You might imagine that someone who calls themselves an HSP coach and a mentor has their own crap figured out. And yeah, I would say I have managed to climb a few crucial rungs up the personal growth ladder.
But I actually believe that the main reason I’m qualified to serve as anyone’s guide is not because I have managed to make my own life perfect in every possible way, but because I managed to screw it up in every possible way and then managed to turn it all around. I’m quite the expert at heading down the wrong path a gazillion miles per hour so I know what it takes to hit the brakes and switch direction.
I used to beat myself up for not figuring these things out sooner, but I don’t blame myself anymore. The fact is that way too many HSPs have been and continue to be pressured to lead lifestyles that are too taxing for their sensitive nervous systems. And when everyone and their brother is actively pushing you in a certain direction, it’s not that simple to just change course.
Another reason I don’t beat myself up is that I at least learned valuable lessons that I’m now in a position to share with others. And that’s what this particular article happens to be about. I want to point out three crucial mistakes I made that, as an HSP, ultimately cost me my health. Because of these mistakes, my stress response was triggered way too frequently and for way too long, which caused all kinds of havoc in my mind and body.
If you recognize yourself in any of this, please take my PSA as permission to stop and change course. 🙂
3 Mistakes HSPs Make That Cost Them Their Health
1. Keeping Up With The Non-HSPs
My first big mistake was trying to live like “everyone else”. I was constantly comparing myself to other people and trying to measure up to standards set by I don’t even know who. In order to “prove myself” I had to keep up with the go-go-go lifestyles my husband and most other people I knew seemed to relish. Meetings, get-togethers, outings, parties. Deadlines, busyness, time pressure. Erratic sleep schedules. Missed meals.
I thought that if I couldn’t keep up with it all, it meant that there was something wrong with me.
But now I know that there was nothing wrong with me. It’s that lifestyle that was wrong. That lifestyle was causing my sensitive nervous system to get activated too often and for too long and not leaving me enough opportunities to rest and recharge. That lifestyle was literally making me sick.
Studies show that HSPs’ nervous systems are more reactive than non-HSPs. Situations that make non-HSPs just feel nicely alert can make HSPs feel overstimulated. And to make sure our bodies are not pummeled by an unhealthy amount of stress, we need to slow down a bit and be choosy when it comes to the amount of activity we commit ourselves to. Instead of comparing ourselves to non-HSPs, the standard should be our own well-being.
2. Not Learning To Manage Their Stress Response
My second big mistake was treating stress as if it was just something my mind was making up. Something I should just do my best to ignore and suppress. Something I should just do my best to push through.
But now I know that stress is not just something in your head. Stress is a physiological process. When your stress response is activated, it impacts your body, including your hormones, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and immune system.
I also know that the stress response is governed by your autonomic nervous system, which means that you can’t control when it’s activated. It happens so fast that your conscious mind won’t realize it until it’s already happening.
However, once you do notice, you have control over how you respond. Whenever your body is getting fired up, there are many tools and strategies that can help you get back to calm faster, and therefore, reduce the total amount of time your body is activated.
3. Going At It Alone
My third big mistake was believing that I was all alone with my issues and there was nobody I could turn to. The problem was that I had given up too soon. I had sought support from people who didn’t have the right kind of expertise – people who didn’t understand high sensitivity or the stress response.
But now I know that I’m not alone. There are more than one billion highly sensitive people in this world. There are plenty of people who “get it”. There is a growing amount of resources in the form of books, classes, and HSP-knowledgeable experts.
If you are a highly sensitive person who is struggling with a mismatched lifestyle or excessive stress, there’s a lot that can be done.
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