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Managing your energy can be a challenge at the best of times. But if you’re a highly sensitive person, you might be more prone to burning out due to your unique traits and the demands of your work.
Being highly sensitive doesn’t mean being touchy, but having a high degree of empathy and a particular way of processing sensory input. That means it might take longer to recover from a tricky situation like a conflict with a colleague, or witnessing something traumatic at work.
The key to managing energy as a highly sensitive person is to understand and embrace your sensitivity, and put strategies in place to protect and replenish your energy.
This week, Rachel talks with Dr Becki Taylor-Smith, an anaesthetist and coach who specialises in helping highly sensitive individuals discover their superpowers.
Around 1 in 5 people has high sensitivity. With this higher degree of empathy often comes the need to help people, which is why there may be many more people in medicine who identify as highly sensitive.
People who identify as highly sensitive make great leaders, but can be reluctant to step forward. So without support or strategies in place to help them harness their abilities, teams can miss out on the unique abilities they have.
But by setting small boundaries and incorporating self-care activities into their daily lives, highly sensitive people can be supported and encouraged to thrive in their own careers, and lead others.
About the guests
Reasons to listen
- To learn how to manage your energy effectively as a highly sensitive person in high-stress jobs.
- To discover strategies to prevent burnout and overwhelm while still making a unique difference.
- To understand the traits of highly sensitive people and how to embrace them as a superpower in leadership and teamwork.
Traits of highly sensitive people
How to tell if you’re a highly sensitive person
When being highly sensitive can be a superpower
Highly sensitive people as leaders
The ABCs of managing your energy
How to protect yourself and your energy
Avoiding burnout due to sensory overload
How to support highly sensitive people
Becki’s top tips
[00:00:00] Rachel: How did you feel the last time you encountered something upsetting? Did he put those feelings aside or shake them off? Did you take a few moments for yourself or did those thoughts and feelings eat away at you? If you’re like the 20% of people identified as highly sensitive, you might find it harder to shake off difficult experiences or those small T traumas we’ve talked about. That’s because highly sensitive people tend to have high levels of empathy.
[00:00:27] If you work in medicine, you’re more likely to have a higher degree of empathy, which makes it doubly difficult when your job revolves around other people. This week, I’m talking with Dr. Becki Taylor Smith, an anaesthetist who also coaches highly sensitive people to help them harness that empathy and sensitivity as a superpower. If you want to find out if you’re a highly sensitive person, or how two minutes with Taylor Swift can help reset your nervous system, then keep listening.
[00:00:55] If you’re in a high stress, high stakes, still blank medicine, and you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, burning out or getting out are not your only options. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, and welcome to You Are Not a Frog.
[00:01:15] Becki: I’m Becki Taylor Smith. I’m an anesthetist and coach supporting sensitive professionals, caring for people in the climate to rediscover their joy and to make their unique difference without burning out.
[00:01:27] Rachel: Wonderful to have you on the podcast, Becki. Um, so you are an anesthetist, and whereabouts do you work? You work in the north or the south of the country
[00:01:34] Becki: I’m in the West Midlands.
[00:01:35] Rachel: West? Midlands. Okay. And how long have you been an anesthetist for?
[00:01:40] Becki: So I started my anesthetic journey almost 12 years ago. Um, and so yeah, it’s been on and off for that time. Um, but fully in anesthetics for nine years.
[00:01:50] Rachel: And you also coach people who are highly sensitive. So what’s got you into that particular coaching specialty?
[00:01:59] Becki: Yeah, it, it was a bit of a journey, I suppose. Um, When I’d been doing medicine for I guess, almost a decade, I started to burn out. Uh, and that was, you know, probably due to lots of other T traumas, you know, losing a parent and the junior doctor strikes and all the unrest with that and various other things. And I had coaching, which was absolutely life, life-changing and changed a lot of the way I looked at things in the way that I did things.
[00:02:29] And so I trained as a coach to help other, uh, medical professionals to, to. Do life the way they wanted to do it. And in my coaching journey through being coach and doing my training, realized about this thing called high sensitivity, which I’d never really encountered before. And that gave me such a penny drop moment of, Oh wow, I think I might be a highly sensitive person. And funnily enough, a lot of my Clients are actually highly sensitive people, and that’s something that’s just sort of happened organically.
[00:02:59] About 15 to 20% of the population are highly sensitive. I would, um, probably hazard a guess that more people who work in healthcare are highly sensitive than in the general population because they’re empaths and they are drawn to help people. And so a lot of my clients are highly sensitive and they’re also kind of reluctant activists in a way, which is why I say I help people who help people and the planet. Highly sensitive people are so. Drawn to help injustice because they really feel it. And so they end up kind of getting involved in lots of other things and trying to help those things. Uh, and, and in the process burning out often because our society isn’t really geared towards highly sensitive people. And so I help people with a lot of strategies so that they can thrive, uh, in the current society that we live in.
