Responding to a Pandemic as a Highly Sensitive Person

Jeremy Sharp, PhD Covid-19, Highly Sensitive Person, therapy Leave a Comment

As a Highly Sensitive Person we feel more deeply . . . our emotions are felt more deeply.  During times of turmoil, we may find ourselves experiencing more emotions than normal as we may be feeling our own, those of our family members, our community, our society, our nation, and even our world.  We may find ourselves immersing ourselves in media coverage or watching television shows which increase our emotional state or reading novels which illicit a certain type of emotional response as we are working to match how we are feeling emotionally.  It can be difficult and challenging to find the space we nee when there are so many overwhelming emotions circulating around us.

We need to decipher what is ours and what is not ours.  We need to acknowledge each and every emotion as a way to organize some of the chaos – whether it is ours personally or an emotion of someone or something greater.  Say the emotions out loud.  Name each one.  Let them be known. Let them be heard.

Trust – this can be huge.  We need to put our trust in entities we may not fully trust to begin with.  We may need to trust our government.  We may need to trust ourselves.  We may need to trust our community members or our neighbors.

We need to connect at the same time that our methods of connection are becoming more limited. Write letters or send cards to people you would like to reconnect with or send them to nursing home residents or military personnel. We may need to get creative in meeting our relationship needs.

Be open to possibilities – maybe you find something new you love.

This is temporary – what is occurring now is temporary.

Patience – Seasons change. The weather changes.  This too will change.  It may be weeks or months and this is okay as it will change. 

Go for drive – take precautions if you need to stop for gas by wiping off surfaces with sanitizing wipes before you fill your tank of gas and then wipe the same surfaces after you are done to “pay it forward” just in case the next person does not have the benefit of having sanitizing wipes with them.  Use your natural ability to plan ahead as this is a highly sensitive person strength.

Balance exposure – find reliable sources for getting the information you need and balance this with what is being reported elsewhere.  Know when you have reached your limit on social media and be able to take a break by turning off electronic devices for an hour or two or three. Listen to yourself as you move through your experiences.

Focus on the here and now – We can remind our brains to focus on what is in front of us in a given moment.  We can focus on what we are doing in this moment and what we may do in the next moment and go no further.  We keep a schedule to help us focus on the moment we are in and the moment to come.  We focus on this moment and this day only.

Find the words that resonate for you. I am resilient.  I am capable.  I am intelligent.  We possess these characteristics which will equip us to handle whatever comes next.  We can use our strengths knowing whatever happens in the future we will be able to make it through.

I am able to ask for help – When we do become so overwhelmed, we need to reach out to others.  Identify safe people.  We need a safe place where one can hold us or offer words of comfort or where one can redirect us to the what’s next in this moment.  We need to connect with others and know we are not alone even if it is to share a funny moment on Facebook with another person.  Lonely – Facetime, Phone call – Decide to answer the phone call or FaceTime

Do the opposite of the overwhelm – Watch heartwarming dramas, Hallmark movies, take a break, wash the dishes, vacuum, limit sensory input, turn off the lights, avoid matching the overwhelm level.

Three days . . . after three days it tends to become easier.  If you can make it through the first three days then you have built up new skills and have become more resilient.  

Do something intellectual – When we use our logical part of our brain we are less likely to be overwhelmed by the emotional part of our brain.  Build a puzzle, work on logic puzzles, math worksheets, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, find small items you can pick up with your toes and place the items in a bowl only, write or color with your non-dominant hand.

Laugh – it is okay, and necessary, to laugh.  When we have very little control we need to laugh.  Watch a comedy on TV or find a video of a comedian.  Laugh so much it makes you cry . . . 
Cry – experience the emotions. . . each and every emotion.  Let them be, experience them, and let them go. . . blow bubbles if you have them and watch each emotion float away and eventually dissipate or pop.  Give them away as if they are a gift because in reality, our ability to feel deeply is a gift.

There is hope – in many instances, struggle, strive and turmoil can bring people together.  Issues which seemed impossible or unresolvable before suddenly become solvable.  They may even resolve on their own.  Give it time.  Let the panic subside, adjust to the “new” normal, and give it time.

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