Highly Sensitive

From Boredom to Burnout

Ironically I almost missed this month's Hoagies' Gifted Blog hop on Balancing Boredom & Burnout because of end of school year burnout. This spring was especially challenging with the perfect storm of end of year fatigue, financial stress, dog dying, new sick puppy...

And then, of course, when I'm not really capable of taking on one more thing, my brain goes into overdrive with ideas of things I can do with my businesses, both this one and our Quinn Mountain Retreat BnB. Needless to say, none of these ideas have come to fruition quite yet. 

From Boredom to Burnout - Free Retreat Planner inside

The last few months I've thought and written a lot about prioritization and self-care and I've been revisiting these the last week as school gets out (I'd say "got" out, but I still have a few reports that need to get wrapped up). 

When I think of the word "boredom" I think "what's that, I never get bored?" But that's because my brain has gotten so adept at keeping itself busy. Watching my son though, I can see how it starts. That active brain has a low tolerance for inactivity. For me, I resorted to watching a lot of TV, which I regret in later years. And now, I admit, I find myself on social media more than is productive. 

For my son, I have to get really creative to help him with ideas to keep himself entertained without an electronic device. He can do it when pushed, but I find we both have a difficult time getting started. 

The thing is though, if we are not careful, the things we do to prevent boredom can lead us to burn out - both mentally and physically. 

As summer is upon us, I'm exploring ways to keep the balance between boredom and not further burning ourselves out. Here are a few things I'm working on as we move through the summer:

  • Record ideas in a journal to inspire us when we are looking for something to do. Including ideas that are productive, creative, interactive etc.
  • Leave space in our days for stillness and quiet. 
  • Be sure to include physical activity along with our mental activity. 
  • Leave space in our days for play.
  • Keep in mind our cycles of energy so we can plan for times we know we'll be tired and not push ourselves too far. 
  • Alternate structured time with creative free time. 

What will you do this summer to balance between boredom and burnout? 

To help you take time out to rest and avoid burnout, I created this free Retreat Planner!  It includes information on: How to prepare for your retreat in the way that’s best for you; Simple, accessible, and straightforward practices to deepen your experience; A template planner;  A guide to using essential oils to enhance and deepen your healing experience; A recommended reading list; and more!

Intensity, Sensitivity and Your Own Worst Critic - You

Whew! It has been an eventful month! Since laying down the foundation of my new website and programs, my ultimate goal has been that of building community. In the last month I launched both my first live community event and my Embracing Intensity Podcast

For my live events in the greater Portland area, my goal is to bring together a community of passionate teacher, healers and creatives who want to make a difference in the world but are easily burnt out by the the realities of the "system" from which they are trying to make a difference. Earlier this month I had the lovely Elizabeth Spitzer come talk about how "One Person Can Change The System," and we had an inspiring conversation that left us invigorated and renewed our spirits. 

Next week I will be hosting Shannon Meade, of Supporting Balance, in her talk on "Calling Out Your Inner Critic" where I expect a lively discussion on how our own self-talk impacts how we treat ourselves and others. 

I decided that this topic was so important because gifted, sensitive and creative people are some of the most self-critical people I know. They have so much to offer the world, but are sometimes so accutely aware of their faults that it can get in the way of getting out and contributing their work to the world. 

I found this so true in the women that I interviewed on my podcast

Amy Pearson was so caught up in chasing gold stars and gaining approval from others, that she lost sight of her own self-approval. When she tried to please everyone, she just became invisible to her own tribe. When she finally gave up what other people think, she connected with herself and then in turn connected with her people. 

Wendy Holthaus found herself a square peg in a round peg family and thought there was something wrong with her sensitivity and intense emotions. Escaping the void led to addictons and she was finally able to pull herself out. Finding out she was a Highly Sensitive Person and Highly Excitable helped her to channel her power for good rather than evil.

Mely Brown was burning the candle at both ends. She pushed herself to keep up with her nonsensitive peers and burned herself out in the process. She thought there was something wrong with her until she realized that sensitivity could be both a challenge and a blessing if you learn how to practice effective self-care. 

All of these women pushed themselves to be someone they were not and escaped into their idea of what they should be until they connected with the power of what they really were. 

If you are in the Portland metro area, you should totally come out and join us at the beautiful Quinn Mountain Retreat to talk about Calling Out Your Inner Critic. Wherever you are, you should totally give a listen to my Embracing Intensity Podcast and spread the word about how what you may think of as your greatest excesses or liabilities can, in fact, be your greatest strengths! 

Do you ever feel like you're too much?

Do you ever feel like you are too much? ~ Free Find Your Superpower Course Included

Do you ever feel like you’re too much? Too emotional? Too analytical? Too intense? Too sensitive?

The truth is half the time you feel like you’ve been shot out of a cannon, you’re so wired you just can’t seem to stop, the rest of the time you crash so hard you’re not good for much of anything.

You’ve tried a bunch of approaches, but nothing seems to make a difference right away so you give up quickly.

Your loved ones may say you’re overreacting, but for you life really is that intense.

So let me ask you.

Is this you…

  • When you’re working it’s go, go, go but the second you have a break you collapse from exhaustion, feeling like a slug.
  • Meaningful connection is important but when you do finally have some time you end up canceling on your friends (you’re just too exhausted to go out).
  • You have this weird ability to focus on certain things but you can get so lost in your work that you completely lose track of your basic needs (even going to the bathroom!)
  • Sometimes you push so hard that by the weekend your body shuts down, you find yourself dizzy, light-headed (brain fog), and – without getting into too much detail… your stomach isn’t happy.
  • You feel stifled creatively, since you became a mom and/or got a “real” job, you’ve  been feeling trapped because you never have time to do the creative work you crave.
  • You’re a serial hobbyist — you collect passions and interests and cycle through them the same way that a chameleon changes color.
  • And speaking of that “real” job, you got into it because you wanted to make a difference but you notice there’s a lot of stuff about the work that feels meaningless — endless paperwork, writing useless reports and all those budget meetings.
  • You set ridiculously high standards for yourself (in fact other people are often intimidated by you) but you always seem to fall short — it just seems that everybody else is so much more “together” than you.

If you relate, you’re probably a Highly Excitable Person. You may have heard of the term Highly Sensitive Person but this is a little different.

So what do I mean by highly excitable? Highly excitable people have an increased ability to perceive and respond to their environment. In other words……

You pick up on things that other people don’t and respond more intensely than the average Joe — you might break down in tears, you might find yourself obsessively thinking and thinking about a situation, you might actually get a stomach ache, you might get so lost in worst case scenario thinking that you startle when your friend says your name… There’s a feeling of “wired but tired,” until you’re just completely exhausted. All the while you wonder why you’re the only one who seems to be responding in this way…

People often describe you as dynamic, intense, sensitive, fiery, restless, passionate or spirited.

Because you react so intensely to your world you have this unique ability to literally make yourself sick. Many Highly Excitable People suffer from things like adrenal fatigue, chronic pain, exhaustion and/or digestive problems.  You might notice yourself getting sick a lot and/or it takes you FOREVER to recover from things, especially when you’re stressed out.

Anxiety is a factor too. You react so intensely to life —  your work, dating, your kids– you get so preoccupied with worry, fear or anticipation that it keeps you up at night, keeps you from being able to focus on what you want to do and impacts the way you eat (at the exact time when you should be eating well you reach for that container of chocolate peanut butter cups).

The Good News Is…

You have super powers.

There are five types of excitability: Emotional, Sensual,  Psychomotor, Intellectual and Imaginational.

Highly Excitable People have the unique ability to (depending on your type of excitability)…

… form deep connections with other people and living things.