[00:03:48] Rachel: Do you think that being a highly sensitive person was a factor in the burnout that you experienced?
[00:03:55] Becki: I think most likely yes, um, because I wasn’t just working as a doctor, I was also drawn to do other things. So I was working in, uh, LGBT health inequalities. I was working on things to do with climate change and sustainability and anesthesia. So I was taking on all of these other things, and also perhaps not looking after my energy in the way that I could do, knowing how I take on things.
[00:04:22] So some of the traits of being highly sensitive are things like being very conscientious and perfectionistic, which are traits we often see amongst medics and people in high stress professions, um, which means that you’re trying to do things to such a high level and often, you know, using a lot of your energy to do that.
[00:04:39] The other traits are things like being very empathic, uh, and taking on other people’s emotions. And if you are the go-to person that people go to, to kind of offload, to tell you what’s going on, you can end up not really having any boundaries in place and always sort of absorbing the energy or giving your energy out, which again, can lead to burnout because you’re not managing your energy in the best way. And those were definitely factors for me, um, I think in, in terms of my own experience of burnout.
[00:05:09] Rachel: And when you say highly sensitive people, I guess that could be sort of read in two ways. One is like highly sensitive, like emotionally and, and empathic. Are you talking about sensory stuff as well, like highly sensitive to noise and, and other stimuli or are we just mainly talking about highly sensitive to emotions and uh, things like that?
[00:05:31] Becki: Yeah, absolutely. So I think that’s a really common misconception that, that being highly sensitive means being too sensitive that everything’s around and not having a Thich enough skin, but, but actually the root of it is a sensory processing sensitivity. So it, you know, there’s a, there is science that shows that even in higher mammals there is an element of high sensitivity amongst some of them. And if anything that had an evolutionary benefit. If you’ve got someone who is able to tell lots of different things and is processing lots of bits of information, if there’s a subtle change in the environment, you can move away from it. You can do something about it.
[00:06:08] So people who are highly sensitive are often taking in so many more layers of, of sensation than maybe other people. So it doesn’t mean that they have better hearing or better vision or, or notice things more, but it might mean that the layers that they’re processing, it’ll be every subtlety, you know, subtleties and changes in facial expressions, non-verbal language, you know, music or sounds around them, different smells, and, and they’re taking all of that all at the same time. Which can mean that it can be quite tiring being someone who has this because you’re always taking more information. But it also means that it’s a real gift because if we take my specialty, for example, being an anesthetist, being able to take in lots of different bits of sensory information is really beneficial. You know, you can be in theater, you a slight change in the sound of the ventilator and act on it. So it can be really beneficial, but at the same time, too much of it without the right, um, things in place can mean that it, it can really affect you in, in negative ways as well.
[00:07:10] Rachel: And as you’re saying that, I’m thinking about neurodiversity as well. Is there an overlap between people who are highly sensitive and people who are, uh, neurodivergent? Is there, you know, are you one or the other or can you be both?
[00:07:26] Becki: Yeah, there’s a definite, um, neurodivergent aspect to high sensitivity. Um, If we think about Neurodivergence, it is processing the world slightly differently as having a different way of going about the world and how you experience it. So it definitely does come under neurodivergence.
[00:07:44] Um, high sensitivity is not a diagnosis, it where it’s just, you know, it’s, it’s a way that you, you experience the world. Uh, and there are some overlaps with other neuro divergencies. So obviously we think about. Autism, you know, there’s a sensory processing sensitivity that goes along with that as well, so, so there’s definitely some overlap with other neuro divergences.
[00:08:05] Rachel: And do we know what causes, um, high sensitivity? Is it genetic or is it sort of a, a learn thing through what’s happened in the past?
[00:08:13] Becki: Yeah, uh, that’s a really interesting question. Um, the founding research on this was done by a lady called Elaine Aron uh, she has a book called The Highly Sensitive Person, and in her research to write that book, she did study, uh, even sort of twins and there’s some animal studies in there as well. But she did a lot of studies on, on humans, and there were a couple of things that she mentioned in there.
[00:08:36] So one of them is genetics. So they had, you know, twins where one was highly sensitive and one wasn’t, and observed their behavior. So there is a genetic component to it, perhaps, but also, um, there is, you know, scientific, you can see it on function, MRIs, things like increased mirror neurons, which increase the empathic tendencies of highly sensitive people.
[00:08:57] So there are definitely some, um, neurobiological differences in highly sensitive people. It’s, it’s not just something that’s been learned through the way they’ve experienced childhood or, or, you know, it’s not just nurture as it were.
[00:09:10] Rachel: Now, how would you know if you were a highly sensitive person? What, what are the sort of signs or warning signs as it were?
