The HSP Trigger of Pressure – 40-Day Journal – Day 11

By HSP Mama

I get more frustrated then I should as a highly sensitive person when my forward movement is interrupted in some way. For example, when I am walking down a busy sidewalk and someone is walking more slowly than usual … usually because they are texting or doing something on their phone, and then they stop altogether and I have to go around them.

It irks me terribly.

I have wondered why it bothers me so much. As a highly sensitive person, I should be able to understand that the person is doing something that is engaging them completely. It’s not like it interrupts my entire day by having to slow down a few steps or maneuver my way around them.

HSPs and Checkout Counters

Perhaps part of the reason it bothers me so much is that I am a highly sensitive person. I am hyper-aware of the people around me and what is going on. One of the absolute worst things in my semi-regular schedule is standing in line at a checkout counter.

I dislike this scenario so much I usually avoid shopping in grocery stores until I absolutely have to, which means that my cart is generally absolutely full every time I go shopping. This means that it takes me a while, as quickly as I try to move, to get all the groceries onto the conveyor belt and then to bag them afterward. That part is not difficult.

The difficult part is the people waiting behind me.

I hate making people wait. It is a trigger for me and I will suddenly become very short-tempered and anxious because of this. I frequently take my children shopping with me and one of my kids often helps to begin bagging the groceries while I wait to pay. This child is invariably never even halfway done by the time I’m done paying; by then there are usually two or three or more people in line behind me.

I try to keep my anxiety low while I briskly takeover in bagging things, more often than not putting some fragile or bruise-able items underneath some heavy item just to get it done and get out of the shop.

The Trigger of Making People Wait

I still don’t know why this dislike of making people wait is so much a trigger for me. I’ve tried to think back to my own childhood and wondered if there is a reason for it.

I know that I do tend to move relatively slow naturally, though as a mother I have learned to pick up the pace and can move swiftly and efficiently and can multitask with the best of them. Still, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I have memories of trying to help my mother in some task or another. She has always been a fast-paced and constantly working individual. (It is my father who I’ve recently recognized as the highly sensitive person from whom I likely got my nature.)

I remember more often than once offering to help my mom or even stepping in to help with something like peeling potatoes for dinner or washing the dishes and her always verbally pushing me aside with the words, “I can do it more quickly,” and then her taking over.

Unfortunately and to my chagrin, I have used the same words with my own children although I am aware of how damaging even a benign phrase like that can be. Although I have tried not to, it has come out at least once that I can remember when one of my children offered to do the dishes. I only hope that the humor and the gentleness came across as well, rather than a spirit of haste and rush that invariably says you’re not good enough … or at least that’s how I took it when my mother pushed past me to get something done.

Trying to Figure Out the Source of the Anxiety

But I really don’t know if this unhealthy dynamic between my mother and myself is what has made me so anxious about making other people wait and slowing other people down. Or if it’s just part of my highly sensitive nature and high levels of perception regarding the people around me.

There have been times that those in the line behind me have waited for a few minutes and then moved on;I always feel so terrible as if I have ruined their entire day.

At the same time, many times in my life, I have been stuck behind someone who moves very slowly, possibly because they are writing a check or paying by cash or using coupons. Instead of feeling frustrated and angry, I put myself in their shoes. I often try to do something to displace the tension by smiling at the person or the cashier or trying to say something general to distract the others who are also waiting in line.

It is so strange, I feel, that although I generally respond with understanding and empathy in situations like this, I still have the deep fear of inconveniencing others in the very same situations when the tables are turned.

Do I not have enough faith in other people?

Is it my own experience or my fears that are in play when I am triggered?

I really don’t know. But perhaps the questions and the awareness themselves are steps toward healing and growing out of the triggers and anxiety.

Meanwhile, I avoid grocery shopping with all four of my children, especially on summer afternoons because I have experienced meltdowns and know to stay away from those environments.

  • As a highly sensitive person, what are some environments that you know trigger you or make it difficult for you?
  • What have you done to avoid them or process them?
  • Do you find that you are slowly improving or are some things generally just difficult for you no matter how many times you experience them?