… read other people in a way that most people can’t.

… pick up on tiny nuances in their environment.

People often describe you as dynamic, intense, sensitive, fiery, restless, passionate or spirited. ~ Do you ever feel like you're too much?

… deeply appreciate beauty and often create beautiful, even moving, pieces of art.

… use their dynamic energy to bring people together.

… be able to think things through to create brilliant connections .

…  uncover unique angles and perspectives that solve problems and introduce new ways of thinking.

… synthesizing seemingly unrelated pieces of information in a way that creates new ideas and approaches.

… master many kinds of unrelated things at the same time.

… influence others through art or and their intellectual pursuits, understanding the big picture and each individual perspective.

The truth is anyone who has achieved anything great is probably highly excitable in one of the five areas.

Here are some Highly Excitable People throughout history:

  • Jane Goodall (Emotional)
  • Ansel Adams (Sensual)
  • Robin Williams (Psychomotor)
  • Albert Einstein (Intellectual)
  • Walt Disney (Imaginational)

So Imagine:

  • Getting home from a full day of work and having the energy to call up a friend and meet her for dinner.
  • Having some extra time to take a hot bath (with salts!) without obsessing over all the things you should be doing. To your utter shock you actually enjoy yourself in the moment!
  • Sitting down at the end of a busy day, with a cup of tea, and feeling like you got it done — you didn’t spin your wheels, you were actually able to be focused and present on what was important.
  • Looking back over the year and smiling to yourself because of all you were able to do and accomplish.
  • Sitting down with your family for dinner, looking around the room, and feeling happy, not anxious, not preoccupied, just happy.
  • Knowing how to handle the everyday stress of life — family visits, temper tantrums, employee evaluations, traffic jams — without crumpling up in a ball (or screaming back).
  • Have a routine in your life that works, so you write every day, make sure to take a walk, drink your water, etc. but know how to adapt when you need to.
  • Having a clear sense of “having something special to offer” as opposed to always wondered why you’re the one who is always so sick, wired and tired.
  • Being called a thought leader, brilliant or a genius by people you respect.
  • Being asked to write, speak or teach about what is passionate to you.

Yes it really is possible!

My mission is to help Highly Excitable people use their fire without getting burned or burned out by connecting with their unique powers, balance their energy and feel a sense of accomplishment in their life.

To help you explore your own unique gifts and how to use them, I created a free Find Your Superpower Course to help you: Identify your individual areas of excitability with an excitability checklist; Customize the name of your own unique superpower; & Explore how you can harness your own power instead of suppressing it or letting it get out of control.

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

Despite some amazing things that have happened to me in the last few months including getting married to an awesome partner and acquiring Quinn Mountain Retreat, this has been a challenging winter for me.

My fatigue and headaches had been worse than they had been in years and I took on extra emotionally draining work at my day job. I usually don't get hit hard by colds or flus, but a few weeks ago I was knocked out for two weeks from the flu.

I had occasional dreams and visions of how I could use the retreat to build community and offer transformational experiences, but for the most part my intellectual excitability slowed down to a lull. I hadn't realized until my house sold and we could start investing financially in the business how much feeling stuck had got me down. I wasn't moving forward toward my purpose and I was taking on responsibilities that did not bring me joy.

This got me thinking that I need to revisit my own self care power toolkit to include things that I can see in hindsight would have helped me while I was going through it. Having a plan for these times is so helpful because when you are in the moment it is difficult to get the perspective you need to pull yourself out.

Here are some things I will try to remember the next time I feel off course:

Take a look at your days. How are you spending your time? Are you doing more things that are energizing or more things that are draining. Energizing activities activate our courage, spirit of play, self-care, sense of power and encourage mindfulness in the moment.

Remember your purpose. Even if you can't spend the majority of your time moving forward on your goals, take some time each week, or even better each day, to visualize where you would like to be. It is helpful if you can plan ahead and find short activities that can move you toward your goal so you have some thing to refer to when you have bits of spare time here and there instead of getting stuck browsing Facebook or other electronic distractions.

Stay connected with your food. When things got busy for me and my energy got low, it was super easy to fall back on letting my spouse do most of the cooking and eat the same meals in a small rotation. What I realized though is that I had completely disconnected from my food. When I was planning meals and getting creative then the food I ate was more nourishing not just for my body but for me emotionally. Finding the joy in food again instead of seeing it as a chore has helped tremendously!

Move. Even a little. It's tempting to just crash, but this will just make the fatigue worse. Find something you enjoy doing. You don't have to go to the gym and push yourself to do things you don't like. Have a dance party with your kids - or just break out the moves by yourself, go for a walk, find yoga videos, one of these days I want to learn the art of poi dancing because it's just kinda cool.

Create. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece and you don't even have to share it with anything, but creating something gets the juices flowing. When you are inspired, other things in your life are more inspiring. I find that when my brain is going imagining all the things I want to do in the future, I am often more productive in the menial things I need to do in my job as well.

What are some things that you can fall back on when you are feeling stuck?

Spring has Sprung!

The Difference Between Sensitivity and Drama

When I was young I was super sensitive to tone of voice. I remember telling people not to yell at me and they would respond that they weren't yelling. While they might not have been raising their voices, I was picking up on an angry or annoyed tone and made the assumption that they were yelling.

In my first marriage, the tone I was sensitive was one of judgement, but I blew it off as just me being over sensitive. I know now that I was right in my interpretation.

When you intuitively sense things beyond what is said (or even what the person is aware of in themselves), it can leave you questioning your own judgement. For me this led to quite a bit of defensiveness and drama in the past.

I always thought drama was an inevitable byproduct of two intense and sensitive people getting together. Now that I'm getting married again to an intense but low-drama partner, I see that I was dead wrong. I think when it comes down to it, the difference between sensitivity and drama is in how we interpret and communicate about our sensitivity.

I've heard many emotionally sensitive friends talk about how they have been accused of being irrational. I actually find that often highly sensitive people are the most rational of all because they can see many sides of an issue. The intense emotional response is a highly rational reaction to the fact that there's a lot of cruelty and unfairness in the world. The drama comes in when we react before have time to fully process...

  • Sensitivity may mean reacting more emotionally than average. Drama is taking everything personally.
  • Sensitivity might involve intuitively picking up on subtleties others might not notice. Drama is making assumptions based on those feelings without clarification.
  • Sensitivity could be reacting more intensely to the thoughtless acts of others. Drama is blaming others for your feelings and actions.
  • Sensitivity often involves considering a variety of perspectives. Drama is looking for others to reinforce your own perspective.
  • Sensitivity is being considerate of the needs of others. Drama is playing a martyr.

There are two resources that I've found invaluable in handling my sensitivity while reducing the drama. One is The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz: Be impeccable with your word; Don’t take anything personally; Don’t make assumptions; and Always do your best.

The other, more active, tool I use is Nonviolent Communication. NVC is all about communicating our needs in a way that respects the needs of others. It empowers us to take assertive action and live out the Four Agreements. I developed a four step process to help sensitive and intense people use the elements of Nonviolent Communication to embrace their sensitivities in a positive and proactive way. I use the acronym STAR (Stop, Think, Act, Request) to remember the steps.

Stop - Develop a self-care toolkit to help you reach a calm state and objectively observe your situation.

Think - Consider your feelings and needs around the situation then think of strategies that might meet your needs.

Act - Choose a strategy and do it.

Request - If someone can help you meet a need, make a request of them. Be sure that it is indeed a request, rather than a demand.

I share a more detailed post about the STAR process here.

