩
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Techniques for staying in your optimal stress zone.

From Negative to Positive Stress.

Finally, I believe that our ability to cope and thrive under pressure is a lifelong practice. Something that is never mastered – only strengthened.

And the more we learn about life and ourselves, the higher our thresholds will become. As the majority of our stress is beating ourselves up – long after the stressor is gone.

Related Post: Thriving Under Pressure

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Questions for Your Reflection.

  1. How does your stress threshold differ from others?
  2. In what situations is your stress threshold lower vs. higher?
  3. When (if ever) is stress good for you?
  4. How can this post help you be more accepting of yourself when stressed?

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” Mary Dunbar

New beginnings.

New beginnings. Fate. Destiny. And back again.

New beginnings. Full of fright. Hope. Trepidation. Exaltation. Panic. And back again.

New beginnings. Lost footing. Found fortune. Full moons. Rainy nights. Sun drenched days. And back again.

New beginnings. Rough and tumble. Joyful. Sadness. Overwhelm to underwhelm. And back again.

New beginnings. Misplaced dreams. Found sanctuary. Outstretched hands. Yearning heart. Radiant mornings. Restless nights. And back again.

New beginnings. Fate. Destiny. And back again..💫

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The Sweet Spot.

Nowhere else to be.

That moment in the day when you realize “you’ve arrived”.

And the most interesting part is that you haven’t gone anywhere.

Instead, you finally come home to the present moment.

The here and now. The sweet spot.

No where else to be. But here and now.

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Right Here. Right Now.

This picture is from a retreat I did with one of my best friends nine years ago. The speaker asked each participant to share when they felt most at peace.

Each participant shared a different story. From when their newborn baby finally slept through the night to when they finally received their promotion at work to when their boyfriend finally proposed.

My answer was (unexpectedly) simple. I shared that I felt most at peace in that very moment. “No were else to be. But here and now.”

Wide Awake to Everything.

I had finally found my sweet spot. A place where “all is well” no matter the circumstances. A place I had been before. But failed to recognize.

A place positive psychologists call flow, and alternatively, mindfulness. A sweet spot that sparkles. Lights up. Expands. Stands still. Speeds up. And flows..

Running. Teaching. Encouraging. Writing. Laughing. Helping.

A sweetness I now easily recognize in the course of each day. That moment when I am wide awake to everything. To every sight. To every sound.

No judgements. No resistance. Simply accepting what is. And what will be.

IMG_1813 How do you know when you’ve finally “arrived” to the present moment? What does your “sweet spot” look & feel like?