There is one word that best describes HSP and Empath sensitivity feels in overdrive...it's ANXIETY. We are hyper-sensitive, and when that sensitivity kicks into overdrive, we experience ANXIETY.
Anxiety is debilitating. For HSPs (highly sensitive people) who live with a hyper sensitive nervous system that heightens one or more of our five senses, anxiety cripple us almost instantaneously. For Empaths who live with a hyper sensitive hormonal system, anxiety is both our everyday norm and our worst nightmare.
What Is Anxiety?
In the NERVOUS SYSTEM
For HSPs, our nerves are hyper sensitive. This means that one or more of our five senses is super strong, thus easy to over-stimulate. When our nerves are over-stimulated, our entire body says "oh shit! we gotta deal with this!!!" Our hearts starts racing. Our blood pressure increases. We get all jittery with that feeling that we gotta DO something to deal with the over-stimulation.
In the HORMONE SYSTEM
For Empaths, our hormones are hyper sensitive. Hormones are chemicals in our body that tell our body what to do, AND they make us feel emotions. Soooo, when our nerves are over-stimulated, our moods and emotions are too. The body and nerve response of over-stimulation results in a hormone response of heightened moods and emotions. As Empaths its like the hormone chemicals that spill into our body the monkeys in our minds go cray-cray. Seriously, it's like the hormone chemicals are methamphetamine drugs for our mind monkeys. Those monkeys go NUTS bouncing around thoughts in our heads. The thoughts our mind monkeys play with during ANXIETY take us out of the present moment and into either the past, or the future, or a ping pong game of past and future.
When we feel anxiety, half of our mind monkeys get so confused that they dig into the file cabinets of our brains and bring up all the old stuff and junk. It's like they are frantically looking for a solution, but instead, they just keep throwing files and papers everywhere, creating one big mess of remembering all the stuff that didn't work.
When something happens to trigger our feels of anxiety, the other half of our mind monkeys get worried, big time. They pick up all the papers and files strewn about by the monkeys digging into the past, and they make WHAT IFs out of them. In monkey-mind world, WHAT IFs are paper airplanes of made-up possibilities that fly and crash all over the place.
When our monkeys are so busy digging through the past and worrying about the future, nothing in the right here and now will work right.
How to Stop Anxiety - OXYGEN
As HSPs and Empaths, we've all been told to take medication, try yoga or meditation, or "just deal" with anxiety like everyone else. And yes, all those things work. But as I outlined in How to REALLY Calm Your Nerves & Hormones (and what works best for HSPs & Empath Sensitivity) these methods don't work so well for us HSPs and Empaths. And they especially don't work in the heat of a past/future monkey mind brawl. We need relief in the moment that our nervous system is triggered. We need to soothe our hormones before they go all cray-cray. The way to do that is to STOP ANXIETY in its tracks instantaneously. The absolute best and fastest way to impact your nerves and hormones is through BREATH.
The reason breathing works is because OXYGEN is our greatest healer. It is a vacuum cleaner and a space-maker.
Oxygen Makes Space
As an atom, oxygen is absolutely huge. It takes up a lot of space because it is made up of a lot of space. Every atom has a nucleus with protons and neutrons, and a bunch of electrons spinning around that nucleus. In oxygen atoms, those electrons spin farther away from the nucleus than other atoms. Creating lots of space. So, when you breathe big and get more oxygen into your system, that oxygen is like Fezzig the Giant in The Princess Bride making everybody move out of the way. Oxygen makes the monkeys in your mind spread out so that the thoughts aren't bumping into each other all the time. This brings clarity and calm.
The way that two or more atoms join together to make molecules is by sharing the electrons that spin around them. Oxygen has more electrons than most atoms, so it has more ways to attach to other atoms to make molecules. In your body, when you have pure oxygen atoms, they work like vacuum cleaners to attach to other atoms (like velcro) and move them out. Because oxygen rides on the breath, it will go attach to other extra atoms and them bring them on the breath out of the body. For anxiety, Oxygen goes into the brain and attaches to all the extra bouncing thoughts and sucks them out on the breath. Pretty cool huh?
It's true that just taking a deep breath (or several) will make everything better. Oxygen has an instantaneous effect on the nerves and hormones, and thus instantly helps with HSP and Empath feels. But, I want to warn you, not all breathing techniques are created equal, and many don't work nearly as well. We have to be careful about doing things like mouth-breathing and breath holds because they can actually trigger stress hormones more (I'll write about that in another blog someday).
I recommend the FOCUSED BREATHING technique that I use. I've taught it to every single client and student I have ever taught and they all say it is a game changer. This technique was designed specifically to get the most pure and clean oxygen into your system and direct it to do its cleaning and space-making work efficiently.