Deep Thinking vs. Overthinking vs. Obsessive Thinking: An HSP Conundrum

The accusation hurts. You’re a sensitive person. You delve deeply into various subjects that come up in your life. Then, someone in your sphere of influence, with a concerned expression on their face, says to you, “You need to stop overthinking everything.” Are they right?

Deep thinking is a desirable trait, and one that HSPs have in common. We take in so much detail due to hyperactive nervous systems. With that detail, we can make more informed decisions. Therefore, we examine the detail to gain insights that are often out of reach for someone who does not possess the ability. These insights lead to new ways of looking at problems, ultimate solutions, and building blocks to advanced knowledge. This is a positive practice.

Depth of processing or deep thinking should not be confused with overthinking. When you think deeply, you explore all aspects of a problem or belief to come to a conclusion. When you find that conclusion, you use the process to glean insight from it and apply the results to your purpose. Then, you move on, confident in your state of mind and ready for the next step, action or opportunity for growth.

Because you dive deeply into the details in order to reach your goal, others can easily mistake that process (especially if it is not native to their own experience) for overthinking. But overthinking is different from deep thinking. Overthinking comes from a perspective of perfectionism. You mull over details again and again, unable to make a decision. You come from a place of little confidence in your own ability to make the best decision. The answer remains out of reach because you question whether someone will chastise you for your choice or tell you that you are wrong. Overthinking means that you cannot efficiently make a decision for fear of what might happen in the future.

As bad as overthinking may be, it may turn into something equally as or more destructive. Obsessive thinking is when your mind turns the details into a mental loop. Doubt dominates your mind. Why didn’t I do this instead? Why couldn’t I have thought of that first? Its incompetency rises from an obsession with the past. It is epitomized by a host of “what ifs.”

Image courtesy of Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay.

While these three forms of sweeping thought processes are subtly similar, their process/outcome is very different. As an HSP, never give up your highly beneficial trait of deep thinking. It is a powerful gift. But know the difference among these three. Having a competent depth of processing trait does not preclude you from falling victim to the other two. Plus, knowing the difference and being able to explain it will help you respond appropriately to the “You need to stop overthinking everything” admonition.

Know the difference. Know the truth. And thrive as the highly sensitive soul you were born to be.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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Poisonous Friendships vs. Valuable Friendships; An HSP Dilemma

I submit today’s post in honor of Galentine’s Day (February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day), where we offer support and thanks for our wonderful female friends. I intend to celebrate this day to the fullest because I do have some really wonderful women friends. But that hasn’t always been the case.

I have one core group of friends I met in high school, one in college, and a few scattered I’ve met over the years who are the best of the best. But there are also many people in my life who have impersonated the friendship role. Those are the ones who have burned me in the most treacherous ways. These are the poisonous friendships that can cause deep wounds that are especially heinous to HSPs.

Image courtesy of Geralt (Gerd Altmann) on Pixabay.
  • Why We are Susceptible to Poisonous Friendships

HSPs generally are open to new friendships. We like to believe that we can find the best in other people, and we want to open ourselves to the opportunity to find it. Unfortunately, there is something we must learn (most often the hard way), and that is that there are people who have no real interest in being a friend. Their only interest is in getting what they can from you to fulfill their own self-centered desires. We tend to attract those kinds of people. Our giving nature makes us targets.

Why It Hurts Us More Than the Average Person

I probably don’t have to explain this too much to you. We are empathic, conscientious, and place a lot of meaning in deep relationships. In turn, we expect the same in return. As mentioned above, we tend to be the targets of less desirable would-be friends. When we become vulnerable to, and involved in, a deep friendship, it can have a devastating effect when we discover it was all a delusion.

Plus, we usually have less friendships because we seek a deeper level of relationship from those friends. This narrows our friendship community. It also increases the chance that when a friend has betrayed our trust in that relationship, the result is a larger wound.

Image courtesy of AdinaVoicu on Pixabay.

What Our Journey Through Life as an HSP Teaches Us about Friendships

If we are aware of the above, why do we bother? First and foremost, when we have made a valuable friendship, it is much more satisfying because we can share our deepest fears and foibles, as well as our successes. We can count on those friends being in our cheering section, or having our back, comforting us. This is invaluable in our very challenging lives.

