Sensitive folks overload easily. The cause is not because we are delicate or weak. We are just wired to pick up all the layers of information at once. This means we pick up the subtle nuances most miss, like the sound of the doves singing outside the window, or that a friend is cranky even though she hasn’t said or showed any indication. On the flip side of this is we can take in all that information and fry our brains and emotions when it gets way too much (picture the heads exploding like in that old horror movie, Scanners. Yup, not a pretty picture and of course, not literal.) You can be pretty sure a sensitive has gone into overload when they show signs of shutdown which include a blank look, anxiety/nervousness, spaced-out feeling, or signs of insecurity. Symptoms look different in each sensitive. And what every sensitive wants is to be understood and known. So non-sensitives, LEARN THESE. And sensitives, share this list with your non-sensitives.
The Top 10 Ways to Overload a Sensitive
(and to be loving and kind to your sensitive AVOID these):
This warning label (“do not push”) should come with every sensitive born into this world. Pushing does not motivate a sensitive. It forces the automatic shut down valve to go off. Pushing only speeds up the “take in-sort through-digest” process making overwhelm happen faster because there’s no time to digest. It also just really pisses us off.
2. Load a ton of responsibility on our shoulders, be sure to not acknowledge or appreciate what we are already doing, and then add more.
That one speaks for itself, but I must say, as a tribe, sensitive folk are usually over-responsible and will take on a great deal as it is.
3. Increase sensory input.
Add very loud music we can’t control, or let in a swarm of flies in the room that can’t be caught. I am a tolerant person but when my neighbor plays country music on full throttle until 2 a.m., I’m going to get a little out of balance.
4. Expect a day of constant stimulation out of us.
Start the day early by taking us out for the day shopping, then stop at a crowded restaurant, go sight-seeing, and then dancing all night with a ton of noise and people. Just see what happens. Observe. Be sure to not include any breaks or alone time.
5. Add any illness to the day and then introduce either 1/, 2/, or 3/. Heck, even 4/.
Add llness or even a woman’s “time of the month,” and we are down for the count. Then all the sensory input and noise just swoops right in because our thin walls are way down. It’s a little like having the radio on several channels at once.
6. Add a crowd.
I still write about the Willie Nelson concert I went to that had a line wrapped around the casino to get into, then I was surrounded by a huge stadium-filled crowd screaming. Thank goodness it was outside because a crowd packed into a room with no walls? Oh fun.
7. Increase time pressure.
This one goes along with the “pushing” category. Sensitive folk like to flow in the zone moving to their own rhythms. We are great with deadlines but we need to control how we get there. I watch Project Runway and each episode when the designers get closer to presenting their creations, we can feel their tension through the screen. Let us control our rhythm.
8. Layer on the emotional sad stories.
We can sometimes overload from reading the Facebook feed of sad stories everyone is feeling. We feel compassion when our friends are going through rough times. Our hearts can jump out of our chests and MERGE. Our empathy is our superpower and it can be unbalanced at times when it’s multiplied.
9. Give us too much change at once.
We like our change in smaller steps; a little like slowly entering the pool rather then diving right in. We get in there, it just takes a little longer.
10. Add too many little technical things that don’t work.
I am sure this one matches everyone not just sensitive folk. Have a day where the bank screws up your account, or your computer doesn’t respond, or there’s a glitch in Photoshop and you lost all your data, and we will get rather testy. THEN add any two from the above list and we frazzle up quite good.
So, be kind to a sensitive today. Understand what creates overload and what makes life work swimmingly well for your sensitive friend. And for goodness sake, never ever say, “You need to toughen up instead!” That’s like being short and being told to be tall! Say that and you will see a different kind of overload.