And you thought you were just sensitive.
From the time you were a kid, you thought the problem was you. You were shy. You weren’t bold enough. You felt things too deeply. You overreacted.
The adults in your life tried to fix you. They told you to toughen up, stop crying, get a grip, not let things get to you. But what if there was nothing wrong with you at all?
What if you had a special gift that very few people have…
One given to you by nature, because of its evolutionary value for humankind?
Wouldn’t that change everything?
In this week’s YBTV interview, you’re going to learn about sensory processing sensitivity.
It’s the scientific name for being highly sensitive.
Psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland helps highly sensitive people understand the way their brain works.
You’ll discover why you’re not alone, why you’re needed in this world, why everything affects you so much, and how you can use your gifts instead of letting your sensitivity control you.
What You’ll Learn
Being a sensitive person means that you’re experiencing the world differently than up to 80% of the population.”
If you’re like me, you grew up believing that being overly sensitive was a personality trait that could be stamped out of you.
Your parents probably didn’t teach you that your brain was wired differently.
They didn’t teach you that more than 100 animal species show signs of being highly sensitive.
And they probably didn’t teach you that sensitivity was highly adaptive.
The trait “evolved as a survival strategy of the population,” Julie Bjelland explains.
The highly sensitive members of a group have extra information the group needs to survive. “We’re able to read body language and micro-expressions that 80% of the population miss,” Julie says.
Why Sensitive People Experience Overwhelm
Unfortunately, because we take in so much more information and process it more deeply, we’re more likely to get overwhelmed.
Julie suggests imagining the nervous system as a container. When there’s a lot of external stimulation, the sensitive person’s container fills up and starts to overflow. If she doesn’t have tools to manage her sensitivity, she can’t get the container to drain properly.
When your nervous system container overflows, your emotional brain takes over. You go into fight, flight, or freeze. You have a hard time focusing. You can’t remember anything. You can’t take in new information. Your creativity plummets.
That’s why it’s so important to learn ways to help your nervous system reset itself.
How to Manage Overwhelm
Julie recommends a breathing technique where you breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 2, and exhale slowly for a count of 7. If you do that 5 to 7 times, it should reduce your heart rate and reset your system.
That’s just one of the tools Julie teaches to help sensitive people “lift off that layer of overwhelm and access those gifts that come with this trait.”
Learn how to intentionally activate calming centers in the brain through activities that are quiet and soothing to the nervous system, like yoga or spending time in nature.
If possible, try to arrange a couple of hours a day of quiet time for yourself. In an ideal world, you’d also have a day off a week to center and recharge.
Also be aware of what you’re pouring into your container. If you watch a lot of news, you can start to feel the sadness and pain of the world in your own body. Julie recommends reading the headlines instead, so that you can stay informed without absorbing too much negative energy.
You have to learn how to separate other people’s energy from your own, she says. Otherwise, you can feel like an open sponge that soaks up all the bad as well as the good.
From Survival Mode to Sensitive Empowerment
When we say, ‘You’re sensitive,’ it’s not considered a positive. I’m on a mission to change that.”
Even if your sensitivity has made life difficult for you, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Julie finds that sensitive people who’ve learned to manage their sensitive nervous system are incredibly resilient.
Sensitive children who’ve been supported by their parents and taught to accept the natural emotions they experience are less likely to experience anxiety and depression than children who don’t have the trait.
“I believe sensitivity is absolutely needed in the world,” she says. “I always say that it’s the sensitive person that is the first person to jump up and help people.”
Do you want to know if you’re highly sensitive? Take the Sensitivity Quiz.
If you haven’t felt supported or understood in your sensitivity, Julie recommends three things:
- Learn more about the trait.
- Spend time with other highly sensitive people.
- Learn brain training tools.
Julie offers a course called Brain Training for the Highly Sensitive Person.
It’s an 8-week online program that teaches techniques to reduce anxiety and overwhelming emotions.
Before Julie learned these techniques herself, anxiety and depression were taking over her life. She wanted to get to her room, close the door, and shut out the world. “That was a terrible way to live,” she says. “I had a mask on. I wasn’t able to be myself in the world.”
Her life today is like night and day. She has the energy to help others and live the life she’s always wanted. These tools can help you get your life back, too.
We need sensitive people to rise up in empowerment and change the world.”
Jump to Topics of Interest
1:59 How do sensitive people experience crises differently?
3:18 What is sensitivity?
4:19 How do you spot an HSP?
5:43 Sensitivity and anxiety/depression
8:24 The negative messages we get about being sensitive
9:40 How you can support yourself as an adult
11:05 Breathing exercise
13:41 Why overwhelm happens and how to deal with it
16:42 Brain Training for the Highly Sensitive Person
18:13 How life feels once you have these tools
20:08 You are valued
Julie is a sensitivity expert, psychotherapist, and author. Her online resource, Sensitive Empowerment, has helped highly sensitive people (HSPs) around the world reduce their challenges, access their gifts, and discover their balance, inner strength, and significant value. Known for her ability to give people a sense of true support, Julie is featured on national media regularly and on a mission to empower sensitive people to live their best lives. Take the Sensitivity Quiz.