There is also a benefit from the toxic friendships. We learn who we can trust and nurture in a friendship and who we must walk away from. We grow in our understanding of ourselves and others. And, we also learn to trust our intuition. I believe HSPs have a finely tuned intuition that grows even more precise the more we learn from it. When I look back at the poisonous friendships, there was always some little hint or clue, usually undefined, that told me to be wary. I’ve learned to trust that inner voice more and more.

If you are a highly sensitive person, friendships can be a challenge. But they can also be the most rewarding of experiences. This is your dilemma, but it is also your gift. Learn it’s lesson, and enjoy its bounty because it is one of your gifts.

If you’d like to take a shortcut in your own life education, and learn from my mistakes, I suggest you read “Mere Sense, a Memoir of Men, Migraine, and the Mysteries of Being Highly Sensitive.” I share details of failed friendships and the lessons I learned from them.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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The Priceless HSP Gift No One Talks About and How You Can Use It to Make a Difference in the World

People buy greeting cards because they need a way to connect on a deeper level with the significant people in their lives. Most people are unable to identify, translate, and elaborate to others the emotional message that they want to convey. They aren’t able to communicate in a heartfelt way. So, they rely on greeting cards to do that task for them.

Americans alone bought 6.5 billion greeting cards last year. Why is that important for HSPs to know?

But it’s simply impossible to convey a true sense of a person’s inner feeling through the use of a card written by someone who knows nothing about the actual circumstances. An HSP has the ability to convey just the right message at just the right tone and temperament.

Image courtesy of Stux (Stefan Schweihofer) on Pixabay.

Emotional Connection

Through their empathy, HSPs are more fully aware of inner emotional states – their own, as well as others. Whether that situation is painful, challenging, touching, ecstatic, etc., an HSP experiences the deepest realms of it. Some empaths even endure another’s physical pain within their own bodies. Through these shared feelings, we get a first-hand perspective through which we connect intimately with others.

Conscientious Attention to Detail

We have high standards in our communication. We are fully aware at all times what feels right and what feels wrong, and we work to present the true expression of that awareness. We take in more detail than others, and use that detail to gather a fuller understanding and picture of the true nature of all that is around us. Through this attention to detail, we delve deeper and refine our awareness to gain further insight. Our integrity demands that we use our compassion to round out this awareness.

Creating Intimacy in a World Devoid of It

Image courtesy of JacksonDavid on Pixabay.

Using all of the above traits, we can recognize and respond with the sincerest reaction to any situation. Our response is a custom-designed comforting or supporting message as appropriate. Whether you write or speak your message is dependent upon your own personality and strengths. But in doing so, you can make a difference. You can create the intimacy and rapport with friends and loved ones. In certain situations, you can even positively affect the lives of strangers.

This hidden gift that HSPs have is a much-needed skill for healing and uplifting a world in desperate need of it. Reach out today and make your affirmative contribution of communication. Your gift is in high demand.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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An HSP’s Absolute Need for Hiatus

The holidays are always a super-busy, super-stimulating time for me. So much is going on. My spouse is a regional officer for a national volunteer organization and attends many local chapter meetings. During the holidays, when these groups have their holiday parties, I go with him. I enjoy going to these social gatherings but as an HSP, mingling with large groups of people always pull a lot of energy from me. With so many at one time, I begin to feel very drained.

Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann (Geralt) on Pixabay.

This, of course, is in addition to all the other demands that the holidays place on us. Also, this year there was a family crisis we had to deal with, at the very same time that the holidays were taking place. It was the type that required endless time, attention, and emotional concentration.

The previous four weeks have depleted me to exhaustion. I made the difficult decision to take a hiatus from writing my two blogs, this one and my author column. The conscientious side of me kept telling me I was shirking my responsibility. The compassionate side of me told me it was inevitable, something I had to do.

I am now emerging from that very intensive period of depletion (surprisingly to myself), with greater focus, some new ideas, and a recommitment to my personal values. Here is what I’ve learned from my absolute need for hiatus.

