Anxiety or Highly Sensitive?

Highly Sensitive or Anxious

The phrases ‘anxious teen’ or ‘anxious child’ seem to be more and more prevalent in our society. The numbers have increased and sufferers are getting younger and younger. My own experience has shown this – more teens are coming to me for EFT, more students at the school I used to work at were suffering from anxiety but also my own daughter, niece and nephew, all show signs of ‘being a bit anxious’. It really sparked something inside of me and made a part of me rise up to try to find an explanation. 

Less than 6 months ago I found out I was Highly Sensitive, and more than that an ‘Intuitive Sensitive’. And it changed my life. Heidi Sawyer’s book ‘Highly Intuitive people’ and then Dr Elaine Aron’s book ‘The Highly Sensitive Child’ literally opened up a whole new world to me.

If you’ve ever felt lost in the world, if you’ve ever been labelled as anxious, shy or introverted or even just ‘sensitive’, you might be one of the estimated 15-20% of the population who are highly sensitive, intuitive and empathic. Seen as a personality type rather than a disorder or medical condition which needs medical intervention.

For years I’ve felt different, alone in the world, absorbing others energies, being sensitive to smells, sounds, people, getting overwhelmed and tired out easily. I intuitively know and sense when something is wrong, intuitively knowing and noticing more about the world and people than anyone else seemed to. I see problems before they arise and sense when something is not right. 

It was and is overwhelming, tiring, anxiety inducing and confusing. I often felt ‘neurotic’ and struggled with life, social situations, friendships, relationships and my own confidence. Now I know that I wasn’t ‘neurotic’, my brain and sensitive nervous system were simply over stimulated from trying to meet the demands of a non – sensitive world.

I’m not here to say that all people who suffer anxiety are in fact, ‘just’ highly sensitives. Having experienced mental illness in my own family, I am well aware of the damage that trauma and bereavement can have on mental health, resilience and brain integration. 

What I’m here to propose is that some of the 1000’s of children, adolescents and adults who feel as though they suffer with bouts of anxiety, extreme worry or feeling a sense of unease, might actually be in fact, something much simpler.

Something much more manageable, something which when understood, can be a gift – something which the world and human race actually needs. Something which is seen in many species of animal and is a method of survival.

Being an intuitive sensitive sets me apart from the world. It’s a gift and I’m so happy that I’m one, that my daughter is one and that many of friends and family are too.

The future world needs sensitives.

Why? Well they “think before they act, notice potential dangers sooner than non-sensitives and realise the consequences” but they are being forced from the modern business world by the non-sensitives “aggressive decision-making and emphasis on short-term profits or flashy results” modern world. Dr Aron suggests that they are “discounted in the modern business world, as they appear to have less influence and their health suffers due to them needing calm work environments and reasonable work schedules and they end up being forced out and quit” – me included (I was a secondary school teacher and my physical and mental health suffered from the endless pressure and workload). But sensitives are more likely to be the “scientists, councillors, theologians, historians, doctors, nurses, teachers and artists”; and we need these kinds of people right? 

From my own experiences and my own research I’ve found similarities between anxiety and high sensitivity –  albeit preliminary. As I was reading, writing and learning about both areas I had this strong gut reaction which wouldn’t let this go. I feel strongly about promoting high sensitive personalities. I feel strongly about promoting the work of Elaine Aron and Heidi Sawyer, and I know that if more people understood high sensitivity, it could prevent a lifetime of pain, discomfort, awkwardness, worry, fear and potentially anxiety for 1000’s of people.

It could help parents deal with ‘fussy’ and sensitive toddlers, help teachers, parents, care givers and community workers some guidance to deal with the adolescents they work with and it could help adults and other high sensitives realise who they are too. That’s the main reason I just couldn’t let this go; I’ve had to step out of my ego to write this!

My own experiences of parenting my own child and witnessing the parenting of other obvious sensitive children, even my time as a teacher, have shown me that it’s so important to nurture our sensitive children and not force them to fit into the current world.

Elaine Aron supports this in her book (The Highly Sensitive Child) stating that “parenting will decide whether the expression of sensitivity will be an advantage or a source of anxiety“, and that “sensitives thrive when they are nurtured and not forced to do what they don’t like.” We need a world of confident sensitives, not hidden and anxious ones.

What are the characteristics of Highly Sensitive?

High sensitive individuals appear shy or introverted. However they are not, they are observers, taking in their surroundings very carefully before proceeding and integrating or socialising. They are easily irritated, over stimulated and appear fussy.