[00:09:18] Becki: Yeah. Uh, so people who are highly sensitive, generally, the things I hear from people are things like they tend to avoid horror movies or, you know, psychological thrillers, or sometimes even the news, because actually it affects them so much that they just have to switch off sometimes because they just can’t forget about it they can’t kind of shake it off.
[00:09:39] They might have been described in their score reports. It’s very conscientious. Um, ’cause that is one of the, you know, common traits with it. They might be the, you know, really empathic person in their friendship group. Or even if we think about, you know, the GP and the practice who all of the patients come to with their complex emotional things and by the end of the day, they’re absolutely exhausted because they’ve been taking on all of that emotion and then they just feel absolutely drained. So people who experience that quite often, it’s a gift, they’re empathic, but also it can sometimes be very difficult to deal with.
[00:10:14] Um, and they might also find that they’re very sensitive to, yes, as we said, external stimuli. So very bothered by noise. Uh, very bothered by, you know, little things that other people wouldn’t be bothered by necessarily, but the sound of someone chewing or an alarm going off, or, you know, these things tend to, to get to them a bit more. Um, but also they might be sensitive to things like caffeine to medication, side effects to hunger. So actually they might have gone through life with people saying things like, You’re just being too sensitive. You need to grow a thicker skin or you know, you need to be a bit more resilient. And actually, that’s just how they experience the world.
[00:10:51] Rachel: And that seems to be a shame because you’ve already told me that it’s a bit of a superpower, really. It can really help you out. You know, that example of being in theater is a really good one. When else can being highly sensitive become a real superpower for you?
[00:11:07] Becki: I think it’s mainly in the empathetic tendencies that that people who are highly sensitive have. Is, as a team member, it can be a real superpower because you can tell what’s going on with people without them telling you, you know, you’re really taking in all that information. So being a supportive team member can mean that, you know, highly sensitive people really notice when someone’s a bit off that day and can explore that with them. Or even as someone leading a team, kind of knowing what the team need. So, you know, you go into a meeting, you can sense perhaps the energy in the room and how people are feeling and what they need from you that day. And maybe you slightly change the way that you start the meeting. You know how long you spend checking in with people. It’s that ability to sense the energy in the room and kind of mold it so that people feel really supported, um, and that they’re having their needs met in a way that still gets things done. But actually you’ve used that ability to sense things, to change things around.
[00:12:05] Rachel: Does that cause problems though? If you are a highly sensitive person in a team, and you notice that that one person maybe is a bit off and having a, having a bit of a bad time? Everyone else is okay, well there’s one person that’s off. As I, I found this. Sometimes I get very affected by one person being in a bit of a, a mood or feeling down or whatever, or, or is it genuinely that actually everyone gets affected by that and it’s really important to focus on that one person, or can you get a bit sort of sidetracked by trying to make sure everyone’s okay because you are so sensitive?
[00:12:37] Becki: Yeah, I think that can be an issue, uh, because if you, if you can’t switch it off, if you can’t sort of put that barrier up, say, well I know that’s that, that person’s not quite right today, but I don’t have time to address that right now or speak to them afterwards, but your feeling, you know, their feelings, that can be really challenging.
[00:12:58] Um, so one of the things that I work through with my clients is in terms of putting boundaries up. Um, and that is, you know, we talk a lot about setting boundaries, but this is about really about energy boundaries. So you know, what are the things that drain your energy? What are the things that radiate energy for you? And how can you get the balance? And sometimes it is actually, you can’t do anything about this right now, you can’t fix it, but you can feel it, so what do you do? And. It’s different for different people, but you know, some of the traditional methods of being able to put emotions in a box and and store them away don’t necessarily work that well for highly sensitive people ’cause they’re feeling it. So sometimes it’s things around visualizations or do meditation to people that they can then come back to that imagery, just to allow them to kind of put an energetic barrier up so that they can carry on doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t go away, but it allows them to kind of compartmentalize a bit so they can focus on it later.
[00:13:57] Rachel: And so managing energy is one of the things that people typically come to you for coaching for. What other issues do they come to you for help with that you sort of notice a theme?
[00:14:08] Becki: So one of the things I notice a lot with highly sensitive people is not thinking that they’re a leader. So they will look around them and and see people who are. Very confident, very loud, very decisive, and feel like that’s not them. And because they don’t fit that kind of almost societal model of what we see a leader as, that they’re not a leader. And actually then it comes back to very much thinking about what are your unique gifts as a sensitive person that you can bring as a leader?
[00:14:41] And, and sometimes it’s things like looking back at. Your 360 reports that you’ve had and things that people have said about you. And actually going through that and looking at all the, uh, patterns that are there. So how many times have things been mentioned? And actually the more things are mentioned, that’s probably one of the things that people really value about you. And it might be things like compassion, um, you know, or thoughtfulness or their ability to think differently because they. Kind of go inside and might not respond straight away, but we’ll come back after and say, actually, I’ve had this, this idea, what do you think? And people are like, well, that’s brilliant. Why didn’t you say that in the meeting?
