Highly Sensitive Person: 5 Things That are Draining Your Energy

Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and overloaded all at the same time? Us too. Here are the five things in your life that might be draining your energy without you even realising.

If you identify as a highly sensitive person (HSP) in 2022, you’ll likely be familiar with a general feeling of overwhelm and emotional exhaustion. The term, coined by psychologist Dr Elaine Aron, describes the estimated 15-20% of people who experience the world more intensely and deeply than the average person.

According to Alissa Boyer, a life coach and HSP mentor, highly sensitive people are also more likely to experience “energy leaks”, aka everyday occurrences that leave us feeling weary and overloaded. “Drained? Irritated? Feeling like you’re never actually making progress? Check your energy leaks,” Boyer wrote in an Instagram post.

Because, more often than not, it’s the minutiae of life that slowly wears us down. As such, Boyer identifies five of the key areas where our energy can be drained without us even realising, starting with saying “yes” too often.

You’re saying ‘yes’ too often

It sounds obvious being too available is a quick way to drain anyone, but especially HSPs. Yes, it’s tempting to agree to every brunch plan, birthday party and family day, but it’s essential to make sure you have enough time to recoup between. The same goes for agreeing to emotional labour, too.

As Boyer urges: “Check your boundaries, my friend!” If you don’t have the capacity to be there for a friend, be honest and tell them so. A good friend will understand and respect your limits.

You’re always multitasking

As productive as it may feel, research actually suggests that multitasking takes a serious toll on output. Our brains lack the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time, so in moments where we think we’re multitasking, we’re likely just switching quickly from task to task.

For HSPs, this can be particularly taxing on their already fraught nervous system. Instead, Boyer advises batching similar tasks together as often as you can. “You’ll be amazed at how much more you get done this way,” she says.

You’re procrastinating on annoying to-dos

Clearing out your wardrobe, filing paperwork and stocking up your cupboards are never anyone’s favourite chores, but having small tasks sit on your to-do list week after week takes up valuable mental space and unconsciously drains your energy. Actually, the best way to tackle it is by just doing the task. It might feel like a slog at first, but she promises you’ll feel much better for it.

You have a messy, cluttered space

“As an HSP, you’re taking in everything in your environment,” explains Boyer. So it’s important to set yourself up for success with a calming, mess-free area, no matter the size of your home. “Tidying up, changing a paint colour, or reorganising a space can do wonders for your energy,” she adds.

You’re too available and accessible

Once again, the key here is setting boundaries. “When we’re always accessible, we take ourselves out of the flow, give away our energy, and de-prioritise ourselves,” stresses Boyer. It can be hard, but checking yourself when you feel like you’re acting on your people pleasing tendencies or allowing others to trauma dump on you can be a vital first step in protecting yourself.

Source: Highly Sensitive Person: 5 things that are draining your energy

Critics by Jacquelyn Cafasso

Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn-out and drained as a result of accumulated stress from your personal or work lives, or a combination of both. Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout. People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation.

Lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion. Over time, this chronic, stressed-out state can cause permanent damage to your health. Anyone experiencing long-term stress can become emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. In difficult times, emotional exhaustion can sneak up on you, but it’s never too late to get help.

What are the symptoms of emotional exhaustion?

The symptoms of emotional exhaustion can be both emotional and physical. People experience emotional exhaustion differently, but generally symptoms include:

Employers whose employees are overworked and emotionally exhausted may begin to notice changes in job performance and overall team morale. For example, they might start to notice that their employees have:

  • failure to meet deadlines
  • lower commitment to the organization
  • more absences
  • high turnover rate
What causes emotional exhaustion?

Experiencing some daily stress and anxiety is normal, but over time, chronic stress can take a toll on the body. Emotional exhaustion is caused by a long period of constant life stress, whether from personal stress at home or stress related to work.

What triggers emotional exhaustion differs from person to person. What might be stressful for one person can be completely manageable for another person. Some more common triggers of emotional exhaustion include:

  • high-pressure jobs, such as nurses, doctors, police officers, and teachers
  • intense schooling, such as medical school
  • working long hours or working at a job you hate
  • having a baby
  • raising children
  • financial stress or poverty
  • homelessness
  • being a caregiver for a loved one
  • prolonged divorce proceedings
  • death of a family member or friend
  • living with a chronic illness or injury
How to treat emotional exhaustion

You can make certain lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms of emotional exhaustion. These techniques won’t be easy to carry out at first, but they’ll get easier as you begin to form healthier habits. Making small changes in your daily habits can help manage your symptoms and prevent emotional burnout. Once you recognize the signs of emotional exhaustion, try the following:

Eliminate the stressor

While not always possible, the best way to treat stress is to eliminate the stressor. If your work environment is the cause of your emotional exhaustion, consider changing jobs or companies. If your manager or boss is causing your stress, you can also consider transferring to a new department or asking to be placed under a different manager.

