by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB
“A highly sensitive nature comes with many perks – empathy, creativity, deep thinking, keen observation skills and the ability to feel passion like there is no tomorrow.” -Sonal Pandey-
August has arrived too quickly, it seems. Once again, we wonder: Where has Summer gone? !!! Parents are busy buying school supplies and Fall clothing for their children. Sigh!
There is “something” about August as a “transition month”…..our minds are geared towards September busy-ness, school and studies, projects, and increased activity of all sorts. We know that everything will be “amped up” very soon!
Yet, there are many beach and hiking days left, if we choose to enjoy them. And for those of you with “Summer SAD” (summer seasonal affective disorder: i.e., extreme discomfort with heat, humidity, too much light)—relief is just around the corner.
For Deb and Wendy, there is a something special about spending a warm afternoon on the beach in August. We find ourselves in a contemplative mode, pondering: “What is next?” We sift through our thoughts about ourselves and our lives. Self-questioning, realizations and inner stirrings may arise.
The coming of Fall on the horizon can feel like the arrival of “a new year.” Indeed, in Jewish Tradition, it IS the time of the new year, Rosh Hashanah. The “new year” is the perfect time to go deep within and take stock of ourselves. ……Examine where we may fall short, what we want to address, let go of, add, change, or work on. The September “new year” is a perfect time for “a personal upgrade” and for setting new intentions.
For this BLOG, our PURPOSE is to encourage a healthy introspection that leads to new ACTION Plans. Our gateway into setting new intentions and creating a personal upgrade starts with a conversation on SENSITIVITY and RESISTANCE. Both are normal human states. Both qualities have positive and negative emotional aspects; but there seems to be “a right balance” when we are “IN THE FLOW” in this dynamic.
We can contemplate other polarities as well, such as “weak/strong” or “impulsive/ restrained” that may serve as gateways that lead to similar results! But for this BLOG we focus on Sensitivity and Resistance.
Sensitivity =The quality or state of being receptive to sense impressions, to being easily hurt, being in ‘a delicate state’, being highly susceptible and responsive; the capacity of an organism, or sense organ, to respond to stimulation. (Excess sensitivity = HYPERSENSITIVITY—not a desirable state–as it’s difficult to take “right action” in such states. The word ‘sensitive’ is from Latin “sensus”, related to the senses.)
Positive Aspects of Sensitivity: Alerts us to danger. Let’s us know how others are feeling–so we can respond and communicate better; helps us know when someone is truthful or not. Sensitivity can serve as an opening to greater intuition and deeper knowing in our lives.
Negative Aspects of Sensitivity: Difficulty making decisions. Health, relationship and financial issues. Avoidance of life’s adventures and social connections–that may otherwise enhance our lives. Living in states of ‘overwhelm‘ where nothing gets done.
Resistance = Opposition, a motion to counteract or defeat, the ability to withstand the force of something, the slowing down of a process happening. Not changing/Staying put. Resistance can appear as NO ACTION. But actually IT TAKES A LOT of ENERGY to RESIST. Sometimes it is appropriate to resist or take a stand. Other times, our resistance keeps us stuck, and life becomes stagnant and boring. (Resist: from Latin to stand or take a stand.)
Positive aspects of Resistance: May help us avoid making ‘a bad decision’ that will take us down a ‘wrong path.’ Resistance strengthens certain aspects of character (like the ability to avoid the 2nd piece of cheesecake, ‘bad drugs’ or other temptations.) Resistance to frequent infections is a very positive health aspect.
Negative aspects of Resistance: Staying ‘stuck in a rut’ in general. Limitation of (and avoidance of) expansive life experiences and opportunities. Often involves a degree of denial. Keeps us from healing old emotional wounds and letting go of unhealthy habits and behaviors and replacing them with new healthy ones.
***What we resist, persists. .i.e., Resistance keeps us right where we are.***
***What we embrace (accepting something ‘as is’) dissolves.***
***Another twist on RESISTANCE: Some folks are NOT RESISTANT ENOUGH regarding boundary choices with certain people, dysfunctional situations and choosing to use addictive substances.***
In the health and medical worlds—the word sensitivity often relates to foods, pollen, allergies, level of pain or nerve reactivity, medications, or even a flu shot! Or, we may use the word resistance to describe a medication not working, for example: certain bacterial infections can be resistant to an antibiotic treatment.
In the larger life view, the words sensitivity and resistance relate to all levels of being in our lives: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Sensitivity and Resistance relate to how we welcome, or not welcome life, and all life’s aspects. How we take action (or not act).
It is very human to feel sensitive or deeply touched at the sight of a newborn baby or puppy.
It is also very common to feel resistant to (or non-accepting of) stressful life challenges: particularly, losses of all kinds. We may avoid or deny our emotional states. But the sooner we can move out of a resistant state, the more quickly life begins to flow again.
What is the “RIGHT BALANCE” for each of us between these two words?
