Highly Sensitive Person-It’s a condition

hsp -kitty

A little while back I saw an article—somewhere. I recall it being about a condition called ‘highly sensitive person’. My gut reaction was—“an article about whiners? I don’t think so.” I never did actually read it. Recently, however, in one of my self-reflective—what the hell is wrong with me moments I let the concept seep back into my consciousness.

Perhaps it was because of uncontrollable crying while watching TV. Maybe it was the NEED to change the radio station during a “phone tap”- AKA prank, that caused  me horrible anxiety. It could have been one of those television shows like America’s Funniest Home Video’s–even THAT can make me uncomfortable. Though honestly, it very well could have been the overwhelming empathy that I have never been able to begin to explain.

Everyone knows I hate crowds—A LOT. Most people know I like to have very minimal lighting at home. I often watch TV with the sound extremely low or with headphones on so I can just turn it down or off and have complete silence. I sometimes just turn the sound off and READ the closed captions. I am completely incapable of watching commercials for sick children or abused animals. I MEAN INCAPABLE. I cry at happy events just as emotionally as I do at sad ones. I NEED to have scented candles to calm myself. The list of my secret weirdness is long and I have been this way for so long that I contributed it to everything from my being born a Cancer—and we are sensitive, to believing it could be depression that might have lingered… for geez… decades?

A couple of weeks ago, thinking that perhaps it wasn’t just the holidays that had me crying at Christmas shows, or commercials, I decided to spend a little time Googling whether this is depression or something else. I honestly didn’t think I was sad. Perhaps I am just going mad! To most people, no one would ever even notice these things about me. I am funny, outgoing, friendly and engaging. One would think that a “highly sensitive person” would be an introvert. I am NOT. I needed to understand what this “highly sensitive person” condition really is. I was excited to think I was getting closer to some sort of authoritative explanation for how I have always felt. I was not looking for a ‘cure’, though being able to watch a movie around people without balling my eyes out, certainly would be be a bonus.

This is what I learned. First and foremost I am NOT alone. Whether or not people understand or admit this newly recognized condition somehow didn’t matter to me because I have read the studies and they speak to me… In fact they scream to me to the point—you guessed it—I cried. It is not a condition that describes a personality type. Being a “HSP” is defined has having a hypersensitive nervous system. This would—in my case—explain my sensitivity to light, to sound, to extreme temperature and even smells! Dr. Ted Zeff, a psychologist and author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide, believes that HSP’s do best in nurturing environments. They are more likely to be artists, musicians, teachers, counselors and health practitioners. And, they’re likely to be popular because they’re so in tune with the needs of others. I wouldn’t say I am popular, but I do feel as if my empathy makes me a special kind of friend, even to people I might only come in contact with briefly.

From the outside, looking in, the majority of the world would have a hard time believing the sheer amount of tears I shed for an equal amount of happy and sad events. In fact, since I am so hyper aware of my crying at the sad, I try to avoid it, which of course has changed nothing.  I cry at every happy ending in a movie, at all ‘feel good’ stories on the news, the interview with the hero kitten rescuer, the lottery winner and just now on Fox and Friends Weekend—the interview with the woman who adopted a blind, 14 year old dog who had lived on the streets—YEP, balled at how loved that doggie must feel. I have often felt the anxiety of loving to dance, loving music but having a complete meltdown in a dance club, where my only solace is a few minutes in the restroom or walking outside with the smokers just to be able to calm myself. These are overwhelming emotions. I feel other peoples emotional pain, sadness and stresses. I am attuned to worldwide tragedy’s more than I understand. It is an amazingly intense kind of empathy, that I have often wished I didn’t have. Other times I am happy I feel strongly when I encounter people that seem not to feel at all.  The studies and articles I have been reading,  explain this in a way that I have begun to be less hard on myself for what I perceived as weaknesses or flaws.  I have long ago learned to cope with my feelings, if only to try and mask them to the masses. But, it is what it is. And apparently, it IS a condition. I admit that helps.

The article I read—Here, in The Telegraph—has helped me to understand why I love the quiet, and the dimly lit, the smell of lemon verbena to calm me, or even my love of children’s movies, where they rarely make people feel badly and always have a happy ending. This condition explains why I was never able to watch those early episodes each season of American Idol, where people were so incredibly horrible—I literally can NOT watch people do that to themselves. Don’t laugh, I cringe!, and if I didn’t change the channel I felt physical anxiety.

I am hoping that people who wonder why some of us just “FEEL” more, will realize it actually IS a nervous system condition. I put on the ‘tough girl’ persona as my mask. But being sensitive is just who I am, not something to be controlled, because it can’t be. To me, I feel as if it is no different than a sneeze. I can no more control these feelings as I could squash my sneezes. So if you see me sniffling while reading a book, or wonder where I went at the concert or why I can not stand Times Square… Know that I am just your Highly Sensitive Person—friend. Thanks for understanding.