We can not control the actions of others, but we can control how we respond. Considering the Four Agreements and using the STAR process we can communicate our needs in a drama-free way and live our lives proactively rather than reactively.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Books

I first diagnosed myself as an undergraduate psychology student as having, "overactive dendrites," which essentially meant that I was highly sensitive but I didn't know that term at the time. There were a lot of things I connect with about being highly sensitive, but some of it didn't quite fit as I am also a high sensation seeker and an extrovert. As I researched more about my own son's intensity I realized that I was highly excitable, which means I both perceive and respond to the world more intensely than others, not just in my senses as described by high sensitivity, but also in my mind, imagination, feelings and body.

Over the last few years, I've read all kinds of personal development in order to explore the best ways to harness the power of excitability. These are a few that have had the most impact on myself and my work (Amazon affiliate links included):

The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius(tm) by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen. Jacobsen describes a gifted adult as intense, complex and driven. She doesn't so much focus on intellect so much as the personal characteristics they share. This book is a great start to help understand your own gifts and intensities and use them in a positive way.

Searching for Meaning: Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope by James T. Webb. I've found quite a few books aimed at bright or intellectually gifted adults to be either extremely academic, overly self-admiring, or focused more on problems than solutions. Webb's book does an amazing job of describing the existential dilemmas that more intense people face and describes both negative and positive coping skills for those facing disillusionment.

Living with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults edited by Susan Daniels and Michael M. Piechowski. This is literally THE book on excitability. I appreciate that it looks at intensity at all stages of life. Some of the essays are more academic in nature, but others are more personal and compelling.

The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) by Chris Hardwick. This was by far the most entertaining personal development book I've ever read! Chris Hardwick was a "has been" MTV V-jay turned highly successful blogger and podcaster. He shares how he transformed his life by approaching it like a roleplaying game.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. Nonviolent communication is a tool I use throughout my work. When I first learned about it, it appealed to me right away because it was close to my own natural style of communication, and I believe why I've had a skills with communicating in difficult situations. While the actual "language" of NVC can feel a little awkward, the spirit of understanding the underlying needs we are trying to meet with our actions is invaluable. It also gives tools for making objective, unbiased, observations and understanding our feelings better.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz. This was one of the first personal development books that had a profound affect on me. Such simple concepts that really made sense to me. The four agreements are: Be impeccable with your word; Don't take anything personally; Don't make assumptions; and Always do your best. Easy to understand, but sometimes difficult to implement. It's helpful for me to revisit these concepts every now and then.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey. I kind of blew off The 7 Habits for a long time as too mainstream and cliche. When I finally got around to reading it though, I realized that these were inarguable truths. The 7 habits include: Be proactive, Begin with an end in mind; Put first things first; Think win-win. Seek first to understand, then to be understood; Synergize; and Sharpen the saw.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown.  I pretty much love anything written by Brene Brown. Her TED talk on Vulnerability was the first TED talk I ever saw and set the bar for all future talks. In Daring Greatly, she takes her research and gives practical applications. I especially appreciated her chapter on wholehearted parenting. The Gifts of Imperfection is another great book!

How to be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo. I got this book to "save" my marriage, but it also helped me to let go. The five keys include attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing. He also talks about stages of relationships and how to choose a suitable partner. His book How to Be an Adult: A Handbook for Psychological and Spiritual Integration is also a great one, but sometimes it's hard to hand someone a book called "How to Be an Adult" without extensive explanation. It addresses tools to move on from your past and take ownership of your life. My favorite chapter is on how to be assertive in getting your needs met rather than passive or aggressive. It's a great companion to NVC concepts.

Breaking Free from Persistent Fatigue by Lucie Montpetit. You might ask what this has to do with intensity or personal development, but I've found I'm not the only one who has experienced persistent fatigue from experiencing the world more intensely. I've picked up so many chronic pain and fatigue books over the years and nothing ever really clicked. I love Montpetit's approach because she looks at energy balance not just from a health perspective but from a psychological or spiritual perspective. I share some of her most useful tools for balancing your energy in my post What's Your Energy Balance.

There are a lot more amazing books out there, but I thought I'd cap it off at 10. I'd love it if you'd share below what books have had a positive influence on using your own intensity for good!

You Don't Really Want to Get Better

A few years ago I was wandering a holiday bizarre when I found a booth where they were selling magnetic jewelry that was supposed to help relieve pain. I asked the man if he'd seen any success using it for Fibromyalgia and he said, "I've found that people with Fibromyalgia don't really WANT to get better."

Umm.... Excuse me?

I spent years buying self-help books and trying new therapies in the attempt to relieve my chronic pain and fatigue.

But then I never really stuck to anything long enough for it to help, so was there some truth in what he said?

I call bulshit!

The reason it's hard to stick to anything is because chronic pain and fatigue deplete our resources of self-control.

Last week, when talking about focusing on health rather than weight, a client said to me, "but the problem is I don't really believe that my pain and fatigue will be fixed by losing weight."

This made me step back and look at my own experience. I had lost 40 pounds and kept it off without trying for almost two years and felt much better than I had. I said, "I still have issues with fatigue and pain, but I'm a hell of a lot happier."

I'm more in tune with my body's messages, I have an easier time falling asleep and don't wake up every day feeling like a truck hit me and I completely transformed the way I eat. I'm also working on projects that I feel passionate about and helping others harness the power of their own intensity. Once I gave up the idea that I had to "fix" myself before I could find the right partner, I opened myself up and found a partner who loves me BECAUSE of my quirks instead of despite them.

My friend Kathy Carlisle once said she had been looking for something outside of herself to "fix her," when it really came from within.

Our western medical approach is all about fixing the symptoms, but it doesn't really get at the core issues that drove the symptoms in the first place. Kathy is an inspiration because she managed to heal from her MS diagnosis without medication.

If there's a drug that stops the symptoms, many people end there.

Perhaps that's why this man felt that people with Fibromyalgia don't really want to get better - there are very few drugs or therapies proven to relieve the symptoms so many of us have given up on ever finding relief.

Looking beyond symptoms, I've found a few core issues in the highly excitable, intense and/or sensitive people that I've worked with that may play in to pain and fatigue:

  • The world is more intense for them than average.
  • They have a history of tuning themselves out and ignoring their body because it's usually uncomfortable.
  • They try to tone themselves down to fit in and not appear "too much."
  • They have a strong drive to make a difference in the world, while at the same time needing extra self-care due to their sensitivities.
  • Their willpower reserves have been depleted.
  • They have a really difficult time putting themselves first.

Here are some things that have helped me tremendously in healing from within:

Become an ally with your body. In an inspirational interview I did with Anna Chapman, she said that she used to see her body as an enemy, but now she can see that everything her body has done was in an effort to protect her. I see that in myself after trying so hard to "fight" my body and beat it into submission. After years of tuning it out, it screamed back at me to listen. When I was asked to stop every hour and rate my pain and tension I was able to feel headaches creeping up my neck and stop them in their tracks. Even now, I have to remind myself to check in with my body and make sure I'm not pushing it too hard. When I am more in tune with myself, I'm actually more productive because I don't crash so hard as soon as I don't have a deadline over my head.

Get clear on your purpose. When you are clear on your life purpose and vision for the future, you can make decisions that are in line with that vision. It helps to bring you clarity and direction. You can move from beating yourself up about what should be and focus on what could be. When you have a sense of purpose, your passion and intensity can be channeled in a positive direction instead of spinning your wheels unnecessarily.

