Self care is a necessity, not a luxury, for those of us blessed with parenting differently-wired children.
Raising and advocating for our kids in a world not designed for them can take its toll, especially if we have sensitivities of our own.
Most of us are all too aware of the challenges overexcitabilities bring, but let’s not forget that OEs also allow us to experience the good things in life more intensely.
This post is the first in a series looking at self care through the lens of each of the OEs, starting today with emotional overexcitability.
Soul-nourishment for people with emotional overexcitability
We folk with emotional overexcitability feel things intensely.
Even a short errand can leave us feeling drained after we see a homeless guy begging outside the supermarket and a frazzled mum shouting at her toddler in the checkout line.
We’d love to be able to give the homeless man a warm bed for the night and to scoop up that toddler and tell her it’s not her fault her mummy yelled.
We can’t right all the wrongs in the world in one day. But by being compassionate with ourselves we’ll find ways we can make a difference – even if it’s just by being the kindest, wisest parents we’re capable of being.
10 Ways to use your emotional OE to nourish your soul
(1) Take 5 minutes to meditate on an uplifting emotion
Choose a positive emotion – fun, peaceful and playful are among my favourites. Slowly repeat the word to yourself, enjoying the memory of times you felt that way. You might be surprised at how the word – and the feeling – pop up at random times later in the day.
I do this before I get out of bed every morning – before any negative momentum has had a chance to get going.
Bonus: List as many positive emotion words as you can and make them into a word cloud. I felt wonderful after making the one above!
(2) Spread a little joy by performing an act of random kindness
Research shows that kindness makes us happier, boosts our immune systems and improves our relationships by elevating our oxytocin levels.
The random element is important here. People with emotional OE are drawn to helping others, and when our reserves are low we risk draining our own resources in the process.
By looking for opportunities to be randomly kind, we introduce an element of playfulness that shakes away resentment and rewards us with a healthy hit of feel-good chemicals.
(3) Tap into the healing power of animals
Spend time with a loyal pet, do a google search for ‘cute baby your favourite animal’ images, or watch an OE-friendly nature documentary with your kids (ie not one where the baby gazelle gets picked off by the cheetah).
Even watching cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions, with studies showing that the emotional payoff outweighs any feelings of guilt over time-wasting.
Being mindful of your intentions is key here. Cleaning out the cat litter or hamster cage doesn’t count, though brushing or walking the dog might.
(4) Tune into the good news
By most accounts the world is a safer, better place now than it ever has been – but you wouldn’t know that from the mainstream media.
When you need reminding of all that’s good in the world, turn off the TV and spend five minutes looking at the heart-warming stories over at The Good News Network.
(5) Drop through negative emotions
When you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, try this exercise I use with my therapy clients:
First ask yourself, ‘What’s the name of the emotion I’m feeling right now?’
Don’t think too hard – whatever comes to mind first is okay. Name the emotion out loud.
Then ask, ‘If I were to drop through this emotion, what’s the emotion underneath that?’
Close your eyes and imagine yourself physically dropping through the emotion. Repeat these two questions until you find relief.
I’ve had clients drop through layers of emotions for between 5 and 45 minutes. Eventually they always get to the feeling of peace that is at the core of who we all are.
(6) Keep a list of positive aspects
Make a note of nice things that happen or that you appreciate in a List of Positive Aspects. Mine includes entries like, ‘Ate the first tomato from this year’s plants’, ‘Nice email from C’s French teacher’ and ‘Beautiful autumn trees’.
Both the act of writing and looking back over my list help nourish my soul.
(7) Make a regular date with your partner
When you have kids, it’s easy to find your life running in parallel from your partner’s. A few months ago my husband and I decided to get intentional about spending regular quality time with one another. (Quality time as in, not slumped in front of the TV together after a busy day at work.)
Every Sunday morning we now walk our dogs together then have coffee at an outdoor cafe. (A treat for me because my husband doesn’t really understand the point of having coffee out, so I feel loved just by him being there with me!)
We chat about each others’ weeks, the children, and then once all that’s out of the way we usually find ourselves talking about something completely different and really interesting, which reminds me why we married each other and makes me feel excited about sharing the rest of my life with this man.
Bonus: Take a selfie on each date. Did you know that taking selfies can increase happiness and gratitude, decrease stress and deepen connections?
(8) Watch an episode of your favourite comedy show
The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, Modern Family, Friends… Writers of these shows are paid big bucks to activate our feel-good systems.
I challenge you not to feel better after watching an episode!
(9) Connect with an uplifting friend
If, like me, you’re an intense type who’s inclined to spend every moment you’re not with your kids being ‘productive’ (working (paid or voluntary), doing admin, organising the home or practising cello), you may have a tendency to let friendships slide.
People who have emotional OE have the ability to enjoy deep, lasting friendships. Be sure to make time for the uplifting people in your life – and be willing to let go of those who have the opposite effect.
(10) Feel awe
When I posted this photo on Instagram, I captioned it: ‘Sometimes I feel so full of awe at the magnificence of nature. I feel at once tiny and insignificant and yet extraordinarily loved, as if nature is putting on a spectacular event just for me.’
Later I discovered that psychologists consider awe to be ‘one of the most pleasurable and motivating positive emotions’ (Jane McGonigal, Superbetter).
Awe also changes our perception of time. When we feel awe for a moment or two, we feel we have more time for our own goals, are less impatient, and are more likely to volunteer time to help others.
The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we happen to see a beautiful sunset or magnificent waterfall to feel awe – we can also enjoy the effect by watching videos of things we find awe-inspiring, or by writing a few sentences about a time we experienced awe.
Resources and hat tips
Top 3 tips to up your energy and resilience level (if you have emotional OE) PowerWood (article)
5 Side Effects of Kindness David Hamilton (article)
Watching cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions The Independent (article)
The Good News Network (website)
SuperBetter Jane McGonigal (book)
Living With Intensity Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski (book)
What are overexcitabilities? (article on this blog)
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Do you have emotional OE?
How do you nourish your soul?
I’d love to hear from you!
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This post is part of a series on how we can use our overexcitabilities to nourish our souls. See also:
How to use psychomotor overexcitability to nourish your soul (coming soon)
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