I’d love to hear from you as to how you deal with pressure points and anxieties you face.

HSP Reflection on The Story We Share – 40-Day Journal – Day 10

By HSP Introvert

Although we often fail to recognize it, we all share the same story

The story of falling and at times being rescued

The story of sometimes continuing to fall with no hand to arrest the descent

Yet the story we share is also of finding unexpected grace in unexpected places

We all share the same story, yet the parts that we share are the parts we have the hardest time seeing

Of families that build us and break us and build us again

Of friends that see us and know us and, grace upon grace, accept us

Of some friendships that falter yet rise again stronger and some that fracture completely and are never rebuilt again

We all share the same story

Of hope that ends in death and hope that transcends death and hope that knows that death is just another part of the journey

This story we share yet we fail to see for the things wherein we differ

Color and culture, religion and race

Which leader might save us from the darkness we face

I cannot take your hand and arrest your fall if my fist is clenched against you

You cannot take mine and hold it in friendship if you hold to only the differences we carry

We, family, cannot cross the bridges we build if we burn them again and again

Sister, brother, take my hand

Father, mother, let us stand

Friend, oh friend, the story we share is greater than the places we differ

And maybe the story of falling and redemption, of grace after grace after grace …

… is enough …

… to heal us and make peace and carry us through

To the next part of the story

40-Day Journal – Day 9 – A Poem

We stand on the edge

at the end of this

there will be no place to hide

no solid doors

no holy wars

no stopping

no stopping this tide

 

We stand at the brink

watch gathering clouds

and ask when the storm will break

and if it will end

and if at the end

we can count the lives it will take

 

We stand on this hill

yet the force of our will

may not stop the force of the Fall

and storm clouds collide

and the strength of the tide

overshadows

overshadows us all

 

And yet, yet we stand

with a strength in a plan

with a hope that pierces the night

for the storm is a grace

if it upsets our pace

to start walking by faith

not by sight

Healthy Eating for a Highly Sensitive Person – 40-Day Journal – Day 8

In the discussion of healthy living, the matter of healthy eating is bound to come up at some point. “You are what you eat” and all of that.

Naturally, diet is an important part of a healthy-living conversation, but it is not the whole conversation. I feel that sometimes when discussing healthy living, diet and exercise are the only things discussed to the neglect of other important aspects of healthy living.

At the same time, diet and healthy eating cannot be completely ignored when it comes to the matter of healthy living. A healthy diet is part of a healthy lifestyle, and it is vitally important for a highly sensitive person due to our often keen sensitivities to certain foods. The link between diet and HSPs is a central one.

Why The 40-Day Journey?

I’ve taken these journeys before in which I have tried to embrace various aspects of healthy living, usually over a period of 40 days. Why 40 days? Well, I’ve read that it takes roughly six weeks to build a habit, and 42 days is basically six weeks – give or take a few days. So that’s one reason.

But the other reason is the significance of the number 40 as in ancient literature 40 days (or 40 years) were significant markers measuring a bridge from one place to another. (I hope I am not the only highly sensitive person who loves significant numbers and patterns.)

Think of the Israelites and their 40 years in the wilderness. Or Jesus and his 40 days in the desert before beginning a public ministry. Or the 40 days he remained on earth after rising again before ascending to heaven and releasing his gift of the Holy Spirit.

Whether or you consider these ancient narratives as truth or myth, there is definitely something about that 40-day mark that acts as a bridge from one thing to another.

In choosing 40 days for my journey toward healthier living, I am hoping to tap into that medium and find some form of bridge or breakthrough.

Now I am not naive in thinking that 40 is a magic number. (Would that it was.)

It is all too easy to land upon a certain time frame – or a certain diet, returning to the earlier conversation – and assuming it is all you need to find significant change in your life.

It rarely is all that you need. Usually, significant life change is only bought at a significant price.

The season of the coronavirus pandemic we are facing worldwide bespeaks the importance of being aware that significant life change can occur when we least expect it. Perhaps a reason to do what we can to prepare for such times.