The Resiliency of HSP Energy

When we feel depleted, over-stimulated, and exhausted, it can devastate us. It is so disheartening to experience an energy low. I felt as if I might never bounce back. There were times when all I could do was continue to walk our dogs, play with my new kitten, and spend time alone reading or indulging my various interests on the Internet. I felt guilty because these were all “time-wasting” activities when I had piles of work I was getting behind on.

As HSPs, these “time-wasters” are anything but. They allow us the ability to restock our energy. Through nature, time alone, and purely solo pursuits, we allow our internal resources to germinate once again. We draw energy from the silent power these activities work on us. Before we know it, we become restored and rejuvenated.

Image courtesy of StockSnap on Pixabay.

Greater Creativity

As I emerged into my newly acquired buildup of energy, it spurred my imagination. Inspiration seeped into my awareness and new ideas began to appear. I am so excited to explore these ideas further.

Deepening of Positive Traits

Having come through a low point, I have renewed resolve. I am committed anew to the values that drive my daily activities. These include my desire to spread light and love, sharing the insight that comes with age, and the work I continue to do on my own personal growth.

If we are to become who we are meant to be – if we are to soar to the heights that we demand of ourselves – we must know and honor our limits. We must obey our internal compass when it tells us to step back and practice a little self-care through taking a break. That hiatus is just as important to our destiny as the work is.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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Making the Most of Your Active HSP Mind

One of the causes of an HSP’s overstimulation is their overactive mind. Our minds are always working. We obsess over details. We make connections between minutiae that others can’t see. We are innovative and creative. Our minds never stop their drive to advance.

To make the most of your gift of active mind, focus on and keep an appropriate balance between three areas of concentration.


Image courtesy of John Hain on Pixabay.

The great artists of the world bring beauty and awareness to everyone. Inventors bring technological advances resulting in a better life for the public. Healers and service providers benefit others with their pursuits. Whatever your calling, you are there for a reason. Become the best at your craft. Throughout the day, as your mind works its magic, capture your ideas and expound on them. Use your empathy to identify the lack that surrounds you. Meditate on possible solutions. Keep a journal of every flicker. Not every notion will be appropriate to expand on, but as your notebook becomes fuller, return to it and analyze how you might bring it to fruition in the service of others.

Personal Growth

Negative influences and pessimistic self-talk can subvert our mind’s true purpose. The human mind is an incredible miracle. It can accomplish great objectives. But it can only work toward its maximum capability when it is confident in its own ability. Growing up with negative input from well-meaning but misguided influences, it is easy for us to fall into an unhealthy pattern of negative self-talk. Awareness is key. Identify negative self-talk and make a concerted effort to stop it. Counteract it by reminding yourself of all the good that is you. Be especially cognizant of the words “should,” “have to,” “but,” “don’t forget,” and other negative triggers. Everything we do is by choice. Make your choices wisely.

Workplace Modernization

Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann (geralt) on Pixabay.

We bring empathy for clients and customers, innovative ideas, and conscientious determination to our work. If we aim for title roles, we make compassionate and ingenious leaders. If you choose this as a guiding principle in your life, channel that active mind by doing your research along with your deep thought processes. Then, present your ideas with confidence and aplomb. If your ideas are dismissed, you have three choices: 1) go back to the drawing board and tweak them, then resubmit; 2) move onto a more open-minded company or organization; or 3) take those fabulous ideas and start your own company.

Change is necessary. Life changes in an instant, and our very active minds are at the forefront of that change. Pursuing the above three goals in a balance array is the most efficient way to activate and exercise this highly desirable characteristic of deep thought. By feeding our minds with positivity, staying focused and using our mind to craft change, we work to our fullest potential. And we make the most of our incredible gift of an active HSP mind.

Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson

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Is HSP Sensitivity a Curse or a Blessing? (Part 2)

In our last post, we took in many of the advantages that HSPs possess. In this one, we must look at the disadvantages in order to see the whole picture, and make a balanced choice.



Because we can be overwhelmed, we limit our relationships to a few treasured friends. We are easily hurt by others’ insensitive words and actions. Due to our empathy and compassion, people are drawn to us. That means everyone. We can attract toxic people as well as the friendly kind, which leaves us open to abuse and exploitation.