They seem to feel deeper than other people, being sensitive and empathic noticing the distress of others. They are sensitive to noise, pain, foods, busy places, emotions and odours. Shouting or forceful punishment simply doesn’t work for them – gentle correction or a nurturing communication approach works much more effectively. They get overstimulated easily and require a lot of down time and rest. 

Dr Aron suggests that because sensitive children notice more about the world and  environment they become over stimulated easily – this over stimulation can result in rage, depression, withdrawn behaviour, stomach or head aches and in my experience, an increase in sensitivity traits (for example, my daughter becomes more irritated by clothing and more fussy about foods/smells/tastes when overstimulated), making life very demanding and stressful. 

I find the most troubling trait of being a sensitive person, especially as you become older and move into adolescence is that sensitive people are intuitive and empathic – feeling and sensing the moods of people around them. Often feeling something there that isn’t being spoken about; my 8-year-old niece said recently – “so and so was upset today at school, she wasn’t acting upset but I could tell she was“, whilst my 3-year-old daughter instinctively distances herself from children who aren’t happy, positive or confident. They simply pick up on people’s energy and have a strong gut feeling – which is always right. As adults and children, this is one of the hardest traits to live with.

Sensitive children have a hard time in school because they are surrounded by other children – each child having their own set of issues/problems/emotions. A sensitive child will find it hard to know how they feel because they are constantly evaluating and monitoring the emotions of these other children around them. This makes them confused and unsure. From my own experience I don’t ever remember feeling a solid feeling of how I felt – ever. I was constantly monitoring the feelings of others and being empathic. Most of the time I knew what was wrong emotionally with people before they had even uttered a word. Confusing, overwhelming and a little bit weird.

Dr Aron suggests that when children or teens are fussy, ill, withdrawn, overstimulated, stressed out or depressed the last thing which is thought of is sensitivity.

When researching anxiety for my own interests and personal practice (I have found an increasing number of teenage clients were approaching me saying they were anxious and the term social anxiety was mentioned a lot) I found that social phobia – the fear of performance situations, was replaced by the term social anxiety disorder in 1994 – so in medical terms this is a relatively new thing. 

Social anxiety disorder is defined as “marked and persistent fear of one or more social performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possibly scrutiny of others” another definition is given as “irrational fear of being watched or judged or evaluated, or embarrassing or humiliating themselves.”

Now at this point my sensitive brain was joining the dots. I could sense and see so many similarities between SAD sufferers and sensitives.

People with Social Anxiety sufferer intense feelings of fear of situations where they don’t know anyone, sensitives fear meeting new people as they are scared of new energies.  Past experiences of meeting new people has been overwhelming – they learn that they don’t want to meet new people, it’s too tiring and worrying. 

People with Social Anxiety fear new situations when they perceive they will be judged – sensitives take judgements personally, it hurts them deeply if someone dislikes them and they sense people’s disapproval and therefore can tell if people don’t like them without the other person uttering a word – confusing and painful. The truth hurts. Sensitives can build up a fear of being judged because they feel it so deeply. 

High sensitive people feel emotions more deeply and intensely that non-sensitives, which could explain why Social Anxiety sufferers have anxiety about being embarrassed or humiliated. Being high sensitive would mean you feel these emotions very deeply.  They would cause physical emotional pain, for example a gut-wrenching churn, or a heart-stabbing pain. And I can see here how an extreme anxiety could be built up in sensitives. It’s simply more ‘painful’ for a sensitive to be embarrassed or humiliated than a non-sensitive.

People with Social Anxiety will also fear that others will notice their anxiety and can exclude themselves from social situations – this is a huge fear sensitives have, especially intuitive sensitives. “Being found out” –  Intuitive Sensitives know they feel different from other people, it’s often isolating and lonely, being able to sense and feel people’s emotions before they’ve even opened their mouths, therefore being found out is a huge worry for a sensitive. 

Sensitives are also targets for sociopaths, people who feed off sensitives’ energy and actively seek them out. This could also contribute to the trait anxiety sufferers face of a fear of being targeted and ridiculed because of their anxiety by people because it’s happened in the past.

Now I have used Social Anxiety in this instance as it was most prevalent for me, researching other forms of anxiety, I can also see similarities and explanations in other forms. Please know that I am not an anxiety expert, and do not claim to be. 

My experience.

