Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Tag: Highly sensitive person

How to Calm Stormy Emotions and Reclaim Your Peace

How to Calm Stormy Emotions and Reclaim Your Peace

It’s good to be in touch with your emotions, right?  Not always.

If you become easily overwhelmed or flooded by emotions, so much so that you have trouble regaining your calm, you may need to learn emotional regulation.

Because out-of-control emotions tend to trigger more out-of-control emotions, which usually leads to more distress and a greater tendency to repeat the same pattern in the future.  And, the regular expression of strong emotions can become addictive, it may even re-traumatize you.

For whatever reasons — trauma, highly sensitive person, or INFJ on the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator — I’m highly influenced by my emotions and the emotional states of others.  I’m easily triggered, I spontaneously cry, and sometimes it’s not easy to recenter myself.

I’ve always labeled my emotional nature as “bad.”  Feeling ashamed, I would try to hold in my emotions. But for me, that’s like holding back Niagara Falls.  It only creates more tension.

This is why I’m gradually learning to better regulate my emotions.

Emotional regulation isn’t about denying or suppressing emotions, tightening and constricting.  It’s learning how much emotion you can field without getting overloaded, how to calm yourself if you do feel overwhelmed, and how to pace yourself so you’re not constantly dipping in and out of upset.  It means listening to and learning to work with your emotions in manageable doses.

Let’s look at simple yet effective ways to slow down a flood of emotions, whether you’re a highly sensitive person or not.

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5 Simple Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Friends, I’m exhausted.  I’m ready to slow down for awhile.The car accident in February, followed by a broken toe, our sick cat (going on two months now), and other unmentionable shocks have colluded to drain my reserves.

If you feel overwhelmed, burned out, or just too buzzy, maybe you’d like to try out a season of slow living too — at least for a little while.

You don’t have to stop completely.  You can slow down just a little, a little more, or a lot — whatever makes sense for you and your life right now.  If you do, you’ll likely find more enjoyment, more connection, and more relaxation awaiting you. Your health may even begin to improve too.

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Great Links for a Good Life {Summer Edition}

Great Links Good Life

Welcome to my personal selection of exceptional posts from around the web, inspiring resources to help you live the best possible life, and (sometimes) a good book or two.  This edition spans across the summer.  Enjoy!

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A Simple Approach to Boundaries, Worry, and Catnaps


Whatever occurs or appears in your life can be an opportunity for personal development if you are committed to continuous self improvement.

Take kittens, for example.  In Hawai’i, it’s smart to have an outdoor cat for reasons best left unexpressed.  When my husband and I heard of two kittens headed for the pound, we were happy to intervene and circumvent this potentially life-threatening possibility.

Within 24 hours of their arrival, it was clear that these energetic babies had lessons for me.

It’s Natural to Have Healthy Boundaries

Bodhi and Chitta were living outdoors the first six weeks of their lives.  They are understandably wary of humans given their Lilliputian size.  Unlike humans, kittens don’t need a minimum survival kit.  Self-protection is an automatic reflex.

When humans approach, tensing up, shrinking away, running away, turning their back on you, ignoring you, hiding, hissing, and scratching all come easily to them.  They don’t stop to think, “Oh, maybe I’m hurting the human’s feelings.”  Or, “Gee it’s not polite to turn your back on a human.” Guilt is not in their repertoire nor is obsessively churning over the appropriateness of their behavior.

Chitta in particular has an aura that’s about 10 feet wide and does not hesitate to give you a searing look that communicates, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You are not getting anywhere near me.”  Bodhi is the master of turning his back on you and pretending that you don’t exist.

Boundaries determine where I begin and you end and the degree of space between us. Clear boundaries are essential to healthy interpersonal relationships and are key to living a happy and meaningful life.  Several different factors influence your ability to establish boundaries: genetics (including your neurochemistry and the sensitivity of the amygdala), the effect of your early environment, and how well you adapted as a baby to separation from your mother.

Many people, especially highly sensitive people, have trouble with being overly porous.  Do you find yourself extra sensitive to other people’s thoughts and emotions?  Do you feel responsible for the world around you?  Do you overextend yourself to please others?  Do you have trouble setting physical and emotional limits?  If so, it might be time to think about your boundaries.

My new life coaches are telling me it’s natural, healthy, and positive to have clear boundaries.  Learning to value yourself and build healthy boundaries takes time and attention, but like everything else in the realm of personal development, it is eminently possible.

