The Sensitive Man – Brain Training for HSMs
Special note: I will be relocating to Texas at the end of December. I am in process of packing up and getting ready to move. There may be some lapses in posts for the next few weeks. When I am in Texas in January, regular schedules will ensue.
What is the number one problem for HSMs/HSPs?
The number one problem for HSPs and this includes most HSMs is handling overstimulation and overwhelm. How to calm the mind effectively and quickly can be a problem in our over connected, over stimulated world. Many of the causes of overwhelm for HSMs are the usual suspects: internal sources of over analysis about things, obsessing over our internal state, making mountains out of molehills, pain, fatigue, stress, anxiety and of course adherence to an unbending perfectionism. Needless to say, dealing with overwhelm can be overwhelming. HSPs generally rely on the old tried and true methods of retreat and decompress, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t.
Most often recommended mind calming methods.
Psychologists recommend a multitude of standard remedies for overwhelm, including watching the diet (think caffeinated beverages and sugary foods), getting enough sleep, exercising, being active and of course deep breathing exercises. Some of the methods, however, can in some cases, actually be counterproductive. While it’s always good to be mindful of diet and I can’t argue with getting enough sleep, exercising can sometimes be overstimulating and just doing a few deep breaths if done incorrectly can cause us to hyperventilate. I’m joking of course.
One of our biggest problems is our own negative self-talk, arguing with ourselves over our lack of fitting in, measuring up to the norm and the like. Quieting our monkey minds can be challenging. Working with the body to calm the mind is also a good way to relax and throttle down. Getting a massage, engaging our auditory senses with music, watching a funny movie and laughing hard way down in the belly is good because laughter affects brain chemistry in positive ways. I have recently taken up the practice of gratitude. Seems too simple to work, yet, I have found that it’s subtle ways are effective in moderating negative moods. It’s easy to do and you can always find something to be grateful about.
The great Kahuna of mind calming techniques, at least for the last 30 years or so, has been meditation. There has been quite a bit of research done on its positive effects and more and more doctors and therapists are recommending it for handling stress and overload. Regardless of the flavor or your mediation, Zen, mindfulness, Transcendental Meditation or just progressive relaxation – breathing with muscle relaxation, all of these techniques have been proven to be effective, recently by evidence based research, but before that thousands of years of practice in cultures that knew the practice was the evidence.
Effectiveness and efficiency of meditation and mindfulness practice.
As someone, who practiced TM years ago, I noticed immediate benefit for short term results. I could quiet my mind and feel the alpha brainwaves kicking in with the relaxation. As long as I could find a quiet place with no disturbances and could devote twenty minutes or so, to sitting still; I found it most useful. As a spot tool, it was great.
My problem with meditation was hanging in there for the long term. The nuggets of gold in doing meditation requires a long term commitment to disciplining the mind to stay in that alpha zone. Granted as time goes by, the practice becomes easier, but for a lot of us, especially HSPs need relief fast and want it to last past the period of relaxation activity. Again, we, as HSPs often fight the battle within, our minds can be our biggest enemy and quieting that active overstimulated brain can be difficult. In other words, our conscious mind can interfere with the deep relaxation we need by short circuiting the mental discipline that meditation requires.
Is there a better, easier way?
In a word, yes. I think for relieving immediate anxiety, stress and overwhelm, it’s important to use techniques that bypass the conscious, critical mind. Although a lot of the source of overwhelm comes from external sources, our environment, our relationships, a good bit is sourced to our internal state. A good many of our real problems reside deep below in the unconscious mind. Stored memories, patterns, beliefs, pre-lingual thoughts all these contribute mightily to our mood, our thoughts and behaviors, especially in reacting to said external world.
In the past thirty years some very effective techniques have been developed to address this. Some are easily accessible, and can be used readily at home, while others require a trained professional to assist. Techniques like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique- tapping), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), hypnosis and neurofeedback can all reach down into that area of the brain and release material which can be a source of anxiety and stress. Some of these techniques like hypnosis and neurofeedback can also be very relaxing in and of themselves. You get the short term benefit of relaxation – changing your brainwave state, and the long term benefit of relieving the source of the anxiety deep in the unconscious mind.
Word of caution here, self-treating of serious mental health issues, or using these techniques alone for dealing with serious issues, should be avoided and treatment options should be evaluated and supervised by a trained mental health professional. Nevertheless, they are all worth exploring as ways to decompress for HSPs, who seem to benefit most readily in my experience.
Brain training with neurofeedback tools.
Brain training with neurofeedback tools is an excellent way to create a more resilient and efficient brain. I use at BrainPilots, utilizing Zengar’s Neuroptimal system for doing brain training. Notice I am not saying this is treatment, for it is not that. As a brain trainer I don’t diagnose or develop a treatment protocol, which is the beauty of using this tool. Neuroptimal simply takes data from the brain via EEG signals and runs them through a sophisticated computer software tool and then relays alerts to the brain back via a signal interrupt in an audio file listened to by the client. It alerts the brain when learning moments are optimal and the brain does the rest.
Now this is an oversimplification of how the whole process works, yet in its surface simplicity there is great benefit to allowing the brain to make its own corrections in real time, in its own way. Natural, safe, effective. Now getting back to our point about, bypassing the conscious mind, this is the perfect tool for this. The signals cannot be interpreted by the conscious mind, so at some point the CM just drifts off to sleep or into some other thought patterns. The training takes place regardless of whether the client is attentive, asleep or just thinking about lunch.
The best part about this is that most clients drift off into a deep relaxing state, while listening to the music and the entire session is over in thirty minutes. Relaxation – check, brain training- check. Mission accomplished.
There are clear short term and long term benefits, especially for HSPs. Our brains can easily be overactive, overstimulated and contaminated with excessive data that most non-HSPs never have to deal with. We talked about the benefits of this, more creative, more observant, more discerning, but we still have to deal with a great deal of garbage that can cause overwhelm.
Doing an exercise, like brain training is perfect for overstimulated HSPs. The activity is passive; it requires nothing of the client but to sit in a chair. It’s relaxing, providing short term immediate relief from stress. It’s training the brain in subtle natural ways, working directly with the unconscious mind, providing opportunities for the brain to make changes for the client's good. Since their own brain is doing the decisioning in what gets done, it works for the higher good of the central nervous system without side effects. Hence, there is a long term benefit in helping bubble up the detritus of the unconscious.
How it’s worked for me.
As a HSM, this has been amazing for me. I’m so glad I found it. I have been doing brain training with Neuroptimal for almost two years. Once a week is like doing daily meditation. It calms me in the session and later for the week, I recognize the subtle yet clear changes that occur in my CNS (central nervous system.)
I react differently to stressful events. I process things more quickly, not holding on to things forever. This is efficiency and effective use of the brain. Now, don’t misunderstand, I still have the same issues that all HSPs have, but continuing with training has helped me to navigate those with less overwhelm.
Just recently, I returned home on a flight from Houston to Bend, Oregon. I had two hops along the way in Dallas and Phoenix, each with tight connections. Throughout the entire flight, I noticed that my reaction to making those connections had changed. Ordinarily, I would have been tense and tight knowing that the slightest thing could cause me to miss the next flight. Yet, throughout, I was calm. It was a visceral calm that can only come from the unconscious mind. Body calm, mind calm. As I sat in my seat on the last connection waiting for the plane to unload, I noticed this and said to myself, “Bingo, we have a winner.” It had changed me. Anecdotal yes, but the change is real. I’m sticking with it.
Thanks for dropping by, until next week…
Bill Allen lives in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.