4 Survival Tips For The Sensitive Soul

For people who feel things deeply, just BEING is an intense experience. Image: Thinkstock.

Figure out what you CAN do, and do it. And then forgive yourself for the rest.

Dear Sensitive Soul,

Are you having a hard time right now?

Me too. I think a lot of us are.

I’ve been trying to figure out why. There’s a lot going on at this moment in history: so much violence and hurt and anger being hurled in all directions.

We are reminded daily that the world is ending soon. The planet is melting. It’s all our fault.

How do you protect yourself from all this negativity without closing off completely?

How do you not lose hope when hope no longer seems like a renewable resource?

My friend Catherine asked me the best question the other day: “How is your heart?”

I love this question, because it’s impossible to sidestep it with a superficial answer. You can’t reply with a nonchalant “fine” the same way you can with “How are you?” This question invites honesty and openness. It implores you to dig a little deeper.

Let’s ask each other this question more often, OK? And perhaps more importantly, let’s ask ourselves this question, and answer honestly.

How is my heart? My answer today would be: heavy.

Heavy for many reasons — big and small, personal and global and political (some of which rhyme with Ronald Rump).

You too? Here are a few reminders I’ve been coming back to when I feel overwhelmed by, well, everything. Maybe they’ll help you too.

1. You’re not “weak.”

Sensitive people are often cast as whiny weaklings. This is a supremely unfair assumption.

For people who feel things deeply, just BEING is an intense experience. An open heart is easily broken — and yet your heart is still open.

That’s the definition of bravery.

You are brave and strong and resilient. Don’t forget that.


 

The world needs you to keep your heart open, to be kind, to do your best.


 

2. You’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.

Empathetic, sensitive people have a special ability: We really feel the pain of others.

It’s a magical gift, but also a heavy burden to bear. When you feel someone’s pain or displeasure, it’s only natural to want to take that pain away, right? So we contort ourselves socially and emotionally to try to make everyone else happy.

Our actions might have a positive intent, but the results are bad for everybody.

We exhaust ourselves. We sacrifice our authenticity. The people around us learn to pile their feelings onto us to sort out. Let’s give ourselves permission to kick this habit.

Ann Lamott said, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

Being a compassionate, supportive person doesn’t require heroic action or emotional acrobatics.

It really is that simple. Just stand there, shining.

3. You don’t have to watch the news.

Or scroll endlessly through Facebook posts that annoy you. Or follow Instagram accounts that make you feel poor and boring. Or meet up with your Debbie Downer friend who always makes you feel like shit.

It’s impossible to tune out all negativity (especially in an election year), but we can be proactive in choosing which messages and energies we interact with.

You get to decide what to watch, read, listen to, and think about.

Protect yourself. Choose accordingly.

4. You can’t save the world.

So take that weight off your shoulders.

There are many little things we can all do to help save the world — be nice to people, recycle, buy farmers’ market veggies, volunteer.

So figure out what you CAN do, and do it. And then forgive yourself for the rest.

Sulking around in a constant state of overwhelming guilt because you can’t single-handedly save the icecaps? Not helpful.

The world needs you to keep your heart open, to be kind, to do your best.

The world is hard enough. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Love,

Winona

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