A few weeks ago I wrote a post called The Realities of Raising a Highly Sensitive Child. I had no idea the impact that post would have on you all. As a parent raising a highly sensitive child, those are my realities. But I often forget that those are other people’s realities as well and it is so good to not feel alone. Since that post went live, I have been trying to write the follow-up post about my Realities as a Highly Sensitive Mom. But it’s been extremely slow coming.
I am guided by my emotions after all!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, Highly Sensitive refers to people who have more sensitive sensory processing (simplified: their senses are more sensitive). They feel things strongly. They may be more sensitive to how their clothing feels rather than how it just looks. They can be highly emotional and internalize situations in their lives. They may even become overwhelmed easily. But they aren’t limited to these things. Every highly sensitive person has their own story and experiences.
Growing up and entering into the early part of my adult life, I had no concept of being Highly Sensitive. There was no normalization of my emotional state, just excuses. This is just teenage angst. You are just dealing with your husband being gone. You are an artist, that’s just a part of being a creative. You are just highly emotional. It wasn’t until we discovered that my daughter is highly sensitive, that I realized that I was a highly sensitive too!
All the sudden, I had a name for how I had felt my entire life. I wasn’t crazy or just out of control of my emotions. I had a reason for who I was. It had a name. I cannot tell you how important that has been for me. But I’m not just a highly sensitive person, I am a highly sensitive mom. That brings about tons of challenges on its own!
But I want to tell you, mama, it may be challenging, but it is oh so rewarding. Understanding how I am wired has helped me become a better mom to my daughter, a better wife to my husband, and a better human being to myself. I can now recognize my limits and I am learning how far I can push them. I have learned to say “No” to things, but also to say “Yes” to the right things. I can now vocalize when I am getting overwhelmed and communicate where I am struggling.
I am finally accepting myself. And that makes all the difference in the world for me.
Being a highly sensitive mom can be quite the adventure, but it’s also a really fun ride (except when I am extremely overwhelmed and can’t seem to calm it down…). But what does it really look like on a regular basis? While it is different for everyone, here is a bit of what it looks like for me.
My Realities as a Highly Sensitive Mom– My mood can change in a second. Sometimes I don’t see it coming and all the sudden I have become a “mommy monster”. Recognizing it and separating myself can make all the difference!
Is this you? try this: Communicate with your kids that you need a moment. My conversation with daughter typically looks like this: “Hey little one, I am struggling right now and I need a little bit of alone time, so we are going to have some quiet play time while I take care of myself.” While sometimes this doesn’t go very smoothly, she has come to understand the need for alone time and even, at times, asks for it for herself.
If that doesn’t work… hide in the bathroom.
– I am incredibly ticklish. I’m talking nearly every place on my body is ticklish. I also absolutely HATE being tickled. My husband has learned that it is not a good idea to tickle me!
– I can get overwhelmed really easily. Sometimes this is about my life plans other times it can just be the amount of housework or errands we have.
Is this you? try this: I recently learned about the idea of doing bite-sized action steps from Lydia Lee over at Screw the Cubicle. While her focus is primarily on leaving the 9-5, I have taken that idea and applied it to every aspect of my life, even laundry. I break things down into every “bite-sized” step it takes to accomplish things. Then I can just start with one, manageable piece of my puzzle. This helps you feel like am accomplishing things along the way and help me avoid feeling overwhelmed. Because I focus on the small steps, not the big ones. (also, only choose about 3 tasks to work on a time, so that you don’t have too much going at once.)
– I startle REALLY easily. If I am walking down the hallway and someone is coming the other way, the chances are high that they will scare me by just existing.
– Knowing that I scare easily has led me to realize that horror films are not my friend. I don’t need that in my mind!
– I can cry really easily. Sometimes I don’t even realize it is coming! I might watch a commercial and end up in tears. Or those Facebook videos that are all sentimental….yep, they get me every time! Sometimes it is because I can feel the emotions of the character I am watching, other times it is just because I cry easily.
Is this you? try this: Cry. Seriously. Just let yourself cry at all those things. It feels REALLY good, I promise.
– I have to prioritize my alone time. As a mom, being alone is not easy. My daughter loves being with me, which makes things hard when I don’t want to be around anyone. But I have learned that I am a better mom when I take time for me.
