As a sensitive introvert, do you feel like your sensitivity and tenuous energy supplies run your life? I feel they do sometimes, but I’ve found ways to feel stronger, like I can create a healthy meaningful life.
As an introvert, I process stimuli deeply. My brain chemistry and functioning affect how I take in the world. There is a bottleneck in my brain when it comes to the amount of stimulation I can accept and process.
I’m also an intuitive learner. I like looking at the big picture. Possibilities energize me. Details, closed-mindedness and interruptions, drain me.
I make decisions based on human elements. I care about feelings, mine and those of others. They influence my choices, which means I am highly aware of the emotional energy in an environment.
If you add up everything I’m sensitive to, you’d think I’d have to live on a deserted island to stave off overwhelm, but I don’t. I even advocate for getting out in the world more.
No more victim to stimuli and dominant personalities
A reader recently requested I write more about how to live well as a sensitive introvert when you are surrounded by dominant personalities. I’ve struggled with this situation my whole life and only in the last few years have I been able to get beyond it.
I’ve discovered dominant personalities are awesome if they lead or act in a way that benefits others’ growth. For example, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airline, Virgin Mobile, etc., is a dominant personality but he is generally viewed as a visionary and generous leader by his employees.
Not all dominant personalities are so easy to work with and not all stimuli can be avoided, so instead of running away to that desolate island, I’ve come up with ways to navigate this crazy stimulating world.
I’ve learned how to protect and empower my nature. I’m not a victim of my sensitivities and empathy. I’m a champion of my spirit, a leader of my life. I create my life versus handing control over to others or my own emotions. I make sure I am spiritually and psychologically full so I can handle sensory input and emotional energy.
Start with physical health
When I took the Flow Fundamentals course through The Flow Genome Project, I learned one of the key steps to reaching flow state is securing your physical health. Your mind, body and spirit are not able to reach optimal performance if they are deficient in quality sleep, food or fitness. We all know how distracting and delaying a minor bout of sickness can be. The cold or flu can narrow our focus to getting well. If we want to live offensively versus defensively, we have to be in tip-top condition.
Sleep for introverts is crucial. All of the stimulation, information and nuances we collect throughout the day need to be categorized and tucked away into proper places in our brain. Sleep does this nicely if given the chance. Charis Branson of Personality Hacker says in her post, Harmony: The Secret Weapon of the INFJ, if we have been denied reflective time during the day, our minds will make time to do it at night instead of sleeping. If you want solid sleep, make time in your day to slow down, reflect and process. Perhaps reading, exercising solo or meditation can fulfill that need to let your brain wander and make connections.
If we don’t sleep well, emotions and knee-jerk reactions take over our decision-making abilities and wreak havoc. Our subconscious and inferior cognitive abilities sneak out and hijack our more mature diplomatic and empathetic skills, leaving us reactionary instead of proactive.
Get sleep, in my opinion, by any means necessary.
Fitness allows us to play in the outer world. It takes our focus off of our thoughts and puts us in our bodies. It cleanses our bodies of toxic stress hormones and fills it with positive endorphins. Working out can be done alone or with friends. Either way our systems receive a boost. The stronger and more fit we are the more capable and energetic we feel.
A clean diet with minimal processed ingredients, saturated fats and simple carbohydrates helps our minds and bodies avoid that sluggish state where we just want to sleep and be done with the day. If we eat colorful fruits and vegetable, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates, we feel lighter and better able to take on the world. Our minds don’t seem so fuzzy and our bodies perform better.
I’ve tweaked my workout, diet and sleep routines countless times over the years. I’m always willing to consider something new and try it. I rarely get bored with my food choices or workouts. I read a lot on the subjects and I talk to others interested in health.
If I let my sweet tooth or inclination to sit and watch TV take the reins too often (occasionally is OK), I lose control and let them direct my decisions. I’m susceptible to their downward pull versus directing my spiral upward.