Eat healthy

Eating healthy means choosing a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, while avoiding sugary snacks and fried or processed foods.

We’re told to eat healthy all the time, but it can make a world of difference when you’re stressed. Not only will it help you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but it will also improve digestion, sleep, and energy levels, which can have a domino effect on your emotional state.

Exercise

Any sort of physical activity raises endorphins and serotonin levels. This can improve your emotional state. Exercise also helps take your mind off your problems. Try to exercise for 30 minutes per day, even if it’s just a long walk.

Limit alcohol

Alcohol may temporarily boost your mood, but the feeling will quickly wear off, leaving you more anxious and depressed than before. Alcohol also interferes with your sleep.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for mental health. It’s even more effective if you plan your bedtime for roughly the same time every night. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Developing a routine at bedtime can help you relax and ensure better quality sleep. Limiting caffeine can also have a positive impact on your sleep schedule.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a term you probably hear a lot, but mindfulness techniques are much more than just a fad. They’re scientifically recognized to reduce stress and anxiety and can be the key to balancing your emotions.

Mindfulness is the act of engaging with the present moment. This can help direct your attention away from negative thinking. There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Examples include:

Researchers recently even found evidence that a single session of mindfulness meditation can help reverse the effects of stress on the body.

Connect with a trusted friend

Talking face to face with a friend is a wonderful way to relieve stress. The person listening doesn’t necessarily have to fix your issues. They can just be a good listener. A trusted friend or family member can listen without judging you. If you don’t have anyone close to turn to, check if your employer has an employee assistance program with counseling services.

Take a break

Everyone needs a break at some point. Whether you take a vacation or simply find the time to take yourself out to the movies, every little bit helps.

Meet with a professional

Along with making lifestyle changes, it’s important to seek professional help to treat emotional exhaustion. A professional, such as a therapist, can give you the tools you need to work through a stressful period. Some of the techniques used by professionals include:

Talk to your family doctor

In some cases, your primary care provider may suggest medications to help manage your symptoms. Antidepressants, such as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety medications, or prescription sleeping aids have been used to help treat emotional exhaustion.

Medications such as benzodiazepines can be addictive and should only be used on a short-term basis to lower the risk of dependency or addiction. What’s the outlook for emotional exhaustion?

The stress responsible for emotional exhaustion puts you at risk for a total burnout. Over time, it can lead to health problems. Chronic stress can affect your immune system, heart, metabolism, and overall well-being. Emotional exhaustion puts you at risk of:

Emotional exhaustion is a treatable condition. The best way to treat it is to eliminate the stressor or the stressful event. If emotional exhaustion is being caused by your job, for example, it may be time to consider changing jobs.

If you’re unable to eliminate the stressor, take advantage of resources available to cope. Talk to your primary care provider or a mental health professional about ways to manage stress and anxiety.

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Multitasking Is a Lie: Women Aren’t Doing More in Less Time, They’re Just Doing More

You’ve definitely seen the high-achieving multitasking heroine. She’s making dinner with one hand, typing with the other, on a call with the third, perhaps holding a baby with the fourth. She’s a multi-armed stock photo, or an octopus lady photoshopped on a magazine cover.

You know her. Maybe you are her. For many ambitious women, the ability to master multitasking was supposedly a path to success. The irony is that it actually made many women feel scattered, overworked, and underappreciated — all while getting passed over for promotions.

Despite growing awareness that the multitasking superwoman is an elaborate fabrication duping women into doing more for less, it’s not easy to escape the pull of shared cultural expectations, explains Dr. Laurie Weingart, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business.

“By default, we turn to women when we need non-promotable tasks done,” Weingart said. “What happens is that on the flipside, we internalize this role, and women are often more likely to volunteer and say ‘yes’ to doing them when asked. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, and then we say ‘yes’ because of the fear of violating the expectation.”

The Myth of Multitasking

The concept of multitasking has been around since the 1960s when IBM first used it to describe computer functionalities. Since then, it’s become part of our workplace lexicon, going from a nifty trick enabled by technology (sending emails and talking on the phone at the same time was once revolutionary) to productivity optimization strategy to a cringey buzzword. And it was women, questionable research suggested, who were simply better at doing lots of things at once.

Then came the plot twist: multitasking actually diminishes productivity. The brain can shift between tasks, but it can’t parallel process. Shocking! The American Psychological Association reported that shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% in productivity, and other studies suggest that “media multitasking” (listening to music and simultaneously checking email) diminishes the ability to focus attention.

Despite research showing that double X chromosomes do not inherently make women better at performing multiple tasks simultaneously (women and men are equally bad at multitasking), the mighty multitasking woman trope persists.

