Why do people with Sensitive nervous systems become fatigued more quickly, and what does this mean for your workplace?Read Now
I want to answer two questions which go to the heart of why having a Responsive nervous system/temperament leads to particular needs, and why it matters to everyone – not just those with this temperament – that those needs are met.
These concepts are important to understand, and it’s evident that they’re not well understood yet, because workplaces, schools, and public areas continue to be over-stimulating and emotionally-fatiguing for people with this temperament (and for others who have environmental sensitivities for various reasons).
In her book, Self-Care for Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents (2021), psychologist Lindsay Gibson explains why those with more sensitive nervous systems become fatigued (seen in various forms) more quickly than others.
“[Your nervous system] is responsible not just for doing but also for not doing. There are two kinds of processes the nervous system performs: initiating action and inhibiting action. Whenever you restrain yourself from the urge to act, you are doing as much work – often more – as if you had actually said or done something.”
The Responsive temperament is characterised, in part, by a strong ‘pause-to-check’ system. This is the ‘inhibiting action’ process that Lindsay Gibson describes.
People who leap into action look like they are expending lots of energy. But people who pause, think, and problem solve… are expending even more energy. This means that people who are empath[et]ic, …reflective, and concerned about helping others are constantly draining their neurological batteries with their internal efforts….
Thank goodness for people who exert their brains to calm others and find constructive outcomes, whether it is dealing with a child or with global politics. This high level of mature behaviour is a strenuous physical workout of the nerves and neurons, working brains double-time to find the optimal blend of both inhibition and action.
The great thing is that probably everyone can do this – although not everyone does. The other great thing is that a Highly Sensitive/Responsive temperament naturally works like this – and does other important things.
Do you think we need people to do this? To restrain themselves from impulses and think more before they act? To consider, empathetically, before speaking? To find, in all situations, “the optimal blend of both inhibition and action”?
If the answer you get is the obvious one – yes, yes, absolutely! – then that’s your reason for doing something about it. For learning what Highly Sensitive people need to thrive, and implementing those elements within your workplace or school.
Because, as you can see, it’s not an extra, nice little thing to do for people, or a virtue-signalling initiative; it’s not a difficult expenditure of resources better used for other things. It’s supporting people who do more of what is desperately needed in organisations and public spaces. To think, reflect, notice ‘all the things’ and place them in context, restrain oneself and potentially others by example, act on what matters after considering all the options, and care deeply about the consequences.
There are so many things that Highly Sensitive/Responsive people do which are greatly needed in our world. That’s why we’re here. Make use of it – harness these unique strengths, and reap the rewards.
Not sure how to do that? See here and here for more. Contact me to talk about what would work best for your workplace/school: a presentation, workshop, or consultation.
Tamara - Sensitive Thrive is my consulting business. I believe that the world needs Highly Sensitive people who are flourishing. We need their hope, insight, wisdom, and awareness of beauty and possibility. My vision is to help create a culture where this temperament is known, understood and valued; where organisations seek Highly Sensitive people to work for them, because they know what they can do. Where HS people feel like they fit in their workplaces, because those workplaces also fit them. A world where HS people belong, thrive, and flourish, and the world is better for it.