When Your Sensitivity Gets In the Way

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

“Leave your emotions at the door.” 

It’s a phrase that you may have heard over and over, and it’s possible that for you, it’s an easy concept. You’re the type of person who can walk into work, or any social situation, and separate your emotions and your personal or professional life. You can leave them at the door, in a corner, in a box — pick your metaphor.

But when you’re very sensitive, it’s not always the easiest concept to wrap your head around. Maybe that fight with your roommate that you had in the morning, before you left for work, was more than you could handle, and you cried throughout the majority of your commute. Or multiple criticisms from your boss led to you fighting back tears while trying to give the appearance that you were just sitting in your cubicle, minding your own business, totally unaffected. But, you fail miserably. Even when all of the career advice books and articles you’ve read tell you otherwise, you head for the second floor bathroom and return with red-rimmed eyes and a puffy nose. And then, you feel all the more self-conscious, because the evidence is all over your face.

Unfortunately, you can’t go through life giving in to every single situation that could potentially lead to an emotional reaction. Sometimes, being able to feel so deeply can get in the wayand it can be to your detriment.

But, how can you make sure that your feelings, sensitivity, and emotions don’t get away of your tasks, whether they are personal or professional?

Step away for a bit
Get in tune with your emotional reactions, and learn to sense when one is coming. If you’re able to catch it before it arrives, don’t bury it, but instead, step away from the situation that’s causing it. Take your lunch break. Walk to the bathroom before it’s obvious that you’ve walked out the door in tears. Go for a drive. Have a snack and drink some water. Then, come back to the situation. Chances are, you’ll see it with a fresh, less emotional perspective. And you won’t be reacting in the heat of the moment, which will just make things worse.

Know your limit
If you know you have a lot of emotions and you’ve hit the point where you’ll know you won’t be productive due to the extenuating circumstances, don’t try to force it. I’ve used my paid time off to take a mental health day, and by the time I went back to work the next day, I’d processed everything that happened outside of work, to the point that I could focus on what was in front of me. Remember your self-care, and that includes knowing when to take a step back, and focusing on yourself for a bit.

Stand clear of emo music, violent movies, and the news
We all loved 2000s emo music, but when you’re feeling particularly sensitive, emo lyrics are actually not going to help you. Violent movies and TV shows also won’t do you any good, either. In fact by listening to that music or watching those types of shows, you’ll likely end up having even more feelings that you just don’t know what to do with. And while it’s important to stay informed, the times in which you are feeling particularly emotional are really not the times that you need to be processing news.

Write, write, write
And the best part of it all? If you don’t want anyone to read it, they don’t have to. It’s up to you. No one’s going to judge your private thoughts, when they’re written in a place where only you can see and read them later on. Just getting these thoughts out on paper can be beneficial to you. When you name the thoughts, you give them life, and you can then figure out how to process them. But, if you’re one to publicize your thoughts, go for it, and create a space for yourself by starting a blog, so long as it’s appropriate, of course.

Talk to someone who gets it
You know what’s better than one person who has a lot of feelings? Two people with lots of feelings. Chances are you’ll make the other person cry upon telling your tale of the fight you had with your roommate, or the nasty remark your boss made, or the fact that you saw that damned Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercial again. But you’ll cry together.

Don’t Take it Personally: Life as a Highly Sensitive Person

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Real Life Stories

It’s a phrase I’ve probably heard once a week since I was 12 years old: “Don’t take it personally.” When I was 12, I didn’t understand what it meant — I just continued to internalize every single remotely awkward or tense situation I found myself in.

What I did understand was that I regularly found myself with feelings of low self-esteem. I cried easily and never wanted anyone to be “mad at me,” which proved both difficult and confusing for someone who loved — and still loves — to speak her mind.

I can remember an afternoon during my freshman year of high school when I called my parents to pick me up early from school because I’d been in a fight with my best friend, no doubt over teenage nonsense.

I had to go home. Because I had a fight. A stupid fight that normal 15-year-olds have on the daily. And I couldn’t stop crying.

The fully-grown 27-year-old me looks at 15-year-old me as though she had three heads. Are you kidding me? Could you be any more dramatic? Do you know how many people have worse problems than you have — like, say, people who are starving?

And then I realize that those are the critiques I’ve been fighting my whole life. tumblr_llpiownyoe1qznniio1_250They have infiltrated my way of thinking because society tells me I’m “too sensitive.” That I was “weird” for worrying about one missed homework assignment or, in the case of my life now, taking that weird look from my boss personally (Was it something I said?) when I said “good morning.”

But it’s the way that I’m wired. The critiques are one thing — but forgetting about that aspect — it’s exhausting (and, as some like to say, creates a lot of “unnecessary work” for me).

I’ve reached a point where I try to “desensitize” myself and repeat the mantra: yes, you guessed it — “Don’t take it personally.” But sometimes I try to overcompensate for my sensitivity with sarcasm, and just not staying true to my real feelings.

I’ll admit I’ve never been officially labeled as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) , but every article I’ve ever read on the subject sounds as though it’s describing the person illustrated above.

My sensitivity manifests itself differently now than it did when I was 12 or 15. It worries incessantly if I make a mistake at work. It makes me obsess over why a friend didn’t answer a text. To bring it back: I take it all personally. And I can also tell you I’m working hard on not, as my mom likes to say, “going to that place.”

But at the same time, my sensitivity allows me to cry every time I hear Imagine played on the radio, and is the reason why I refuse to watch The Notebook. I can feel both my emotions and the emotions of others deeply, and when you’re a writer (who also happens to sing and act on the side), that can be a beautiful thing.