Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

photo courtesy jeshoots, unsplash

Ellen was a fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful 20 year old. She’d been a high achiever throughout her public school years. The work was easy. She could listen to one teacher while she did her homework for another. She was conscientious and energetic. Curious and imaginative.

She was also anxious. Her active rainforest mind came up with so many worries and then worried about her worrying. She was also a perfectionist. She had an innate desire to create beauty, harmony, justice, and precision. What I call intrinsic (healthy) perfectionism. And she also experienced the extrinsic (unhealthy) variety of perfectionism. She questioned her worth as a human being if she didn’t perform at the top of the pack at all times.

Throughout public school, Ellen had managed her anxiety and perfectionism. She had loving parents who didn’t pressure her to achieve and she didn’t run into much that she couldn’t figure out quickly. But she put plenty of pressure on herself. Excelling in school was intricately linked to Ellen’s sense of self. She was not particularly athletic and often had trouble maintaining friendships. She would be frustrated when other kids didn’t respond well to her complicated play. She didn’t have the same interests as her peers.

Because her early schooling was not intellectually challenging, Ellen came to believe that all learning ought to come quickly and easily. She thought that she ought to “know it before I learn it.” She didn’t learn how to struggle with a concept or how to study for an exam. Ellen also didn’t learn how to manage her time. She never had to. Ellen wanted to be the best. Always get A’s. Be as thorough as possible in all things. And she was successful.

Until college.

Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis.

What did I suggest to Ellen?

What insights will help the anxious college-attending perfectionists in your life?

~ An extremely active, thinking, analytical, imaginative mind mixed with multiple sensitivities and extraordinary empathy will most assuredly create anxiety. How could it not?

~ Intrinsic perfectionism comes naturally to rainforest minds. High standards and expectations along with an appreciation for beauty, harmony, justice, and precision are inborn. You need to appreciate this about yourself and then find ways to prioritize assignments so that you can manage your workload. What is truly important? Does your chemistry lab report have to be beautiful? Do you need to rewrite your lit paper yet again because you didn’t research every single related subtopic that you thought of? Will your professors still appreciate you if you get an A-?

~ Will giving less than 100% on occasion make you a lazy slacker or is it a realistic way to make time to rest and to feed your soul, which will ultimately allow you to be more productive and kinder to others and yourself?

~ There are some good apps for reducing anxiety: Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace. There are many other suggestions for calming your worries in this post.

~ Get to know what it means to have a rainforest mind. Read more posts from this blog!

~ Chapter 3 in my book goes into depth about the types of perfectionism and provides guidance and resources. Read it!

~ It’s possible that your anxiety might be affected by particular foods or hormone imbalances. Meet with a doctor or naturopath to explore this. Acupuncture, exercise, or neurofeedback can help. If your anxiety is frequently intense and overwhelming, medication might be an option. It can provide enough temporary relief so that you can put some relaxation techniques in place and feel the results.

After a while, Ellen began to speak more confidently about her rainforest mind. She had a greater understanding of her anxiety and perfectionism and was developing ways to manage them.

She explained: “I’m listening more to the calming voice within me. The self-critical voice isn’t quite as loud. I’m learning that I need to be more patient with myself…I can’t do everything. Things take time. Be gentle with myself.”

Be gentle with yourself. Listen to the calming voice within. And be sure to feed your fast talking, deep feeling, super insightful soul.

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Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post.

To my bloggEEs: Does this sound familiar? How does your perfectionism show up? What have you done to calm your anxiety? Did this happen to you or your kids in college? By the way, not all perfectionists are high achievers. But that’s the topic for a future post. For more posts on perfectionism from parents of gifted kids and from professionals, click on the link.

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Dealing with Anxiety When You Are a Highly Sensitive Overthinker*

photo courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash

There are so many reasons to be anxious these days. So many reasons. What’s a sensitive, empathetic, intuitive, analytical person to do?

I don’t need to tell you what there is to be anxious about. You are quite aware of the little things and the big things and all of the things in between. You could create a very long list. Your capacity for super-thinking and your vast imagination, enormous empathy, and non-stop brain has already added 14 items to your list since you started reading this post.

And, that’s not even taking into consideration that you might be a parent. A person with children. You can just double and triple and quadruple your list of reasons if you made the choice to bring a little vulnerable being into the world. Not that I’m judging you. But, really. What were you thinking? And you thought you were a worrier before you had kids.

I’ve written about this before here and here because it’s such a real phenomenon for people with finely tuned nervous systems, which you know you have. Not to mention, your capacity to feel the suffering of neighbors, trees, children everywhere, and your lonely Aunt Lucille.

Not only that. If you had to start worrying when you were two years old because your mother was screaming obscenities at you and your father was unreliable and self-absorbed, for example, well then, you likely have developed a remarkable ability to become anxious at a moment’s notice. Or to remain anxious all of the time on all occasions (called hypervigilance**) Just in case. You never know. You need to be prepared for the worst.

So, my darlings, you see?  Stop berating yourself for your worrying ways. Stop pressuring yourself to be cool, calm, and collected because you’re so smart. There are reasons for your extraordinary capacity to worry.

I have a suggestion.