If women have bought into the belief (consciously or not) that they must do it all at once, they’re often focused on others, not exclusively on their own ambitions. It creates a vicious cycle: women take on more, but fall behind in ways that count, then must keep taking on more to prove themselves, again.

Office housekeeping, organization busywork, or the mental load that’s part of domestic labor or child-rearing are one way women tend to multitask. Another is by getting saddled with non-promotable tasks, which Weingart defines as work that women do that helps their organizations but does nothing to advance their careers.

“These are usually shorter-term assignments that need to be done quickly. Can you help with that, cover for me here — these tasks are the interrupters, as opposed to the work you’re hired to do and is longer term and requires that depth,” said Weingart, who co-wrote The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work. “

These tasks tend to be less tightly tied to the organization’s bottom line, and they tend to be behind the scenes and less visible. When you define it that way, it’s much more than office housework or taking notes or getting the birthday cake.”

“What we often assume is that women are asked to do non-promotable tasks because we’re better at them or we enjoy doing them,” said Weingart. “What our research shows is that it’s not what’s driving this.”

In her research, Weingart found that at one firm, women consultants were working 200 more hours than their male colleagues. For younger women consultants, the tradeoff was between high-value work and other tasks, so when they came up for partner, they had less billable hours despite doing more work. For senior women, the issue was different.

“What’s interesting is that the senior women weren’t making a trade-off; the time was coming out of their personal life. So they were working longer hours, and they were putting in a month of extra work above male colleagues.”

The implications run deep. When multitasking pulls focus, it also erodes the ability to enter the deep thinking state of flow, or the optimal state of mind at which we feel and perform our best. Add in distractions of modernity — from Slack to email to the daycare group chat blowing up about spirit day — and for many women, this state of productive flow is elusive.

“Especially for people who are working longer hours, you see a lot of stress, burnout and negativity in terms of health and wellbeing,” she added.

Monotasking Is the New Multitasking

Now, after years of leaning into multitasking, many women are realizing that doing simultaneous tasks isn’t part of the promotion track. It’s the path to burnout. This awareness is the start of helping “women step back and figure out how to improve,” says Weingart.

Before committing to a task, Weingart suggests determining whether it’s of high value to your organization. If you still feel compelled to do it, try to understand your motivation for saying yes. Sometimes it’s guilt or fear of letting others down.

Then think about your performance: What criteria are you evaluated on? What’s your skill set? What do you bring to the organization that sets you apart? And does this task relate?

Remember that you might be better at non-promotable tasks because you do them over and over, not because you were born that way. It’s a feature, not a bug, of a patriarchal system, and it’s always easier to ask the person who will say yes.

The answer is easier said than done. Just say no. After all, monotasking is the new multitasking.

By Alizah Salario

Source: Chief | Multitasking Is a Lie: Women Aren’t Doing More in Less Time, They’re Just Doing More

Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity. Although that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has talked on the phone while checking E-mail or talked on a cell phone while driving, the extent of the problem might come as a shock. Psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking.

Psychologists tend to liken the job to choreography or air-traffic control, noting that in these operations, as in others, mental overload can result in catastrophe. Multitasking can take place when someone tries to perform two tasks simultaneously, switch . from one task to another, or perform two or more tasks in rapid succession. To determine the costs of this kind of mental “juggling,” psychologists conduct task-switching experiments.

By comparing how long it takes for people to get everything done, the psychologists can measure the cost in time for switching tasks. They also assess how different aspects of the tasks, such as complexity or familiarity, affect any extra time cost of switching. In the mid-1990s, Robert Rogers, PhD, and Stephen Monsell, D.Phil, found that even when people had to switch completely predictably between two tasks every two or four trials, they were still slower on task-switch than on task-repeat trials.

Moreover, increasing the time available between trials for preparation reduced but did not eliminate the cost of switching. There thus appear to be two parts to the switch cost — one attributable to the time taken to adjust the mental control settings (which can be done in advance it there is time), and another part due to competition due to carry-over of the control settings from the previous trial (apparently immune to preparation).

Surprisingly, it can be harder to switch to the more habitual of two tasks afforded by a stimulus. For example, Renata Meuter, PhD, and Alan Allport, PhD, reported in 1999 that if people had to name digits in their first or second language, depending on the color of the background, as one might expect they named digits in their second language slower than in their first when the language repeated. But they were slower in their first language when the language changed.

In experiments published in 2001, Joshua Rubinstein, PhD, Jeffrey Evans, PhD, and David Meyer, PhD, conducted four experiments in which young adults switched between different tasks, such as solving math problems or classifying geometric objects. For all tasks, the participants lost time when they had to switch from one task to another.