***If you feel some thoughts stirring on this subject, let them arise. We live in times of great and rapid change. It is normal and healthy to contemplate this subject.
***Sometimes we are not even aware we are feeling overly sensitive (or under-sensitive) or resistant (or not resistant enough.) We may be too used to practicing negative behaviors that cover up how we really feel. These can include: excess food, alcohol, caffeine or drugs; excess spending, isolation/avoidance, and/or getting involved in unhealthy relationships. All these practices keep us UNAWARE of how we really are feeling.***
***MAKE a COMMITMENT to BECOMING MORE AWARE—the first step towards making changes towards greater possibilities.***
We ask a series of QUESTIONS to get us more deeply into this CONTEMPLATION.
Then—offer TIPS for addressing the AWARENESSES that are uncovered, or present themselves.
- Am I too sensitive to life’s challenges, and then unable to take action?
- What things, people, substances, situations am I overly sensitive or reactive to?
- Am I not sensitive ENOUGH to others and their needs?
- What do I resist? People, situations? Losses? Uncomfortable changes of all kinds that are happening?
- Is my resistance to certain changes a good choice, and a safe course? Or:
- Am I resisting a BIG CHANGE that would benefit me greatly—if I summon up the courage to face it head on?
Make a List for yourself of each subject.
SENSITIVITY: I notice that I am (very) sensitive to: _______________________________________________________________________
To start you off, here’s a few common ones: Crowds, loud music, certain foods, fluorescent light bulbs, bad odors, angry people, traffic jams, extreme cold or heat, barometric changes in the weather, criticism by the boss or a significant other, children fighting and screaming in the house on ‘a snow day’.
(OR, I am not sensitive enough to, for example: my children’s or spouse’s needs, my own needs, issues in the community, environmental concerns.)
RESISTANCE: I notice that I am (very) resistant to: ___________________________________________________________________
A few common ones: Meeting new people/networking, public speaking (terror!), getting boring tasks done (procrastination), setting priorities (also procrastination), starting a healthy eating or exercise plan, difficult conversations that are necessary but highly emotional, doing holiday shopping, balancing the checkbook, paying bills, ending a toxic relationship-even though it may be a good decision, learning new technology.
(OR, I am NOT RESISTANT enough when it comes to, for example: sugar, wine, pepperoni pizza, Facebook, slot machines, recreational drugs, slot machines, ETC!)
*** WE often RESIST what we are SENSITIVE TO–order to avoid anticipated anxiety, discomfort and pain. This includes avoidance of, or resistance to: certain people, places, recommended lifestyle changes that may benefit us, and a variety of decision-making situations—because we feel too sensitive to cope. But when we avoid and resist consistently, we stay stuck in resistance, and growth stops!***
***NOTE: Human beings are PLEASURE-SEEKING, starting at birth. We are neurologically wired to seek pleasure. We are PLEASURE-SEEKING 1st. 2nd: WE AVOID PAIN. Our resistance is often related to avoiding pain or discomfort. Sometimes this avoidance is helpful; sometimes not a wise idea***
***When we create a healthy dynamic between the two states of sensitivity and resistance: we become MORE RESILIENT people: better copers and actualizers, who have more interesting, full lives.***
TIPS for CREATING BALANCE with SENSITIVITY and RESISTANCE, and Moving FORWARD
- Decide you are going to examine (WITHOUT JUDGMENT) sensitivity and resistance issues that are often put on the back burner.
- Commit to being more AWARE, PRESENT, GRATEFUL, and MINDFUL in general. CHOOSE these states.
A KEY: These “high vibe” states will raise our consciousness and quiet our minds long enough to help us discern subtleties in the sensitivity/resistance dynamic, and help us know when to take action, or when to stay put.
***QUESTION: Is my sensitivity or resistance based on truth? Or is it time to shift out of this state and make a change?***
3. Practice Meditation, Relaxation and/or Calming exercises. In practicing these exercises, as well as Tip #2—we will find ourselves more skillfully navigating emotional states. And some issues will simply fall away.
4. Spend time in Nature or in a garden. Walk around the neighborhood (with no headphones!)
5. Practice mind-body exercises such as Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Karate, Yoga, or even a favorite work-out routine.
6. Practice breath work as a daily relaxation practice. And in times of stress.
7. Develop your INTUITION (Mind body exercises, meditation can help.)
8. Tune in to your HEART and GUT. Both these areas of the body are very sensitive (a positive aspect of SENSITIVITY!) and can supply us with many wise messages.
9. Listen to Music that you enjoy. Research shows that listening to classical music such as Bach can change brain waves. and help you see a troubling situation in a new light.
10. Stay GROUNDED through regular exercise and body movement activity of all kinds.
11. Clean out the house or your car when feeling emotionally overwhelmed by states of hyper-sensitivity, hyper-resistance. Doing so can move ‘stuck energy’.