In addition to all of the tools and techniques listed in the many articles out there, here’s another that I’ve recently started to practice more regularly. That I’ve found surprisingly helpful.

Here it is.

You know how fear tends to make you want to freeze or shrink or hide or push it away? Instead, notice it and be with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Hello, anxiety. Then, remember that it’s just a part of you. And you are bigger than it. Imagine yourself expanding. Breathe and expand. As odd as it sounds, welcome the anxiety. Bring it on, baby! And keep expanding. You will begin to feel your higher Self and the Love that is in you and around you. Breathe. You might start to notice that you feel lighter and more peaceful. The fear may still be there but you’ve become so large that it becomes insignificant. Imagine that!

The more you practice this, the easier it will be to get into this more peaceful state. And if you want to take it one step further, turn it into a tonglen practice (from Pema Chodron) where you breathe in all of the anxiety all over the world (Seriously!), and you breathe out Love to everyone, including yourself.

Including yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: I’m breathing Love to you right now, my little chickadees. Tell us about your anxiety and your worries. What do you do that is helpful? If you try this technique, let us know how it goes. There may be other, more concrete things, to try first. Sometimes, you need to address the basics first and get spiritual later. Trust yourself. If you grew up with chainsaws, give yourself time to heal via many paths.

*For the perfectionists among us: Is overthinker one word? Should it be hyphenated? Is it two words? I hyphenated it in another post so  should I be consistent? Am I over-thinking over thinking? Oh, brother.

** If you have an extreme case of anxiety, due to early trauma, medication may be an option as well. Sometimes the bio-chemical help is needed so that you can manage your life enough to be able to benefit from the other techniques.

 

 

 

 


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A Party For Book Lovers, Introverts, And Geeks

photo courtesy of Silent Reading Party, Portland

You are not going to believe this.

If you’ve been looking for a way to find other rainforest minds, this may be your answer.

I’m not kidding.

A Silent Reading Party.

You heard me.

A fellow named Christopher Frizzelle, in Seattle, USA, created this event. People come together and read. No small talk. No chitchat. Just bring your book and read. Maybe have a glass of wine. Or coffee. Did I mention, no small talk?

What could be better than that?

“Every first Wednesday of the month at 6:00 p.m., the Fireside Room at the Sorrento Hotel goes quiet and fills with people—crazy-haired, soft-spoken, inscrutable, dorky, NPRish, punk, white, black. The reading public. It fills right away, all these people who don’t know each other, and they sit very closely, sometimes three strangers to a couch. By 7:00 p.m., you can’t get a seat…”  Christopher Frizzelle

He goes on.

“…The insane thing about a party where you’re not supposed to make small talk is that it makes you want to make small talk. You almost can’t not do it. (But what a relief to not have to!)…” Christopher Frizzelle

And from the women who started a Silent Reading Party in Portland, Oregon, USA:

“…And there’s something special about the silence, too. We so rarely sit quietly with strangers. It’s restorative, almost church-like. It’s really beautiful to look around and see a room full of people who’ve made time in their lives to read together. It gives you faith in our species.” (Jeff O’Neal interview of Portland SRP on BookRiot)

Faith in our species.

What could be better than that?

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think of this idea? Wouldn’t it be a safe, fun, cool way to find and be with other rainforest-minded souls? Let us know if you start one and how it goes. (And, if you’re an extravert, you’ll love it, too. Maybe you host a Not-So-Silent Reading Party.)

Thank you to Pamela Price for inspiring this post.

 


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The World Needs More Overthinkers

photo courtesy of Unsplash, Tachina Lee

Thinking has gotten a bad rap. If you do a lot of it, which you know you do, you’re called an overthinker. And that’s something you’re supposed to avoid.

Personally, I know people who are under-thinkers. I bet you do, too. Don’t you just wish those under-thinkers would overthink once in a while? I know I do.

Granted, you can think so much that you get super anxious. You can think so much that you don’t score well on multiple choice tests because you can explain why all of the choices are correct. You can think so much that you never finish painting your bedroom. You can think so much that you don’t have time to sleep. You can think so much that you forget to tie your shoes.

Too much thinking can become a problem. We know this.

But, honey, you’re kinda stuck with it. It’s how your brain works. Your big brain is very very active. All of the time. So, for you, it’s not overthinking. It’s just thinking. Or being. It’s curiosity. Analysis. Wondering. Creating. It’s the quest for the holy grail.

It’s you being you.

And yet, your colleagues, friends, relatives, partners, teachers, therapists and maybe even your children would like you to STOP THINKING SO MUCH.

Yeah. I get it.

And maybe you also tell yourself to stop thinking so much.

I think you need to rethink thinking.

And, of course, find ways to take care of yourself when your thoughts turn into anxiety or paralysis or sleeplessness. Give yourself permission to self-soothe. Whatever that looks like for you. If you need some ideas, try this post on anxiety and this one on worry.

But don’t stop “over”thinking, wondering, creating, and analyzing. Seeking the holy.

Being. You.

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To my bloggEEs: Have you been accused of overthinking? When is it a problem for you? How is it beneficial? Do you have a way to explain it to others? Thank you for sharing your feelings, experiences and complexities. All are welcome here.

You can find more posts on this topic from the fabulous bloggers with hoagiesgifted.org. Click on the graphic.