Image courtesy of Geralt (Gerd Altmann) on Pixabay.


We bring many wonderful qualities to the workplace, but we also have our limitations. Workplace distractions can hinder our productivity. A noisy, open work space can easily overwhelm us. We thrive on our inner thoughts and can come up with original solutions given the time necessary for us to accomplish this, but short, tight deadlines and on-the-spot thinking is not our forte. A job requiring much multitasking can be challenging and cause us untold amounts of stress. We are at our best when we can focus on one undertaking at a time.


Because of our extreme sensitivity, we are susceptible to a number of illnesses and afflictions. Any illness that stress can produce will cause certain symptoms. Symptoms of stress in a “normal” person flare in intensity in an HSP. Migraines, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety and depression, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems are just a few of the diseases that HSPs have struggled with.


As noted earlier, understanding human emotions leads to better understanding of ourselves and other’s actions and motivations. But because that requires immense sensitivity, it has its drawbacks. We can become overwhelmed in times when our senses are being bombarded. For instance, around a large group of people or in an intense work situation. It also means that our feelings are easily hurt. We must guard against being defensive.


Image courtesy of Fotorech (Daniel Reche) on Pixabay.

Being highly sensitive can work both ways. It has its highlights and its pitfalls. Your individual experience will vary from every other HSP. In the end, it will depend upon what you make of it. If you are an optimistic person, the blessings will outshine the demands. And vise-versa if you tend to be pessimistic.

In my personal experience, I would not have it any other way. I’ve had my share of challenges to overcome, but in the end, my sensitivity has taught me more, given me more, and blessed me in ways being born “normal” never could. I hope that you, too, can see your highly sensitive nature as the blessing that it is. You’re one in a million in a group that is already one in five. How rare is that?

Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson

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Is HSP Sensitivity a Curse or a Blessing? (Part 1)

We know that we are different from the other 80% of the population. Our sensitivity creates different biological responses than our counterparts. As a consequence, we often perceive our world differently. Our senses are the tools through which we comprehend that world. When they are heightened, our view is more intense, brighter or more energetic. Since our emotions express themselves through that extraordinary lens, they can be misunderstood by that group of people who see things differently than us.

Dr. Elaine Aron’s DOES list for HSPs

Before we go into the benefits and challenges that HSPs have, we should look at the core characteristics of HSPs. These were first presented by Dr. Elaine Aron in her research through the acronym DOES. They are listed in the graphic to the left. In addition to these core features, it is imperative to note that new research has shown that not all HSPs react the same way in certain instances. Highly sensitive children who did not have their needs met adequately by their parents were found to be more susceptible to depression, anxiety, or shyness.

With these facts in mind, let’s get to the pros and cons of sensory processing sensitivity (the term for the trait of high sensitivity).



Empathy is key to success in our relationships. We don’t like to be spread thin, so we limit our relationships to a few special people in our lives. But the people with whom we have close relationships are drawn to us because we are cognizant of their needs. We listen to their wins with accolade and are sympathetic to their losses. We are conscientious and loyal to the people we love.


There are innumerable benefits an HSP brings to the workplace. And corporate America is finally discovering this previously unknown fact. Detail-oriented, out-of-the-box thinking, seeing what others miss, exceptional leadership, empathy with client/customer base, working well without supervision, creativity, conscientiousness, and taking great pride in creating a superb work product are just a few of our many contributions to the workplace.


Image courtesy of Aitoff (Andrew Martin) on Pixabay.

We are meticulous about health issues, diving into any health concern with research and determination. When we set our minds to it, we are tenacious in the areas of diet, exercise, and self-care.


This may be our most striking advantage. We are adept at recognizing and experiencing intense emotion. Not only in ourselves, but in others as well. Nuance and subtle energy are easier for us to sense and identify. This gives us a clear window into not only our own actions and motivations, but into others actions and motivations as well. Understanding human behavior is a definite advantage to living a fulfilled and compassionate life.


Due to our sensitive personality trait, we are touched by nature. We love and cherish the beauty that nature provides. We are in tune with pets and wildlife. We also have more spiritual awareness. All these things come with a deep empathy and respect.