12. Remain NON-JUDGMENTAL of “where you are at” in your emotional states. ALLOW that you are experiencing discomfort–even if you don’t like it. ALLOWANCE helps us see sensitive or resistant states from a NEUTRAL stance. NEUTRALITY is a great place to be when trying to make changes in our lives.
13. Make a new friend. Set up a walk or coffee date, even if you feel shy or resistant.
14. Spend LESS time with people who drain you.
15. If you feel you really are “too sensitive”….. For example–to large, noisy crowds. But you still want to attend a big event (or MUST attend a family function), try the following:
IMAGINE a large protective shield around your whole body. It is invisible and nobody else knows it’s there but you. You feel protected and strong, at the same time you actually find yourself able to engage in the group event. Or IMAGINE invisible ANTENNAE all over you that allow you to stay in a zone of comfort and safety. You can pick up the information you want or need, and ignore the rest.
***YOU are the GATE-KEEPER to your Experiences.***
NOTE: Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) comprise up to 20% of the population with 70% of them being introverts. ~30% of HSPs are actually ‘sensitive extroverts.’ For more information and tips on this subject, check out books on highly sensitive people by Elaine Aron, PhD in REFERENCES at end of BLOG.
16. Practice positive self-care: Follow a healthy whole foods-based diet, engage in positive sleep habits, and hydrate adequately.
17. Create a POSITIVE WORD BANK (WRITE a LIST) and APPLY THESE WORDS to YOU!! POSITIVE words raise our vibration and bring calm. They may include words such as: HOPE, INSPIRATION, POSITIVE, UPLIFTED, KINDNESS, PEACE, JOY, ACCEPTANCE, CALM, HARMONY, BALANCE, ALLOWANCE, CONTENTMENT, EASE, RELAX, TRUST, FORGIVING, LAUGHTER, HUMOR, LIGHT, LOVING. Or phrases such as “Everything is OK.” “You are loved.”
18. Make a conscious effort to let go of old patterns. Replace them with new ones of a higher order. Request that the Universe recycle your “old stuff” and “old energy” towards a higher and greater good.
19. If you need medication to help manage anxiety, do not judge yourself (or others.) At the same time: practice some of the suggestions listed in these TIPS.
20. FIND ONE SMALL AREA in your life for concentration.
JOURNAL how you are feeling and what you notice. (NON-JUDGMENT).
–Include a LIST of everything you like, love, or appreciate about yourself.
- WHAT area would I like to work on to change?
- What SMALL STEP can I take to move forward in this area of my life?
- What do I need to do— so that SENSITIVITY/RESISTANCE issues don’t prevent me from taking action?
This answer is different for everyone. Answers may include: rounding up positive family and friends, joining a support group, going to the gym, taking up hiking or kayaking, signing up for a meditation class, working with a coach or a psychotherapist, or just planning in more quiet time.
***Dig deep within to see what would most benefit YOU.***
21. Know that you are never alone. Turn to your SOURCE, HIGHER POWER, or GOD, for sustenance.
See Book: HOW GOD CHANGES YOUR BRAIN by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman
22. REMEMBER: You are already a perfect soul!
“Choose to make a ‘paradigm shift.’ Realize that emotions are here to help, they are here to contribute to life and that they are as important and useful as (our) intellect or physical body. Making this change in perspective gives (us) the motivation and desire to work through our emotional material and stay with emotions even when they get hard.” -Dean Smith- www.activemindandbody.com.au
Here’s to a greater version of YOU this September and onward!
The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!
Deb and Wendy
- Are You Really Too Sensitive: How to Develop and Understand Your Sensitivity and the Strength It Is by Marcy Calhoun
- Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger and Impulsiveness by Daniel Amen, MD
- How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman
- The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Child Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron, PhD
- The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, PhD
- The Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide: Essential Skills for Living in an Overstimulating World (Step by Step Guide) by Ted Ziff, PhD and Elaine Aron, PhD
- The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits by Gregg Braden
- Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman
- Your Inner Physician and You by John E. Upledger
- http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/05/13/10-tips-for-highly-sensitive-people/ “10 Tips for Highly Sensitive People” by Margarita Tartatovsky
- http://www.amenclinics.com/dr-amen/blog/2012/09/coping-with-social-anxiety/ “Coping with Social Anxiety” by Daniel Amen, MD
- http://www.dailystrength.org/groups/highly-sensitive-people (Support groups for highly sensitive people)
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/therese-borchard/5-gifts-of-being-highly-s_b_510020.html “The Five Gifts of Being Highly Sensitive” by Therese Borchard
- http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/06/16/energy-psychology-for-highly-sensitive-people/ “Energy Psychology for Highly Sensitive People” by Sonal Pandey
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/serina-deen-md-mph/eft_b_1536431.html “Tapping Away Trauma: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)” by Serina Deen, MD
- http://www.markschneiderphd.com/seminars.html Website of Mark Schneider, PhD, expert in behavioral medicine and professor at Brown Medical School and Harvard Medical School. Private Practice and Teaches seminars in MA, CT, RI on Developing Positive Emotional Habits