I got into the field of education because I thrive on connecting with others. But as the expectations on educators go up and the funding goes down, there is understandably a lot of stress around me that I have a tendency to pick up. This is a common problem of Highly Sensitive and Highly Excitable People who often find themselves in helping professions.
It is useful to step back and get some alone time to regroup. Being an extrovert though, I gain energy from being around people. So how does one find balance when a part of you is easily overstimulated and a part of you needs to go out and engage. These are some things that I’ve found helpful for myself:
Learn to be alone. When I was single, I did everything I could not to be alone. If I wasn’t working or with my son, I was almost always out with my friends. I used to pull cards from a deck with transitional themes and occasionally I would get the “void” card, which describes itself by saying, “you may be covering up the emptiness or pain through an addiction.” Now for me, addiction didn’t come in substances or typical “addictive” activities, but in my fear of being alone and fear of missing out. If my friends were out and I were free, I wanted to be there. If I were home alone, I would do anything go get out of the house. Once I started a meaningful business though, and I felt some direction with my time outside of my “day job,” I was able to enjoy and savor my alone time. Now that I have another adult in the house, I don’t feel the need to go out as much, and I value the time I have to just do my own thing.
Choose your company. I used to pride myself on my ability to get along with challenging people. I was flattered that picky people wanted to spend time with me. Now I realize that the biggest challenge for me is not in having people like me but in setting limits and inviting people into my life that nourish me instead of ones that drain me. I still cast a wide social net, but there are only a few people that I am super close to. Those I spend the most time with I am consistently energized by, though of course we all have our rough times. I once ended a relationship with a great man because for some reason I felt consistently drained when we were together. We maintain a high respect for eachother, but in a relationship we just didn’t work.
Find your purpose. As I mentioned above, once I felt a sense of purpose outside of my “day job”, I was able to enjoy my alone time more. Finding a sense of purpose can help guide you in deciding exactly what choices in your life will feed that purpose and what will detract from it. This will help in deciding what social activities will be energizing and what you might find more draining.
Just say no. Learn to say no to things that aren’t fun or in line with your purpose. Take a close look at how you spend your time and decide what things are really worth the investment. Time is one of your most valuable resources, so spend it well. This includes making time for play and self-care. If you are tempted to go out, but not really sure if you should. Step back and look at why you want to go. Are you afraid of missing out on something? Are you avoiding time alone with yourself? Or is this something that really will revitalize you? By all means, don’t be afraid to say yes as well – just know what you are saying yes too.
To be a Highly Sensitive extrovert is anything but boring. If you embrace all aspects of yourself and learn your limits though, it can be a fun adventure!