Are Stress and Anxiety Taking Over Your Life

By Julie Bjelland, LMFT

Do you suffer from high stress or anxiety, have high expectations of yourself, and get overwhelmed a lot? Do you find it hard to balance everything in your life? Do you wish you felt calm and had more energy? 

You might be part of the 20% of the population that is highly sensitive, also called sensory processing sensitivity. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) have a more finely tuned nervous system, and therefore, overstimulation levels tend to be so high that just getting through the day can be a challenge as a sensitive person. 

This trait evolved as a survival strategy of the population and offers many gifts that are needed in the world, but the gifts are often buried underneath the challenges of living in a modern world not set up for the sensitive.

Some facts about the HSP trait:

  • Scientifically proven innate trait, not a disorder
  • Found in over 100 species
  • Equal in gender
  • About 70% are introverts, 30% extroverts

Those with this trait:

  • Have a more sensitive and activated nervous system
  • Experience more activation of the fight/flight/freeze response (contributing to higher stress levels and anxiety, and may cause or worsen chronic conditions)
  • Have more activation in the insula, which is part of the conscious awareness, meaning you take in more details and information than 80% of the population
  • Can read microexpressions and body language that 80% of the population may miss
  • Have more activation of the brain mirror neurons, which makes you fire the same neurons as someone you are observing, creating increased empathy
  • Want to get things done right the first time

Why it’s important to understand this trait:

  • Your life and wellbeing will improve if you understand why you are the way you are — and how to support your sensitive system so you can reduce stress and anxiety
  • Everyone around you will benefit if you are in balance and healthier
  • You’ll have more energy, patience, and focus, and feel more in control.
  • You might be misdiagnosed (your medical and mental health professionals need to understand this trait in order to offer you the best care and prevent misdiagnosis)
  • You can learn ways to balance your overloaded nervous system, which can improve your overall health and wellbeing

Online self-tests help determine if you might have this trait. As a psychotherapist that specializes in this trait, I developed the Sensitivity Quiz.

What we know works to reduce anxiety for the highly sensitive person:

  • Learn all you can about this trait.
  • Spend time with other highly sensitive people so you feel more understood and connected to people who experience the world like you do. It really helps normalize and validate your experiences. Sensitive Empowerment is a new online community that I recommend joining.
  • Learn tools and techniques that help reduce overwhelm, overstimulation, and your brain's alarm-bell response to an overstimulated nervous system.

Moving out of survival mode into sensitive empowerment is one of the best things you can do for yourself. If you are truly thriving in the world, everyone benefits. What would your life look like if anxiety and high stress weren’t an obstacle? Who would benefit if you were thriving instead of surviving?

Julie Bjelland is a psychotherapist, author, and leader in the field of high sensitivity. Her online resource, Sensitive Empowerment, has helped highly sensitive people (HSPs) around the world reduce their challenges, access their gifts, and discover significant value to truly thrive in the world. As an HSP herself, Julie understands what it's like to live with high sensitivity and strong emotions, and is on a mission to empower HSPs to live their best lives. 

Julie has developed proprietary tools and techniques to help reduce the challenges and increase the positives that HSPs experience on a daily basis. These techniques have been developed over years of working with highly sensitive people and have proven extremely successful for her clients and students.

In her free time, Julie loves being in nature, being around animals, gardening, reading, and daydreaming about having a little farm one day. She shares her home with her partner, two children, and a houseful of pets and plants. 

Click here to visit Julie’s website.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 5: Evolved Empath Summit