How Should I Explain my “Overwhelm” to a Non-HSP?

I recently made the mistake of using the term “overwhelm” wrong. During a discussion where I was asked if I needed any support, I mentioned to a supervisor that I was feeling a bit “overwhelmed.” My reason for stating this was because the workload at that time was massive and the deadlines were tight. Without digging into exactly why I felt overwhelmed, my supervisor suggested that I take advantage of the company’s employee assistance program.

My supervisor’s helpful response was not helpful. While I believe wholeheartedly in the power of talking to professionals when mental health issues arise, it was not a mental health crisis I was dealing with. It was an “overstimulation” situation. It was the chaos and pressure deadlines that were causing my stimulated nervous system to increase my stress. And with the added stress, cause me to get flustered and make more mistakes.

I cannot blame my supervisor. She is a non-HSP and has no frame of reference for what I was going through. And what’s worse is that I didn’t know how to respond. This caused me to make a change. I didn’t want to find myself in another situation like this. So here is my plan:

Make Everyone Aware of Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Its Relationship to HSPs

Sensory processing sensitivity is the term used to describe the highly sensitive personality trait which HSPs share. Having SPS means that my nervous system is more sensitive to stimuli coming into it at every moment.  It is a genetic personality trait, not a disease that needs medical treatment.

Being highly sensitive has advantages and disadvantages. It is important that everyone become aware of us because we comprise 15% to 30% (depending upon the research) of the population. The corporate world is beginning to acknowledge our existence, and to take advantage of our strengths in the workplace.

And, of course, I will be sure to tell others, “Hey, I’m one of these people.”

Grow in my Knowledge

New research is being done every day. New folks are discovering their sensitive natures and sharing their experiences with it. There are whole communities growing up to help support and educate one another. It is truly an exciting time to be highly sensitive, and one in which we can access information about ourselves. I plan to take advantage of that.

Stop Being Afraid to Share That Knowledge

As many HSPs, I grew up feeling ashamed of my sensitive nature. I was accused of being “too sensitive” as a means of control and put down for my obvious sensitivity. Knowing no different, I believed them. This deeply ingrained misbelief is not an easy one to change. But I remind myself daily that it is who I am, and that it is good for me. That because of it I have wonderful traits that help others and the world at large. I revel in this knowledge and want to see my brothers and sisters recognize their gifts also. Sharing knowledge helps me, and it helps others.

When a Misconnect Occurs, Correct It

After I have done all this, it will not be so awkward when a non-HSP reacts as described above. I have the empathy to explain the miscue tactfully, and the insight to know that letting the rest of the world in on who we are and how we are different only helps move our world into a more understanding and tolerant place to be.

I now have a plan to address the question, “How should I explain my “overwhelm” to a non-HSP?” I hope this plan is helpful to you also.

Copyright 2021, Monica Nelson

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