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Understanding the Connection Between Chronic Illness and High Sensitivity

The transcript can be found under the video.

This video will be a little bit different than the rest of the videos that I make. I wanted to come on here and talk about being a highly sensitive person and having health problems. I usually talk about POTS, Long Covid and ME in this channel, but this video probably applies to most other chronic illnesses out there.

So if you have a health problem and think that you're sensitive, you might find this useful I myself am a highly sensitive person and I thought I had accepted this but it turns out that I still had some resistance to this and through working on this on my own, I've also come to realize that the majority of the clients that I work with also have this sensitive traits or identify themselves as highly sensitive.

So I thought that was a really interesting correlation and I wanted to make a video on this. Is there a link between being highly sensitive and having various illnesses. What is a highly sensitive person at HSP and how can you nurture most importantly that sensitive part of you and really let all its benefits shine through.

So let's get into it.

First of all, what is a highly sensitive person (HSP)? A highly sensitive person is someone who has an increased or a deeper central nervous system sensitivity. Whether it is to physical, emotional or social stimuli. So perhaps you're emotionally moved by beauty whether it's through art, music, nature, the human spirit.

Maybe you're overwhelmed by sensory stimuli like noisy crowds or bright lights or even different kinds of clothing. Perhaps you feel the need for downtime and you feel the need to retreat into a quiet room, perhaps you have a really rich and complex inner life, you may be in deep thought and you have strong feelings that go with this. And more often than not you've probably been told a little bit too often that you're too sensitive and that you need to be tougher or stronger.

This is not an illness so there's no official diagnosis, it's a personality trait so it has good and bad sides to it like any other personality trait. Around 20% of the population has it straight, so it's not just enough humans and it's been found in a hundred other species. It's an evolutionary trait because HSPs are on the lookout for potential predators and dangerous situations. They're able to pick up environmental cues, they're able to recognize things that others don't and they're able to then make smart decisions in new situations and of course oftentimes that's the wiser approach than simply kind of going ahead charging ahead random, be able to look around and pick up things and make better decisions.

So they have found that being sensitive is only a benefit if a minority of a population has it because of course if everybody is sensitive then we all notice the same details the same things and doesn't give anyone a special advantage. That's probably why HSPs are relatively rare at 20% of the population. There's just as many sensitive men as there are women and around 30% of sensitive people are extroverts, so this is not just another word for being introverted.

Now, some people also become highly sensitive. Sometimes if there was like a traumatic event or lots of early trauma a person can become more like this.

There's actually an acronym that helps you understand a bit better if you are a highly sensitive person. And the acronym is d-o-e-s, does.

D stands for depth of processing, so perhaps you find yourself reflecting a lot maybe you have deep feelings and empathy for other people, maybe you feel more connected to the world and have these really strong gut feelings. This of course leads to more creativity, you're able to see things in different ways, you're able to come up with new ways of thinking. On the flip side, it can also lead to fatigue as it takes resources, of course, to go through life processing everything more.

O stands for over arousability, so maybe you've noticed a lot in your current environment and you maybe feel, if you're at a restaurant or somewhere out, you might feel more comfortable in the corner where you could see more people or maybe you're sitting, you don't like sitting by the bathroom, for example, because there's so many people going past you and you feel like feeling or seeing or analyzing everything. You might even be able to pick up on people's emotions when you enter a room. Again, this is super amazing, you're able to make decisions, see things around you that others don't but on the flip side, you might also have moments where you feel like you can't handle one more trigger or one more person or one more feeling or one more sound and you feel the need to retreat.

E stands for emotional intensity or empathy. So you might have really strong reactions, strong feelings both negative and positive, there's high highs and low lows, you're also more in tune with others emotions so you know how to tune in and comfort those around you. Maybe the person that everybody goes to when they need advice or shoulder to cry on, you're empathetic.

And S stands for sensory sensitivity. So maybe you're bothered by bright lights or noises or by wearing certain clothes like wool or fabrics. You identify with a lot of the traits that I mentioned I'd be curious if you could also let me know in the comments. You might find that others around you value how you really understand how they're feeling or the value or creativity, they value your problem solving that they might be put off by how sensitive you are or how strongly you experience. Everything whether it's emotions noises, sounds, smells, etc.

But, you kind of really can't have one side without the other, right, there are two sides of the same coin. Since you feel everything more deeply, your lows will be lower than others. Since everything's more extreme but your highs are also higher than others. Sometimes when you're told that you're too sensitive or that you're too weak and you need to toughen up, it makes you feel like something's wrong with you. Makes you feel like you need to change, where in reality, it's more about managing the various traits of being a sensitive person so that you can enjoy and take pleasure at the highs when they come and all the benefits that it comes with, but also be able to sit with and handle the lows when they do get there.

