Recently, while at a workshop on Highly Sensitive People & Self-Care, I had a bit of an A-HA! moment.
We were talking about the Psychologist – Abraham Maslow – and his famous Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow’s model, after our need to breathe, eat & sleep has been fulfilled (Physiological), our next basic need before we can progress on to any others is Safety.
As a Highly Sensitive Person, our nervous systems are on high alert all the time. We are the members of the population that are primed to notice and inform others of dangers – you could say that this is what we’ve been designed to do, with our highly tuned fight or flight response. As a result, our bodies become flooded with cortisol whenever we feel stressed. This can lead to serious problems later in life unless we learn how to activate our parasympathetic nervous systems and our relaxation response which turns off the fight or flight response.
In terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s so clear to me now that one of the fundamental needs of a Highly Sensitive Person is the need to feel SAFE. Everyone has the right and need to feel safe, but because of our highly reactive nervous systems this is all the more important for the HSP.
If we don’t feel safe, our hair-trigger fight or flight response will constantly be activated and we’ll be living in a perpetual unhealthy stressed state. This isn’t sustainable long-term and can lead to cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure and a suppressed immune system. We may suffer from constipation and digestive problems, cold sores, feeling jittery and anxious. Our adrenal system will become fatigued resulting in low energy levels, respiratory problems and diminished libidos. All because we don’t feel safe!
It’s worth taking a look at the things in your life that stop you from feeling safe, areas that stress you out and make you feel anxious or fearful. These can be anything from your job, to relationships, or your daily commute. Find ways to minimise these stressors or better still, eliminate them altogether.
There will always be things that cause us anxiety and stress and are out of our control – world events, other people’s responses, dangerous drivers… What we must do though, is to practice staying calm in the face of these stressors. We can meditate, practice mindfulness, deep breathing, talk to those close to us, anything that helps us maintain our equilibrium!
As Highly Sensitive People, we actively need to make a greater effort to look after ourselves and find ways to help us feel safe and secure. Our health really does depend on it.
Can you relate to this post? I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the ways you help yourself to feel secure? I look forward to your comments!