2 Ways to Calm a Highly Sensitive Nervous System

20141010_100545 lake pic turning leavesA Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is someone with the genetic trait of high sensory processing sensitivity. HSPs make up about 15% of the population, and have uncommonly sensitive nervous systems.

To me, the theory that many children who have attention deficit disorder are HSPs whose brains are trying to cope with the onslaught of sensory input, makes a whole lot of sense but is a topic for another blog post.

When the volume is turned up on the already very stimulating world, what is a highly sensitive person to do for relief? As you can imagine, or as you know if you are an HSP, this sensory overload can be overwhelming.

Here are my two broad and general tricks-of-the-trait, none of these ideas invented by yours truly, but rather adopted as habits that I’ve been naturally drawn to for their positive effects:

  1. Limit substances that negatively alter your nervous system. This includes caffeine which HSPs tend to be very sensitive to. Hello stimulant. If I have too much coffee, my heart beats out of my chest, I become anxious, irritable and generally want to jump out of my own skin. And by too much, I mean more than a cup or cup and a half in a day. Many HSPs need to avoid caffeine altogether.  As I understand it, alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant, so you get to be anxious and depressed if you consume enough of it.  Unfortunately, many HSPs overuse alcohol as a way to numb their central nervous systems and obviously this can lead to much bigger problems over time. Personally, I just feel bad if I consume more than one or two drinks; the brain fog that sets in almost immediately, the feeling of poison in my body, the tiredness to follow.  And I always feel better and clearer with none. The same goes for junk food.
  1. Increase activities that calm your nervous system. Exercise, yoga, meditation, time in nature ( or any quiet time). Highly sensitive people can enjoy stimulating environments such as weddings or parties, but we just crave less of it, and need to recharge in silence more often. After a certain number of hours, if I am in a noisy, chaotic or otherwise stimulating environment, I will find myself “checking out”. I’ve hit a wall. I cannot take in any more. And if my physical space is very limited (think a crowded bus or a concert, for instance), my tolerance level drops significantly.

 

There are many gifts to sensitivity, yet another topic for a new post.  But these gifts cannot be realized unless we are tuned in to our bodies, our feelings, our own needs. And when we do tune in and honor our unique temperament, not only are we living with more integrity and peace, but we also have more to offer this noisy, beautiful world.

~ Dana

Transitions

 

21897 cropped lake pic  One of my daughters used to have trouble transitioning through the seasons. She recognized the change coming through all of her senses. I can smell it, she would tell me with concern in her voice.  (Another daughter smells lightening coming, so talk about heightened senses!) I remember her resisting the changing over of jackets, not wanting to put on a winter coat and then not wanting to shed it as spring arrived. The jacket was a tangible sign of change and she wanted to cling to the old.

Recently I said goodbye to summer which is what got me thinking about transitions in general – how they require a letting go of what was in order to be fully present and embrace what is. Some transitions are imposed on us but others are a choice.

The most exciting, though not necessarily easy, transitions are the ones we choose make within ourselves; a new habit, a new focus, a peeling off of layers (of distractions, defenses, or old thoughts that don’t serve us). The change can triggered by a new season in life, or by a desire to make a dream come true. In some instances, it just becomes too painful or costly not to make a change.

We have to give up something of the lower self in order to attain something of the higher self, right?  Lately, I find myself wanting to make enormous effort in transitioning from the lower me who wants to give in too often to laziness, distractions, and wasting precious time, to the higher me who knows better and wants more.  I am looking at it like an experiment. If I do my best each day, how will I feel in a month, a year? Where will I be in three years?

Are you going through a transition? How is it changing you?

~ Dana

What’s in a Smoothie Habit?

Dana: Being on the other side of fifty makes one acutely aware of the power of habit. One day you realize that everything you have or don’t have, the good and the bad, are the sum of all your choices and habits, leading up to this moment. Everything counts, and everything affects everything else.

Habits make up a life. 

It’s been said that habits aren’t eliminated, but rather replaced with better ones.  So for the sake of health, and energy, and wanting to be around for a long time for my precious granddaughters,  as well as my three daughters and the rest of my beloveds, I want to fill my life with good habits. I want to replace any low-energy habits with high-energy habits.

20180524_155558The good weather brings with it my craving for ice cream. The problem is, the five-year-old me would have ice cream every day, all spring and summer long. Fortunately, the more mature me is in charge here (well, at least most of the time) and I’ve found the habit to replace the urge to Eat All the Ice Cream.

Smoothies! Acai bowls! Delicious cold-pressed juice! 20171209_105358

I am obsessed. 

