What the heck is an Highly Sensitive Introvert First Aid Kit, anyway?
Your Highly Sensitive Introvert First Aid Kit is for when you scrape your emotional knee. When someone throws you a verbal punch.
It’s for when you feel overwhelmed and bombarded by constant overstimulation.
Sounds, tastes, textures, information, other people’s emotions and needs, sensations in your own body, your own needs, even your own thoughts–they can all feel overwhelming and overstimulating.
It’s a band-aid to get you through the moment.
And, it’s the holding space that makes it safe enough so you can learn from the experience in an adaptive way.
When I say adaptive, I mean coming away from the experience with self-knowledge that supports your health, well-being, functioning, and capacity to have supportive relationships.
Over the last couple of days I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of a first aid kit for Highly Sensitive People. It’s been on my mind because the last few weeks have been a bit rough.
I’ve been dealing with chronic pain and depression. I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard and not living up to my own expectations of me.
And, of course, both “pushing myself” and feeling like I’m “not living up to my own expectations” hasn’t exactly been the best way to get myself back on track (perfectionism, anyone?).
It’s made it very difficult for me to write or get much done. The problem is that I feel badly when I don’t get much done, and then I start thinking about everything I haven’t done, and what other people will think.
And then, of course, I’m less able to get things done. It’s the perfect (but not fun) chaos inducing cycle!
What I’m learning is that, as HSP, you get “off track” when you get an emotional knee scrape or a verbal punch or by feeling overstimulated every day.
It’s the little things that add up over time.
It’s not about getting thrown “off track,” it’s learning how to get back on track regularly, and what works for you to get back on your track.
It’s a learning process, and the more you do it, the better at it you get. I’m better and faster at it now. But it’s taken me a long time.
I don’t think it has to take you quite so long, and that’s why I’m sharing with you here what works for me.
The better you get at recognizing the signs that you’re getting off track, and which particular strategies are going to work best, the faster you’ll get.
The goal of your Highly Sensitive Introvert First Aid Kit is to self soothe.
Self soothing is an activity and a process that enables you to stay present, experience a range of emotions, and express and listen to someone else all at the same time. Even when you’re upset.
I know. It sounds difficult. And, it is difficult.
But, really, when you break things down and start where you are (like not expecting yourself to know or do what you haven’t yet learned…um, like I do 😉 ), then you can get there.
Problem solving and learning from the experience are then a natural extension of bringing your body and mind back to “safe.”
Feeling overstimulated, overwhelmed, and overthinking are a function of your nervous system perceiving danger (among other things).
(If you want to understand more about the way your physiology works, I wrote about how your nervous system defends you in the Ultimate Introvert HSP Guide.)
From a place of safety, most people can usually come up with effective solutions and learn from their experiences in a way that helps them get better at managing them.
Dr. Elaine Aron talks about attachment styles in her book Highly Sensitive People for this reason. It’s simplistic, but accurate, to say that secure attachments help children (who eventually grow up to be adults) self soothe effectively.
Self soothing is just as important as an adult, especially as an Introvert HSP, as it is to an infant. It just looks a little different.
Self soothing is the key skill that helps you respond, rather than react to what your nervous system determines is a threat (whether it’s perceived or real).
Reactivity is an automatic or habitual response you’ve developed to feeling under specific kinds of threats (specific tone of voice, a look, a sound, a situation, a person). It might do a good job in the short term at keeping you safe (and it probably served you well at some point).
But it also might cost you if your response doesn’t evolve to fit (adapt) new situations that may no longer be threatening like they were in the past.
Responding to a situation means being able to self soothe so you can connect with what you know works.
And if you don’t yet know what works, it also allows you to reflect just long enough so you can find the right band-aid to get you through the moment and still have better options down the road.
Lastly, self soothing can lower your stress level, and give you the emotional freedom you need to look at your experience from multiple perspectives, so you can learn from what happened.
Because learning demands that you can hold up your beliefs, knowledge and experiences while you consider other perspectives that might help you grow. Not discard one for the other.
More easily said than done when your nervous system is activated, but that’s the idea.
When you feel under threat, your perspective is narrow (literally and figuratively) and focused only on safety. It may be reactive, not responsive.
Self soothing gives your body and mind the space and safety to find solutions to the problems you’re facing that are responsive.
So, here is a Basic Highly Sensitive Introvert First Aid Kit for you to personalize. I’ve also added a link to a PDF of 3 quick and easy ways to stimulate your vagus nerve (helps tell your body you’re safe). Enjoy!
Highly Sensitive Introvert Sensory Self Soothing Ideas
Highly Sensitive Introvert – Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve
Please share what strategies you use to self soothe in the comments!
Image Credit: DLG Images
Eva Rubin, MPH/LCSW
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