Are you Highly Sensitive?
It was pointed out to me several years ago that I am a "Highly Sensitive Person". I had heard the term, but honestly kind of rolled my eyes...Isn't everyone sensitive? Well, no, I have discovered that they aren't. This realization has helped me have a much better understanding of how I function and what my needs are.
This label, "Highly Sensitive Person" is also referred to as having "Sensory Processing Sensitivity", and it is a real thing...scientific studies have confirmed it, and it affects about 20% of the population. (Please note: this is not the same as Sensory Processing Disorder) The brain of an HSP is wired differently.
I always have felt that there was something wrong with me. That I shouldn't be so sensitive to crowds, lights, temperature, noise. I honestly thought everyone must feel the same but be able to handle it better and couldn't figure out why I had such a hard time.
When I was a kid and would go to the mall with my older sisters, I would feel sick and exhausted every time. I would get headaches and migraines. Once I even threw up in an ashtray (remember those??) in the middle of the mall, much to my sisters mortification. Looking back I realize it must have been a combination of the lights, the crowds, lack of fresh air, and the chemicals from all the new products.
Even though being highly sensitive can be challenging, especially if you are not aware of it, there are many gifts in it as well. Generally HSPs are intuitive, empathic and feel deeply...both joy and sadness. And while feeling sadness more deeply might seem like a bad thing, I actually find it oddly nourishing. It feels satisfying to experience the whole spectrum of human emotion. The more deeply we can feel sadness and anger, the more deeply we can feel joy and love. Many times I have found myself feeling deep sadness then in the midst of it feel a flood of joy at the sight of light falling through the trees outside my window.
I have been taking a class called "Brains = Behaviours" taught by a music therapist named Allison Davies. She is autistic and even though the class is geared toward helping sensitive children, particularly neurodivergent kids, most of it applies to everyone. She talks about taking care of our brains needs on a daily basis to help
us function at our best. She suggests things like taking "sensory breaks", listening to music, adjusting lighting, noise cancelling headphones, etc.