I won’t load you up with recipes here because, well,  this isn’t a food blog, and the internet is full of great recipes at your disposal. Instead, I’ll just say that any combination of these things go into my smoothies: spinach, kale, Vega powder, acai, bananas, berries of all types, coconut milk, cocoa, ground flaxseed & chia seeds.

20170722_094227And they are delicious! And fun! I can choose my flavor, just like at the ice cream stand. I can make them at home (or order them out). Smoothie making can get creative, be served up to others, enjoyed outside in the sunshine, for breakfast, for a mid afternoon snack, or an evening “special drink” .

Have I mentioned acai bowls? Acai is a super-fruit harvested from palm trees found around the Amazon River basin of South America. I order it freeze-dried from Amazon Prime. Amazon delivers from the Amazon, apparently. It is loaded- I mean, loaded– with nutrients. I can actually feel my cells pulsing in ecstasy when consuming it. Dramatic I know, but high-vibe food  feels dramatic. It feels like vibrancy.

It feels like sweet rebellion against all the messages that tell us-  especially women-  that we will feel heavy, sluggish, and out of ambition, passion, or libido in middle age.

Ha! I actually feel better now than I ever have. Why? Because my habits have gotten better. Not amazing. Far from perfect.  But I finally realize that every single one counts, in every area of life.

I’ve got my share of course corrections to do here on this side of five decades.  But the rewards it seems, are sweeter than ice cream.

***

* If you want to make something like an acai bowl, but do not want to bother finding, ordering or paying for acai ?  Cranberries are a great runner-upper, the most similar in nutrients to acai fruit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priorities

Dana: Happy October! Fall is in full swing now.20141010_100545 lake pic turning leaves

My two granddaughters, identical twins, were born on September 19th and I could not be prouder of my daughter and son-in-law as they lovingly and whole heartedly take on their new roles as parents.  They have doubled the size of their family in one fell swoop and change is in the air, to say the least.

There was a temporary scare with one of the babies, leading to a nine day stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and perhaps Brittni will want to share more details of this at some point. But for now, I can happily say the baby is doing fabulous and has joined her family at home!

And speaking of family, I just sort of naturally narrowed down my top priorities quite a few years ago which is about as freeing and clarifying as any decision in life could be.  As human beings, I think that we are both limitless and limited. We are limitless in what we can dream of and create and do in our lives. And we are limited in the amount of time and energy we have to spend. Not many people can truly focus on more than three priorities in a single lifetime. Choosing wisely, in my opinion, is key to feeling satisfied, living in integrity, and sidestepping regret.

Health, Family, and Writing are my top three. Every choice I make either supports one of these priorities or it does not.  I choose accordingly and my life reflects this nearly all of the time. When it does not, I know I am out of alignment and need to readjust.  In this age of abundant distractions, this is not always easy. But it has become all the more important to choose what to focus on consciously, so that the distractions do not choose us.

I like to reflect on my priorities at the start of each season, so here is what’s happening in my top three right now:

 

Health/Well-being:  Not a lot is new here. I am in my typical exercise routine of walking/jogging and yoga. I eat healthy most of the time. When I don’t, I feel lethargic and just plain icky.  I know that how I feel viscerally is of huge importance. For example, too much sugar, though it tastes good in the mouth, feels bad in my body. If I don’t get enough sleep, I have trouble focusing on my writing the next day. If I spend too long in a loud environment, my energy is drained. I rarely skip a day of meditation because, well, see the research. It works magic. I find managing energy is just as important as managing time. And I want all the energy I can muster do the things I want to do and to love all the people!

Family: Welcoming my new granddaughters into the world feels amazing! Love truly does grow in an instant. Our capacity for love is bigger than anything else. Oh, the anticipated joy of seeing these babies grow, one day at a time… Bring. It. On.

Writing:  I am excited to see how this blog grows and changes with the passing of time. We don’t know where it will take us, but I hope we can reach other sensitive souls out there, with our words, our memories and our present-day experiences. We are all sensitive beings and we do ourselves a great service to pay attention, every single day- every moment even- to how we feel. Because if we stop feeling, both the good and the bad, physically and emotionally, then we shut down our bodies, our hearts, our authentic selves.  And that is a tragedy.

I am also excited to send my updated memoir proposal out into the world of literary agents, and to move forward with other writing projects as well. I look forward to whatever new speaking engagements the end of this year and next year bring.

***

   I cannot imagine living without creating. We are all creating something, almost all of the time- our day, a meal, a list, a relationship, a career, a song, a home, a family.  I am so often mesmerized by the creativity I see around me, in others, in the world. We are creative beings for sure, and that in itself is amazing.

What are you creating now?

What are your top priorities?

Bring. Them. On.