Photographer Sada Reed: @triple_f_soul
There’s more to self-care than manicures and cheesecake –– although those are always highly welcomed, too!
Sensitive souls are a personal sweet spot of mine, having been one myself for 28 years. I recently connected even deeper with my own sensitive soul while home in Maine when I realized how much more grounded and sustained I felt compared to my city living. Don't get me wrong, Oakland and San Francisco both offer natural outlets from which I draw a lot of support in times of need, but I’ve always been able to rely on natural forces such as the Ocean to help sooth my system. Sitting by said ocean last week, I was inspired to think of a list of other natural resources that sensitive souls such as myself can draw upon in everyday life.
"What is this somewhat amorphous term 'sensitive soul'?" you may be asking. To clarify what it means to me a bit further, I’m using a combination of Merriam Webster’s dictionary definitions for the term sensitive: to be delicately and acutely aware of the attitudes and feelings of others; capable of indicating minute differences in the environment and becoming affected by them. This definition encompasses my daily experiences, for example, and where I personally feel this sensitivity the deepest is in my soul –– what I feel to be the essence of my entire mind/body being. Hence the term "sensitive soul."
While I experience this sensitivity in many different ways, most notably for me is the ability to feel others pain as if it were my own –– in the city I cross the paths of hundreds of people and see them as people, not as distanced drones. From the businesswoman carrying so much visible stress in her body, to the homeless man whose hunger is written on his face –– it is an active balance to not become overly consumed with the experience of the other to the detriment of myself.
I urge all my fellow compassionates out there to learn that when someone says to you, “You’re too sensitive,” what they’re really saying is, “I’m not sensitive enough...and neither is the world at large.” Remember, this is not a curse, it is definitely a gift –– as is being able to balance it in everyday life.
Before jumping into my list I want to take a brief moment to explain just what “resourcing” means, too. To define resourcing in connection to the psychotherapeutic lens from which I come: "Therapeutically, resources are defined as those actions, awarenesses, and abilities that support a person in maintaining a sense of self and a feeling of competency, regardless of what is occurring in his or her environment. When a person has inadequate resources, their ability to function fully and successfully in the demanding situations of life is undermined."
The following are some of my own personal resources for sensitive souls –– I hope they resonate with you, sweet readers.
1. If And When Possible, Escape To Nature.
Nature can mean different things to different people, both in theory and in actual practice (i.e. accessibility, transportation, geographical location). Nature can mean a grassy spot, your favorite tree to a local park to Muir Woods, or a secluded Redwood Forest you discovered by accident thanks to a GPS glitch! Once you have immersed yourself in the experience, it will hopefully allow your brain to relax your nervous system.
2. Treat Yourself To A New Life Experience.
There’s more to self-care than manicures and cheesecake –– although those are always highly welcomed, too! Another way to treat your sensitive soul is trying a totally new experience that you haven't before. Perhaps it ends up being that gluten free Cronut, which is like the holy grail of baked goods, or maybe a trip to a local museum you've yet to visit. A walk in a neighborhood you want to scope out, a spontaneous road trip...I think you're catching my drift here –– now go explore (well, after you finish this article)!
3. Choose A Love Or Lovers Who Honor And Respect Your Sensitivities.
Despite what anyone says, you deserve nothing less than being treated like the highly sensitive goddess you are! A beautiful example of this comes from my own loving relationship with my partner Sada, who, for lack of a better descriptor, is far less sensitive than myself. This type of combination can be quite synchronous if a balance is struck between understanding partners, and equally as volatile if it is not.
What I notice the most are the everyday ways in which she shows up for me as a resource at times when my sensitivities may be overwhelming me. If I have become bogged down by the burdens of graduate school after reading an emotionally draining article, for example, rather than let me sit stagnant in that painful place, she may suggest that we go for a walk by the lake or a ride to the Redwoods. In that way, she becomes conduit of sorts to other resources that will help return my system to homeostasis. It could also be as simplistic an action as her reminding me of my own personal power and awesomeness after an experience of being discriminated against, or after absorbing a stranger’s anger on the subway, etc. You should be able to express your sensitivities vulnerably to your partner; if not, then I may do some reflecting on how that is making you feel on a daily basis.
4. Acknowledge And Assert Your Boundaries.
As harsh or hard as it may sound, learn that saying no can be a necessary self-love and preservation tactic. It is your right to employ that word without question, no matter how difficult it can feel. Cultivating this practice as a sensitive soul is integral to true growth. You cannot fully be present to others unless you are fully present to yourself.
5. Remember: You Are No One Else's Therapist.
Well, unless of course you actually are someone else's therapist. The point being: engage in friendships that don't require you to do the brunt of the emotional work, or ones that feel like you should be getting paid at the end of an hour-long conversation. I'm not saying it's wrong to help friends and support one another, but my dear fellow sensitive souls, if you are truly being honest with yourselves and reflect upon your current relationships, make sure there is an equal amount of emotional support being balanced on both sides, as we can so often fall into this "therapist" role. Quite frankly, if you feel strongly enough about that being your passion, like I did, you could look into becoming one yourself.
One thing's for certain in my opinion: all sensitive souls should consider engaging in therapy in the form they feel most comfortable (I recommend of course Somatic Psychotherapy, which allows one to engage and connect with all thoughts, feelings, sensations, emotions, movements, etc. in more whole-bodied ways).
6. Carry Comfort Totems.
Whether it be a favored crystal or rock, lavender lotion, soft scarf, journal, tarot deck, or this very article bookmarked on your smartphone - carry something with you throughout the day that soothes and encompasses your sensitive senses as you move through the highs and lows of your day.
Do you consider yourself a sensitive soul with something to add to this list? Please comment below –– thank you for being you!