Do exactly what you want to do. When I first started my coaching journey I wanted to help women with chronic pain and fatigue issues improve their self-regulation skills so that they could follow through on the things that would make them feel better. I realize now that I was completely missing the mark. It's not about forcing yourself to do things you don't want to do, but about doing exactly the things that make you feel alive! In my post on energy balance, I point out that If we can activate our courage, spirit of play, self-care, sense of power and be mindful in the moment, our activities are a lot more energizing. If, on the other hand, we are motivated by fear, duty, responsibility for others, powerlessness, dwelling on the past or ruminating about the future, we are bound to be drained. This is why so many approaches to healing can backfire - because we approach them out of fear and duty.

If you are listening to your body and your purpose, you can find things that align with both and make decisions that feel good instead of forcing yourself to do the things you think you "should."

What has helped you heal from within?

Are you a Highly Sensitive Extrovert?

I got into the field of education because I thrive on connecting with others. But as the expectations on educators go up and the funding goes down, there is understandably a lot of stress around me that I have a tendency to pick up. This is a common problem of Highly Sensitive and Highly Excitable People who often find themselves in helping professions.

It is useful to step back and get some alone time to regroup. Being an extrovert though, I gain energy from being around people. So how does one find balance when a part of you is easily overstimulated and a part of you needs to go out and engage. These are some things that I've found helpful for myself:

Learn to be alone. When I was single, I did everything I could not to be alone. If I wasn't working or with my son, I was almost always out with my friends. I used to pull cards from a deck with transitional themes and occasionally I would get the "void" card, which describes itself by saying, "you may be covering up the emptiness or pain through an addiction." Now for me, addiction didn't come in substances or typical "addictive" activities, but in my fear of being alone and fear of missing out. If my friends were out and I were free, I wanted to be there. If I were home alone, I would do anything go get out of the house. Once I started a meaningful business though, and I felt some direction with my time outside of my "day job," I was able to enjoy and savor my alone time. Now that I have another adult in the house, I don't feel the need to go out as much, and I value the time I have to just do my own thing.

Choose your company. I used to pride myself on my ability to get along with challenging people. I was flattered that picky people wanted to spend time with me. Now I realize that the biggest challenge for me is not in having people like me but in setting limits and inviting people into my life that nourish me instead of ones that drain me. I still cast a wide social net, but there are only a few people that I am super close to. Those I spend the most time with I am consistently energized by, though of course we all have our rough times. I once ended a relationship with a great man because for some reason I felt consistently drained when we were together. We maintain a high respect for eachother, but in a relationship we just didn't work.

Find your purpose. As I mentioned above, once I felt a sense of purpose outside of my "day job", I was able to enjoy my alone time more. Finding a sense of purpose can help guide you in deciding exactly what choices in your life will feed that purpose and what will detract from it. This will help in deciding what social activities will be energizing and what you might find more draining.

Just say no. Learn to say no to things that aren't fun or in line with your purpose. Take a close look at how you spend your time and decide what things are really worth the investment. Time is one of your most valuable resources, so spend it well. This includes making time for play and self-care. If you are tempted to go out, but not really sure if you should. Step back and look at why you want to go. Are you afraid of missing out on something? Are you avoiding time alone with yourself? Or is this something that really will revitalize you? By all means, don't be afraid to say yes as well - just know what you are saying yes too.

To be a Highly Sensitive extrovert is anything but boring. If you embrace all aspects of yourself and learn your limits though, it can be a fun adventure!

10 Free Tools for Embracing Your Intensity

As a highly excitable, intense, sensitive and/or creative person, it can be hard to sift through helpful information. There's so much good free stuff out there on the internet that it's hard to know where to begin! Fortunately for you, I've spent the last couple of years going through websites, blogs and coach materials and would like to share with you the ones who stood out for their relevance to helping use excitability for good as well as their generosity and integrity.

I focused on people and materials that help make the most of your intensity, sensitivity and/or creativity. Many of these lovely people have also agreed to be interviewed for my upcoming Embracing Intensity podcast, and I look forward to sharing their deeper story of how they've used their powers for good in their own lives!

Organize and Beautify your life with the Queen Sweep. Anna Kunnecke offers this amazing six week class for free once a year every spring! Each week she helps you go through an aspect of your life (such as your closet, or your wallet) and make it more organized and beautiful. It is arranged in a spiral format so that you can start as small as you want and revisit each year to take it deeper. The goal of the program is to create: a physical space that feels beautiful, restful, and inspiring; a streamlined closet that reflects your best self; a clear inventory of your finances and a game plan; confidence saying ‘no’ to draining obligations; feeling more present and relaxed in your life; and the ability to close loops so that you can turn off at the end of the day. You can also check out her other free classes here.

Get out of your head and connect with the real you with Our Real Work. One common issue for us excitables is that we get stuck in our head with our mind spinning and sometimes forget to check back in with our gut. Jess Ryan focuses on reconnecting with your intuition so that you can make the decisions that are right for you in your life. You can check out her free Intuition Indicator Quiz to find out your intuition style and why it's so important to living the REAL you, and/or her Chakra Cheat Sheet with practical info to help you access the Real You in the real world.

Improve your health with The 4 Areas of Self-Care for Highly Sensitive People. Mely Brown goes above and beyond with her free e-guide that provides simple yet effective tips that support your sensitive neurology. So you can embrace the right healthy habits that suit you to create better energy, comfort and flow. It covers: the 4 characteristics of high sensitivity that can make some seemingly healthy habits hurt the sensitive woman & her self-esteem; the 4 key areas of health — most wellness programs miss out at least 2 of them, so no wonder they’re doomed to fail you; smarter (not harder) sensitive-friendly self-care tips you can blend easily into your life; plus coaching tip on how to know which healthy habits to prioritize in your self-care, right now.

Love your body and yourself with the Body Love Newsletter.  Anna Chapmann is one of the most inspiring humans I know! She is on a mission to help her fellow soul-sisters navigate old body image beliefs, social stigmas about what beauty is, and most importantly to defend against and purify the negative self talk we don't even realize we are saying to ourselves everyday. She has been featured on The Elephant Journal and has a very down to earth approach to self-love.

Stop looking for approval with the Approval Seeking Personality Type Quiz. I first discovered Amy Pearson looking at life coach websites in the Portland area. Her newsletter quickly became one of the few I consistently opened. She is all about being the full strength unedited version of you. And she self-identifies as a highly excitable person! I have had the pleasure of working with her one-on-one and got so much from her insights and experience. She also helps coaches to connect with their tribe and focus on the things that will help build their business in the most leveraged way.

Embrace your multiple passions with this Resource Guide for Multipotentialites. People who are excitable in mind and/or imagination may find they have so many interests that it's hard to focus on just one.  If this is true for you, you might be a multipotentialite. A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. Emily Wapnick of puttylike.com shares how being a multipotentialite can be a great thing in her Ted talk on Multipotentiality. She also has a membership based online community forum called the Putty Tribe where multipotentialites can gather and discuss their varied passions and interests.

Grow your happy sensitive intuition with this free kit from the Happy Sensitive. Caroline Van Kimmenade has set out to build a community of happy sensitives. She shares tips and insights on using your empathy and perfectionism in a positive way. She also has several programs that are presented in a variety of formats that make them accessible to anyone looking to explore using their sensitivity in a positive way. I've just started her practical perfectionism course and my favorite thing so far is her perfectionism flow chart that gets you thinking about whether striving perfection in this moment is useful.

Explore your creative side with this Access Your Infinite Creativity Guided Meditation or How to Craft a Talisman e-book. Cynthia Topp has dedicated herself to: helping blocked artists find their playful inner child so they can live in an endless flow of creativity, helping entrepreneurs plot their path and overcome fears so they can create the business they envision and helping YOU dare to take a leap into the unknown so you can follow your dreams and create your best life. Her passion is to help creative, artistic people work through their mind clutter, limiting beliefs, and other assorted junk, to take their art to a place of infinite flow, and their business to a place of ridiculous profitability.

