chronic illness · mental health

life as a HSP, introversion and tips on learning to slow down

When you are managing symptoms such as chronic anxiety, fatigue and self regulation for emotional balance, learning to rest and be able to slow down is somewhat vital, and yet for some reason it seems to be incredibly difficult to implement.

If this is added to the fact that you are a highly sensitive person, the world around you feels as though it is constantly overstimulating your senses, frequently leading to overload of information and can often result in feeling too overwhelming to cope.

This is a battle that I fight every single day, and I find that it can get worse over time due to build up, if I haven’t given myself time to regulate, vent or express the emotions locked inside. Being somewhat of an introvert, this can be difficult to do frequently, as so much of our time is best spent away from the chaos of the world and the unpredictability of people. We need rest in solitude, and too much stimulation particularly from people is intensely draining to our reserves.

Learning to slow down, breathe deeply, and focusing on self expression in gentle ways can be a lifesaver to those of us who suffer with hypersensitivity in an increasingly stimulating and fast-paced world.

Things I have learned that have been incredibly healing:

  • Taking regular rest breaks:
    Taking time out to rest regularly during the day, normally I wake up between 8.30 and 9am, and take a little rest break at 11, day time nap at 2-3pm, and have another little rest break at around 5pm, and try to have a chilled out evening to allow your body to feel calm enough to fall into sleep.

  • Calming evening routine:
    Try not to have an intense stimulating evening, this can inhibit the resting process in our bodies, and having a calming, restful time at least 1-2 hours before you plan on sleeping can help to bring the energy down from your head and into your body to allow you to fall into sleep easily. Drinking camomile tea half an hour before bed can really help to calm the senses as well, and you can also try applying a little lavender essential oil on your pillow to help you relax while you sleep.

  • Limiting or completely avoiding stimulating food and drinks during the day (or anytime), including caffeine, coffee, tea, alcohol, sugar, refined flours, spices as much as possible. I know this may sound intense, but for me this seriously works. Whenever I eat anything stimulating, my hypersensitivity body and immune system goes into absolute panic and I experience the worst heart palpitations, night sweats, rashes and allergic / intolerance reactions. Even consuming too much oil brings my skin out in intense itching during the night it’s crazy. Eating a calming plant-based diet, rich in vegetables, leafy greens, healthy carbs such as sweet potato, root vegetables and whole grains, as well as lean protein such as lentils, beans, pulses and seeds and avoiding anything extreme (sugar, caffeine, spice, meat). I really find that food has a massive influence in helping to manage any sort of condition, mental or physical.

  • Journalling:
    Taking time out of your day to journal and write your thoughts down is vital in maintaining a well balanced state of mental health; I find that when I do not take time to write out how I feel, things can very quickly build up and lead to overwhelm as everything is still stuck in my head.

  • Establishing a morning routine:
    I LOVE my morning routine now; I find it is one of THE most important aspects of my daily care plan that is the most effective in managing my conditions. Taking that vital time in the morning to look after yourself and set yourself up for the day is incredibly important for your own sense of wellbeing. For me, it is waking up with the sun, doing some calming gentle thinking while waking up in bed, getting up and spending 15 minutes engaging in some gentle body work – a mixture of yoga, stretching, pilates, tai chi and do-in (macrobiotic / energetic based body work), followed by 15 minutes meditation. This helps to gently wake my physical body up and get the energy flowing through my system, while the meditation helps to re-centre my mind and gives my brain a chance to begin the day calming and in a gentle, conscious manner. I then make a beautiful, nourishing breakfast such as whole grains (normally steamed rice) with vegetables and a bowl of miso soup, or I will have oat and rice porridge made with water and raisins. Millet or polenta also makes a fantastic porridge. I then take some time to write in my journal and get my thoughts together ready for the day and write my to-do lists. I know this seems like a lot of effort to put in in the morning, but trust me, it is so worth it for keeping you centred for the rest of the day.

  • Being kind to yourself. This is rule #1 and is probably the most important out of everything. Dealing with chronic and mental illness is a daily battle that we have to face, and it requires constant balancing plates, and constantly juggling self regulation techniques to keep you grounded and well. Add into the mixture the unpredictability of chronic illness, fatigue, exhaustion, post-extertional malaise and random out-of-the-blue muscle pain rearing it’s head and you have a real challenge on your hands. So above all, take it one day at a time, be gentle with yourself and remember that everyone’s journey is different and everyone will walk at their own pace. Find yours and trust yourself.

    Mell xx


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