It’s a simple fact that sensitives can have a horrible time understanding life and themselves if that high sensitivity is never discovered. From my own experience, I went through 31.5 years of my life being in the dark and wondering why I felt so different and agonised over what was wrong with me. At really tough times in my life I certainly thought I had mental health problems. I often labelled my own feelings as  ‘neurotic’ and totally irrational.  I felt on edge and exhausted constantly.

My ultimate aim is to help more sensitives and intuitive sensitives find their way home. I hope to give men, women and children an alternative to a life of anxiety. I hope to raise awareness and shine the light on our future generation of sensitives, because we need them and we need them to be nurtured and thriving and not anxious and hiding. 

It wasn’t until I discovered I was a sensitive that I truly started to find ‘me’. I finally understood why I got so annoyed around certain people, why I felt uneasy in some people’s company, why I felt exhausted after a busy noisy day, why I hated perfume, why I have to have the lights on, why I avoid embarrassing situations, why I followed the crowd and hid myself away for fear of being exposed, why I felt so deeply and why I cry at X Factor. 

At my lowest I was over stimulated on all levels, I felt a buzzing anxious energy inside of me all the time. I felt like I was going mad and that I was totally alone. I was verging on neurotic. Up and down each day,  tears and I mean LOTS of tears, angry outbursts, shrieking, crazy destructive behaviour. Pretty crazy. I did this for years. Drowning it all out with alcohol and nicotine.

It was such a discovery that it changed my whole life. I finally saw why my childhood experiences were so emotional. Why I felt so isolated and alone. Why I needed so much down time.

But the difference between me as a teenager and teenagers today is the term ‘social anxiety’ didn’t exist. Well not to me anyway. No one ever used the term anxiety. I didn’t have the Internet or chat rooms or blogs to read. I didn’t have people talking about their anxiety on YouTube. I only had the solace of my own head. Nothing fed my worries. My friends and I didn’t talk about ‘anxiety’ or our emotions. I used to write in a diary about how I felt but no one ever saw it. I never gave my fears and worries the chance to grow.

Now I have a 3-year-old I can see the similarities between us. At first I thought it was nurture. But after time I saw the same traits in her as I did in me. Down time. She needs loads of it. She gets over-stimulated easily,  appears painfully shy, gets overwhelmed when other children cry or shout, she startles easily and the moment I bought her in her first Halloween costume she cried for hours. She refuses to dress up in scratchy dresses preferring smooth action figure ones. 

I thought she just wasn’t a dressing up kind of child,  a bit of a tom boy, didn’t like dresses.  The more I see now that she hates the scratchy frills and they annoy her. It’s that simple. She’s sensitive.

Children who are highly sensitive notice more,  feel more and sense more. So become overwhelmed easily and can appear shy, withdrawn and fussy. They observe rather than joining in straight away.

They can be awkward and even a bit annoying to a parent, who sees other non-sensitive children getting on with life, taking risks and having fun.

But learning to nurture my own sensitivity and that of my child has been groundbreaking. All its taken is a simple understanding, compassion and communication and love has flourished, she has flourished and so have I.

I finally now own my power and I’m teaching my daughter how to own hers too.

So basically I’m proposing the idea that if you suffer from anxiety of any kind, you may also have aspects of being an empath or being highly sensitive within your personality.

And there is nothing wrong with being an empath or being HS, it’s not a disorder or an illness and children, teens and adults that learn more about these personality traits can learn about themselves and how to look after themselves. 

If every lost, alone and anxious HS empath knew how to take care of them self and knew how to protect their energy, maybe they could lower and self-manage their anxiety.

Maybe the world could accept and nurture our very special 15-20% of our population and when the world needs them  – they will be right there. Intuitive problems solvers, creatives, forward thinkers, careful observers and intuitive healers and educators. 


About the Author: Kathryn Pearson

Kathryn Pearson is an EFT practitioner, coach and blogger specialising in helping sensitive teens and young women combat stress, fear and worry. Her mission is to give the next generation the confidence and tools to break free from negative thinking and be able to follow their dreams, using Emotional Freedom Technique, Teen Yoga, and successful positive mindset practices and strategies. Aiming to empower and inspire her local community, her wider community and young women everywhere. 

Visit her website www.kathrynpearson.co.ukFacebookInstagram or contact . You can also watch Kathryn on YouTube.