Attract your own tribe in your business with Stella Orange's guide: They Won't Pay You Gourmet Prices If Your Copy Screams Fast Food. Stella had me at "are you writing for muggles or wizards?" Since many highly excitables have a passion for making a difference, entrepreneurship is a common goal. If you are like me though, the whole selling part of the job might not come easy. Stella approaches copywriting for your business in a fun way, and has developed a great community of business owners who are making a difference. She thrives on encouraging people to use what makes them different and stand out as the super powers that they are.

Balance Your Energy with my Self-Care ToolkitYou want to make a difference in the world so you push yourself as far as you can. You tend to be self-critical and put other people's needs before your own. You're afraid to stop because you know you'll just crash and your affect on others is your best motivation to move forward! But here's the thing, research has shown that a happy person is a more productive person. If you don't take the time to take care of yourself, you will not be as effective in your attempts to change the world. Plus, believe it or not, you deserve a little TLC. In fact, your drive to make difference is connected to the very reason you need extra self-care. You are highly attuned to your environment. You pick up on things many others don't and respond more intensely. For this reason, you are more likely to burn out if you don't take care.

Wherever you are at in your mission to harness the power of your excitability, these tools are a good starting off point to explore their work and decide if you want to dive deeper. They are all about celebrating the uniqueness of you and using your differences as strengths.

I will be adding additional resources I've found useful in embracing intensity in the comments below. Please share any that come to mind for you as well!

Choose Your Own Adventure!

You always knew there was something different about you. Perhaps your inquisitive mind goes a mile a minute and you got in trouble for asking too many questions. Maybe you felt like an emotional roller coaster, and puzzled at how everyone around you stayed so flat. It could be you lived in your own little world that was as vivid to you as what others called the "real world." Perchance your senses were so strong you had to start tuning yourself out. Or else, you felt a constant restlessness and need to take action without quite knowing the right direction to move.

Whatever your experience, as a Highly Excitable person, you can be assured that it has been an intense ride compared to the norm. You may have tried to tone yourself down or tune yourself out to fit in or just to survive.

But as Dr. Seuss said, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"

Now all that holding back might be taking it's toll with fatigue or that feeling that you just keep spinning your wheels without getting anywhere. Or perhaps you've picked up some patterns or habits that no longer serve you.

We are each as unique as our individual quirks, but if you have related to my blog, there are a few things I can guess about you:

  • You have a strong desire to make a difference in the world.
  • Self-care doesn't come easy for you.
  • You are starting to realize that improving your self-care will enhance your ability to make a difference in the world.

How that self-care looks is as individual as you!

This month I decided that instead of offering a one size fits all approach, I would branch out and offer a free one hour Choose Your Own Adventure Strategy Call.

In this call, you will:

  • Finally stop feeling like something is wrong with you and learn how Excitability directly contributes to your fatigue and/or feeling stuck..
  • Learn how Excitability, when channeled in the right way, can be your greatest asset.
  • Create a crystal clear plan to move toward balancing your energy and feeling a sense of accomplishment in life.

Choices for the call format include:

Break Free From Fatigue

  • Identify constructive ways that you can use Excitability in your life right away to go from feeling "powerless to powerful."
  • Learn one thing you can do right away to instantly feel more energized.

Stop Spinning Your Wheels

  • Identify your procrastination profile and what you can do about it.
  • Learn prioritization tools so you can focus on what is important and stop spinning your wheels on things that feel urgent but aren’t really important in the scheme of things.

Unblock Your Path

  • Identify one life pattern or habit that has been getting in your way.
  • Dislodge your blocks so that you can move forward with positive change.

To access your free session, complete this survey and I will contact you with available dates.

Highly Sensitive or Highly Excitable?

I've been asked a lot recently about the difference between being highly sensitive and being highly excitable. I've written a few posts on being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and how it relates to excitability, but as I've spent the last year immersing myself in the two I've gotten more clarity on them both. First let's take a look at how the terms are defined.

According to Merriam-Webster... 

Sensitive: receptive to sense impressions; capable of being stimulated or excited by external agents (as light, gravity, or contact); highly responsive or susceptible; easily hurt or damaged; especially easily hurt emotionally; delicately aware of the attitudes and feelings of others

Excitable: capable of being readily roused into action or a state of excitement or irritability; capable of being activated by and reacting to stimuli <excitable cells>

According to Dr. Aron’s definition, the highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.

According to a summary of Kazimierz Dabrowski's work, overexcitability is a characteristic of the nervous system involving higher than average sensitivity to stimuli (a lower threshold to stimuli) and a higher than average response to stimuli.

Pretty similar eh? 

The short answer on the difference between high sensitivity and excitability is that high sensitivity focuses primarily on sensory and emotional sensitivity. Excitability includes sensory and emotional sensitivity, but it also includes intellectual, imaginative and psychomotor sensitivities. If you have a heightened sensitivity and/or intensity of experience in any of these five areas, you would fit the definition of highly excitable.

What's in name?

If you identify as a Highly Sensitive Person and that describes you quite well - you certainly don't need to go looking for new labels to add to your collection. Even though HSP falls under the definition, the term excitability might not feel quite right. If you are like me though, the concept of the HSP fits in many ways, but does not alone explain the big picture. From what I have observed, while those who identify as HSP often feel that the world is "too much" those who identify as excitable also worry that they might be "too much" for the world. This is due to the intensity not only of how they perceive the world but in how they react to it. They also struggle to find balance between the high need for self-care they have from being HSP with a strong drive and/or pressure on themselves to live up to their idealized selves and do something remarkable in the world.

Another difference I've seen is that the people I've talked to who identify as excitable, might be more likely to be High Sensation Seekers (HSS). HSS HSPs are highly sensitive to their environment, but they also seek stimulation and novelty. This combination of traits may leave you feeling like you have "one foot on the gas, one foot on the brake." I see intellectual and psychomotor excitabilities as the most likely connected to the HSS traits. If you are intellectually excitable, you may be attracted to novelty and intellectual stimulation by looking for new problems or puzzles to solve. If you have psychomotor excitability you may experience a feeling of restlessness and need to move. Some experience a tendency toward excess energy and/or hyperactivity, but it is possible to have psychomotor excitability and fatigue, which may show up in feeling "wired but tired."

So are you Highly Sensitive, Highly Excitable or Both?

If you identify as more sensitive or intense than average in the areas of senses and emotions, you are likely both. If you identify as more sensitive or intense in the areas of thought, imagination and/or body movement you might be highly excitable, but not identify as HSP unless you have the sensory and emotional components as well.

What is Your Energy Balance?

I don't know about you, but I've read a ton of health and self-help books over the years trying to "fix" my chronic pain and fatigue.  Last year I found a book called Breaking Free from Persistent Fatigue by Lucie Montpetit.  Instead of listing a bunch of "cures" that may or not work, this book takes a more holistic look at exploring your energy.

One of the most useful chapters for me was Chapter 3, From Chaos to Energy Balance. In this chapter she suggests examining your activities for their energy balance.

To start, pick an activity you might do on an energy draining day.  Could be something related to personal hygiene, productivity or leisure.  Now consider these aspects of the activity:

Physical

Does the activity activate your sympathetic (calm) or parasympathetic (fight/flight) nervous system?The sympathetic branch of your nervous system was designed to perform under crisis. It activates our fight or flight response. This is handy if you are being chased by a tiger, but in our modern fast paced world it is often over active. Add to that the tendency to pick up on things and react to them more intensely of the highly excitable person, and you have a recipe for Adrenal Fatigue!  The parasympathetic branch acts as our "break pedal."  It helps us to stop and rest so that we can recuperate.  Things that decrease the heart and breathing rate, such as meditation and taking a hot bath, can activate the parasympathetic branch.

