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February 5, 2021

A Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Big Game Sunday

Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur on Pexels.

The time is upon us – joyfully awaiting the big game. Or maybe not.

Many HSPs like myself look upon sporting with as much excitement as our yearly dental exams. We just have to get through it. The noise (the Grinch refrain plays in my brain), manic energy, violence of fans and players, and the smell of various “party” foods create a recipe for overwhelm.

HSP is shorthand for highly sensitive people, and we comprise about 20 percent of the population. The name says it all. Highly sensitive people are exquisitely attuned to sensory input, including sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile stimulation.

Recognizing this was my own version of a touchdown.

The good news is that recognition leads to action, and that there are ways to get though, and dare I say, enjoy the day.

Identify what you like. Are there things that you like about the Big Game? Maybe it’s seeing family or friends. Maybe you’ve been craving your sister’s buffalo dip. Or you adore halftime commercials. Naming the fun parts of the day can help balance the scorecard.

Prepare. Anticipate what could be triggering, and plan for it. What about the day feels overwhelming? The constant motion, or competition? There are ways to reduce these. What will help increase your bandwith? Is it getting a good night’s sleep the evening before, and not going to the festivities too early.

It’s helpful to be an out of the box thinker here. Triggers may also include emotions that come up, such memories of being told you are “too sensitive” or “too needy.” If you were ridiculed for being an HSP, those wounds may get reopening every time the game of games airs.

Limit your exposure. Know where to limit your exposure. If you tend to be overwhelmed by the noise, take a break when needed. Be aware of those internal cues that signal overwhelm. I often first notice a twitchiness, which can quickly be followed by a pit in my stomach. Other times it’s more of a suffocation or numbness.

Physical signs tell me: you need a break. Splash some water on your face, breath, center. It’s ok to take one, or even to make it an early evening.

Reducing sensory input. Growing up in a family of Philly Sportsfans, I was especially aware of how noisy sports events are. It was not only the noise of the game itself, but of my family, yelling at the slackers, cheering at touchdowns. The problem was that yelling, no matter the context, sounds like anger. Witness the aforementioned pit in stomach and fear response. If you want to remain as part of the action wear earplugs to reduce the noise. Alternately seclude in a quiet room, with noise cancelling headphones, or plan a night out with non-sport-loving podmate.

Recognize past invalidations. If what seems to be arising is connected to past invalidating comments about sensitivity, it’s helps to know that this is what has been triggered. When feeling emotionally bruised, identify what caused the pain. Acknowledge that your hurt is valid, and seek support from others who understand. Some ways to self-comfort are: a warm bath, good book, soothing cup of tea, or petting your cat. Those braver souls can also call out invalidating responses.

Know you are not alone. If your goal is simply to get to Monday, that’s ok. But know that others face the day with an equal measure of ambivalence or dislike. Being an HSP has it’s challenges, but most of us are resilient to a fault.

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