31 Comments

Anne

It’s too bad your daughter is already learning to shun other children who are not “happy, positive, and confident”.
Those children, who may be highly sensitive themselves, will feel that rejection. So begins the trajectory into social withdrawal, depression, and yes, neuroticism.
As a life-long sensitive, introverted, neurotic, depressive, I have never fit in. Now in my early 50’s, I no longer care to try.
Any “gifts” I might have given to “the world” were subverted by my emotional turmoil.
I look forward to not being here any longer.

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Anastasia

It is refreshing (beyond belief, lol) to read about the strange, yet beautiful, qualities of yourself after perceiving the world as a cruel desolate island that seemingly only shares copious bouts of heartache. As a child this is how I encountered life, due to a lack of understanding. As I transcended through childhood and reached the adolescent era, I slowly withdrew myself and could not figure out why everything seemed so off-balanced for me. Transitions are hard, and harder for most hsp’s. I understand this now. And my sometimes eccentric behavior and peculiar mindset, though not completely explained by hypersensitivity, are now known.

The withdrawn and confused teenager I was, though an extreme extrovert, had always puzzled me to the point of major immobilizing depression. I often asked questions in my head that left me very empty. Why didn’t my friends and others at school understand how unfavorable and hostile their words, actions, and overall ideals/beliefs were? Why am I exhausted, though I’ve been reclusive with my clan of friends ALL day? Why does this sad music touch me in ways that don’t seem to affect the rest of my family? And why on earth are there tears seeping from my ducts when there is nothing substantially sad in regarding to a show, or a poster, or even a pencil falling?

It was difficult to hear any criticism without it tearing my heart. When family relationships were rocky and unstable I had such hurt feelings that I feared to express them, knowing my family would not understand, and because I myself couldn’t figure it out. Pure rage flowed from the end of each hair follicle on my head to the tips on my nails on my toes…when I was hungry or didn’t have snacks throughout the day. Candy and chocolate were always passed up, for they created a rush that was too much. I would often feel sad because my inner world was is so ebullient and the real world seemed lacking. It was laborious to watch scary movies. I would JUMP out of my skin as though it were my own life afflicted with killers and spontaneity. The sound of yelling voices, doors slamming, pans clanging, and people chattering was always so intense… it hurt. Friends would love to laugh at my startled reaction and would sometimes go out of their way to sneak up behind me or make a loud sound.

I can not only feel the “weight” of emotions and energies (among many other things); my emotional receptors consume and hungrily devoured each change in my current environment, miniscule or not.

My critical years of growth were hindered by all these things. Many people would lean on my shoulder and listen to my canny advice and float away with a new sense of understanding. Meanwhile, I was left drained and unheard while also very extremely alone.

My love for the public libraries and settings of nature went against my personality. I was often told I was being hypocritical for my current thinking and speaking while expressing my current emotion and feeling. It was difficult for everyone around me, and created rather abysses.

The sense and longing for home, though will never leave me (note I am adopted), makes just a little more sense now. Of course in a world where a majority of the population are unfortunately insensitive and unaware of the beauty disclosing them it will be rare to find a true place of belonging.

So I thank you immensely and with all of my heart. For years I have felt all of these “things” and did not know how to take care of myself, nor did I ever believe there would be a piece of my world where others also occupy. I loved reading the comments and connecting with those who have felt distraught and different. I loved reading your piece as each part was relatable or I had experienced myself. I wish you and your family happy days and great luck.

As well as the rest of you readers.

-Ana

ps I did not proofread this piece, it’s quarter after two in the morning and I don’t have the energy! 🙂

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Z

So, how do i know if the child is simply highly sensitive or that he has anxiety disorder and get help for that from a therapist? Thxxx

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Clare

I realised I was a highly sensitive person when I bought the Elaine Aron book to help me deal with my sensitive son. Reading it gave me an epiphany moment and so many ‘quirks’ started to make sense, like feeling on edge and angry when my husband plays his computer games or has music on just a bit too loud. I’m a doctor and often feel totally overwhelmed after a day of feeling everyone’s emotions (and also struggle sometimes to manage the sheer volume of work with more piling on constantly). In the past couple of years I’ve been able to have down time without feeling guilty, knowing that this is what I have to do to be able to cope with the sensory overload of home and work. It’s hard to explain to others who don’t have a sensitive personality, so many thanks for this excellent article.

