Highly Sensitive Person: Are you a deeply-feeling/highly-sensitive person? Do you struggle with separating your feelings from those of others around you? Do you struggle with worldly issues to the point of exhaustion? You may be one of the people labeled an “empath.” Sometimes Empaths feel to the point of being unable to feel, and some eventually shut down. Empath struggles are real, even though empaths make up a small percent of the population.
I’ve struggled with deep sensitivity most of my life (as far back as I can remember). I’ve tried various methods of finding peace and creating a space for self-love so I can be my best self for those I love. What are some ways to turn your feelings into purpose and to find peace? Here are some of my suggestions.
Highly Sensitive Person: Vagus Nerve Stimulation
We have a sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, AKA, the autonomic nervous system. The vagus nerve (the longest nerve in the body) is part of this system and is responsible for transmitting and mediating sensory information into the brain. The vagus nerve has an essential role in regulating metabolic homeostasis and in the neuro-endocrine-immune axis to maintain homeostasis . It does so through a balance between sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (relaxed).
In the 1880s, researchers discovered that through stimulating the vagus nerve, they could suppress seizures. Throughout the years, various techniques have been implemented to stimulate the vagus nerve and influence brain activity. These techniques are collectively known as “vagus nerve stimulation.”
What are some of the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation?
Stimulating the vagus nerve can help increase vagal tone and put you in a parasympathetic (relaxed) state—thus decreased feelings of stress and anxiety, often associated with strong emotions. Having a high vagal tone is linked to feeling relaxed/happy, whereas people with low vagal tone tend to have higher levels of stress and depression as well as other health conditions.
How can you stimulate the vagus nerve?
- deep diaphragmatic breathing (breathwork)
- singing, chanting, and gargling (my favorite)
- cold showers/cold therapy
Highly Sensitive Person: Ecstatic Dance
Ecstatic dance refers to dancing to your rhythm! It’s an empowering form of self-expression, and it allows you to tap into your flowing feminine energy. It’s not the same as a structured dance. With ecstatic dance, you want to move your body to the rhythm and “let-go” of what your brain is telling you to do! It’s a way to release trapped emotions, and sometimes you may find yourself crying for no apparent reason.
How does it work?
There are many great ecstatic dance compilation mixes found on you-tube. I like to listen to kirtan music or tribal music, as it moves me in such a way. No one has to see you. If you are insecure about it, you can always start in a dark room where you cannot even see yourself moving. Feel the music and allow your body to take over-any which way it chooses. It’s empowering and can help with self-love, self-acceptance, and brings about that “circular” female energy that flows freely.
Highly Sensitive Person: Get Out In Nature as Often as Possible
If you haven’t realized, I am very big on grounding! The earth is healing, comforting, and puts you in a parasympathetic/relaxed state. It’s essential to connect with nature and the earth as often as possible. It is there where you will find comfort and solace with all that’s going on in the world. Step out of your comfort zone and plan a little hike. I have seen apps that track your hiking make it easy not to get lost or confused.
Sunlight increases vitamin D production and helps you to produce adequate melatonin to sleep better at night. Being out in the sunshine is also mood-boosting and can reduce stress and anxiety. Even in the winter, plan to get sunlight on your skin, even if it’s just for a brisk walk.
Alternative Ways to Find Stillness
Meditation is touted by many as the one path to peace for the highly sensitive person. However, if you’re a “high-strung” individual, meditation may not come easy. There are other ways of achieving this state. One way is rhythmic movement, such as walk, which helps to equalize the right and left hemispheres of the brain, bringing you into a state of balance. If you plan to walk for meditation, it’s essential not to bring distractions and just allow yourself that time to clear your head and relax. Listen to the sounds around you and observe the sites.
Take in some deep breaths and be in the moment as much as possible. Even a 20 minute walk each day can be equivalent to 20 minutes of meditation. Some people just meditate better while moving, especially those of us who require movement to feel relaxed.
Another way to find stillness is through listening to relaxing music, binaural beats (there are many on YouTube), and singing. You don’t have to sound good, just sing away!
I hope that some of these suggestions can help you cope with the sensitivities of the world, and release any pain you may be experiencing. I also suggest somatic therapy, and Internal Family Systems therapy model, as (2) ways that help those struggling with PTSD and trauma-related to the world as it is now.
References: Howland, Robert H. “Vagus Nerve Stimulation.” Current behavioral neuroscience reports vol. 1,2 (2014): 64-73. doi:10.1007/s40473-014-0010-5  Zagon A. Does the vagus nerve mediate the sixth sense? Trends Neurosci. 2001;24(11):671–673. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]