Emotional

When you think about this activity do you feel scared or brave? If you are doing something out of guilt, shame or apprehension then it will be draining to you.  If, on the other hand, your actions are motivated by assertiveness, joy and goodwill, it will be more energizing to you.

Mental/Cognitive

Do you see this activity as an obligation or a joy? Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication, a Language of Life, is fond of saying, "don't do anything that isn't play." (p.135) If we do things only out of a sense of duty, not only is it draining for us, but will eventually engender resistance to perform the activity.  He encourages a shift by translating "have to" to "choose to."  To do this you acknowledge that you are choosing to do something because you like the outcome. Instead of saying, "I have to ___", say "I choose to ___ because I want ___."  For example,  I might say, "I choose to clean my house because I want to enjoy peaceful surroundings."

Social/Sociocultural

Are you doing the activity for others or for yourself? It is one thing to do something for others because you enjoy contributing to their wellbeing.  If you are doing it for approval or recognition though, it is likely to get draining fast.  Even if we are doing it for the enjoyment of making their lives better, if we put their needs before our own we don't get the chance to recharge our own batteries.  As Montpetit says, "Over time, what we enjoy doing for others ends up becoming an obligation when we continually deprive ourselves in order to be able to do this activity." (p.66)

Connective/Spiritual

When doing this activity do you feel connected or disconnected? According to Montpetit, a sense of powerlessness comes of feeling alone (or disconnected) in the universe. (p.67) This leaves you feeling on guard and forcing things in the direction you want them to go.  Eventually you might resign yourself to a feeling of helplessness. When you feel connected and powerful, on the other hand, you have an inner feeling of well-being and a sense that you are part of a whole greater than yourself.  You come to a place of acceptance where power comes from working with reality instead of pushing against it.

Time Focus

When you do this activity, is your focus on the past and/or future or is it on the present? This concept was actually brought up in a later chapter, but I think it is another element to consider when taking stock of your energy balance. In our culture we are often focused on striving toward the future or pondering the past without taking the time to really be in the present.  This is why mindfulness meditation has taken off and helped a lot of people. If your mind is on the past or future, your energy is more likely to be drained. Bring yourself to the present moment to help recharge your battery.

What I particularly like about Lucie Montpetit's approach is that while some of these elements are clearly draining or energizing, a lot of it is in how we perceive them.  If we can activate our courage, spirit of play, self-care, sense of power and be mindful in the moment, some of the same activities can become a lot more energizing.

Taking these elements into account, what is something that renews your energy that you would like to make more time for into your day? What is something you are already doing that could be made more energizing by shifting your perspective a bit?

Power Toolkit

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power. ~ Lao Tzu

I've spoken a lot these past few weeks about how our intensity can be our greatest asset.  You might be thinking, "well that's great and all, but how do I use that intensity if I'm too overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings to even know where to begin?"

One of the strategies I use in my Ignite Your Power! program is to develop a Power toolkit of things that help you feel back in control.  This involves putting together physical items that help you refocus your energy along with reminders and possibly phone apps such as guided meditations and white noise.  On the table below, I include seven types of tools that you might consider, along with some examples of the types of things you might use for each excitability.

Soothe

Soothe

This is the category that is probably talked about most often. To effectively think about your next move, you must come from a place of calm - or at least not be revved up enough so that the reasoning part of your brain shuts down.

Ask yourself, What helps soothe my mind, imagination, feelings, senses and restless energy?

Possible items might include: Inspirational writing, quotes, guided imagery, grounding objects (rock, paperweight), acupressure points, tapping/EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique); sensory soothers such as: Touch (soft, squishy). See (movement, peaceful) Hear (music, guided meditation, white noise). Taste (mints, tea). Smell (candles, oils); as well as physical soothers such as yoga, stretches, walks and calming movement.

Distract

Distract

Sometimes when our mind is going a mile a minute without stopping, we need to distract ourselves to disengage from our thoughts. The purpose of distracting yourself is to break yourself of the pattern and move on. Use these tools sparingly as you don't want to get stuck on the chosen distraction. Consider setting a timer or reminder of when to end the distraction and move on to something else.

Ask yourself, What helps distract my mind, imagination, feelings, senses and restless energy?

Possible items might include: puzzles, books, crossword puzzles, sudoku, artwork, crafts, crochet, sewing, positive websites, movies, music, movement, walking, dancing and exercise.

Observe

Observe

Once we are calm and out of self defeating thought loops, we can get the space to observe our situation.

Ask yourself: What helps me make objective observations? How do I step back from my emotions or thoughts to see clearly?

Possible items might include: Mindfulness tools, timer, journaling, progressive muscle relaxation and walking meditation.

Connect

Connect

Soothing and distracting yourself may temporarily disconnect you with your feelings, but it is important not to ignore them.  When you can make clear objective observations, you can start to connect with your underlying feelings and needs about the situation.

Ask yourself: How do I connect with my thoughts, ideas, feelings, senses and/or energy?

Possible items might include: Journal, drawing, art supplies, list of feelings & needs, yoga and breathing exercises.

counter-balance

Counter-balance

If you are prone to a repetitive pattern of feelings or thoughts, it can be useful to have tools that counter-balance those feelings or thoughts.  For example, if you are constantly self-critical, it could be helpful to write down affirmations to read to yourself.

Ask yourself: What helps counter-balance overactive mind, imagination, emotions, senses and energy issues?

Possible items might include: Mindless activities (use sparingly as with distracting items), grounding activities, affirmations, inspirational messages, funny or cheering writings or videos, pleasant sensations and calming or energizing activities.

Energize

Energize

While it is important to find soothing activities, it is equally important to find activities that boost your energy and inspiration.

Ask yourself: What helps activate my mind, creativity, positive feelings, senses and energy?

Possible items might include: Inspirational readings, ideas and messages, dream boards, things to touch, see, hear (music), taste (tea), smell (oils), energizing movement and dancing.

Reach-out

Reach out

Finally, it is helpful to remember that you are not doing this alone.  Make a list of people who you can count on to help.

Ask yourself: Who can I process my thoughts, creative ideas, emotions, sensory experiences and/or energy needs with?

Possible people might include: Friends, family, mentors, teachers, counselors and coaches.

Now it's your turn, what tools do you use to reconnect with your own power?

If you'd like to explore this further, there's still time to join us in my Ignite Your Power! program,

Harnessing Your Power!

Last week I talked about how I've toned myself down and tuned myself out over the years.  This can be a tempting thing to do when you seem to react more intensely to things than most people around you.

If you are highly excitable though, your greatest excesses may in fact be your greatest assets!

To me, the key is not to tone yourself down for others, but to approach the world more consciously so that you can be in control of your own life choices.

When well harnessed, excitability can be a wonderful thing.  It enables us to pick up on things others might not and experience things in a passionate way.  According to Dabrowski, who coined the term “overexcitability,” or “hyperstimulability,” It is a sign of high developmental potential. This is because intensity can help us to become more self-aware. The problem comes when our self-criticism becomes a cycle and we don’t use it to move forward.

If you are Intellectually excitable - Your mind goes a mile a minute and you make connections others might not.  You are a great problem solver and can come up with new ways of thinking.  If left unchecked though, your active mind can keep you from concentrating or sleeping.  You might be prone to overanalyzing and drawing hasty conclusions.  It might be tempting to suppress your overactive mind through mindless activities such as watching TV, internet or substance use.  Finding ways to bring more mindfulness into your life and practicing observing without judgment can help channel your mental energy in a positive direction.

