Inside: Finding space for my soul to rest allows me to show up joyfully and effectively to do the work I am called to do. It reminds me that my worth is not tangled up in productivity. And it is one non-negotiable way of honouring my wiring and treating myself with respect and dignity. This post contains referral links.
She reaches her hand out to me several times as we watch together, needing a touch of comfort. The film is based on the true story of a young Ugandan girl who becomes a chess champion in the middle of poverty and struggle.
“It hurts so much,” my 11-year-old says and I understand. She is not seeing the one who overcame but the many still mired in pain, poverty, hopelessness.
My youngest daughter is a highly sensitive soul just like her mama.
According to Dr. Elaine Aron, 15-20% of us are born highly sensitive or with Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS, the trait’s scientific term). I am both a strong introvert and a highly sensitive soul (take a free quiz here).
I was raised by parents deeply concerned about alleviating suffering and social injustice (though they never used that term). I knew from an early age that there were kids in Africa not eating that day. Little people in India that only attended school because of child sponsorship. Moms and children over in the nearby townhouses who needed bags of groceries sent over.
I heard about the addiction and suicide rates that ripped apart homes in the neighbouring reserves. I learned that some of my sisters had come to us neglected and abused.
What I didn’t know was what to do with the incredible weight of this knowledge of pain and suffering. I felt small and powerless and had no idea how to process my grief.
Being highly sensitive in a noisy world can feel easily overwhelming. Learning about sensory overload helped me make sense of so much of my lived experience and helped inform how I parent.
It can provoke deep anxiety, in many of us. As a little girl, I’d come home from school and seek refuge in my room, decompressing from the hours spent around noise and people. As a teenager, I took the edge off my anxiety and strong emotion through drugs and attempted several times to simply opt out of life.
At 18 I chose life but still needed to learn to thrive in a culture that favours the extrovert, the higher energy, the crowd lover, those less drained by constant external stimulation – the “80% world.”
I’ve slowly learned to love myself, to stop numbing, and to respect who I am as a highly sensitive introvert and the truth that I can never quite seem to keep up, emotionally or physically, in this fast-paced, noisy, hyped-up world.
RELATED: Anxiety, overwhelm, and chronic stress are common for Highly Sensitive People who haven’t yet learned to honour their wiring and make ample space for rest.
My soul needs space to rest
Five years ago, on a long drive, I hungrily listened to Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking (referral link). It was so affirming and encouraged me to walk with greater confidence in who I am.
Around the same time, I also received a free email course from Cigdem Kobu called The 12 Entrepreneurial Laws of Joy and Ease (no longer available), geared toward quieter or introverted folks; it gave me hope that I could find a way to step out and do the work I feel called to while respecting the way I am knit together.
Neurodiversity makes the world more colourful and beautiful. We are created on purpose. Sensitive people often want to help create a kinder, more compassionate world but feel inadequate for the task, maybe even a little too broken. We don’t “fit” easily and doing life can feel hard.
Yet there are amazing gifts that come with being a highly sensitive individual. We tend to be called as therapists, coaches, healing practitioners or teachers. We are artists and writers. We are often empathic, intuitive, deep listeners, feelers, thinkers, spiritual by nature, always learning and picking up on subtleties, with a strong desire to see justice prevail.
Does this feel familiar to you?
But in order to thrive or maintain our health as we love and serve our families and communities, in order to do the work we feel so passionate about, we must learn to create space for our souls to rest.
I learned to navigate this over the past twenty years of raising kids, homeschooling and tending to home and now I must learn anew as I engage more online, write, and work with women in various capacities.
I am so grateful for the work I get to do but for every hour I engage with people I need several more in quiet contemplation – thinking, processing, puttering, ordering my thoughts and world.
I feel like an incomplete, scattered, unhealthy version of myself if I don’t get this space to breathe.
Social media is an important part of my work and I think a real gift if we use it wisely. A complete distraction and energy drain if we do not. For the sensitive soul, navigating the always-connected, noisy online world is even more of a challenge than for most.
Social media allows us to build community, to find kindred spirits, to learn and engage with hard questions and current events. Blogs inspire and challenge, online shopping and bill paying saves time (and help us avoid lineups and crowds of people!), we have access to inter-library loan and online classes and research at our fingertips.
So many beautiful things.
But more of a good thing is not always better.
Too much online interaction might mean opting out of building local relationships and community. It might mean never really living life because we are always watching what other people are up to. It could mean never doing the hard work of formulating our own thoughts and opinions because we are too busy scrolling through comment sections.
Social media can mean being exposed to an overwhelming amount of anger, violence, and need that incapacitates rather than motivates. And too much time online can be just one more form of running and numbing.
RELATED: For years I repeated a cycle of ignoring my body and brain’s call to rest and then inevitably falling ill and being forced to cancel all plans to lie on the couch reading for a weekend. It was in that season, years ago now, that I first came to understand the truth that I cannot pour out what I don’t first pour in.
I create space for my soul to rest
1. I create time blocks for learning and thinking which informs my work and helps me feel calm and whole: 1 hr/day to read and think with my morning coffee; a day for Rest & Reflection & Reordering each month; I do not book clients on Mondays but use this time to putter and learn.
2. I have established some new social media rules: 1 day/week no social media; 1 week off every two months; I leave my phone behind when possible on my walks with friends or family.
3. I create time blocks for deep, meaningful work (here is a podcast that discusses deep work) and keep my phone out of sight during these times (keeping our phone in our line of vision makes us up to 11x less productive- here is a podcast you might like).
4. I remind myself daily that more isn’t always better, to take joy on this journey of mine; I remind myself to keep my eyes on my mission which is to offer hope and encouragement to others and let that be enough.
5. I make sure I am connecting with people who truly know me. Who can help me see when I am tilting off balance; those with whom I can hash things out and who can remind me that I am loved but also help me laugh a little more.
I’ve wasted a significant portion of my life wishing I were different but now see clearly that each of us is hard-wired, hand-hewn, and gifted on purpose.
Finding space for my soul to rest allows me to show up joyfully and effectively to do the work I am called to do. It reminds me that my worth is not tangled up in productivity. And it is one non-negotiable way of honouring my wiring and treating myself with respect and dignity.
Do you need to find more space for your soul to rest?
NOW WHAT? Learn more about Sensory Processing Sensitivity (or being an HSP) with this book, this one, or a course by my friend, Sensitivity Specialist, Julie Bjelland.