“Quality questions create a quality life.” ~Tony Robbins
Have you ever wondered, maybe even worried, “Why is it easier for others to take care of their health? Why do they have more willpower? Less struggle?”
And, “What am I doing wrong?”
I used to ask myself all this, and more. It was confusing; I tried to eat healthy and exercise, but my body argued back. Weight issues. Fatigue. Chronic pain. Injury after injury.
The answer seemed obvious.
But doing so made the issues worse, or another problem started. Or both.
The doctors all said my symptoms didn’t make sense. I wondered: is it in my head? They told me to stress less. I worried: is anxiety making me worse? They said they couldn’t help. I panicked: am I unfixable?
Sensitivity Isn’t a Disorder (and You Don’t Need to Fix It)
The diagnosis was an over-reactive nervous system, which led me to the term Highly Sensitive People. Dr. Elaine Aron, a psychotherapist and researcher, estimates 15-20 percent of people are highly sensitive.
This simple trait means our nervous systems process stimuli intensely.
We think a lot. We feel deeply (physically and emotionally). We’re easily overstimulated.
Thoughts are stimuli that affect our highly tuned nervous systems. The more negative, the more we suffer; the more positive, the more we thrive (even compared to others).
Questions are a potent type of thought. They trigger our brains to search for answers, discover evidence, and create links and stories, long after we turn our conscious minds to something else.
The problem was simple.
I was asking lousy questions.
And the solution became obvious. Ask good questions.
It worked. I’ve bounced back from burnout with more health and happiness than in my twenties and thirties. I learned to ask the following four questions every day.
1. Am I focused on the vitality I want or the discomfort I don’t want?
It sounds easy: focus positively on the health you want.
But being highly sensitive means you’re hardwired to ponder issues from all different angles. It’s a gift of cautiousness—your early warning system. And it means you end up obsessing over things you’re trying to ignore.
Your mind is powerful. If you stay focused on soreness in your body, you sensitize your nervous system into noticing more pain. If you worry about getting injured, you subconsciously set yourself up for injury.
When you focus on problems (or the gap between your current health and the health you want), you create tension. Physical and emotional. Which makes you feel rotten, intensifies the health issue, and even creates new issues.
But focusing on well-being sends a powerful message to your brain and body to shift you toward better health. While helping you relax into enjoying more of life, right now (even if your health isn’t perfect).
Tip: If you catch yourself preoccupied with what you don’t want, stop. Appreciate your gift of considering different perspectives. Then re-focus on the vitality you want.
2. Am I whizzing through healthy habits or delving into their worth?
Being sensitive means you mull over decisions and are quick to second-guess yourself. But it’s easy to get entangled in the rush of life and leap from one health habit to the next.
Sinking your teeth into why you want better health helps you commit to healthy habits. You understand their worth.
But it’s not enough to know that a habit is worthwhile just because it makes you energized, healthier, and fitter. You need to dig deeper into your why to discover what that gives you that’s even more important.
Perhaps being fitter brings more ease and flow or enables you to connect more with family and friends.
Some of my deepest whys are comfort, blending, and connection. For example, I’ve learned to avoid strict diets that compartmentalize allowed and not allowed (and lead me to binge on junk). Instead, to allow any foods but plan ahead my wholesome and comforting meals. To blend healthy snacks into my day. To mindfully connect with tastes and textures.
Uncovering your deepest why helps you discover which specific habits spur you on from within. Even when the going gets tough (as it will).
Not only will your self-care work better, but you’ll also notice less whizzing and more sticking.
Tip: Slow down and tap into the qualities that are meaningful to you and your health. Then choose the habits to support those qualities.
3. Am I analyzing my health or tuning in to my body’s wisdom?
High sensitivity means you feel deeply. It’s tempting to stay stuck in your head, to hide from the intensity of your emotions and your sharp awareness of subtleties.
Doing so numbs you from your body’s wisdom.
You begin to worry about your health—analyzing problems and searching endlessly for solutions. Discomfort becomes a foe to avoid. A problem to fear. An assault to stop or dull (rather than a healthy message).
When I hurt my back, for example, the pain lasted months longer than the injury took to physically heal. The therapists prescribed gentle exercises. The more I tried, the more the pain intensified or spread to other areas. It didn’t make sense.
But tuning in to my body, I could feel the tension of trying too hard, too often. Of stiffening constantly, in fear of the possibility of pain. Of overprotecting and overcompensating. I learned to relax and soften to allow myself, more and more, to move naturally. In doing so, my body came into balance and the pain disappeared.
When you tune in to how you’re feeling, the physical sensations become a compass for tweaking your self-care. For correcting course. You hear your body whispering, “This, not that. Ease up; push harder.”
You re-ignite your instinctual knowing. You build your intuition muscles. You make healthy choices that reflect who you are.
Tip: Think about an aspect of your health or self-care, and then notice how it triggers sensations in your body. Where and what do you feel? Is it a sense of lightness or heaviness? Openness or constriction? Feel into which thoughts and habits support you.
4. Am I under healthy pressure or beating myself up?
We all need a certain amount of oomph to improve our health and stay healthy. But it’s easy to slither from self-motivation into self-judgment. Being highly sensitive means you’re your own biggest critic.
We see others breeze through long hours at work followed by intense cardio at the gym, fueled with crappy diets and little sleep. We’re tempted to follow suit. But when our sensitive bodies fizzle out or overreact, we’re left confused and deflated.
“I’m lazy. I hate my body. I’m never going to get there.”
Your nervous system responds to self-talk as though it’s the hard truth. Often, it’s not.
It’s simple to pinpoint whether you’re feeling healthy or unhealthy pressure. Ask, “Does this [feeling or self-talk] make me want to act in a different way that’ll honestly make me feel better?”
If the answer is no, let it go. It’s unhealthy. It’s not serving you.
If the answer is yes, choose an action that feels good to take. And appreciate yourself for getting a handle on the pressure and not burying it.
Tip: Be gentle and curious about your self-talk. Check if it’s helping you. Then, act accordingly. Treat yourself with the same loving compassion you’re so good at giving others.
Answer Back With Your Super Power
You’re blessed with an inquisitive mind and a highly tuned inner guidance—gifts to help you make wise choices in your health when you slow down and pay attention.
Use your heightened awareness to detect your self-talk, emotions, and feelings.
Deliberately ask empowering questions and get curious about your answers. Without judgment.
Treat yourself with kindness, no matter what choices you make (and keep going in your self-care).
No, this isn’t a one-fix wonder. You’ll correct course every day of your life. But well-being comes from sculpting a supportive partnership between your mind and body.
Ask positive questions. Tune in to the answers. Take heart-felt action. You can’t help but make healthier self-care choices from that better-feeling place.
So what are you asking for?
Now it’s your turn. Do you consider yourself highly sensitive? If so, tell us a question that’s made a powerful positive difference in your life?
Jumping woman image via Shutterstock