A Just Balance in Healthy Living

But back to the conversation about diet and healthy eating. In times past, I have used my diet (and more specifically, my weighing scale) as a measure of how effective my healthy living quest happened to be.

In short, if I lost 10 or 20 pounds, it was a success. If I didn’t, well, that was all that really mattered. It is embarrassing to admit this especially when considering the fact that I have never been overweight. As a highly sensitive person I have been aware that thinness is merely an unhealthy societal expectation, I have still succumbed to the cultural view that the thinner you are, the better.

This is why I I’m making an effort to focus on other aspects of healthy living before the matter of my diet. Aspects such as a clutter-free lifestyle and a mind learning and growing through good books.

The problem is that it is often all or nothing at all with me. If diet is not the main focus, I find it difficult focusing on it at all.

Perhaps this is a common plight of highly sensitive people. Because of our depth of processing and the fact that we think so deeply on various matters, it is difficult and next to impossible to focus on so many aspects of healthy living at the same time.

And so it has been with me over the past week since I began my 40-day journey toward healthier living.

I start out the day decently, but the early part of day has never been my problem. It’s always near the end of the day when I begin to crave salty or sweet things.

Questions from an HSP on What Healthy Living Really Is

It is, I believe, my seeking of a comfortable and familiar thing, the way I turn to these things in the evening, usually when I have a small amount of space to myself, even for just a few moments, to read and to indulge in a few squares of dark chocolate or even something as unsophisticated as Cheetos.

And I find myself as a highly sensitive person waging some inner war against myself in some inner discussion. Wondering if I lack the strength to simply say no to these bodily concessions and do without. Wondering if it really would make a difference to my soul or spirit if I were to cut the extras out of my diet, to trim the fat so to speak.

Or if by the eating and the indulging I am simply being true to myself and partaking of those things that help to relax or refresh me as an HSP when I need it the most.

Who is to say? Which really happens to be the healthier kind of living?

What really wins when the mind wins over the body? Is it a victory or simply a decision?

Naturally, I understand that moderation is key to all things, and if I were to consume a pound of dark chocolate on a nightly basis, the discussion would be a different one altogether.

For now, this is only the beginning of the conversation of healthy living and healthy eating, and perhaps one vital aspect of the conversation is to be open to these questions and to understand there is no single right or wrong way to “do life” or to “do healthy living,” especially for a highly sensitive person.

40-Day Journal – Day 7 – The Philosophy of Pain

By HSP Mystic

Chronic pain can make it nigh impossible to focus on anything else.

I’ve dealt with chronic pain off and on for years. Over the last several weeks, it has been particularly bothersome. Progressively so, to where for the last few days I have found it a challenge to focus my attention on other things for long periods of time.

Pain is such a strange yet centering thing.

It does not simply invite your focus. It forces your focus.

As humans, we have struggled with the problem of pain for hundreds, yea, thousands of years.

Over the past couple of hundred years particularly, our focus has been on how to minimize and if possible eradicate pain from our lives. Whether physical or emotional or mental pain, we try to escape it. Medication for the body. Medication for the mind. And so many distractions and entertainment to choose from that we may escape whatever emotional we might be facing.

In reading about the lives of past saints, I find it interesting that their reaction to pain was very different from ours. Many of them embraced pain. Some even sought it out … although the very thought to us can seem strange and even pathologically wrong.

The reason behind their seeking, however, makes some sense, even though it is not something most of us would seek out or choose to do. It goes with the idea of Christ as Suffering Servant. To embrace pain and suffering is to embrace him and to become more like him, to take on his cross of pain.

I don’t like pain, especially when it’s debilitating. I don’t like the fact that it forces my focus, especially when there are plenty of other things I want to focus on.

However, perhaps there is a purpose for pain.

There is a physiological purpose for pain, to be sure. Feeling pain indicates that something has gone wrong in the body and needs attention. 

Philip Yancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts, discusses the importance of pain by highlighting the plight of those with leprosy, who cannot feel pain. Without the important nerve endings, they can injure themselves without realizing it, ending up with infected injuries that can deteriorate to limbs lost simply because they did not feel the pain.