As tasks got more complex, participants lost more time. As a result, people took significantly longer to switch between more complex tasks. Time costs were also greater when the participants switched to tasks that were relatively unfamiliar. They got up to speed faster when they switched to tasks they knew better….

By: APA.org

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How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain

Imagine shining a flashlight at a wall in a dark, empty room. If you walk toward the wall, the light will contract. The closer you get to the wall, the smaller and more concentrated the beam of light becomes. By the time the flashlight is an inch from the wall, you’ll see a tight, bright circle of light surrounded by shadow and darkness.

Your attention is a lot like the beam of that flashlight. You can focus it closely and intensely on something, or you can relax it — allowing it to grow soft and diffuse.

A lot of research — much of it recent — has examined the different types and qualities of attention and their associations with mental health and cognitive functioning. This work has revealed that certain types of attention may tire out your brain and contribute to stress, willpower failures, and other problems.

Meanwhile, activities that broaden and soften your attention may reinvigorate your brain and promote psychological and cognitive wellbeing.

Whenever you train your attention on something — an act that cognitive scientists sometimes call “directed attention” — this requires effort. More effort is needed when other things (i.e. distractions) are vying for your attention, or if the thing you’re trying to focus on is boring.

According to a 2016 review from researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K, your ability to effortfully focus your attention is finite. Just as an overworked muscle grows weak, overworking your attention seems to wear it out. When that happens, a lot can go wrong.

For one thing, your ability to concentrate plummets. Your willpower and decision-making abilities also take a hit. According to a 2019 study in the journal Occupational Health Science, attention fatigue may also contribute to stress and burnout.

There’s even some work linking attention fatigue to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “The symptoms of ADHD and ‘attention fatigue’ so closely mirror each other that the Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale has been used as a measure of attention fatigue,” wrote the authors of a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

Certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation.

Experts are still trying to figure out exactly what resource in your brain is drained by effortful directed-attention tasks. They haven’t nailed that down yet. But there’s evidence that directed attention involves frontal and parietal regions of the brain that are also involved in other “cognitive-control” processes. These are the activities that take you out of autopilot and steer you toward goal-directed thoughts and actions — the stuff that isn’t necessarily fun or engaging, but that supports your career, your relationships, and your health.

Distractions, multitasking behaviors, loud noises, bustling urban environments, poor sleep, and many other features of modern life seem to promote attention fatigue. On the other hand, certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation processes. And one of the most studied and effective of these — as you’ve probably heard — is spending time in nature.

“Getting out in nature seems to relax the brain’s frontal lobes and relieve this attention fatigue,” says Phil Stieg, MD, PhD, chairman of neurological surgery and neurosurgeon-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Exactly how nature does this is tricky. Stieg says that several overlapping mechanisms of benefit are likely at play.

But one that has garnered a lot of expert attention is termed “soft fascination.” The gist is that natural environments are just stimulating enough to gently engage the brain’s attention without unhelpfully concentrating it.

“[W]hat makes an environment restorative is the combination of attracting involuntary attention softly while at the same time limiting the need for directing attention,” wrote the authors of a 2010 study in Perspectives on Psychological Sciences. Nature, they added, seems to hit that sweet spot.

On the other hand, activities that grab and hold our attention too forcefully — books, social interactions, pretty much anything on a screen — entertaining through they may be, are unlikely to recharge our brain’s batteries. “Unlike soft fascination, hard fascination precludes thinking about anything else, thus making it less restorative,” the study authors added.

A lot of the work on soft fascination is folded into a psychological concept known as Attention Restoration Theory, or ART. While a lot of the ART research highlights time in nature as the optimal route to cognitive replenishment, it’s not the only route.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest.”

Mindfulness also promotes attention restoration.

In many ways, it’s a kind of soft-fascination training. Mindfulness attempts to loosen the mind’s preoccupation with self-focused thoughts and judgments while also broadening awareness of your surroundings. This seems a lot like what spending time in nature does automatically, and there’s evidence that moving mindfulness training into natural outdoor settings may augment the practice’s benefits.

Stieg, the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell neurosurgeon, recently discussed the benefits of nature on his podcast This Is Your Brain. He agrees that mindfulness may be a helpful alternative for those who don’t have access to nature (or the time to get lost in it). He also says that avoiding things that fatigue attention — loud noises, multitasking, technology — could reduce your need to escape to the outdoors.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest,” he says. “I don’t think spending time in nature provides all the answers, but there’s good evidence that it support a longer, healthier, emotionally stable life.”

The bigger takeaway may be that your brain needs idle time to rest and recharge. Deprived of that time and the soft-fascination experiences that support it, your psychological and cognitive health may pay a price.

Markham Heid

By: Markham Heid

Source: How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain | by Markham Heid | Jun, 2021 | Elemental

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