Sleep has been a new issue for me in the last couple of years. I now have a better understanding of how much and the quality I need. A new revelation has been that my daytime reflective time affects my night-time sleep. If I have time during the day to slowly follow my curiosity, peacefully read and leisurely formulate insight, I sleep much sounder at night.
Fostering your well-being requires boundaries. Many people have a hard time making themselves a priority. I’ve learned from the Dalai Lama and personal experience to ask this question, Who can you help if you’re unhappy? When I stress out or feel down, I react much more than I act. I don’t make good choices. I’m not there for others.
Because of my new revelations about sleep, I know to make my sleep needs clear up front in a relationship. With my last relationship, I expressed how important it was but didn’t explicitly say, After 9Pm I’m toast. I can stay out for special events but if we’re home and it’s after 9, my mind and body crave sleep; not sex, not work, not exercise, not anything stimulating other than perhaps meaningful conversation. Don’t ask me to be energetic after 9.
I need rest to be a good partner, parent, coach and person. That goes for solitude, spiritual practices and emotional connection too. I need them. I know what I value and I set up boundaries to protect them.
Rather than seeing my needs as debilitating, I frame them in a system that makes me and my relationships successful. I am in charge of creating my best life. If my partner and I run into conflict, we may have to tweak the system but still remain mindful of each other’s boundaries. In the case of sleep, maybe we go to bed earlier during the week and stay up late on Friday and Saturday night. We figure out how to work within the system together.
Those that can’t or won’t honor my boundaries, hinder my growth so I minimize interactions with them. Nurturing relationships foster growth and set the stage for major flourishing for all parties. Surrounding myself with positive and responsive relationships gives me inspiration and emotional fortitude.
When my senses and thoughts are overloaded, I interrupt the anxiety with gratitude. I’ve written about Jeff Walker’s 3 Wins exercise. Before bed think about three wins you had that day — anything from eating a great breakfast to getting engaged — and three wins you anticipate for the next day. This practice calms my mind and helps me see what I have versus what I’m lacking. Anxiety creeps in when I look too far down the path. I worry about money, health, relationships and work. I worry about what might not be there instead of seeing how far I’ve come and what or who is already in my corner.
In Vishen Lakhiani’s book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, he quotes a study done by Dr. Robert A. Emmons PhD, that shows gratitude leads to giving, which in turn boosts the happiness and gratitude of others. Gratitude creates energy, which all sensitive introverts appreciate. The book also mentions a concept of entrepreneurial coach, Dan Sullivan’s, called the reverse gap. He says if we look forward to the ideal outcome for our project, we can feel like we’re falling short but if we look in reverse to where we started and how far we’ve come, we see progress.
When I’m working out and getting fatigued, I occupy my mind with reverse gap thinking. I figure out how long I’ve already been running or I calculate in percentages how many reps I’ve already done. I see what I’ve done and not how much longer or how many more I have to do. By the time I do my calculations, I am close to the finish.
Gratitude and ‘bird in the hand’ thinking keeps me in charge of my thoughts and progress.
Guided by purpose
When I am at my healthiest physically, mentally and spiritually, I am open to other perspectives and new ideas. I no longer feel the need to tell others they are intellectually or morally wrong. I no longer need to blame others for my downfalls or mistakes. I listen to others. I own my successes and mistakes. I grow.
I am here to guide others who have sensitive natures.
Through my learning and healing, I’ve gained competency and self-esteem. I’ve figured out how to lead by inspiration, championing and creating. I am not meant to organize numbers, dollars or widgets. Some people are and that’s wonderful. I’m here to help others enhance and heal their emotions, relationships and psychological/spiritual health. That knowledge makes me stand a little taller and hold my head a little higher. It gives me strength and energy to protect my soft center, create a fulfilling life and help others do the same.
What makes you stronger and able to stave off overwhelming emotions and extreme sensitivity? What’s one boundary you keep fortified? What’s your special purpose?
If you’d like help establishing boundaries, maintaining healthy living, enhancing your relationships or finding your purpose, I’d love to work with you. Please contact me for personal, non-judgmental, compassionate and challenging coaching.