Take the Highly Sensitive Person Test, here!

xoxo DDJ

Advertisements

You’re sitting at work and smiling… Is this a dream?

morale 2

You’re sitting at your desk… someone says, ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” DO YOU?  I know I wanted to…

There are many studies that find a connection between psychological and physical well-being. In other words, Happiness = Healthiness. So, if this is a prevalent theme in society, then the workplace mantra of “a happy employee is a productive employee” should hold similar credibility.  The ‘happy employee’ practices of very successful companies has become increasingly newsworthy and noteworthy. The most fascinating to me is the 52 and 17 rule. Working in sprint like fervor for 52 minutes and then mind clearing breaks of 17 minutes, produces the employees with the highest productivity ratings.  Before I even knew this was a thing, I would try this. Perhaps telling a story to my department. But a little levity was met with the look of “WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU AT YOUR DESK?” My morale was sky-high–[eye-roll].

Alas, I found myself in the dark ages of low morale. How, exactly, is “if you’re unhappy, you can always leave here. No one is making you stay”, a productive statement to employees? I find myself to be a different kind of manager. One whose methods include teamwork, recognizing hard work, encouraging idea sharing, attentive, (caring about employees as people—friends). We spend so much time at work, it is—I believe—imperative to constantly strive to have everyone HAPPY to be there.  I mean, we work for the same company. I enjoy working towards the same goals and sharing in the success stories.  As a manager, applauding those who work hard and building up everyone to share in the “fun’, is inspiring for myself as well as the group.

Most of us know the stories of the “really cool” companies to work for. We’ve seen the stories of company excursions to fabulous places. However, not every small  company can go to lengths like  Top 10 Forbes companies.  http://www.forbes.com/pictures/efkk45jkjf/top-10-companies-doing-the-most-to-make-their-employees-happier/  But there is definitely room for improvement for some. The jobs site CareerBliss.com has the Leap Awards, honoring the companies that have made the biggest strides to improve employee happiness year-over-year. This is an impressive award. CareerBliss evaluates more than 250,000 company reviews and ratings it receives from employees nationwide to find the top 50 deserving companies. To qualify for the list, each company has to have at least 50 reviews. If you look at the list and do some quick math, you will come to the same conclusion as I did. Happy employees make for prosperous companies.

When one considers the amazing perks of some of the larger tech companies or big retailers, it is no wonder the rest of us are left a little envious—which can leave you less than “happy”. Apple is a good example of real life—real use—perks for today’s world. $300 towards gym, $100 for metrocard (NYC), tuition assistance if the class is related to your job. Intuit has a onsite massage therapist and a great 401K with employer matching. Facebook has an abundance of free food, dry cleaning, parental assistance, personal training subsidies and a spa. (California)

Time. How do you put a price tag on time? No one has enough of it, and generally speaking, if you want to take time off from work—at least where I was, with a  Scrooge school of business mentality—it was frowned upon.  I would like to take a page from the likes of Moz—a software marketing development company that has a GREAT time perk. All employees get 21 days paid vacation AND the company gives them a bonus $3000 in vacation reimbursement for food, lodging, entertainment and transportation. The CEO at Moz believes that this type of perk is essential to keeping amazing people on his team. Right THERE is part of the morale booster. The CEO recognizes that he HAS a great team. Other companies like Netflix have instituted unlimited vacation days—which has its problems as well as its benefits. Not everyone is equipped to hash out how many days is right for your job. Will you feel pressure for taking more or less days than your peers? All in all, though, I personally would like that kind of conundrum.

Food. Food is always welcome. Many companies will offer a pizza day or doughnut day, where more health conscious companies might offer something more on par with their healthier lifestyle, and everyone loves a little gourmet feast we won’t make for ourselves. Food is a fabulous perk. Food offerings, since the first caveman brought a Mammoth gift to his cave neighbor, has always been a great gesture.

Fitness. Encouraging your employees to be fit, energetic and doped up on dopamine’s is a no-brainer. Even smaller companies, without a great deal of money to spend, have found ways to benefit their employees mind and body. A company called Gravity Payments has a weekly running club, where team members can be excused from
their work for an hour to go on an organized run around the neighborhood. This clears minds, provides a mental break, increases camaraderie and is super healthy. A more prevalent company fitness perk is simply paying for or subsidizing gym memberships or classes. And an up and coming perk is having a gym on the premises for employees to use. Again, seemingly a no-brainer to increase morale.

These are just some perks that companies who value their employees use to keep them happy. Low morale can simply not be dismissed. A very interesting survey by Watson Wyatt and World at Work, found that from 2009 to 2010 the percentage of top performing employees that would recommend their employer to others for a job dropped by nearly 20%. Even more telling was that slightly more than 40% felt their pay and benefits changes over the past year had had a negative effect on work quality and customer service. These are the types of costs to a company that, if overlooked, will be more than most employers can bear.

The moral of this morale story is simple. You reward your employees with a few perks and some recognition for their work and you are, in turn, rewarded right back with loyalty, hard work and great press. Word of mouth for any sized company is priceless. Better it be good press than bad.

Some great—and low cost—morale boosters…TAKE A LOOK AT THIS: http://wheniwork.com/blog/10-low-cost-perks-to-boost-employee-morale/

Xoxo DDJ