High Sensitivity and the fear of overwhelm, and overload

My fear and anxiety have a lot to do with the future, the fear of being overwhelmed or stressed by a situation. It’s that state where you are so overstimulated it feels upsetting. I feel it in the pit of my stomach, an uneasiness; I feel cold, palms sweaty, trembling hands. The overwhelm feels like a loss of control; senses heightened, too much input!

I know social situations, like running my meetup, are triggers, but even going to the cinema has in the past so fired me up I can barely sit still. Noise, activity, people, ideas, along with fears over how I come across, it all builds up inside.

As a sensitive type, a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP, this overwhelm is expected; it’s a risk we always run when being in the world. But such sensitivity means we are often more cautious than most people because it’s necessary to protect ourselves.

The fear of overwhelm has often been the deciding factor about whether or not to go outdoors. I have in the past bailed because of my anxiety. Such fear had held me back a lot in life before I knew what it was afraid of. 

Another overwhelm is that of lifestyle, especially workload. Doing too much, too many projects, too many obligations to follow. Such ambition results in stress and eventually burnout.

It’s why lifestyle minimalism, having less stuff, with fewer obligations or workload helps. It’s what Henry David Thoreau in Walden advocated simplicity.

It’s not healthy to stay at home all the time, a refuge from the world, but it’s so easy to find excuses to do precisely that. We all need to go out of our comfort zone, even just a little. To desensitise or acclimatise with the world, to expand our horizons. For me, travel is a good example; I stayed at home for my holidays for many decades. Years ago, I knew I had to travel, stressful as is, when I arrive at my destination, I have to sleep for an hour or so to recover from the journey.

I also have to be more careful about what I watch on TV, film, the media because they can fire me up too much to I’m more careful about what i watch. After my meetups, I rest to recover by resting.

These sorts of steps sensitive types need to take to avoid stagnation, despair, and meaninglessness. But we need to take care of ourselves. Find some practice like yoga, massage, walking, nature, reading, gardening and proper rest to help cope with the stress and fear. Such a lifestyle gives us the courage to go out into the world and face the storm of sensory input. My art helps; I try to exercise, read books, a massage, I hope to go back to yoga.

The attitude I have to my sensitivity follows this sentiment; ‘It’s not that I feel that bothers me, ‘but that I feel so much.’

My fear of overwhelmed has kept me from growing and changing in the past, and it is still is a considerable obstacle I must face. But I like my sensitive side more now than I have in the past. I understand it’s part of me, but I have to take care of myself better in diet and lifestyle.

Fear of overwhelm will always be part of a sensitive lifestyle, but we can find ways to grow, learn and find happiness. We have to be more careful with our habits, and diligent with the practices that help us cope and relax.

With all this, we can live closer to the adventurous life we dream about even as it terrifies us.

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