If you are Imaginatively excitable - You have an intense imagination.  You are a highly creative visionary with an active fantasy life.  You are capable of great innovation and thinking outside the box.  If you don’t watch yourself though, you might lose touch with reality or have your head in the clouds.  You also might be prone to invent and fret about problems that may never happen.  If you've stifled you imaginative energy, you might feel stuck or stagnant. With solid grounding, your inspiration can soar.

If you have Psychomotor excitability - People might describe you as animated and full of life.  You can be inspiring, uplifting and charismatic and revitalize people and situations.  When this energy gets out of control, you might be prone to inconsistent energy and/or perpetual overdrive.  You might appear as wired, hyperactive or harried.  At some point, you might burn out and feel listless and/or restlessly inactive. Make sure you are taking time to hit the pause button every now and then so you don’t burn out.

If you are Sensualy excitable - You have an increased awareness of all five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.  You have a strong appreciation for aesthetics and tend to be highly perceptive and observant.  Because you are more physically sensitive than most, little things can irritate you and you might feel easily over stimulated.  You might also be easily distractible by everything around you that others don’t notice.  It is possible that you have learned to tune these things out, but this can lead to more problems if you ignore your body’s signals.  Check in with yourself regularly to mindfully observe your body.

If you are Emotionally excitable - You feel things deeply and may have a tender heart.  You are also likely to be compassionate and concerned for others.  With extreme positive emotions also comes extreme negative emotions and others might perceive you as overly dramatic.  Your strong empathy might drive you to put other’s needs before your own.  It is possible you might try to avoid this by distancing yourself from your emotions and the people around you. Acknowledge your depth of emotion and celebrate it.  Just take time to process things before you react out of emotion alone.

Now, I want you to pick one thing about yourself related to intensity or excitability that you have been self-critical of.  Now look at that trait, and describe how it looks when it’s out of control, how it looks when you try to suppress it, and how it looks when it is well harnessed.

Some examples:

Trait Suppressed Uncontrolled Harnessed
Intellectual All plans, no progress Racing thoughts Analytical problem solver
Imaginational Stifled imagination Out of touch with reality Vivid imagination
Psychomotor Listless Wired Animated/Full of life
Sensual Tuned out Raw & Overstimulated Enriched by senses
Emotional Detached Overly emotional Deeply feeling/concerned

Understanding how your powers look when they are well harnessed is the first step to using them more efficiently.

If you'd like to explore it further, you can check out my Ignite Your Power! program!

Toning Down and Tuning Out

When I was young, I might have been considered a hipster before being a hipster was in any way cool. I never fit in to the mainstream so did everything I could to stand out.  This was especially true in the way I dressed. I remember reading a journal entry that I wrote my senior year of high school, in the early 90s, where I was annoyed that the very clothes people insulted before were suddenly getting complements. I hadn't changed, but weird was suddenly getting cooler. Now, of course, I think it's pretty great that a wider expression of individuality is accepted.

Over the years though I started toning myself down in the name of "maturity" or "adaptability."  I thought this was just part of growing up. But I tend to be so adaptable that I risk losing a bit of myself based on the people around me. I don't do it consciously, it just sort of happens.

A while after divorce when I found an amazing community of excitable friends, another friend made the observation from some recent pictures that I had looked "like a flower that had been kept in a closet and never allowed to bloom."  But it was really me who kept myself in that closet.

I got a job that was somewhat meaningful, but also sometimes mind numbingly repetitive.  I always thought I was lucky to find a job I was good at that paid the bills.  It never occurred to me for a moment that I could start my own business.  After all, I needed the structure of timelines and deadlines to keep myself going.

toning-down

But as Marie Forleo says, “What are you stealing from the world by playing small?

If you are constantly toning yourself down, no one can ever really see you shine.

The other thing I've been guilty of is tuning myself out. When little things annoy me and annoying things hurt, it was easy to start tuning myself out.

The problem was though that in tuning myself out, my body just screamed back louder.

After having a colicky baby and going through divorce all in the same year, I was forced to reexamine my life.  In my pursuits to heal from all of my physical pain and fatigue, I found that before I could heal physically I must first live my life with more purpose and meaning.

That is why I went part time at my "day job" so I could pursue a coaching program to help dynamic women use their fire without getting burned by getting in touch with their superpowers, balancing their energy and feel more accomplished in life.

This week I am launching a pilot of my first 3 month group program - Ignite Your Power! Check it out here!

All You Need is Love

I always knew I wanted to have kids.  My maternal instinct was strong from the time I was a small child.  As a teen, I took in stray people the way some kids might stray animals.  However, when the time actually approached, the idea kind of freaked me the f**k out!  This is because I didn't see my self as a responsible adult.  This may have been part of why it took me over a year to conceive and he wouldn't come out for 10 days after his due date.

Finding myself a single parent of a colicky child further exacerbated my mommy guilt.  Being highly sensitive and reactive to his moods, my own moods would fluctuate almost as wildly as his.  Only, when he got over it and "moved on," my grumpiness would stick with me much longer.  Being a spirited women raising a spirited child has its ups and downs.  But wasn't I the responsible adult here?

Add to that the stack of "shoulds" that I wasn't doing.  I should be a better house cleaner, I should manage my money better, I should be a better cook, I should take better care of myself so I can be a better mom.

Then I read this blog post about Why You Should Stop Doing Things You Don't Like To Do and her comment "I recommend you truly examine what you LOVE to do and NEED to do and focus on those rather than on what you only “want” to do or “should” do. Wants and shoulds crowd out the loves and needs," and it hit me that that was exactly what I was doing.

I owned my own house, was raising an amazing human being who was never sent to the ER on my watch, had a meaningful job that I was good at and paid the bills and maintained an active social life supporting and being supported by my friends.  When I stopped to think about what I was doing instead of what I wasn't, I realized that I was doing a whole lot.

Since then, I have come a long way in the cooking and self-care department.  This is because I shifted my thinking about what I should do to what makes me feel nourished.  A few years ago I lived off of easy frozen meals because as a single parent, "I didn't have the time to cook."  Now I make almost all our meals from scratch because I love the way it makes me feel.  I seek to improve my self care not because I should, but because it nourishes me and by nourishing myself I can not only be a better mom and friend, but I also set a good example to encourage others to do the same.

I will probably always hire someone to clean my house as long as I can afford it because I'd rather be spending time playing with my son.  I enjoy the effect of a clean house, but I do not particularly relish the process.  I do not particularly enjoy mundane tasks.  If it's something I need to do to meet our needs, I will certainly do it.  But if I can delegate it to someone else, that leaves me open to do the things I'm good at.  I considered letting my housecleaner go when I went part time until I generate some new income, but I realized that the time I'd be spending cleaning or distracted by mess would negatively impact my ability to do the work that I feel called to do.

If you keep focusing on what you should do instead of what you need or love to do, you will have less time to share your gifts with the world!

So I ask you two questions: What is it that nourishes you?  Do more of that!  What do you think you should do that could either be dropped or delegated?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of Guy Holtzman Photography

Sensitively Driven

I once heard a High Sensation-Seeking Highly Sensitive Person (HSS HSP) described as having one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.  This really resonates with me and gets to the core of the conflict of the highly excitable or spirited.  The term "excitability" means the heightened activation and response to stimuli and "spirited" is used to describe the quality of being more intense, persistent, sensitive and perceptive than average.  These two traits often go hand in hand.