[00:15:20] And the thing is, when you are processing so much information in the meeting, you may, it may take you a bit longer to think of the answer. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not a leader. It just means that you might need to adapt the way that you do things so that you can still thrive in that position and actually bring out those gifts that other people really, really value about you.
[00:15:40] Rachel: And that makes me think, actually, I dunno if you’ve ever done the an, the Enneagram personality profile. Um, if you have, are you happy to share your number with us?
[00:15:49] Becki: I’m pretty sure as an Enneagram one, it’s been a while, but I think, yeah, I think it was a one,
[00:15:53] Rachel: Okay. Can’t remember. That’s a quiet specialist. Is it number one? I think.
[00:15:58] Becki: very much motivated by injustice is what I remember.
[00:16:02] Rachel: Interesting. Because yes, I, I just think of that as you’re talking about the, the leadership because um, I’ve heard it said that in Enneagram nine make the best leader and they are called the, the peacemakers. They’re people that like everybody to, they can really sense when there’s, um, conflict in the room or when people aren’t happy and, uh, I have a friend who’s a nine and um, yeah, she could never watch a horror film, for example. And, uh, yeah, and, and the empathy she has for people on the, on the telly, even if they’re cartoon characters is amazing. So that’s just got me sort of thinking about that.
[00:16:39] And it sounds, there’s quite a link then probably between introversion and extroversion as well, so. If you look at the Myers-Briggs profile and extroverts, it’s nothing to do with how sociable you are is it? An extrovert derives that energy from interacting with lots of people and a, an introvert probably re-energizes by, by being on their own. It is that the sort of mode of energy that highly sense people often need to be on their own to re-energize, I guess. So they’re not getting stimulated by, they’re not getting drained by everybody else around. Is that, is that right?
[00:17:10] Becki: Yeah, absolutely. And about 70% of highly sensitive people are introverts as well. So it, it is one of those things where, how do you put in the, uh, again, it comes down to boundaries, but time alone. Um, if I think about one client who had a really, really busy schedule, lots of stuff going on all the time, and no time to actually let her nervous system just come back down to baseline. And one of the strategies that she came up with for coaching was blocking a free weekend every month.
[00:17:41] Now, that didn’t require setting a boundary with anyone else necessarily. She just blocked that off in her calendar. And when people say, when are you next free, that weekend just doesn’t come up and it’s like, well, my next free weekend is, is this month. But it meant that she, she could choose to fit it if she wanted to, but actually she had that weekend free that even if things are really, really busy, she then had, okay, I’ll just get through to that weekend and then I can just focus on replenishing my energy so I can get that to it. Then in week.
[00:18:10] Rachel: That sounds like pretty good advice for anybody actually, doesn’t it?
[00:18:13] Becki: Yeah.
[00:18:14] Rachel: I’m an, I’m an extrovert, but I increasingly are finding that I need time of my own to reenergize. Um, so maybe it’s just getting, maybe it’s just getting old, but I think this concept of managing our energy is, is really important whether you are highly sensitive or not.
[00:18:30] Do do the same things drain the energy from people who aren’t highly sensitive as people who are highly sensitive, it’s just that they maybe get drained more if you’re highly sensitive, or there are some specific things that actually someone else would be re re-energized by, whereas a highly sensitive person wouldn’t at all, or they might even lose energy?
[00:18:49] Becki: Yeah, I think it is complex and we are all on a spectrum of some kind, right? So while we say 15 to 20% of people are highly sensitive, about another 20% are moderately sensitive. So that’s actually, you know, quite a big proportion of the population who are probably bothered by sensory input to some extent, whether it’s, you know, they’re drained a lot or little by it. So I think as you say, that free weekend thing, It’s important for everybody to think about how to manage their energy, and we are all drained by different things.
[00:19:24] I think one of the things for highly sensitive people that can be quite draining is this concept of, um, hyper arousal, which essentially is where your nervous system kind of goes into overdrive in terms of your sympathetic nervous system, uh, when you are being watched, when you are doing something in front of people. Um, This is why I say that often highly sensitive people are reluctant activists because, you know, they wanna make a change. But the thought of standing up there in front of lots of people and speaking or organizing something is quite terrifying, really. Or you know, they can do it and they’ve done it hundreds of times, but they’ll still get erasing hearts, sweaty palms, feel exhausted and drained afterwards.
[00:20:04] And so, while a lot of people don’t enjoy public speaking and might get drained by it for a highly sensitive person, that actual physiological reaction to it on a prolonged scale might be more draining than someone who feels fear when they think about public speaking, but once they get into it, they’re actually okay and it doesn’t drain ’em as much. So I think we are all on the spectrum in terms of how we experience the world and, and the things that drain us to, to a certain extent.
