Jenn Granneman

@jenn-granneman | contributor
Jenn Granneman is the founder of IntrovertDear.com, the popular community for introverts and highly sensitive people. Jenn is an introvert, a highly sensitive person, and an INFJ personality type. She started Introvert, Dear to help other introverts not feel so alone or weird. Look for her first book, “The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World,” in Spring 2017.
Jenn Granneman

Tips Highly Sensitive People Dealing With Anxiety

We’ve all felt anxious at some point in our lives. Anxiety is that jittery feeling you get before something big happens, like a first date, a job interview or moving to a new house. Your palms sweat, your heart beats fast and you feel like there’s a ball of lead in your gut. But then, you might have a hard time falling asleep, relaxing or concentrating because your thoughts are racing. Your stomach might be too upset to eat, or you might eat too much. You might cry more or have an overwhelming desire to seek reassurance from someone. As highly-sensitive people (HSPs), we tend to be creative and have active minds. However, the downside is this means we’re more vulnerable to anxiety. Our minds can easily conjure up all kinds of negative fantasies that fuel our anxiety and make it worse. Because of a biological difference in our nervous system, we absorb more stimulation from our environment — like noise, small details that others miss and even other people’s emotions — which can lead us to feel overwhelmed. Remember these things when you feel anxious: 1. Your anxiety is just one part of the package. Being highly sensitive is a package deal — you get the bad with the good. Don’t get down on yourself for being who you are. Think about all the good things that come with being sensitive — you may be more creative and considerate, have more empathy for others, notice things that others miss and learn new things quickly. 2. Like the weather, feelings change. The way you feel right now will not be the way you feel in five minutes, five hours, five days or five years from now. Feelings are only temporary, and like today’s forecast, they change quickly. Like all things eventually do, those scared, anxious, lead-in-your-gut feelings will pass. “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world — not even our troubles,” said actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin. 3. Talk to someone. Anxiety can be a lonely feeling, and loneliness increases anxiety — what a terrible cycle! Talk to someone you trust about the feelings or situation you’re dealing with. Just getting the feelings out might make you feel better, plus, having to explain your fears to someone else might help you examine if they’re realistic or not. 4. Set clearer boundaries in your relationships. If your relationships are making you anxious, get rid of the source of your anxiety by setting firmer boundaries or even letting some relationships go. Do it, and don’t feel bad about it. 5. Don’t run away from what’s scaring you. Avoiding the situation or person that’s causing your anxiety will only make your anxiety worse in the long run. Gather your courage to face the problem head-on. Remind yourself it’s only fear, and you will get through it. 6. You can’t control what happens in life, but you can control (or learn tools to control) how you react. Dr. Hans Selye, a physician who is considered the “father” of the field of stress research, writes, “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” 7. Your anxiety doesn’t actually accomplish anything. It just wastes time and doesn’t get you any closer to your life’s goals. “Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far,” writes author Jodi Picoult. 8. Try relaxation techniques. Inhale deeply, hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale. Brew a cup of chamomile tea. Exercise vigorously — anxiety floods your body with adrenaline, and aerobic exercise burns off adrenaline. Take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music and schedule a massage for later. Distract yourself by reading, surfing the internet or watching Netflix. 9. Keep things in perspective. Avoid the temptation to make the situation bigger in your mind than it really is. Dr. Steve Maraboli, author and behavioral science academic, writes, “I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety and fear.” 10. It’s really going to be OK. Author and motivational speaker Daneille LaPorte writes, “P.S. You’re not going to die. Here’s the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you’ll still be OK. If you lose the gig, the lover, the house, you’ll still be OK. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired…it’s not going to kill you. Ask anyone who’s been through it.” This piece originally appeared on Introvert, Dear. Click here for more stories about being an introvert or highly sensitive person.

Jenn Granneman

'Highly-Sensitive Person': Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health

