An Introvert in Disguise

Even though you are an introvert, you are undoubtedly capable of acting in the world in an extroverted way when you need to. But if it goes on for an extended period of time, you will probably be tired afterwards.

Ilse Sand in On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person

Did I ever tell you about the time I tried to teach elementary school?

Actually, that season lasted a lot longer than it should have because another thing introverts are good at is saying yes when they really want to say no.

(I guess another way of saying that is introverts are bad at saying no.)

So there I was, teaching third graders.

I have a theory about children below the age of 10 and that is, the more of them that you have together, their volume is increased exponentially. It’s not one plus one plus one equals three.

The energy and volume of children increase exponentially, especially when they’re involved in doing something I’m not so good at, such as crafts or art projects.

They all seem to want to talk at the same time and none of them seem to have been taught the concept of “inside voice”.

Okay, I know that’s not really the case, and those kids were each wonderful in their own way.

Some of them, I could tell, were introverted or even highly sensitive people because of the way they interacted with others. They observed rather than joining in wholeheartedly to the noise and clamor of an elementary school classroom.

It wasn’t all noise and insanity (and I’m pretty sure the kids actually did learn), but some days it felt like nothing but noise and insanity due to my highly sensitive processing.

And while I was a teacher’s aide most of the time, there was a season (due to the main teacher’s health) that I had to step in full-time.

Although I could play the “extrovert” roll, when I got home each day, I was exhausted.

I was also angry with myself for feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed, and stressed at everything else I encountered because it was just too much on top of those hours I spent teaching and feeling overwhelmed by so many children.

I got sick, actually the sickest I’d ever been, because of the stress.

And while it’s hard for me to say no because it’s been grilled in me from a young age to embrace every opportunity that comes my way, even if it’s a poor fit, I learned that I had to protect myself from pretending to be an extrovert over the long-term.

It was harming me physically and hurting my relationships with those closest to me.

Are you an introvert?

A highly sensitive person?

Are you working at a job that completely exhausts you because it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole or a round peg into a square hole?

This isn’t the type of tiredness that comes from a long day of good work, but the exhaustion of trying to fit where you really don’t.

If you find yourself more stressed and anxious on a regular basis than you know you should be, maybe it’s time to look at your lifestyle or your type of work and see if there isn’t some better approach that fits better for your personality type.

Ilse Sand, whom I quoted above, in her book On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person, mentioned working as a pastor of a parish. There were expectations for her to do things that the previous pastor (who had been an obvious extrovert) had done.

It was only after realizing and finding grace with herself for being an introvert that she was able to then find a workplace and work style that fit her far better.

Often, in this culture, we are all expected to be extroverted and put on our best face and be highly interactive and eager about all of it …

But that’s not the best fit for all of us, especially those of us who would define ourselves as introverted and highly sensitive.

I think sometimes the best thing we can do is find grace with ourselves and accept ourselves (and each other) for who we are and then find a way of living and operating that fits our personalities.

Why I’m Writing about Anxiety

I recently posted about helping a loved one through a time of serious anxiety and depression.

A time that took me a way down that same road of anxiety, though not to the same degree.

And though my loved one is doing a lot better, I feel compelled to write about it, and to write about ways to reduce anxiety in a series of posts.

Why?

Because I know he’s not the only one going through these things.

A few days ago, I talked to a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. Her husband and teenage son both had Covid several months earlier, and she began telling me about the problems her son has been having …

Serious depression, the inability to focus on classes, hopelessness, anxiety.

I shared with her about the difficulties my loved one had in the months after “recovering” from Covid, that although he didn’t have official long Covid — no physical symptoms — his emotions and mental state were a wreck and he couldn’t function.

And then, just yesterday, I ran into an acquaintance whose husband had been in the hospital with a serious bout of Covid.

Although it’s been nearly a year since his “recovery” — he hasn’t returned to work. The woman told me she might have to reenter the workforce in order to support their family … because her husband is just not in a state where he can.

While you read this, you might have dealt with Covid, and perhaps you know others who have as well …

And maybe none of them have suffered post-Covid difficulties such as anxiety or depression.

But I think these after-effects of anxiety and depression are more common than some of us realize …

And than some of us may care to talk about aloud.

One post I read when researching the issue makes this statement:

Anxiety is considered one of the longer-term symptoms of Post-COVID syndrome (PCS), aka Long-COVID — a recently identified diagnosis.

Research shows that between 23% and 26% of people have mental health challenges (including anxiety) after recovering from the disease, particularly females.

Some studies place that figure higher, hovering closer to the 50% mark.

Psych Central

I spoke with two guys, months back, who both admitted to going through a weird (albeit brief) stretch of depression and anxiety just after getting hit with Covid.

So, it is happening, even if the reasons behind it are not yet known or understood.

And if you’ve been able to get by so far without coming down with Covid, please try to stay safe. Please take precautions.

This is not a political thing. It is a sickness that is affecting people the world over, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, or anything else.

And many people are dealing with long-term side effects that are not only physical.

If you or someone you love is suffering in some way, I can’t stress enough the importance of self-care — whatever that means for you and them.

