In November 2018, I found myself sitting opposite controversial comedian and Hollywood star Russell Brand.
We were recording episode 71 of his iconic “Under the Skin” podcast in his studio.
If you get a chance to view it on YouTube, you can both see and hear me talking about being a highly sensitive person in an insensitive world. At several points in the interview, I am close to tears, particularly when I talk about unintentionally viewing images of animal cruelty on my newsfeed and being so traumatized that I was unable to go online for months afterward.
During the interview, my heightened nerves are brutally exposed. People often say they can read me like a book. My thoughts and feelings are written all over my face, as is often the case for people who are sensitive by nature. I look and sound like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
That’s exactly how I felt: overwhelmed.
I don’t blame Russell for being a little impatient at times during the interview, as he likely expected a guest who was “cool” and “together” and not so clearly out of their comfort zone.
You may wonder why on earth I put myself through such an ordeal, given that my natural preference is to be an invisible author hiding behind my computer and writing about feelings rather than talking about them. The reason I went on the podcast was that I have grown increasingly alarmed in recent years by the marginalization of sensitive traits, like empathy, kindness, compassion, imagination, and intuition.
However, during these uncertain times, I believe people with sensitive personality traits can lead the way helping those who aren’t as accustomed to time alone and the anxiety of uncertainty to find ways to cope and emerge empowered from the experience.
The M words
Outlined below are four empowering M words that can help anyone, regardless of how sensitive they are, not just survive during this alienating crisis but thrive.
Mindfulness is a buzzword in the self-help movement. You may be tired of hearing about it, but the reason people talk about it so much is that it really can help you feel more in control of your life, especially during times of anxiety.
From my perspective, being mindful isn’t about spending hours meditating or complicated yoga stretches—it is simply being present in the moment and not letting our thoughts race to the future or retreat to the past. It is also focusing on and feeling grateful for what is good in our life right now and not focusing on what we are missing.
Make every moment count—tidy up, face time with friends, cherish your children and pets, read or write that book—the possibilities are endless. This can be a time of opportunity.
Movement is the second M, and it’s an important one because regular exercise boosts both immunity and mood. Never have we needed to have our moods and immunity boosted more than right now. There is nothing stopping you from getting some fresh air alone or with a loved one as long, as you make sure you keep your distance from other people.
Commit to regular exercise each day and know that your immune system will thank you for it. And make sure that you eat as healthily as possible too and get plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C and D; a recent study showed that vitamin D is helpful for respiratory function. Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolk, salmon, and vitamin D fortified cereals, but sunlight is another source, so it’s yet another reason to get some fresh air.
Mastery is the third empowering M. This is finding something you want to learn about. It doesn’t matter what it is; it could be gardening or learning a language or painting by numbers. Whatever it is, become as good at it as you can.
There is tremendous fulfillment to be found from mastering something, but mastery also refers to resilience. If you feel you can’t cope with the changes in your life right now, remind yourself of all the times in your past when you had felt uncertain and anxious before and somehow pulled through. You are more resilient than you think—you just need to trust yourself.
Meaning is the final M, and in my opinion, is the most life-changing self-care tip during this crisis. When bad things happen, many of us look for answers, but often, there are none to be found. This is where the spiritual perspective can help because it encourages us to look within for deeper meaning and understanding. Never before has the world been literally forced to find meaning from the inside out rather than the outside in. Finding peace and meaning from within is the spiritual approach to life and a true path to fulfillment.
Make sure each day has all the four Ms in it and you will be able to cope with this enforced monasticism and perhaps even find it incredibly rewarding. Treat each day as a sacred opportunity to get to know yourself and your loved ones better and to appreciate the wonder of life.