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Sara

It’s good to know that it’s not a bad thing. Whenever something triggers me, and I breakdown, my mother just says that I’m over sensitive and that I must get over it. I’ve always been that person that always looks for the good in people regardless of their reputation, I feel sorry for people and try my best to help them, but I always forget about myself. I’ve always been made to feel that being sensitive to things, is being weak. But I can’t change that about myself. It’s a part of who I am. My mom who had a tough upbringing which has made her the strong person she is, shouldn’t expect me to be like her right? I’m glad I’m not crazy or weak. I will own my power.

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Leena

Hi Kathryn,

After reading your article, I learned one thing: I am neither crazy nor neurotic. Yet, I have been targeted by bullies both in the workplace and at school. I get told to “lighten up,” so much because I either “take things too personally” or I “worry too much.” Yet the criteria you laid out describes me to a perfect T. I need so much down time and I have not only accepted it, I have even embraced it! To me, my alone time is just as important as the air I need to live. Without it, my spirit can’t breathe.
I currently work in health and human services but plan to use my Humanities degree to begin a career as a reference librarian. I thrive much better and am actually in my element when choosing a career where there is little to no drama.
I am also a part-time freelance writer and entrepreneur and enjoy the work I do in those areas because it’s self paced and involves creative problem-solving.
Again, thank you for letting me know that I am neither crazy nor depressed, only Highly Sensitive. You are one of a kind!

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Liz

You’ve just described my lovely daughter, whose high level of sensitivity means the secondary school environment is a nightmare for her. She is stressed, anxious and sad. What do I do first?

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Eric Tomlinson

Kathryn,
Great article! I’ve dealt with this most of my life. I notice everything going on around me. I analyze every word out of people’s mouths. I read micro expressions on people’s faces. I’ve used it to my advantage in business, but the flip side is the pain you discuss in the article. I have also always had a very high interest in Sociology. I think it’s because I understand it more than most folks.
Thanks for a great article,
Eric T

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Leena Collins

I have been hypersensitive all my life. It’s so refreshing to know that someone in a respectable position doesn’t judge me.
My anxiety has manifested itself in the former of stomach aches, crippling anxiety, and sensitivity to bright lights, food, and clothing textures. In fact, my mother tried to make me wear jeans but I couldn’t stand how they felt.
People in general are frightening to me. So yes, your article speaks volumes. Thanks for the enlightenment!

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Susan

I told my husband last night that I thought I was more intuitive than most people and he said, “‘you’re not”. I analyse everything even tv ads and shows. I was caught by my husband one day crying over Leave it to Beaver (sitcom). That was embarrasing! I don’t have friends because I am sensitive to their body and facial movements that show me what they are thinking. I like people, but I can’t stand the anxiety of a prolonged friendship.
I seem to know ahead of time the impact of world changes that other people don’t seem to see.
If only I could bottle this intuitive way about me, I could take it out when I need it and put it back when it causes me trouble. Ignorance is bliss!
P. S. I can’t spell because I over think the words and how they sound.
Am I sensitive like you or just crazy?

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Christinr

Hi Kathryn,
This blog is right on point .Im a highly sensitive person myself with anxiety I feel people out I don’t like to judge but my intuition goes off for the good people and the toxic people .I think people like us people think we’re weak but we’re not we just care to much. I have a daughter who has the same thing but it’s from being bullied

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Chase

I cant even tell you how much this article helped me. I have read it over and over and its like everything just makes sence. I have ALWAYS felt different and have always been told by people im ‘different ‘special’ but they cant understad why, and niether could I.

All li can say is thank you

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Laurie

Thank you for writing this article. It was like it was written specifically about my daughter. I would love to have a follow up article on recommendations schools could incorporate to support these students. My 9 year old daughter dreads school every night and every morning. I think the schools feel lost in how to help students and with most emotional/mental health issues. There seems to always be a frame of mind that kids should just get over it and be like every other kid unless they fall under some sort of funding category for special education. My daughter is drowning in the education system because every child should love noisy classroom environments, embrace cooperative learning, and be a polished public speaker. HELP! How can we help schools become a healthy environment for our kids.

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Kathryn

Hi Laurie, I’m so sorry it’s taken this long to see and reply to this comment. I’m so sorry you daughter struggles so much. In terms of what the school can do – they really must know about sensitivity. Tell them, show them the book, print them some stuff off the Internet – even this article! I think awareness is key. It would be hugely beneficial to know this as a teacher. In terms of you helping your daughter – again awareness, tell her about her sensitivity and give her ideas about how she can escape and recharge when feeling overwhelmed. I will be sending my daughter to school with her own protective crystal – such as labradorite, black tourmaline or turquoise. I have found they help me SO much. Much love Laurie.