Your highly sensitive side craves peace and TLC. Your system overreacts to the smallest things. You genuinely need more peace, rest and down time than others, but...

...your spirited and excitable side is constantly active and craves action, whether external or internal. There is so much you want to do, there's no time for self-care. You are afraid to miss out on anything, so you keep pushing forward. Then...

...you crash! You pull through and carry on when you have to, but when you finally have a moment to breathe you have no energy left to enjoy it. The adrenaline that kept you going has now left you crashing and burning with adrenal fatigue.

One foot on the gas

So what's a girl to do?

First of all, know you are not alone. According to Elaine Aron, 15-20% of the population are HSPs and another subset of that are high sensation seekers. Excitability is seen as a sign of high developmental potential by Kazimierz Dabrowski. This is because if you are perceiving and reacting more to your environment, your are more likely to pick up insights others might not.

The challenge is to accept and embrace both sides fully and then find ways to keep them in balance.

Work smart. I've always loved the saying, "work smarter not harder." I've found that the most recurring issue for spirited women is the feeling of busyness without getting anything done. Taking the time to plan and organize so that you are conscious of your time goes a long way. It is also helpful to play to your strengths and understand that your perceived weaknesses might in fact be your greatest sources of power. To explore further how you can harness your power, you can check out my free Power Zone Toolkit: 7 Days to More Focus, Energy and Fun!

Play gladly. If you are highly sensitive, you might feel guilty when you take the time to play. You may feel that if it's not either productive or active self-care, it is not worth your time. If you are highly driven, you might try to maximize your play time so that play actually starts to feel like work. If you are exhausted all the time, you might be choosing leisure activities that are neither relaxing nor enriching. If you choose your activities consciously and with joy then it serves its own purpose. If, however, you zone out just to numb yourself, there might be better ways to spend your time. When you play gladly you are mindful of your choices and can fully savor the moment.

Rest easy. If you keep pushing yourself too hard in work and in play, when you finally have a chance to rest you are likely to crash. Working in schools I find this most notable in the first two weeks of summer when I am almost completely useless. While it may seem that you have no time or money for self-care, a little forethought in this area can go a long way. Also, while technology can add all kinds of business to our lives, it also puts so many tools of self-care at our fingertips. This week, I started doing YouTube yoga videos throughout my day, and it was so much easier to fit in 5-10 minutes here and there than it would be to fit in a whole 45-60 minute class. I also like to do hourly mindful "check ins" with myself and have used a variety of guided meditation apps.

If you honor both sides of yourself and live your life consciously then you can work smart, play gladly and rest easy!

Photos courtesy of Guy Holtzman Photography.

Crochet designs by Laurinda Reddig.

Quietly Spirited

Guest Post By Carissa Reid

If asked a few months ago how to describe myself, “spirited” would not have been at the top of the list. “Reserved,” “focused,” and “creative” would have been the first few words. “Sensitive” would make the list, and “perceptive,” and at times, “intense.”

Now I understand that many of those words fold into a definition of a spirited person. I just happen to be quietly spirited. If you’ve just met me, you wouldn’t immediately notice my personal brand of excitability. I’m the quiet one standing just behind my more extroverted friends, riding their exuberance through gatherings and parties, or I’m the one in the corner seat, observing from a distance, choosing my time to engage.

I am a universe in a box

But quiet doesn’t mean inactive. I look like the quiet type, sitting in the corner of the room, but I am a universe in a box waiting for the flap to open. I’m observing, noticing group interactions, overhearing conversations, considering my opinions and responses if it happens that I join the discussion. Ask me about my thoughts and you might end up with an account from history or a philosophical idea or a spiritual epiphany I’ve had, because I’ve been thinking on it for a while and I’ve followed all the lines of interconnection during my mental cogitation. By the time I’m asked to speak, I’ve already reached an end point.

Which is why I often have a hard time joining discussions. How do I go back and fill in the hours of thought that went into where I am now? The words come out rushed, stumbling over each other in their joy to be free. I speak too loud, too quickly, too pointedly. And suddenly I’m not the quiet one in the corner anymore. I am the driven, focused, almost obsessed eccentric who has made the leap from how the Seattle Seahawks are doing at the beginning of the season to the dangers of fans at European football games.

Then, cowering under blank stares and uncomfortable smiles, I make some excuse and retreat to my corner, packing my universe back into its box, and return to quietness. But inside, I’m making new connection and sooner or later, some unknowing person will ask an innocent question and the box will burst open again.

Maybe I shouldn’t call myself “quietly spirited” but “deceptively quietly spirited.”

Photos courtesy of Guy Holzman Photography

Carissa Reid

Carissa Reid is a writer, crocheter, blogger and has recently started her own proofreading business, offering proofreading services to writers and bloggers. She blogs at CJaneReid.blogspot.com. Information on her proofreading services can be found at CJaneReid.com.

The Spirited Adult

   spir·it·ed  adjective\ˈspir-ə-təd\ 

   : full of courage or energy : very lively or determined

More and more has been written about "spirited" children these days, which is a word often easily exchanged for the words "difficult" or "high needs."  When you look at the definition of spirited however, there is much more good than bad in the term.

In Raising Your Spirited Child, Mary Sheedy Kurchinka points out the positive qualities that go along with this trait.  As she describes, "the word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more.  They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive, and uncomfortable with change than other children."  They are "the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls."

Her definition of spirited is very similar to the description of overexitability in Living with Intensity, written by Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski.  They describe it as "an innate tendency to respond in an intensified manner to various forms of stimuli, both external and internal."  In fact, they quote her definition and use the term spirited as another word to describe overexcitability.

Many resources covering spirited or excitable traits revolve around solving this as a "problem" in children. Unfortunately, when we treat this as a "problem" to solve, rather than a power to harness, we end up with spirited adults who either feel out of control or have repressed their spirit to the point where they have created a host of other problems.

Daniels and Piechowski note that Kazimierz Dabrowski, the founder of the term overexcitability (or more literally translated "superstimulability"), "saw inner forces at work that on the one hand generated overstimulation, conflict, and pain, but on the other hand, these factors provoked individuals to search for a way through the pain, strife, and disharmony."

In Dabrowski's research, these traits were linked to "high developmental potential."  This makes some degree of sense because if you receive and respond to the world in a more intense way, you are likely to pick up on things that others may not.

There are five types of excitabilities: heightened psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, imaginational and emotional experiences. They can provide unusual stores of energy, perceptiveness, insight, creativity and/or sensitivity.  People exhibiting any one or all five of these intensities might be considered spirited.

So think of one trait about yourself that you have labeled as too much.  How does that trait serve you when used well?  How does that trait look when you feel it is out of control?  How does it look when you try to suppress it? Now consider how you can embrace this trait and use it for good!

To find out more about your own personal powers, you can sign up for my free Find Your Superpower mini lesson.

I Am a Walking Paradox

I was once described by a close friend as an enigma.

This is strange because I'm one of the most open and transparent people I know.

I have little structure inside my head and need lots of structure on the outside.

I am quick to see the big picture, but may miss obvious details.

I am honest almost to a fault, but usually can find a way to say things in nicely.

I am bothered by little things, but I can also tune things out.

I am both highly efficient and highly inefficient at my job.

I have an extremely low pain threshold, but an extremely high pain tolerance.

I over think almost everything, yet can be extremely impulsive.

I have a lot of empathy, yet I can be unobservant of the people around me.

I am frequently fidgety and constantly tired.

I write concisely or ramble, but not much in between.

I am a completely open book, yet still manage to surprise people.

I am a spiritual rationalist... or am I a rational spiritualist?

I am a walking paradox, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Photos courtesy of Guy Holtzman Photography.