Worry Never Helps


Citta is a daredevil, Bodhi an adventurous climber.  They are both irrepressibly curious.  The worry habit started to arise as I observed their vivacious gymnastics.  The resulting potential for trouble was obvious when Bodhi got his claw stuck in a hanging chair tag.

Then, friends told me how kittens can be eaten by mongoose or beaten up on by older cats.  Reading about the rampant leukemia and HIV among island cats was the final straw.   All this put me in a tizzy, as I was overcome with worry awakened by the recognition of the kittens’ fundamental vulnerability.  In truth, life is dangerous and we are all fragile, but I know deep down that adding worry to the mix won’t help at all.  It just eats away at you and does nothing to improve the situation.

Here’s my simple approach to worry.  Applied consistently, it will slowly erode away this unhelpful habit.

1. Observe and acknowledge how worry is taking over your mind.  Simply seeing the worry already creates space and a sense of relief.

2. Breathe in and out, slowly and deeply, placing your attention on the breath.  Let the worry thoughts dissolve on the outbreath into space, just letting go of the tension and any new thoughts occurring in your mind.  Continue this cycle of breathing for however long it takes to reconnect with a sense of peace.  It might be 5 minutes or 20 minutes.

3. Remind yourself that worry never helps. I employ the aid of inspirational quotes for this purpose.  These are some favorites starting with the French philosopher Voltaire:

“Most of my life has been one tragedy after another, most of which hasn’t happened.”

The modern day marketing sage, Seth Godin, agrees:

“Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.”

As you master this simple technique, you will gradually become more agile at spotting and addressing worry far before it consumes you.

Play, play, play. Rest, rest, rest.

The rambunctious kittens play hard:  chase, wrestling, hide-n-seek, grab or bite the tail, hide-n-pounce, push your sibling off the chair, climb the highest mountain.  Their sheer joy and enthusiasm sparks the question, “Do I play enough?” Their playful spirit challenges you to energize all your activities throughout the day with the same sense of delight.

Animals follow their inborn energy cycles and rest when they are tired.  Humans on the other hand often fail to get sufficient sleep and are not always cognizant of their innate rhythms.  Researchers believe that there’s a natural dip in energy about 8 hours after waking—mid afternoon— when we are meant to take a nap.  Some cultures embrace the mid-afternoon nap as a tradition, but in many others you are expected to work like mad throughout the day.

A 20-minute nap can help you feel refreshed and alert, transform your mood, improve cognitive performance, and reduce afternoon accidents related to drowsiness.  Resting in the afternoon without actually falling asleep has similar benefits.  A word of caution:  some people find afternoon napping interferes with their ability to fall asleep at night.  We’re all different, so check your own rhythms and needs.

I always feel refreshed after a nap, but have failed to make it a positive habit.  I’m now planning to follow the behavior modeled by the kitten alliance.

Life Happens

Life happens, but I’m gradually learning to take it in stride. The kittens quickly warmed up to us.  In fact, they are lounging next to me as I peck away at the keys.  But they still reserve the right to express their boundaries. Until they are a hefty size and strong enough to fend off their natural predators, they have the penthouse lanai (deck) with garden view as their digs, ample food, their best friend in each other, a soft sofa bed, and human love and affection too.  What more could you want?  As for us, we are more than pleased with our new personal development coaches.

How about you—what are your thoughts on boundaries, worry, and catnaps?

I’m grateful for your time and attention.  If you have a moment, please help me reach others by sharing this post.  If you’re new, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

Are You A Highly Sensitive Person?

Love yourself!

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” -Aristotle

Do you find yourself highly sensitive to the physical circumstances and/or the people around you?

A few days ago, a small bird smacked into the glass panel of the sliding door in my bedroom.  This happened at another residence about eight months ago.  The first time, I was probably more traumatized than the bird.  The suffering of others has affected me so strongly all my life; it seemed to penetrate far into my being.  In both cases, the bird look stunned and paralyzed, not moving a micro-millimeter, but clearly still alive.

The first time, my husband assured me that the best approach would be to leave the bird alone and let it reorient itself.  It was an hour of pure torment for me.  The bird did indeed recalibrate itself in about an hour’s time and flew off into the wild blue yonder.  Happily, the second bird did the same.  Animals intuitively know how best to cope with trauma.  This is explained exceptionally well in the book, Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences, which elucidates how these same principles apply to the human experience of trauma.