In such a case, pain is a gift. It enables a person to realize something is wrong with the body and to seek medical attention.

But what of the aches and pains that simply do not go away, that persist and turn into chronic pain? I do not know, just as I am not sure what to do with the pain that I am feeling.

Simply grin and bear it? 

Or refuse to get up in the morning on days the pain feels too intense?

Or turn it toward Christ somehow and seek His presence within it?

There are some questions we, as humanity, have asked for centuries, for millennia. There are some questions that, I believe, will not have answers this side of eternity.

But as we live within those questions, as we live the questions, perhaps we will live towards the answers we seek. 

And perhaps that is one of the purposes for pain.

40-Day Journal – Day 5 – Time in Nature

 

By HSP Mama

Continuing my thoughts from my last post on day two, when it comes to space, it feels different outside.

Outside, the energy of people seems to dissipate into the atmosphere and it’s easier to just breathe.

Easier to find myself and to lose myself … in all the best ways.

It seems, wherever I am outside, a bird is laying forth a song. I might not know what type of bird, but the song is always beautiful.

Even in the summer, with the weather far warmer than I would prefer, sitting outdoors brings a measure of peace and tranquility.

As a highly sensitive person with the depth of processing that comes naturally to us, I would think that the outdoors would have the opposite effect.

After all, there is so much to see and to feel and to hear.

But I find myself healing, recharging, and naturally breathing more deeply when I step outside. One reason, I think, is that although HSPs do process everything more deeply than average, what takes up a lot of our emotional energy include things like:

  • Processing conversations
  • Reflecting on nuances in other people’s words, reactions, and body language
  • Dealing with harsh and sudden noises and (unnatural) sounds
  • Sifting through information to make everyday decisions

All these can tally up to an exhausting amount of mental input and output!

But outdoors, highly sensitive people can enjoy a more passive variety of input. Like hearing a birdsong, or watching clouds form and drift past. 

Our own thoughts have the chance to also drift and wander without needing to actively process the information. We are familiar with the song of the bird or the trickle of a rushing stream.

Even though other sounds might be audible, such as the steady din of traffic in the distance, they do not overwhelm us because they remain in the background.

If you are a highly sensitive person, try to spend some time in nature each day. As I continue my 40-day journey toward healthier living, this is something I choose to do.

Even five, ten, fifteen minutes in the morning, breathing in peace. Or in the evening, passively sifting through the events of the day and letting them settle.

May your day be filled with the peace of nature.

40-Day Journal – Day 4

By HSP Scholar

When I was growing up, I remember being taught that faith is the opposite of fear and if you have enough faith then you cannot be a captive to fear. I spent much of my childhood teen years and even early adulthood captive to fear and anxiety, and often assumed it was because I did not have enough faith. No, I no longer believe what I had been taught.

Faith is not the opposite of fear. Love is.

There is a lot of fear speaking out today in so many ways. And it seems strange that we are fearing it because terribly fearful things are already upon us, are already happening.

Today, we are suffering a worldwide pandemic in COVID-19. You might even call it a plague. This is something that has not swept the world in hundreds of years. A year ago … even a decade ago … just the idea of something like this happening would have been preposterous. But here it is.

And here we are.

And in many ways, we are succumbing to fear. Not succumbing in that we are growing agoraphobic and that fear is keeping us home. In fact, what is keeping us home, for the most part, is the mandate to do so for our protection (or if you are not concerned for your own health, then for the safety and protection of the more susceptible members of society).

No, we are succumbing in that although we are facing fearful things and we could be responding with courage and hope and support, many are responding with anger about the coronavirus and the blame game.

I understand. It is frustrating. I have barely had a moment to myself since this started. Before COVID-19, my personal schedule was more conducive to my needs and personality. I had some “me time” several times a week … but no longer.

I also lost roughly 80% of my income due to the coronavirus pandemic and on top of it had to homeschool a few students for the last quarter of the 2019 to 2020 school year while still paying for their school fees.