[00:20:33] Rachel: So if we go back to energy management, what other advice do you give to people about how to manage your energy? And I think this is useful, whether you are highly sensitive. But as, as someone who is highly sensitive, you’ve obviously looked into how you manage your own energy and help lots of clients do that. Are there any sort of universal principles that you would love people really to get a grip of?
[00:20:58] Becki: I think if we think of it in a, kind of an ABC format in terms of managing energy. The first one is, is authenticity. So it’s being true to yourself, uh, and the way that you experience the world. Whether that’s you are highly sensitive or you have another neurodivergence, or even if you’re neurotypical, it takes a lot more energy to be like someone else than it does to just for yourself. And so, thinking about what your unique gifts are wherever you fall on that spectrum, and leaning into actually using your unique gifts rather than trying to be like someone else.
[00:21:35] And also things like looking at your values. So what are your values and are you currently living in a way that is in keeping with those? And if you are doing a lot of things that don’t reflect your values, that can be really draining of your energy as well, no matter where you fall on, on the spectrum of, of neurodivergence.
[00:21:53] If we then go onto the B aspect, then it’s boundaries. And I’m particularly gonna focus on energetic boundaries, but that is things like you could make a list about what are your energy drains in life at the moment, or who are your energy drains and who are your energy radiators? And you know, to give an example, that could be that actually, yeah, if you are that GP in the practice who everyone comes to with their complex emotional stuff and by the end of the day you feel drained, what are your energy radiators that if, even if you don’t change the way that you run your clinic, that you can suddenly bring yourself back up, you know, bring your battery up at the end of the day? And that could be going to a dance class and shaking it out and really just getting rid of some of that energy that you’ve absorbed. Or it could be blocking out the evening and going home and reading a book with a hot chocolate and a fluffy blanket. You know, it’s like, what are the things that help you to, to come back down.
[00:22:49] And that kind of brings me onto the C aspect, which is calming your nervous system. Um, so I know you did a recent podcast on trauma and the importance of bringing our, our nervous system down when it’s kind of up and, you know, when we see Gazelle’s being chased by a lion, they shake it off afterwards. And a lot of the time we don’t complete that energetic cycle and we just go from one thing to the next. And it’s particularly important for highly sensitive people, but important for everyone that you kind of complete that stress cycle and calm your nervous system.
[00:23:20] So what are the things that bring your nervous system back down to baseline? It could be spending time in nature, getting out even into the garden with your feet in the grass for 10 minutes. You know, it could be meditation, it could be yoga, it could be kickboxing. What is it that actually just lets your nervous system kind of recalibrate and come back down because you can’t always be right up there.
[00:23:43] Rachel: I don’t think we think about that enough do we? Nervous system coming down. Is it, it’s interesting. I was just thinking about myself. I’m doing a lot of conference talks this week. I think I’m doing five, um, over a couple of days. And I abs I’m one of those weird people that absolutely love talking in front of a big crowd in fact, the more the, the more the merrier. But it, it takes a lot out of you and there’s quite a lot of adrenaline going around. And I’ve got a couple of webinars in the evening as well. And as you were saying that, I was thinking, yeah, I’m having a week where I’ve got a lot of adrenaline going on and how yeah, I’m challenging myself, how am I letting my nervous system come down and reset in between? ’cause my natural inclination is just come home, get on with load of work, and then go off and do the next thing rather than actually, um, let it go into rest and digest. And yeah, there is that thing about even just like you said, 10 minutes of taking a break or a bit of meditation can be really helpful and, and sometimes I think, oh, I’ve gotta have a whole weekend off, a whole day off. But actually it, it can just be a question of five minutes sitting quietly doing some grounded breathing, can’t it?
[00:24:51] Becki: Yeah, absolutely. I’m a big fan of the, uh, the toilet cubicle shake. Um, so yeah, getting people to, you know, if they’ve just gone through a really stressful situation at work or conflict or something like that, to just go off to the loo and just shake from head to toe for two minutes in a toilet cubicle. And it might sound absolutely ridiculous, but honestly, if you haven’t tried it, go and try it because it really does change your state, um, because you’re just getting some of that adrenaline out and, and then you can go forth and, and do whatever you need to do. Feeling a bit better usually.
[00:25:26] Rachel: The Taylor Swift, Shake it Off, right? Shake it off. Absolutely. And yeah, I can imagine. ’cause you know, seeing patients, you have to listen to a lot of really, really tricky stuff and you absorb a lot of stuff. So, you know, even the, just the shaking, shaking it, it off in between patients. ’cause if you took everything around with you all the time. Yeah. It’s, it’s tough, isn’t it?
[00:25:48] So, coming into system boundaries, then authenticity. Um, do you think that most of us really know who we really are, what our unique gifts are, what our values are? Or do you find that when people come to you, they’re pretty clueless?