Suffering and overcaring

The second time around, I was naturally concerned about the bird’s suffering, but, interestingly, I didn’t let it get under my skin in the same way.  This is due, in part, simply to knowing from experience that the bird would likely recover and fly off as before.  At the same time, I feel this is also due to a gradual process of inner change that is taking place as I more firmly secure myself through Amygdala Retraining and other means of self exploration and personal development.  Let me be clear that this doesn’t mean becoming indifferent, uncaring, or cold-hearted.   I still feel emphatic to the suffering of others, but I understand more fully than ever before how allowing it to jar me so strongly is neither necessary or useful.

Indeed, overcaring may actually be harmful.

“Is your care producing or reducing stress?”  This is a key question in the Heartmath approach, which also says:  “Excessive care, or overcare related to an issue or situation can create stress and negative emotions, so it is important for your care to be balanced.”

If you are stuck in the habit of perpetual giving, this might be a crucial question to ask:  “Is your care producing or reducing stress?”

Suffering is an inevitable part of life for all of us.  When you know and accept the reality that suffering will occur, it’s not such a shock when it actually does.  With this understanding, you can have more acceptance and clarity when suffering arises. I’ve been fortunate to meet many great spiritual masters in my lifetime.  All of them have been deeply compassionate.  Indeed, their love and compassion have no limit:  the whole purpose of their existence is to relieve the suffering of this world.  But they are not bowled over by suffering.  They don’t go into a state of personal angst if a bird flies into a pane of glass.  They are compassionate warriors—courageous, confident, determined, yet also relaxed, open, and spacious.

Are you a highly sensitive person?

I’ve been super sensitive as far back as I can recall.  According to Elaine Aron, 15-20% of the population is highly sensitive, possessing an uncommonly sensitive nervous system.  She says that being a highly sensitive person means:

“…you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted.”

Aron defines this not as a flaw but as an asset that you can learn to use.  She says, “If we try to live by the same operating instructions that others use, we develop all kinds of chronic illnesses, as so many of you have learned the hard way. Yet if we overprotect ourselves, our assets go unexpressed, and that can also lead to stress and illness.”

1 in 5 people are highly sensitive – an eye opening statistic!

Sensitized Nervous System

The evidence is mounting that a sensitized nervous system is involved in a wide range of disorders.  Wikipedia explains:

“A third type is central sensitization, where nociceptive neurons in the dorsal horns of the spinal cord become sensitized by peripheral tissue damage or inflammation. This type of sensitization has been suggested as a possible causal mechanism for chronic pain conditions.”

“Sensitization has been implied as a causal or maintaining mechanism in a wide range of apparently unrelated pathologies including substance abuse and dependence, allergies, asthma, and some medically unexplained syndromes such as fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity. Sensitization has also been suggested in relation to psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic anxiety and mood disorders.”

In another view of sensitization, Ashok Gupta and Annie Hopper believe that a small structure in the brain thought to be responsible for triggering the adrenalin response, the amygdala, becomes sensitized in cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Chronic Pain Syndromes, and related disorders.  They respectively offer their own innovative brain retraining programs to assist people in recovering from these disorders based on the science of neuroplasticity.

Reducing overstimulation and retraining the brain

The first step foreword is recognizing that you are indeed a highly sensitive person.  If this is the case, it’s important to take on board that trying to live a highly stimulated, stress filled lifestyle may very well have negative ramifications for you.  From there, you can explore options for reducing over-stimulation. Elaine Aron’s books are one resource for this purpose.

It’s far better to do this early on so you can lead a sane, healthy, and happy life instead of developing chronic illness down the road.  However, if you do develop certain chronic illnesses, Dynamic Neural Retraining and Amygdala Retraining are wonderful programs to help you feel better. There are no magic pills.  You must faithfully apply the techniques offered in these programs on a regular basis to effectively retrain the brain and improve.  You need to change your fundamental way of being.  Loving yourself enough to make the commitment is part of the equation.  This is a huge step, but there’s tremendous support for accomplishing this. Be heartened!  Breakthroughs are happening in the realm of these previously unexplained illnesses.

Are you a highly sensitive person?  What steps do you take to reduce stimulation in your life?

You might also like this related articles:  Retraining the brain for CFS, FMS, MCS, PTSD, & GWS

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