Our brain is a bit like a computer. It likes to repeat the same program unless told otherwise.
If you are sensitive, the pattern will tend to be, ‘feel threatened, overreact or withdraw’. You need to teach your brain new ways of responding.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) achieves this through ‘thought charts’. By spending several weeks recording stressful thoughts and working them through a specific process, your brain eventually starts to recognise where you are mistaking assumptions for facts.
Learning how to spot assumptions is alone very powerful. When we stop thinking we know everything, and begin to realise we might be seeing things wrong, we start to be less sensitive.
The idea here is to notice when you are being emotionally triggered and use a predetermined tool of distraction to pull you away from your thoughts. Tactics that get you out of your head and into your body are best. Dialectical behavioural therapy suggests things like holding ice, belly breathing, or physically taking a few steps backwards. Read more about this in our article “Techniques to Stop Distress“.
4. Perspective jumping.
When we see things from a narrow view of ‘me against the world’ we tend to always be on alert and sensitive. A useful life coaching technique is to learn how to switch perspective. Think of a situation you recently experienced where you felt very sensitive. What would an alien watching from above think? Your eighty-year old future self? What would the Dalai Lama suggest you do in such a situation?
The more we judge ourselves for being oversensitive, and fight against the situations we find ourselves in, the more we seem to overreact. But when we start to accept situations and ourselves, a strange thing happens – we relax a little. Suddenly we feel a bit less sensitive.
Try the ‘worst case scenario’ trick. When things seem overwhelming ask, “What is the very worst thing that can happen here? Can I accept and handle that?” If yes, you’ll relax a little. If no, you can decide who to ask for help.
A good tool to help with self acceptance is self-compassion. When you find yourself judging or berating yourself, imagine you were instead talking to a good friend. How would you speak to and treat them? Offer yourself the same.
We aren’t talking about recording what happens to you. We are talking about taking time every day to explode your feelings onto a page. It’s a good idea to then rip up what you write, so that your unconscious mind feels safe to unload. The idea here is that your emotions release onto the page instead of onto others around you.
The key word here is ‘daily’. Think of it like a pot of water on the stove. You need to keep lowering the heat or it will boil over.
7. Self care.
Emotionally sensitive people seem to often also be physically sensitive. Things like poor sleep and too much sugar can mean you are even less in control of how you feel. Yes, perhaps your friends can go out drinking all night and be fine. But if you are left an emotional wreck the next day, is it worth trying to keep up?