This was a facebook post that resonated deeply with me in the early stages of motherhood...

Can we talk about the fact that women get overstimulated and it's mistaken for anger?

No, I'm not angry; the tv is on 88, the dryer going, someone's mowing the lawn, my Apple Watch dinging non stop, my shirts too tight, my hair isn't in a messy bun correctly, there's crumbs on the floor and I can feel it.

I'm not angry. I'm overstimulated and need a minute to get myself together. 

Being an Adult is exhausting.

No matter what someone always needs you.

Go to work; someone needs you, come home; someone needs you, go to sleep; someone needs you, shower time; someone needs you, going to the bathroom; someone needs you.

A child, a baby, an adult I'M ALWAYS NEEDED.

I'm not angry  I'm overstimulated.

Let me collect myself before you start to accuse me of being in a bad mood. I just need a minute.


If that post resonated with you...you might be a mom ha. BUT you might also be a "highly sensitive person." This is a term coined for neurodivergent people that have a deeper central nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, and social stimuli. While it is not an official mental health diagnosis or disorder, it is becoming a much more popular identifier for this particular subset of people (about 20% of the general population), and it may help you understand, communicate, and get relief for some of the things you experience as an HSP. Here are some common traits of HSPs (not all bad):

*Avoiding violent movies or TV shows due to their intensity or leaving you feeling unsettled

*Feeling deeply moved by beauty in nature, art, social situations, etc.

*Having a strong need for quite space and time...there is no better feeling than a quiet, dark room after a high energy experience

*Being completely overwhelmed by external stimuli such as bright lights, sounds, uncomfortable clothing, crowds, etc.

*Having a rich and complex inner dialogue filled with deep thoughts and ideas

*Avoiding situations that you assume will leave you feeling overwhelmed- i.e. going to a crowded place or a place with a lot of sensory stimuli

*Having really close and empathic connections to others- always seeming to be in tune with what others need

*Easily react and becomes agitated by daily stressors or high demanding situations

Some causes for HSP include dopamine sensitivity, childhood trauma or neglect, or a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli as a survival skill. Being an HSP is not specific to humans and helps many species detect danger. However, when we do not have immediate danger, this converts over to anxiety and over-stimulation. 

HSP can often be mistaken for other disorders or traits such as introversion- which is sensitivity to social stimuli only; sensory processing disorder- which can cause decreased motor functioning or under-responsiveness while HSPs tend not to shut down and may over respond; autism- which again leads to more under-responsiveness; and ADHD- which also leads to over-responsiveness to stimuli but the symptoms are more cognitive like difficulty focusing or processing information. A HSP may have these other issues as well, but if none of the above fit your personality and you're still wondering why you're so sensitive compared to others, you may have HSP.

HSPs can be advantageous, like being sensitive and empathic to the needs of others. They tend to easily connect with others and build deep meaningful connections. However, HSPs can also become agitated easily by hectic schedules and having to do a lot in a short amount of time, they deeply feel the needs of others and fear disappointing others, being their own worst critics, are very sensitive to conflict in relationships and feel conflict brewing in someone before it happens. Here are some ways to cope with these challenges:

*Add positive experiences to your daily life such as taking in the beauty of nature, art, having meaningful conversations with loved ones.

*Avoid energy zappers like overstimulating environments (when possible) and people who are particularly energy draining

*Learn to say no and set boundaries around your sensory needs and accept that it is okay to do so

*Set up a sanctuary environment that you can retreat to when needed- i.e. a quiet space with soothing sensory comforts


Did any of this resonate with you? If so, take inventory of the environment you are regularly in and see if there are ways that you can minimize or eliminate triggers to your HSP. Have conversations with loved ones and communicate your needs for having a less- stimulating environment. Talk to me in session and I have some tricks up my sleeve about how to help you minimize or reduce the sensory overload around you. For those of which this may not personally connect, hopefully you also now have an understanding and appreciation for someone around you (1 in 5 people, so I guarantee you know a HSP), and choose to check in with them and see if you can help them feel better.

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