Differences In The HSP Brain, By Julie Bjelland, LMFT
To put it simply, we have two parts of our brain. The emotional brain (limbic system) and the thinking brain (cognitive) and HSPs activate the emotional, limbic system more than non-HSPs. That means that 15-20% of us have a DIFFERENT brain response than the majority of the population. No wonder we have walked around most of our life feeling different! We ARE different! But because many of us have not felt accepted or supported in our sensitivities we also started to label these differences as “wrong”. But I have a mission to teach HSPs the differences are NOT wrong, they are magnificent. An HSP brain is like a super computer. It has incredible deep processing power. But, just like super computers, when you download too many things at once they can freeze. Our HSP brains are kind of like that and that is why we need more downtime for processing all that extra information that we receive in our HSP brains.
Our nervous system as HSPs are often burnt out from being in overdrive and all of these factors are the reasons we feel like we are often in survival mode…just trying to get through the day. In the emotional part of the brain, we have an overly activated amygdala and this creates a fight or flight response. It is meant to alert our system when we are in danger. It’s kind of like an alarm system goes off when it is activated and our system floods with adrenaline, and stress hormones and preps for fighting or fleeing. But the problem with the HSP brain is that it is overly activated and the alarm system goes off even when we are NOT in danger. It is the reason we are often feeling exhausted, and overwhelmed, and depleted. If our brain gets these danger alarms signals every day (which happens in a lot of HSPs), no wonder we are exhausted and develop anxiety symptoms!
What if we could teach our brains to stop sending these alarm responses out when we don’t want it to be set off? There is a way! And that is what is so amazing about becoming a “trained” HSP. I have found in my research and work with HSPs that we can actually “train” our brains to not activate that alarm system over and over again. Every day I get to witness HSPs train their brain and start transforming in life with new energy, sleeping better, feeling calm for the first time, and even an improved immune system response, because when we stop sending all those stress hormones through our system we feel a lot better and our immune system works better!
I remember when I was an “untrained” HSP I felt like I was drowning in overwhelming emotions and anxiety. When I started learning about the ways the brain could be “trained” I felt like someone just showed me a ladder to climb out so I wouldn’t be drowning anymore. It was an emotional realization that brought me to tears. A lot of HSPs I work with feel this way and after the first session experience a sort of release similar to the one I did. Whether it is HSPs I work with in person, in my online HSP course, or even through global coaching of HSPs, we all share such similar experiences!
If you are an HSP, I encourage you to take the time to “train” your HSP brain, because it makes such a difference in the quality of our life! Once you train your brain it is something you are rewarded with in every aspect of your life. HSPs have so much to offer the world with those super computer brains and highly developed intuitive ability, but we need to have our “life” raft strong and stable in order to be able to help others in the way we are meant to in life. Taking care of our “life” raft means we stay afloat and can assist others because we are not drowning. What would you do if you had more energy and felt less overwhelmed? Creating this new “brain space” feels really transformational and has a positive, domino impact on every part of our lives.
As a therapist, I have come to know that we make change in our lives when we are ready, that something inside of us clicks into a space that wants to commit to live better. I love working with HSPs who click into that space, want to practice the tools they are given, and then I witness their lives improving in SO many ways. It’s a really amazing experience because I’ve been through it too and know what it is like to live “untrained” and what it is like to live with a “trained” brain and the difference is really incredible. I wish for all HSPs to know that life can be wonderful when we learn how to care for our unique HSP brains.
-Julie is a licensed psychotherapist in California, and author of the book, Brain Training for Highly Sensitive People, Techniques to Reduce Anxiety and Overwhelming Emotions. Having built a successful private practice, Julie continues to expand her reach by developing online brain training courses, consulting to other therapists, teaching workshops, and coaching HSPs globally. Her passion and expertise is in neuroscience and determining how to successfully train the brain so people can live their best lives. Julie specializes in working with anxiety and the highly sensitive person (HSP), communication, self-esteem, and the LGBTQ community.
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