[00:26:04] Becki: Usually pretty clueless. Um, generally, unless we’ve done some specific work on this, we are just molded by, you know, how we grew up and then particularly in medicine, how we’ve been socialized to, to be through that career, which is quite unique. Um, and often along the way, you know, we lose that pub of ourselves. And how many people in. Medicine or how stress profession say, oh, I used to do this and I used to do that, but I don’t do it anymore? And it is, you know, we’ve lost that. And often, you know, the joy of coaching people is helping them to rediscover those parts of themselves that they haven’t uncovered for a while and actually is still there and getting them to realize what their unique gifts are. And I think it does take a bit of work to, to do that. It doesn’t just happen. Um, but it’s so worthwhile.
[00:26:56] Rachel: It strikes me as well that if you do work out what your strengths are and what you used to enjoy doing, i e maybe some hobbies even that’s gonna be really good for calm your nervous system down as well. So, so often we give up doing those things that we need to do to get better or just to feel better when we get too busy. And so we end up just doing the work, don’t, we don’t, not doing anything that gets us into that flow state that can really get us, get us calm and, and feeling much, much better. So what other techniques or tips do you have for people that, that you work with that you find have been really effective?
[00:27:38] Becki: So other techniques are some preventative techniques that people can use. Um, this is particularly for around absorbing energy. So it’s things like, again, going back to that example of the GP in the clinic, but even if you work in a hospital, you know, we don’t always have a choice. Well, we do have a choice about which specialty we go into, but we, as you say, you don’t always know who you are when you’ve chosen that specialty and what works best for you. So sometimes it’s about, you know, you’re gonna have a really busy time, or you’re gonna see something that’s potentially traumatic. How do you prevent that from really affecting you too much?
[00:28:17] And sometimes that’s putting in some visualizations or energetic boundaries, so, so a favorite of mine is kind of, you know, just closing your eyes. This can be for 30 seconds, and just imagining yourself with roots coming down through the ground, grounding you, maybe an orb of light coming around just protecting you. And these are things that you imagine. Your brain doesn’t really know the difference between imagining and reality. So actually doing these things for even 30 seconds can really help you to just put that energetic barrier in, where you can feel a bit more protected, and if anything, it just makes you more aware as you’re going into it because you’ve had those 30 seconds to just think about it, to ground yourself again and just help you not to absorb quite as much.
[00:29:09] It’s most effective when you then combine it with something after the event as well. Whether that is the kind of the shaking it off or, you know, spending a a bit longer washing your hands where you’re kind of almost energetically washing away what you’ve just seen or or taken on, but just doing something to kind of complete that cycle again.
[00:29:27] Rachel: That sounds like a ritual to me. A lovely sort of yes. Protecting myself at the beginning and then like shaking it off afterwards and, um, yeah, to keep your energy sorted. I mean, how, how do you spot when your energy is, is starting to go?
[00:29:44] Becki: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And, and that is some work that, that I do with my clients because we don’t always spot it. And so it is really about awareness and being aware of your triggers. So if you know what your triggers are for depleting your battery for sensory overwhelm, you already know that you need to watch out for it.
[00:30:05] But it’s often physical sensations. So you know, it might be just something like a heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach, you know? Or it can be even things like migraines, you know, unexplained physical symptoms that tell us that actually things have gone a bit far. We’re either getting too much sensory input or we’ve gone beyond our exhaustion barrier that our battery’s depleted.
[00:30:28] It’s even something you can do if you tend to have a lot of migraines or a lot of unexplained symptoms is have, make a bit of a diary and start to notice when these come up, and see what the patterns were for it. And sometimes there will be patterns you think. Oh, okay. That happened and then that happened. And it, and it can be emotional things or it can just be, you know, it was a really sunny day and actually the bright light trigger the migraine, and that’s a sensory input. So it, then you know what to do about it. ’cause if you’ve figured out a pattern, then you can start think, okay, I really need to not go out without my polar ice sunglasses on Sunday morning, or, or I really need to put in some boundaries around my energy because that was an energy problem.
[00:31:09] You Know, even to the point of you might go to a party. It’s brilliant. You’re having so much fun. You’re seeing people you haven’t seen in ages, but you stay a bit too long beyond the point where it was fun and the next day you have an energy hangover where you’re just, you didn’t drink much, so you don’t really know why you feel so rubbish, but actually you’ve got a headache, you feel a bit sluggish. And that could be just that there was too much sensory input for too long, and actually maybe leaving an hour earlier would’ve been a good time without the energy hangover after.
[00:31:41] Rachel: Gosh, it’s interesting that concept of an energy hangover. I had one of those the other day. I hadn’t drank anything at all and I felt really hungover, but I think just the previous day. Just done a lot. Just done a lot. Just interacted an awful lot. Hadn’t had any breaks and yeah, my goodness. I was like, what’s, what’s going on? I’m not that old that I can get hangover without, without any alcohol at all. I mean, at my age, just like, like one glass of wine makes you feel pretty rubbish. But yeah, with none, that’s a bit unfair. Oh dear.