Now that you’ve been briefed on the advantages and benefits of sensory processing sensitivity, tune in next post to see the flip-side. There are negative traits or disadvantages that show themselves in the overall trait of sensitivity. We’ll look at those before answering the question presented in the title.

Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson

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How to Maximize Your Personal Power for Self-Protection – Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at the destructive nature of toxic people that can wreak havoc on an HSP’s life. Here are four steps you can take right now to build up the power to resist the attacks of toxic people, who I call Swan-Killers. As a result of your own HSP traits, this power already dwells within you. These techniques are simple tools to bolster your own incredible resistance.


Your first step is to identify the people in your life, or who you come in contact with, as a Swan-Killer/toxic person. This is easier for you than you think. As an HSP, you are aware of subtleties and nuances in behavior. You notice little clues that will identify if someone needs constant praise and admiration, or has a sense of entitlement. We sense when a person treats others disrespectfully. Or intimidates, bullies or belittles others. These actions may be done in a slight manner or a roundabout way, but while they fly over the heads of others, you will know what is happening. Increase your awareness and pay attention to these clues.

As an HSP, you have a strong intuition. An HSP friend of mine calls her intuition her spidey-sense. This is when the hair on the back of your neck raises or tingles run down your spine. Your reaction might be simply a sick or uneasy feeling inside when you meet someone. You know how it manifests in you. Pay attention to these signals also. That spidey-sense is trying to tell you something.

Image courtesy of 512893 on Pixabay.


The best solution to avoiding danger with a Swan-Killer is to disengage with them. Removing yourself from that person is your best defense against any possible attack.

Often, separation is not possible, as in the case of a family member or co-worker. In that case, you need a different strategy. There is a very simple but effective method for dealing with a Swan-Killer called the “gray rock” technique. As the name implies, your interaction with that person becomes as bland as a gray rock. To implement this technique, keep your interactions with the person as short as possible. Maintain your boundaries, and stay away from sharing personal information. Keep to subjects like the weather, or other neutral topics. Disengage as much as possible. Avoid eye contact. Draw their attention away from you by looking at objects in front or around you, or doing distracting gestures.

If you are being disrespected, you will have no choice but to engage with that person. Assertively, but calmly and evenly, stand up for yourself. Do not allow someone to take advantage of you. Take your stand and assertively let them know you will not be bullied. Tell them in a confident and decisive manner that you are in disagreement with them, but that mutual respect is required in the situation.

Which brings us to our third step.

Image courtesy of 512893 on Pixabay.

Stay Calm and Focused

Our strong emotional reactivity does not mean we are not in control of our emotions. Emotional regulation is at our disposal. We have the innate ability to think before we act. It is part of our makeup to process the situation and our reaction to it before we actually respond. We need to take advantage of this trait. In that short span of time that we take to contemplate, we are free to determine and set an appropriate boundary, regulate our present emotions, and respond accordingly.

When we stay calm and focused, and react appropriately, the power in the situation remains on our side.

Own Your Power

This step will be more difficult for those of us who have had more difficult childhoods. Sensitive children take the garbage heaped on them to heart. It is a struggle for that sensitive child to believe in their own worth. But if you find yourself in this situation, understand that you have a special gift, that you have the power to do great things, and that you have the right to stand up to anyone who claims otherwise. And to anyone who wants to insult, belittle, criticize, or manipulate you.

We, as HSPs, have a unique kind of personal power. We need this power because we are favorite targets of Swan-Killers and other toxic people. To be the best you can be, own your power to stop abuse in its tracks.

Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson

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How to Maximize Your Personal Power for Self-Protection – Part 1

In my memoir, I tell of an incident early in my life, many, many years before Dr. Aron began her work to identify and classify the personality style known as highly sensitive. The characters in this incident were myself, another highly sensitive person (HSP), an energy vampire, and an enabler. At the center of the story was a souvenir glass swan; a graceful, elegant, but also functional souvenir that sat on the desk, and was a cherished memento, of the other HSP in the story.

Image courtesy of Alexrrz27 on Pixabay.