There are uncertainties, frustration, and unrest, to be sure. But I feel encouraged by the many who are responding with hope and ways to reach out such as a child sewing and donating masks for people who need it and other people performing acts of kindness during the pandemic.

I suppose that during this time … as in all times … one primary choice before us is what we will tune into. Sources that dispense fear and ignorance and hate will always be there; yet, so we’ll be sources that spread hope and charity and love.

From Fear to Faith to Love

I’m trying to think when and how my mind made the transition to what the opposite of fear is. I think it was when I became a parent.

There is an anecdote about how faith is trusting the hand that holds you even in the dark, like a child being led home through a dark forest. The only thing he has to hold onto is his parent’s hand.

But that faith in the parent must be predicated by the love of the parent. If that child was not confident his parent loves him then he could not have faith that the parent would lead him home. Although his hand might have been momentarily grasped, he would be afraid that the parent might let go of him and leave the child alone.

Sometimes as a child, and sometimes as a teenager and young adult, I found myself like that child, suddenly without a hand to grasp onto, and I was afraid.

But when I became a parent and felt an intensity of love that I had never felt before, I realize that that love was the foundation of faith. And that it was the antidote to fear.

I think this is a thought I’ll have to unpack more as I spend more time thinking on it but for now, maybe the task is to think about it. To consider what love is, what faith is, and what fear is for you during this time.

And perhaps think about ways that you can find sources that dispense love and faith. Tune into those rather than sources of anger and fear. Because, as cliche as it might sound, right now we all need a little more love.

40-Day Journal – Day 3

By HSP Mystic

For the next forty days, I have decided to read about and contemplate the lives of various Catholics writers and saints.

I was not raised a Catholic and would not today consider myself one, yet I find more and more that there are knowledge and wisdom to be gained from many beliefs and from people on many walks of life.

The stories and lives of certain Catholic writers and saints have interested me for several years now.

I decided there is no time like the present to begin reading about them.

More than reading, to contemplate and ponder and decide to take on some practices from their own lives for my own.

Interestingly, while looking at an online calendar for the Catholic Feast Days in 2020, the day we few HSPs began our 40-day journey toward healthy living, there is no Catholic saint honored on that day.

The space is blank.

I thought it fitting, considering the focus in the posts on day one and day two on space.

One theme I have noticed in the lives of many Catholic saints and mystics is that of space. They intentionally created space in their own lives. This time they devoted to prayer or contemplation or serving others as serving Christ became a sort of medium or Way.

Through it, their lives and eyes were opened to deeper or greater or more lasting things.

This is something I wish for, something I have found at times taking place in my own life. But it always comes at a cost. And often, the cost goes against our human proclivity toward comfort and ease.

For instance, Saint Rose of Lima only slept two hours each night in order to devote more time to prayer. A tall order for someone who loves sleep, but perhaps that is why she is remembered hundreds of years after her short life.

I ask, what might I accomplish if I were to sleep two hours and spend the extra time in prayer or contemplation or service to God and mankind?

40-Day Journal – Day 2

By HSP Mama

After reading HSP Introvert’s post for day one, I realized that a thing I also need is space. Space to think. Space to process. Maybe even space to feel safe, a bit of a boundary.

Is this natural for kids raised in big families, especially middle children who never quite had that space to themselves? Too young to have a household just with mom and dad. Too old for exactly the same thing, but a couple of decades later, once the older siblings have moved out.

I’ve never had my own room. Not at home or away. I’ve always shared a room with at least one person – a sister, a brother, a spouse – and often with more … up to six girls at one time.

Funnily, I never even realized how much I craved space, and more than that, actually needed it, until I experienced it for the first time nearly a decade ago when two of my kids had reached school age and a sister of mine kept the other two one morning a week. I could think deeply about things without sudden interruptions every few minutes, without the constant mental draw of others in the house. It was amazing!

Perhaps it has something to do with the depth of processing that highly sensitive people have. We HSPs hear and process every interaction and conversation. We hear every exasperated sigh or sharp retort. Highly sensitive people can’t just tune it out.

And as empathetic people, we don’t just hear it and see it; we feel it. We take it in.