[00:32:12] What do you advise people to do to try and prevent burnout? Because you’ve already said about things that, um, that you could be particularly prone to burnout if you are highly sensitive, just from all the various different sensory inputs. So what would you be advising people to do a, a, aside from, you know, watching, watching your triggers, um, making sure you are managing your energy? Is there anything that would be a real. Red flag for burnout that someone said, well, I’m about to go and do this. And you’re thinking, oh gosh, you’re a highly sensitive person that I think that will be really bad for you. That’ll make you push you all the way to the edge of burnout. I really wouldn’t do that if I was you. Any, any like, and I know you probably, you’re gonna say, well, it depends what it is and depends on the person, but is there anything that would be particularly difficult that you would probably just wanna say to people, just, just be careful around that particular type of scenario?
[00:33:05] Becki: Well, yes, you’re right. Everyone is different. Um, but I think one of the, the key things that’s difficult and can contribute to burnout is doing things on a prolonged period that are not aligned with your values and the way that you experience the world. So if you know that your triggers are around perhaps not being listened to about not being able to affect injustice, and we’re getting into the realms here of moral injury and compassion fatigue, which is, you know, rife at the moment in the medical profession, and you’re someone who’s very sensitive to that, you’re sensitive to injustice. You want to be able to change it, and you’re being put in a position where you are constrained and you can’t, that is a recipe for burnout. ’cause that’s, that’s a values conflict at a very core level. You can’t make the change that you really need to make that’s a core part of you. And so I think that’s really why it’s great to get very clear on, on what your values are and the difference you are here to make.
[00:34:08] And a common issue that I see is people bouncing from one thing to the other. For example, you might be a doctor and then you get very passionate about climate change, for example, and you’re like, oh, this is so important. People are dying because the climate crisis. I wanna make a difference here. But if you haven’t got clear on what your unique differences to make, you can end up just doing anything to do with that, but it’s something that’s not aligned with you.
[00:34:32] So if you are really one of your energy radiators is connecting with people, and speaking to people, but you choose a role that’s very much based in policy and writing documents and getting involved in, in the politics of things, and you’re not speaking to people at all, then that’s not aligned with with the best magic that you can do. So if you’re passionate about something, try to choose the thing that lights you up within that passion, because there’ll be someone else who gets lit up by doing policy and getting involved in the politics and for them that will energize them. But if that’s not your bag, choose the thing that will energize you, because that’s the key, you know, to not burn out you need to be doing something that you’re passionate about, that that gives you purpose, but that you can use your own unique gifts in, so that you can do it for the long term. ’cause we need people to be, you know, doing things for 30 years, not three years, and then burning out. That’s how you make your best difference.
[00:35:28] Rachel: I mean, that’s absolutely brilliant advice for anybody, actually. Not, not just for highly sensitive people. Yeah. If you do something you’re not aligned to, eventually it, it’s gonna be really difficult for you.
[00:35:37] Uh, we’re nearly out of time, Becki, but before we finish, I. I’m sure that people are listening to this and they’ve either gone, Gosh, I’m a highly sensitive person, or a moderately sensitive person, or they’re thinking, oh my goodness, I, I know that person definitely is. You know that, yeah, I’ve got a colleague like that. I’ve got a partner like that. I’ve got a child like that. What can people who aren’t highly sensitive do to help people who are, if they’re working with them, how can they sort of make allowances to get them the best out of them?
[00:36:06] Becki: Yeah. Thank you for asking that question. ’cause I think that’s really important. Um, We are getting more used to neurodivergence and the concepts of it, and I think we’re getting. I guess kinder in the workplace in terms of understanding that as long as people are doing things safely and they’re getting things done, there are different ways to do things.
[00:36:25] So I think part of it is, is recognizing that there are different ways to do things and, and that’s okay. And also listening. So if someone who’s highly sensitive has noticed something and they’re telling you, I don’t know, something feels off, or something’s, something’s going on, listen. Try not to dismiss and say, well, I think you’re just being oversensitive. It’s fine. ’cause actually they may be seeing something that, that you are not seeing and listening to them will help validate that. And, and then you can move forward on, on how to actually take action.
[00:36:59] And the other thing is where we touched upon, you know, in meetings where highly sensitive people are taking lots of information, they may not always in the moment come up with things. So it’s always giving them time after to, to approach you about things or if you particularly want their input to tell them before the meeting, Hey, you know, I’d really like your input on this. Could you have a think of it before the think about it before the meeting, and then, you know, tell us what you think? So it’s just giving them that forewarning.