Now let's talk a little bit about the connection between being an HSP and various chronic illnesses out there. There's not a lot of studies done out there, so it's not too much out there. But I've noticed, for example, in my case a lot of the people that I do work with do identify themselves as highly sensitive and I work mostly with people that have POTS, Long Covid, ME For what I have found out there, it does seem that being a highly sensitive person does play a role in the vulnerability of a factor where they develop a health problem, but that doesn't mean that just because you are sensitive you will develop a specific health problem.

So again, just to be clear being sensitive does not mean you're going to get a illness. If you have an illness or anything like Long Covet or POTS and you are highly sensitive this certainly does not mean that that illness whether it's POTS or Long Covid. etc is in your head because you're highly sensitive.

There still needs to be a certain trigger something that triggered this to happen, such as of course with Long Covid, you know, Covid. In terms of fatigue, being highly sensitive does use more resources. So it can be tough if you try to live your life at the same speed as the rest of the 80 percent and oftentimes, if you've been told maybe ever since you were little they needed to toughen out you might continue, you might get into a pattern of pushing and pushing not listening to your body in its specific demands and you get used to that all the way up through adulthood where you might find it difficult to maybe set boundaries or you might have difficult students saying no or you might take on others emotional burdens.

I found that this was true for myself a lot, I pushed myself way too much and I didn't realize, I guess, why I was doing it until I kind of dug in deeper and realized that I had been doing this for so long. And in the process I made my paths so much worse because I just kept pushing when I really should have slowed down listen to my body more. But when you're often told from the early on that you're too sensitive, you, because you're still young, you might not be able to separate what you're told so you might just kind of internalize it as feeling like well, maybe my way of being is flawed, right, me and who I am is flawed because I am too sensitive. Well, in reality that's not the case at all.

In the case of maybe Long Covid or POTS, you might find that you didn't feel so sensitive before, but now since you've been sick, you're much more sensitive to everything. So that has to do with the nervous system and your body being wired, so that's also a really interesting angle. My clients find that it really does get more pronounced whatever sensitivities and triggers that they had when they're obviously feeling unwell all of these are to the max.

So how do things look different with managing a chronic illness, for example, if you are a highly sensitive person. Working with the body and everything I talk about on this channel is still incredibly important, right, looking at the nervous system, nutrition movement all of that is is really important.

But what I feel like is really even more important if you are highly sensitive is looking at relationships, looking at setting boundaries, really and spending time understanding how you function.

What really lights you up? What drains you? What energizes you? So not setting aside time or, you know, calling it something specific like I'm doing this because I need to pace but more that you process so much and you token so much that you need that time, you need that time out to process it all, to make sense of it all and to rest after you've done so much work. Understanding that sometimes your body might not necessarily be different because you're you're sick but because your computer is making so many connections and taking in everything so deeply that you do need to feel the rest more.

Those moments that might also help to be around more beauty or creativity or art because it lights you up and it energizes you. The reason I mentioned this last piece is because I notice when I work with people and they do see relief from their POTS symptoms, they still notice there's a part of them that needs to retreat. And I've often wondered and had, you know, conversations with people: What if this kind of is the sensitive person within you? It's not necessarily still the fatigue from the POTS or ME, but there is still a part of it that's processing, that's taking everything so deeply in that just needs a little bit more special care than perhaps your spouse might need or your friends or your loved ones.

The danger they would be kind of comparing you know, who you are as a sensitive person perhaps, maybe your loved one is able to do many more tasks in a day than you are, you know, can you compare to them as that's the optimal level of being and I'm not there, which means I'm still sick.

I hope the way that I explained it makes a bit of sense. I feel like there's almost two layers, that deeper inner layer is like that sensitivity part and then the layer above that is obviously more of the symptoms from whatever illness it is that you are currently facing.

In my case, I don't really I don't feel my POTS symptoms anymore but my sensitivity is very much still here, I get goosebumps from conversations that I have, I get completely feeling all when I'm walking through nature and if I don't take care of myself more than others around me do and I do need to spend time alone recharging and reconnecting with myself.

If I don't do these things, I do put myself at a higher risk for a flare-up. And of course, the flare-up will look similar to my POTS flare-ups, just not as severe.

Do you consider yourself highly sensitive? Please let me know.


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