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Nervous system sensitivity

Updated: Jun 18

Image of lotus blooming in pond, surrounded by lily pads, to symbolize beauty in sensitivity

About one in five people in the world qualify as Highly Sensitive.

I am one of them, but it took a long time for me to accept it. In fact, the first time a therapist told me to consider whether I might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I was irate. I’d been thickening my skin for decades at that point. Who did she think she was, seeing right through my façade?


It wasn’t until my autism diagnosis last year that I allowed myself to drop the tough-act and instead learn to embrace my sensitivity – my high sensory nature. And I am so glad that I did. In fact, my sensitivity might be my greatest gift, in spite of its inconveniences.


We tend to think of the upsides of high sensitivity in fairly limited terms – things like easier access to deep insights, empathy and intuition. And it’s true that these are huge upsides. But there’s another one we usually fail to see even though it is painfully obvious, in a literal sense. And that’s because it’s directly connected to the primary downside of high sensitivity:


Highly sensitive nervous systems are easily dysregulated by smaller triggers than neurotypical nervous systems.


This is the part of high sensitivity that we are told as very young children to suppress and urged throughout childhood to overcome. But here’s the upside:


Highly sensitive nervous systems are easily re-regulated by smaller triggers too. 


We possess the ability to bounce back faster from a trigger or emotional upset than can our neurotypical counterparts. When we know how to re-regulate our nervous systems on-command, we can interrupt our triggers well before they ruin the day, or even the moment, because as sensitives, we can detect the trigger earlier, even before it becomes dysregulating.


In fact, HSPs have highly responsive nervous systems. For example, although my highly sensitive nervous system can become dysregulated much easier than a normal nervous system would, it also can be re-regulated much easier than a normal nervous system. It’s merely a highly responsive nervous system – not a weak or malfunctioning one.


And this responsivity can be leveraged to my advantage in a number of ways:


  1. HSPs can tell if a new therapeutic tool is working in a fraction of the time a normal person would be able to see results.

  2. We can detect even minute changes in the nervous system, when we’re paying enough attention. And that means we are our own best healers, once we know how to read and soothe our unique systems.

  3. It doesn’t take us a ton of effort to train, rehab or re-regulate our nervous system once we know what works for us.


Without a doubt, my high sensitivity is a major factor in why nervous system training (Applied Neurology) is the only healing modality from which I’ve seen durable results: Although I practiced yoga for years, it would usually overstimulate me to the point that I would dissociate. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I started my neuro training, so for years and years, I unintentionally practiced dissociation as a by-product of all the yoga I did – precisely the opposite of the healing work I thought I was doing.


Same goes for top-down (mind-over-body) modalities like psychotherapy and mindful awareness practices. In tiny doses, I could see benefits, but a 55-minute session with a therapist could wipe out my system for the rest of the day, if not longer. And you don’t see any insurance plans out there willing to reimburse for 10-minute micro-sessions. As for mindfulness, more than about six minutes of open awareness meditation could ramp my anxiety through the proverbial roof… for days.


But again, I didn’t know any of this until I started training my nervous system, because I hadn’t been able to cultivate the level of awareness necessary to notice what’s happening in real time. To be conscious with my sensitive nervous system on a moment-by-moment basis has only been possible since I started training it. And as a result, I now have the capacity to tap into the full power of my sensitivity.


What makes Applied Neurology so unique?


One of the core tenets of Applied Neurology is “minimum effective dose” – the point is to find the absolute least amount of effort you can expend to get a good result. Not a great result. Not a perfect result. Just a good, positive result.


I mean, when was the last time you did any training program at all that told you to quit before you “felt the burn?” We live in a society that’s addicted to “pushing through to your next level of growth,” but what if the more durable path is to “lay back into your next level of growth” instead?


This is how simple nervous system training is: I often start clients out with passive tools, things they can wear or apply without having to do anything. Then I show them three to five drills they do five to 10 times over about five minutes up to three times a day. That amounts to 15 minutes a day, tops. For particularly sensitive systems, my goal is to make progress literally laughable – so small that it doesn’t seem worth it.


We build up over time, but I discourage anyone from doing more than 45 minutes of neuro drills in a day. You can’t attend a yoga class or even an acupuncture appointment for less than 45 minutes a day! And those benefits wear off within two or three days, whereas you always have access to your neuro drills.


In fact, there is great wisdom in learning to live by the tenet of minimum effective dose, not only for HSPs, but for perfectionists and over-achievers of all types. More often than not, less is more. “Good enough” is powerful. And stopping while your ahead is the path to victory.


If minimum effective dose was the only lesson you take from your nervous system training, you’d see massive improvements to your health and overall quality of life. But the gifts run far deeper than that – especially if you’re the proud owner of a highly sensitive nervous system.


Interested in learning more? Join the Waitlist. I love helping people harness the wisdom of their nervous system in pursuit of their full potential.

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