[00:37:27] And people who are highly sensitive can do this themselves as well. You know, you don’t have to go around telling people, Hey, I’m highly sensitive, but you can just ask for these adjustments and take some responsibility for your experience in terms of, you can go to your manager and say, if you want my opinion on something, could you ask me ahead of that meeting and I’ll, I’ll look at it for you and I’ll tell you? So, so as well, if you’re supporting highly sensitive people, being receptive to those adjustments that they’re asking for. And, and trying it out. And actually you might get better out of them than just trying to do things the usual way.
[00:38:02] Rachel: You did just say when you’re listening to them, don’t dismiss the fact, you know, don’t say, oh, you’re just being oversensitive about that thing. Are highly sensitive people, sometimes a bit oversensitive in reading stuff where there is nothing?
[00:38:16] Becki: That’s a difficult one to answer, I think.
[00:38:19] Rachel: Not trick. I’m, I’m, I’m really, I’m really intrigued by this. I guess the answer is, its depends, right?
[00:38:25] Becki: It does depend, and, and of course it always depend as well on people’s experience of, of things like trauma as well. If you are highly sensitive and you’ve experienced something that other people wouldn’t see as traumatic, you might experience it as a trauma, which will then make you hypervigilant to that happening again. So, so it does depend a bit on, on the situation. Um, and I suppose that where it comes into listening to them. It doesn’t mean that you have to do what they said, but it, it’s that, I guess helping them feel heard and then when there is something that really is a threat in the future, even if this one isn’t, They will still come to you and tell you about it, rather than feeling like, well, nobody’s listening anyway. And so, you know, they don’t come to you next time. So I think that’s probably where it, it’s most important.
[00:39:13] Rachel: Yeah, and there’s always some discernment there isn’t there? About, yeah. I’ll listen and then, then get curious and ask, ask more questions. And the problems come when we’re asking the questions that we’re not listening. A hundred percent.
[00:39:26] So what tips have you got? If you had to sort of come up with three top tips for, um, people who would identify as highly or, or moderately sensitive to be able to navigate the life of work with a bit more grace and ease and joy, what, what would it be?
[00:39:45] Becki: So my first top tip would be it takes much less energy to be yourself than to be like somebody else. So, really do reflect on what your unique gifts are, because it’s much more easeful to lean into those than to try to be like somebody else. So I would really emphasize that point.
[00:40:04] Secondly, you know, your energy is finite, so get really clear on what your energy drains and radiators are, what your triggers are for sensory overwhelm, and make sure that you’re calming your nervous system on a regular basis. And that’s for everybody. Um, but you just might need to do it more often as a, as a highly sensitive person. Um, and being unapologetic about that really, and just saying, well, this is what I need and then you’ll get the best out of me. So, you know, explaining that if you need to.
[00:40:34] And then thirdly, if you think you’re highly sensitive or you have people in your life who are highly sensitive, go and find out more information about it. So, I’d recommend Elena Aron’s book, the Highly Sensitive Person. If you want to get clearer on kind of what your unique gifts are, um, then coaching is really great for that. And I would say seek out a coach who gets it. There’s lots of free coaching around, but the benefit of choosing your coach is that you can choose someone who will have the right tools for you as someone who, in a way experiences the world differently to most people, uh, so that you get the most out of it.
[00:41:11] Rachel: Right. I was just about to ask you about resources actually. So there’s that book. Is there any particular podcasts or videos that you’ve come across that, that talk about this anymore?
[00:41:22] Becki: So there were lots of articles out there about highly sensitive people. There are lots of articles out there about non stereotypical autism and you know, where the overlaps might happen in terms of sensory overwhelm and things like that. Um, I know you had Matthew Behringer on the podcast earlier in the year, so he talks a bit about high sensitivity as well as he’s got a podcast as well, so there’s lots out there. it’s just finding the, the things that resonate with you.
[00:41:53] Rachel: That’s great. And of course, Becki, you offer coaching yourself, so if people wanted to get hold of you and find out more about what you do, how can they get hold of you?
[00:42:01] Becki: Uh, yeah. So I’m on LinkedIn, um, or you can check out my website. It’s bts-coaching.co.uk. And I’ve got a free guide for listeners for the podcast if you want to delve a bit more into high sensitivity and, and showing up as you, and so that would be on bts-coaching.co.uk/yanaf.
[00:42:22] Rachel: Wonderful. So we’ll put all those links in the show notes. Becki, it’s been really wonderful having you with us today. Thank you so much for being here. And I’m sure it’s gonna be really eye opening for, for lots of people. And, um, I think those tips that you gave, they totally applied to everyone, actually. Be authentic, get clear on your energy drains and radiators. Calm your nervous system down and. Unapologetic about that. And, and the key to all of that is setting boundaries, isn’t it? Because unless you start setting boundaries, you can’t, you can’t do any of that can you? So really, really important stuff. So thank you so much for being with us and we’ll speak again soon. Thank you.
[00:42:57] Becki: Thank you.
[00:42:59] Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at email@example.com. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.