If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, you know little things can be too much. Busy environments, violent images in movies or weekends with little downtime can stress you out. Because you’re so in tune with your environment and other people, life can be pretty exhausting, which makes you withdraw — and non-sensitives don’t understand. But there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not alone. High sensitivity is actually fairly common, found in 15 to 20 percent of the population , according to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, author of the book, “ The Highly Sensitive Person .” Both introverts and extroverts can be sensitive, as well as people of all personality types, although high sensitivity is probably more common among INFPs  and INFJs . If you’re highly sensitive, it means you need to take extra care of yourself — otherwise, your sensitive nature could aggravate existing conditions like depression and anxiety. Sadly, because many people don’t understand what high sensitivity is, you may have been told to “toughen up” or “just get over it.” You may have always felt different from other people, but you didn’t have a name for what you were. High sensitivity can make life challenging but not impossible. When I’m in a routine and doing plenty of self-care, I forget about my sensitivity. But a recent trip reminded me of just how frazzled my senses can get. I was rushing from one activity to the next, hanging out in loud, crowded bars and restaurants, and meeting many new people. To top it all off, I wasn’t getting enough sleep or the kind of exercise that makes me feel good, like cardio and yoga. After five days of “vacation,” I was completely fried. How can we as highly sensitive people cope with our trait? Here are 12 things we need to take care of our mental health: 1. Time to decompress. Noisy, busy environments — like a crowded mall during the holidays, a concert or a big party — can wreak havoc on a sensitive person’s highly reactive nervous system. Likewise, packed schedules and high-pressure situations, like a job interview or the first day in a new school, are overstimulating. If you know you’ll be in situation that will frazzle you, plan some time to decompress in a quiet space afterward. It’s best if you can be alone. 2. Meaningful relationships. We get bored or restless in relationships that lack meaningful interaction, according to Aron. This doesn’t mean we’re prone to relationship hopping, rather, we actually work harder to inspire intimacy and interesting conversation. It also means we’re selective about the people we let into our lives to begin with. Interestingly, many sensitive people are great to be in a relationship with because they not only tune in to what’s good for them, but also to what’s good for others. They pay close attention to what their significant other wants. Aron calls this characteristic “mate sensitivity,” which means the ability to rapidly figure out what pleases their partner and act based on that intel. This behavior goes for friends, family members and co-workers as well. Basically, it makes us happy to make others happy. 3. People who support us. Sensitive people may cry or become emotional a lot. “Sensitive people can’t help but express what they’re feeling,” Aron told the Huffington Post . “They show their anger, they show their happiness. Appreciating that is really important.” 4. A gentle, healthy way of managing conflict. No matter who you are, fighting with a loved one is miserable. But sensitive people tend to feel extra anxious when conflict arises — and an internal battle takes place. We feel torn between speaking up for what we believe is right and sitting back so we don’t provoke an angry reaction from the other person. Often we subjugate our own needs because we’d rather “go along to get along” than fight. On the other hand, sensitive people can make great conflict resolvers, because we tend to see the other person’s perspective. We have high levels of empathy and can easily put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. 5. Time to get things done. Sensitive people like a slower pace of life. We like pondering all our options before making a decision and regularly reflecting on our experiences. We hate busy schedules and rushing from one event to the next. One of the hardest parts of my day during the work week is getting moving in the morning and leaving my apartment on time. Saturday mornings, when I don’t have to work, are for going at my own pace. It’s calming and restorative to know I don’t have to be dressed and ready to go anywhere anytime soon. 6. Plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep (less than seven hours a night, for most people) makes the average person irritable and less productive, but lack of sleep for the sensitive person can make life almost unbearable. Getting enough sleep soothes my ramped-up senses and helps me process my thoughts and emotions. How much sleep I get can literally make or break my next day. Without proper sleep, every little stressor seems 10 times worse. 7. Healthy meals spaced regularly throughout the day. When I don’t eat regularly, I get hangry . This is because, according to Aron, extreme hunger can mess up a sensitive person’s mood or concentration. To fend off feelings of crankiness and discombobulation, maintain a steady blood sugar level throughout the day by eating regular healthy meals and snacks. 8. Caffeine-free options. Sensitive people (surprise, surprise) are sensitive to caffeine. I drink one cup of coffee in the morning to get me going, but I don’t have any caffeine past noon. Even a mug of green tea later in the day would leave me tossing and turning at night. Plus, having too much caffeine leaves me feeling jittery and wound up in an uncomfortable way. If you’re sensitive, consider limiting your coffee, soda and tea intake. Watch out for sneaky sources of caffeine, like chocolate. Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine. For example, Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar has 31 milligrams of caffeine , which is almost as much as a can of Coke! 9. A space of our own. If you live with others, make sure you have a quiet place you can retreat to when you need to get away from noise and people. Turn on your favorite music to drown out any unpleasant external noise. 10. Low lighting. If possible, turn off the overhead lights in your home or office and substitute a lamp. 11. Time to adjust to change. Transitions aren’t easy for anybody. (Hey! Who moved my cheese? ) But for sensitive people, transitions can be really rough. Even positive changes, like starting a new relationship or moving into a dream home, can be overstimulating and require an extra long period of adjustment. For example, I recently moved into a wonderful new apartment in a city I enjoy, but I literally felt off-kilter for months until I got used to my new situation. 12. Beauty and nature. Like most sensitive people, I’m deeply affected by my surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic or just plain ugly environments bother me. I feel calm spending time in nature, my city’s favorite neighborhoods or my simply decorated apartment (especially when it’s actually clean and tidy!). When it comes down to it, the key is to embrace your sensitivity rather than work against it. Sensitive people make incredible leaders, partners and friends. We have high levels of empathy and we’re usually creative and perceptive. Maybe the world could use a little more of what we have. This piece originally appeared on Introvert, Dear . Click here for more stories about being an introvert or highly sensitive person.