As a young teenager, I wondered why I couldn’t fall asleep until after everyone in my family was already sleeping. I think it was because some part of me was tuned into the energy of the others in the household and only once that energy faded into sleep was I able to finally sleep as well.

It’s the same now. If my husband is restless, I am awake until he finally gets comfortable and falls asleep.

Even when people are in other parts of the house, and not in the same room, the overall energy of the household is different from when the house is empty except for me.

During these 40 days to come, I hope to find some space to think more deeply and from which to consider and contemplate things.

(Even now, my ability to complete this post in a way that satisfies me is hindered because, within a few minutes of beginning, one and then two of my kids came into the room and now my husband has joined them and I simply don’t have mental space to keep writing. So, until next time.)

40-Day Journal – Day 1

By HSP Introvert

It’s strange and welcoming that on the first day of my 40-day focus on healthy living, I am back in a place – a situation – where I feel I can write. When I left this place, I did not foresee myself returning, especially not so quickly. But here I am … and although I am tired after a long day and although it is not over yet, I am – I feel – at peace.

Something I have not done for months now is to write regularly and this is one of the main things I want to do over the next 40 days – write every day. Some days, I might reflect on the events of the day; some days, I might share something from what I’ve read, as another thing I am attempting to do is read every day from a book that is meaningful and true.

And as I mentioned when introducing this 40-day focus, not every journal post over the next 40 days will be mine. Three friends are making this same journey – or similar ones – with me, as well as keeping journals of their decisions, observations, and daily challenges.

We haven’t yet decided how it will work … who will post and on what days. Perhaps some days you will see more than one post, depending on how inspired each of us feels to write. 

Space for Writing

About the place I find myself right now, the situation in which I feel able to write once more. It is a physical place; often, this is not the case. Often, my ability to write has little to do with the physical place I am in, but more the mental place – space – where I find myself.

As a highly sensitive person, it is very difficult to write when I do not feel that I have space or “air” enough to write.

And the place we are right now, as a whole, is a difficult one from which to write, is it not? With so many voices clamoring to be heard and so many speaking in anger or frustration or simply ignorance, it is difficult for anyone – much less a highly sensitive person – to process and filter and find a safe place from which to write.

I could say something cliche like “Sometimes all it takes is just getting started,” but it would not be true. Otherwise, I would have been writing over the past several months, but I could not. Even if I sat in front of my laptop or sat with a notebook and pen in hand, I could not have commanded myself to write.

It takes more than physically being in the right place, but mentally and emotionally as well. I know that this goes against what some people say about writing. Many successful writers claim that you must write even without inspiration and the inspiration will come. I am not saying this isn’t true, and I have written “on command” plenty of times in my life to know it is true.

And yet, there is that feeling that comes when you finally feel that you have space enough to contemplate and process and from which to write. Again, perhaps this is an HSP thing. Perhaps those who are not highly sensitive people can more easily write on command and maintain a strict writing schedule.

But this is something I am going to try to do for the next 40 days of healthy living. 

Being a Bridge

Sometimes I feel that we as a whole are on the edge of something and the thought is exciting, and at other times the thought is frightening. Because being on the edge of something often means falling or building a bridge.

And so few of us, these days, it seems are willing to be bridge-builders.

Some people reading this might even say, “Well that sounds good, but I’m going to wait to make my final assessment until I know what side of the political spectrum she is on.”

Well, I’m not going to make it that easy. You will find no strict borders here. No walls to shut out those who don’t agree.

You can call me a bridge if you’d like.

But even the fact that this is my first time writing in a while and on day one of my 40-day journal of healthy living, I have resorted to talking about politics frustrates me. So enough of that.

Finally, you might find these journals start but don’t quite seem to find an ending place. They are thoughts that have begun and have the potential to carry on … perhaps you will carry on these thoughts and journeyings in your own heart and mind and take them somewhere.

Perhaps you will contemplate what it means to build a bridge, or to be a bridge, or how you might find ways to create space in your life. Perhaps not for writing, but for something else you deem important.  

I wish you space and peace and the most beautiful of views from your bridge.