I am a sensitive person, a highly sensitive person. I may try to roll like I'm tough, and I am to a degree, but ultimately, I'm extremely sensitive and it doesn't take much for me to crack. My threshold for just about everything, from bright lights to loud sounds to pungent smells to human suffering, is practically zero to none. Me trying to get through the day without crying over something is near-impossible.
But despite the fact that I'm well aware of how sensitive I am, I actually don't do much to protect myself from situations that will exacerbate my emotions. More often than not, I throw myself to the wolves, so to speak, blindly hoping for the best, then chastising myself later when the result is emotion-overload. Sensitive people, especially highly sensitive people, really need to be proactive in protecting themselves. In other words, there are things we should straight-up avoid.
"If you are a particularly sensitive person, you should never surround yourself with negative, toxic people," licensed psychotherapist, mental health advocate, and author, Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, tells Bustle. "Who we surround ourselves with impacts us significantly. If you spend a lot of time with people who are critical and put you down often, this will have a negative effect on your self-esteem and sometimes can even contribute to depression. Instead, focus on the healthy, positive relationships in your life, or seek out new ones."
But in addition to cutting toxic people and relationships from your life there are a handful of other things that may prevent you from keeping your mind and body at peace. Here are seven big ones to avoid.
1Watch Horror Movies Before Bed
It might seem harmless, but if you're a sensitive person, it's far from harmless. What we see during the day, especially right before bed, almost always manifest themselves in our dreams, even if we don't always remember those dreams.
"Watching horror movies before going to sleep can cause the sensitive person to internalize that violence in their dreams," Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of relationship blog You're Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle. "Their dreams become characterized by themselves or their loved ones being the victims of some type of violence and will disrupt their sleep cycle. They are unable to shake off the 'it’s just a movie' and therefore 'it’s just a dream'."
2Work In A Hierarchical Environment
Granted, you don't have to be a sensitive sort to realize that working in an office, especially one in which the hierarchy of positions is constantly at play, can be stressful, but for sensitive people, it's even more demanding on the nerves.
"Sensitive people internalize work constructive criticism much more harshly than the average person," says Silva. "For the sensitive person, it feels like an attack on their very being-ness. It isn’t just that they need to improve in that area, they feel like a complete failure because they take it more personally than the average person. They are more productive in non-office and non-hierarchical type of environments."
No matter how much you like live music — I love it and used to go to shows three to four times a week — that loud music can wreck a sensitive person. Once you add in the lights, the dark venues, and wall-to-wall people, it can feel like a panic attack waiting to happen.
"Going to a club or concert is too much stimulation for a sensitive person," says Silva. "It creates sensory overload for the sensitive person and disabling their ability to be comfortable. It is physically painful to them."
4Participate In Group Sports
While some people can join a group exercise and feel like they're blending in, the sensitive person may feel like a sore thumb. This is why I refuse to spinning classes with my friends who are obsessed with spinning.
"Sensitive people tend to avoid group exercise or sports because they feel like everyone is watching them," says Silva. "Engaging in group exercise activities brings on feelings of people expecting them to fail. It triggers the feelings of not being good enough."
5Multitask Work-Related Things
You may be able to scroll through Facebook on your computer and text multiple friends at once on your phone while watching the newest episode of Broad City, but in a work environment, multitasking for a sensitive person is extremely difficult. The impending anxiety is inevitable.
"In the work environment, sensitive people can not multitask and work at peak performance levels," says Silva. "If you give them more than they can handle, they will begin feeling anxious and have more difficulty being productive."
6Be Put In A Position To Be Criticized
Although a lot of people probably don't want to be put in a position in which they're criticized, for the sensitive person such a situation doesn't just roll off their back.
"Because sensitive people don’t like being criticized, they try to avoid it at all lengths," says Silva. "This often makes them want to please people as a way to not have to deal with it. But they internalize that as self-sacrificial and become more observant of others’ needs. The act of dismissing themselves as active participants in their lives creates feelings of failing themselves. They act of observant in their lives creates feelings of worthlessness and diminished self-worth."
7Be Around Toxic People And Situations
As Abrams pointed out, toxicity, of all nature, is worse for a sensitive person than it is for an average person. Not only is it worse, but it digs deeper and the results are more chaotic for those feel so deeply.
"Sensitive people feel more deeply and more powerfully than the average person," says Silva. "They wear their hearts on their sleeves and like experiencing the world on an empathetic level. When that gets challenged, they lose their sh*t. Moderating the intensity of that reaction isn’t something that can always be achieved, but not being caustic can."
There's no shame in being a sensitive person. Research has actually found that there are multiple benefits to being sensitive, one of which is being creative AF. But while that's absolutely the case, as sensitive people, it's our responsibility to take care of ourselves so as to prevent any avoidable pain. While we may not be able to protect ourselves 24/7, we can at least make an effort. Feeling deeply and even crying is beautiful and human, but sometimes we need to give our body and mind a rest.