Dealing with anxiety when you’re highly sensitive
Anxiety expresses itself in a number of different ways: nerves, palpitations, the inability to eat, a lack of concentration, poor sleep and low self-belief. Thoughts and feelings engulf you and magnify. You feel out of control, scared, and incredibly vulnerable.
Experiencing life as a highly sensitive person can be extremely beautiful. Our ability to be moved and appreciate the simple things, combined with the depths at which we can create and imagine, often make both our inner and outer worlds vibrant.
Yet, imagine an amazing ability to create the absolute worse case scenarios, coupled with the sensitivity to feel them all so deeply. Being a highly sensitive person can make us more susceptible to anxiety. Overstimulation from both our outer and inner worlds can wreak havoc with our nervous system. We soak it all up.
A more sensitive way to deal with your anxiety
Telling yourself to get over it doesn’t help.
Pretending that you are ok and telling yourself to get over it, drains you of energy. It takes more energy to ignore and suppress your feelings. Suppressed emotions need somewhere to go, or they eat you from the inside, or manifest in physical and emotional symptoms, including more anxiety. Instead, allow space for you and your feelings.
Acknowledge and then accept your feelings.
Start with, I feel anxious because _________. Then find a mirror state to yourself quietly. “It’s safe for me to feel scared. It’s safe for me to be me”. Acceptance does the opposite of resistance. It creates space for yourself that anxiety often restricts. Acceptance allows you to feel calmer and in doing so, think more rationally about the situation.
Find out what your anxiety is trying to tell you.
All symptoms of anxiety contain messages within them. Resist them, and you risk disowning all your unpleasant emotions that only gives them more power. Resistance creates fear and decides your anxiety is bad. That there’s a part of you that’s bad. Instead, be willing to listen to the message that anxiety has for you, why it is there, and what does this part of you need in order to feel better. Then you can see your anxiety as a friend that wants to share something with you.
Change your breathing.
The 4-7-8 breathing practice is a wonderful technique to create inner calm. It’s known to tame the fight or flight response, allowing you to respond rather than react. Ensuring you are breathing from your belly rather than your chest, you simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Do this four times to start with. Once you are used to this practice, you can increase the number of repetitions if you wish to.
These feeling wont last.
Often feelings are transient. They wont last. Your feelings in this moment, do not dictate how you will feel in an hour, tomorrow, or many months from now. So when you remind yourself that it’s ok to feel, remind yourself that these feelings wont last.
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About Catherine Callender
I support people to discover their authentic selves; supporting them to move away from situations that have left them unhappy and exhausted, and towards a life that feels inspired and fulfilling.
I work from the premise that stripping back to the real you, are where shifts in thinking, self-view and possibilities start to happen.