The incident fell on a day when the energy vampire chose to target both myself and this other HSP in the office where we all worked. It started at a meeting where the energy vampire and enabler conspired to inflict pain on me in a very personal way. But the energy vampire was not satisfied with me alone. When I returned to the office, I found a scene that struck me so strongly that to this day I ache for the other HSP.

The energy vampire had taken the other HSP’s swan that she held so dear, and thrown it on the floor with enough force to shatter it into tiny little pieces.

To this point in my life, I did not believe that any person existed that would purposely do that to another individual, whether they liked them or not. It was an incident that opened my eyes to the dangers we face in an unkind world. To me, that little swan became a symbol of those of us who can be easily shattered by the energy vampires of the world. And the absolute need to protect ourselves.

Knowing their words and actions can wound, energy vampires (whom I refer to as Swan-Killers) purposely set out to inflict as much pain as possible. They maximize their efforts by targeting HSPs because we can be hurt easily. They do this in a useless attempt to quell their own hateful feelings toward themselves. This is the only way they know how to handle these irrepressible, distressing emotions they have. There is little hope for them, but there is hope for us. We can stop being in their bull’s-eye.

Image courtesy of Geralt (Gerd Altmann) on Pixabay.

The way we do this is to shore up our own personal power. Yes, we have a great deal of personal power, but we are reticent to use it. Personal power is the force that we all have within us to manage our relationships and the events in our lives. This is not a strength that we pull from any authority given to us. It is the fortitude that comes from our individual characteristics, attitudes, and beliefs.

In Part 2 of this post, I will share four steps to take right now to shore up your power for protection against Swan-Killers and Energy Vampires.

We, as HSPs, have a unique kind of personal power. We need this power because we are favorite targets of Swan-Killers and other toxic people. To be the best you can be, own your power to stop abuse in its tracks.

Tune into Part 2 for four tips to magnify that power.

Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson

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How to Make Your Strong HSP Fight-or-Flight Response Work in Your Favor

There is no getting around it. We, as HSPs, have a very strong fight-or-flight response to stress. As I mentioned in my last post, it is critical for highly sensitive people to not only understand this phenomenon, but to learn how to manage it. When you manage it well, it can be a crucial aid in making the most of your highly sensitive nature.

Stress relieving activities are necessary for anyone in our overactive, stimulated, modern world. Even non-HSPs require this in order to cope. But as highly sensitive people, we are especially prone to the ill effects of too much stress. We also have needs that require attention that others do not. Effectively addressing these needs is the key to getting on top of your stress. When you do, the fight-or-flight response can work in your favor, rather than against you.

Image courtesy of Sasint (Sasin Tipchai) on Pixabay.

Take Care of Your Physical Health

Your top priority is getting your physical health running at maximum efficiency.

  • Eat right – Cut out junk and processed foods, eat the amount of food that is appropriate for you, and be mindful about your dietary habits when you are in social situations (it is very easy to overindulge when you are socializing);
  • Exercise – Choose an exercise that you enjoy and will stick with, include other forms of exercise like tai chi or yoga in addition to cardio, and record your progress;
  • Get enough sleep.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

When you are active physically, it can help improve your emotional health. There are activities you can do to strengthen and support that start.

Image courtesy of Engin Akyurt on Pixabay.
  • Meditate;
  • Practice relaxation exercises;
  • Indulge your spiritual side;
  • Bathe mindfully (water has the power to soothe).

Take Care of Your Special HSP Needs

Too many times, due to our extreme empathy and compassion, we place ourselves in the role of taking care of everyone else first. But remember that you cannot adequately care for others in your life before you take care of your own needs.

We, as HSPs, have needs that go beyond that of the non-HSP. Because our nervous systems are prone to overstimulation, we must take steps to rest them properly when necessary while indulging our need for deep thinking.

  • Set aside time for solitude and reflection;
  • Indulge in activities that you enjoy (hobbies, etc.);
  • Spend time in nature, connect to the outdoors;
  • Feed your mind – read, engage in stimulating conversation with a close friend or spouse;

Our fight-or-flight response serves an important function in our lives. But in order for it to function properly, providing needed safety and not go haywire, you must calm it during the times it is not in use. These activities will ensure that outcome.

Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson

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