Sometimes it means meditation, and sometimes other mindfulness practices. Sometimes it means just finding a good distraction, and other times it means getting more rest or getting some exercise or spending time in nature.

Do what you need to find healing and regain your health.

And know that you’re not alone.

Sometimes it just helps to know that you’re not the only one going through it …

That it’s not “just” you.

It’s not.

So hang in there. Don’t give up.

There is hope and there is healing. When my loved one was in the middle of his struggles with anxiety and depression, like I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Even after he was pulling out of it, I worried that something would bring him right back down.

I still worry about it sometimes.

But today, he’s okay. Today, there is peace.

And I hope that, today, you find your space of peace as well.

Finding Peace in an Unexpected Storm

Is this the eye of the storm?

A brief respite before all hell seems to break loose once more?

I have no way of knowing, but at least there’s peace for the moment.

This storm came unexpectedly, although with all the uncertainty around, I might have expected it.

I might have realized that I would be one of those engulfed in the waves of uncertainty. But I held my breath and I thought that perhaps it would pass me by.

It didn’t.

I place a high value on peace, perhaps too much value.

I can’t help it. With a very unsettling and uncertain childhood, peace was hard to come by and so I search it out these days.

And if I cannot find peace, life grows hard for me as a highly sensitive person, perhaps more than most.

I have a hard time finding ways to deal with the lack of peace.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here is how this storm happened.

The year 2020 was a challenge for everyone, and a lot of people had it far worse than I.

I faced job loss and a resultant change in finances, yet I and those I love escaped from the immediate health concerns that so many others dealt with.

Perhaps I took it for granted.

I know I took it for granted.

Assumed my age or my position in life or my faith or something would have brought me and all those I know through unscathed.

The next year, 2021, passed much the same way. A hit in finances due to another job loss, but otherwise, we were okay.

Then in the first month of 2022, it hit.

Covid.

I was pretty sick for several days and the brain fog, the exhaustion, lasted longer.

But I expected that.

What I did not expect was for one of my close loved ones to end up with a strange form of long covid that affected not only his body but his mind.

He was hit with anxiety and depression

The worst stretches are something out of a shadow dream.

He could focus on nothing but the fears in his mind, the anxiety that welled up so strongly that when he wasn’t overwhelmed by it, he was overwhelmed by sadness.

During some stretches, all he could say was I’m scared and I’m sad.

Other times, he would enumerate the fears, the thoughts that overwhelmed him more clearly, and I tried so hard to reason with him but reasoning didn’t help.

And then I was the one who was scared and sad …

Because what do you do when someone you love so much has lost their center and has nothing to hold on to?

When they are the ones drowning in a raging sea, seeking the eye of the storm and unable to find even the smallest break in the wind in the rain?

I confess that some days I envisioned myself dealing with it forever …

A lifetime of helping this loved one through the struggle.

I saw the wisdom of the advice to take it one day at a time because anything else could be a reason to lose hope.

In fact, it was that very fear of the future that was making my loved one lose hope and be so overwhelmed with anxiety.

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

Facing Anxiety or Helping Someone with It?

Maybe you are the one with anxiety …

Or maybe you’re the one safe place for the person struggling with it and finding yourself overwhelmed with their difficulties.

What is your safe place?

Now before I talk about some of the things that helped me while I was in the middle of the storm, things that might help you find your peace or balance, let me iterate that I am not a doctor or a scientist.

I’ve never studied the brain or the synapses between the mind and the parts of the body.

I do not know what makes some things overfire and flare up and cause such grief and anxiety.

I don’t know why something like Covid could cause someone to somehow flip a switch in their mind and make it so difficult for them to be able to process or move out of fear or hopelessness.

I wish I knew where those invisible links are between mind and body and spirit or soul, how the connections work and how to strengthen them when they are weak …

How to speak hope into someone’s very soul when they are finding it hard to cling to anything but sorrow.

What I’m trying to say is, I really hope some of these things work for you. Above all, I really hope that you do find hope, peace, and the ability to focus on something other than the anxiety that threatens to overwhelm you.

Here are some ways to find peace in the midst of a storm:

  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise
  • Time in nature
  • The love of a pet
  • An entertaining distraction
  • A good night’s rest
  • Meditation
  • Natural forms of medication
  • Volunteering and helping someone else
  • Prayer and other faith practices
  • Journaling
  • Learning a new skill (such as an instrument)

For now, these are just points, but I will be writing separate blog posts on each of them, as I have a few stories to share with you of ways they helped me.

One last suggestion, please get help in whatever way works for you.

It might be counseling or prescribed medication or a combination of them along with several natural methods …

But do get the help you need!

The world needs you and it needs you as whole as you can be.

None of us will ever be completely whole.

Those people who look the strongest are in some ways possibly the most broken.

But you have something beautiful to show the world …

So don’t lose sight of that even when the clouds don’t let up and the rain seems like it will go on forever.

There is a rainbow. There is sunshine. There is grass glistening with the rain that has passed and the scent of petrichor on the rain-washed air.

There is hope.

Healthy Eating for a Highly Sensitive Person

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.