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Rebecca

THANK YOU!!
This is me. And my beautiful, gifted, struggling son. I have intuitively known for years that there is nothing “wrong” with us, but struggled with finding a place for our personalities in the default world. I am RUNNING to the store to buy this reading, and looking forward to learning a language that allows us to own and share our unique skill set and experiences with our loved ones who keep seeming to want us to be different somehow. I am so hopeful this will allow us to truly be accepting of ourselves, acknowledge and value our gifts, and shrug off the burden of anxiety that burdens our hearts so heavily.
Thank you for your thorough and personal story. It is amazing to finally find something that exactly describes our experience, resonates with truth and compassion, and shows us a way toward acceptance.

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Kathryn

Ahh Rebecca, you’re SO welcome!! The whole time I was writing this article I had to battle with my ego thoughts (who’s going to want to read this?) and push through the fears and listen carefully to my inner whispers, telling me that people need this!

Thank you for your comment – it convinces me that my inner whispers should be followed and not ignored! Good luck with your sensitive journey; may yiu and yiur son flourish xx with love xx

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Carolyn

I have slowly realised over the last few years that I am highly sensitive. I always felt a bit “different” and although I had friends growing up I always felt that little bit out of step with others. I now know I can’t handle a lot of noise or a lot of emotion from others in a day – it simply exhausts me. I need down time and I am coming to accept that it is ok to not socialise all the time. I have condemned myself for years wondering why I couldn’t be like others but all it does is make me more anxious!!! I am getting better at letting things go and making sure I have quiet times – in a house with two sons that is not always easy but they are great and I suspect one of my sons may be similar but camouflages his personality by being the clown. I worry about how best to nurture him. Thank you Kathryn for your wonderful article – it’s such a good feeling when you know others “get” you!!!

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Kathryn

Ah Carolyn, thank you for your comment! I struggled for years not having a clue what was wrong with me compared to ‘the norm’, I totally empathise. Honour your unique sensitivity and know that you’re never alone. Don’t worry about nurturing your son – nurture yours and he will learn from you xx With love xx

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Morgan

Thank you for this timely (for me :)) article, Kathryn. A reminder that I am not alone 🙂 coming at a time when I am feeling very isolated. There ARE more of us highly sensitives out there! And it IS OUR perfectly normal way of being. Think I’ll party with a cup of tea, soothing music and a good book. 🙂

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Kathryn

Ah Morgan… I’m so sorry you feel isolated – you are NOT alone! I think it’s a sensitive ‘thing’ to feel that way. Harness your inner power and go forth. The tea party sounds FAB – throw in an Epsom salt bath for added chill 🙂 with love xx

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Wendy

Dear Kathryn, Thank you so much for sharing such valuable information! I have always known that I was ‘different’ but didnt’ know what to call it. My daughter is just like me as well. I believe this is a gift to nurture, encourage, and inspire those around us. I love your openess, your work, and your heart. Sending you warm hugs of love!

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Kathryn

Oh Wendy! Receiving your warm hugs! Thank you for this comment; I’m so happy for your openness to your sensitivity; nurture that daughter – the world needs her! Xx with love xx

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Julie

I’m highly sensitive/introverted? myself and so is my daughter who (unlike me) witnessed my distress at an early age and has had what I believe to be secondary mental health & anxiety issues. She is quite well now but understands her need for alone time etc.
I also work with people with Asperger’s syndrome, who have some similar issues with sensory sensitivity.
It seems so complex trying to sort out how to be sensitive and the issues it creates with M.H. and medical labels /diagnosis etc .
I prefer the term highly sensitive if it seems to fit.

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Kathryn

Julie, the aspergers similarities have come into my radar this week… it’s very interesting what you say. It’s great that you have nurtured your daughters understanding of her own sensitivity. I do too, much prefer the sensitive label rather than to think of my ‘querks’ as anxiety or mental health problems. Thank you .

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Kathryn

Yvette! NO lovely lady you’re not! Your fabulously sensitive and to me this means your normal!! Hurrah!!

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Carolyn

I have often felt hugely connected yet out of step with the world. Thanks for helping me feel more “normal”

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Kathryn

Dearest Carolyn, you are most welcome. It’s my joy to help people with great potential and power (aka sensitives and empths) realise their greatness and feel important in the world. Thank yiu for leaving a comment.

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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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