Is this you? try this: Find that thing that makes you happy and calm. For me, it is coffee shops, driving, playing video games, and watching terrible Netflix shows. Communicate with your life partner that you need to start taking more time for yourself. Single mom? Spring for a babysitter once a week/biweekly/monthly, whatever you need. Then take that time alone. Go sit at a coffee shop and read. Whatever you need, take it! You are worth it.
– I hate water on my face. Washing my face is a nightmare. I find that keeping a washcloth in the shower specifically for my face helps me a lot. I can wipe off my face wash instead of feeling like I am drowning by putting my head under the running water. Let’s just say, those shower make-out scenes that are in all the movies….not sexy in real life. It mostly just consists of me blocking my face from the water droplets that are bouncing onto my face or avoiding the running water in general. So I just end up anxious and cold. Not worth it.
– Basically, my skin, in general, is very sensitive (water, tickling, etc…). This often results in high anxiety for me. When I am feeling anxious, I don’t want to be touched. Sometimes that is hard for my husband to understand, but he respects it. And that is better for all parties involved. It also helps me control my anxiety more quickly.
Is this you? try this: Communicate. Tell your kids, partner, or friends about your anxiety. Tell them that sometimes it happens and you have no idea it is coming. When it happens, try to communicate what is happening so they can respect your personal boundaries.
– The shows/movies I watch affect my mood. This one took me a while to accept because I didn’t want to change the shows I watch (and if I am honest, I haven’t really changed it all that much…). But when I watch a highly dramatic show, I tend to feel a little more stressed. If I watch something sappy, I feel sappy, etc… But this isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes I can tell I am feeling highly stressed and I can watch something to turn that into sappy, which is way more manageable!
– Sometimes I struggle being a mom. When this happens, I have to remind myself who I am outside of that and who that makes me as a mom.
– Sometimes I just stick my kid in front a TV/tablet and I don’t feel bad about it. At times, I just need time. That’s okay.
– Being highly sensitive helps me be a better friend. I will say, I don’t keep a large group of friends (I am very introverted), but those I have, I love fiercely. I also will hold on to friendships or potential friendships longer than I probably should. I don’t like to give up on people because I can understand their situation and know where they are emotionally.
Is this you? Try this: think through all the people in your life that you feel give an equal-ish investment. Focus on those friendships. Also, recognize the people that you keep “trying” to befriend, but who clearly aren’t interested in anything more than Facebook friendship. You don’t have to cut them out, but don’t invest any more emotionally to those friendships. Take that emotional investment and apply it to the one’s who are invested in you too. There are some friends who become like family, there are some friends who are “sometimes friends”, and there are some friends who are just “Facebook friends”. All of those are good, they just need different things from you.
– I have a highly active imagination. I really enjoy driving around town and making up/playing out stories while I do so. I will have the conversations, think through the settings, name the characters, and more. My husband finally encouraged me to start writing some of those stories, instead of just playing them out in my head. This is new to me, but an outlet for my stories that I welcome.
Is this you? Try this: Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed by it. Why are we encouraged to have an imagination as kids and then all the sudden we have to “grow out of it”? It’s okay. Let yourself enjoy those moments, but make sure you put equal time into being present when you are with your friends and family. You can also try journaling to get some of them down on paper. You can choose for the journal to be private or you can share them with your family.
The biggest key I’ve learned to managing being a highly sensitive mom is communication. Talk openly about it. There is no need to be afraid or nervous. This is who you are. Embrace that. If people don’t understand, that is on them. Not you. You cannot control what everyone does, but you can control your home environment and how you spend your time.
Start to pay attention to your triggers. If you notice that you are often overwhelmed or anxious by a situation, try to avoid it or take a break. You are in control. If you feel that you need to decompress, take the time to do it. Find what you need and allow yourself to have that.
Also, pay attention to your strengths. Does being highly sensitive help you connect to other people’s emotions really well? Does it give you a keen eye to pay attention to details? Do you work better when you are in a certain environment? What do you do strongly, because of who you are?
Being a highly sensitive mom has helped me better understand myself and others. It’s been quite the adventure learning and accepting those pieces of my life, but it was completely worth it! If you’re also a highly sensitive mom, you got this!