How to Cope as an HSP When You Start Spiraling into Despair

Understanding HSP and trauma can help you learn to cope when you feel like you’re spiraling into a pit of despair.

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you feel so deep in the pit of despair when you’re walking through hard times as an introverted Christian woman or as a highly sensitive person? The truth is that one of the gifts that come with being an introverted or highly sensitive woman is the ability to feel things deeply. 

It’s where the gift of empathy comes from. It’s how you’re able to excel in relationships and making deep connections with other people. Sometimes, especially when we’re walking through hard times, the tendency to feel so deeply can almost backfire on you. 

Today I want to give you some encouragement about how you can cope and deal with life as someone who feels things deeply so that you don’t have to stay so deep in the pits just because life is hard right now.

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I’ve been pretty open about my mental health struggles as I found myself in a dark place last year. Sharing what I have learned over the past year of reading, taking care of myself, and getting some help. 

I went to therapy, began taking meds, and learned a lot about myself that helped explain why I felt so bad for so long. I’ve also learned some ways to cope better and how to take care of myself and still show up for my people. I wanted to share some of that today. 

I’m not a mental health professional. I am just sharing my experience with you. Please take what works for you and do your research. 

As an introverted person, you have this gift of connection. You connect deeply with people. You’re not great with large groups and don’t like small talk, but you’re great with one-on-one deep conversations. 

You excel with the chance to get below the surface and go deep with other people. If you add on being a highly sensitive person to that, you might also have the added benefit (or struggle), of a strong gift of empathy.

You feel what they feel, and it enables you to just be an encouragement and support for other people. When it comes to your stuff, as I found last year, it can send you spiraling down into a pit that seems to be so deep you can’t get out of it.

This is exactly where I found myself last year, feeling so deep in the pit of despair that I didn’t even have the energy or the strength to look up to see how far down I was. I just knew that I felt down and that nothing that I was doing was helping. 

There are many reasons that this happens. Like the brain chemistry that goes on in introverted high-sensitive people. I do not have enough education to explain it to you, but there’s something in your brain that affects the way you experience highs and lows. 

For me, I am either numb and flat, way down deep in the pits, or just fine. I don’t have highs, it’s just not my personality. I’ve learned that can be the norm for introverted and high-sensitive people.

HSP and Trauma: What it Looks Like

When you’re walking through something hard and struggle to cope it can look very different. It can look like extreme irritability where everybody is getting on your very last nerve – even your favorite person. 

You look at your kids and they’re annoying, your spouse is annoying, and your girlfriends are annoying. Everything makes you extremely irritable. You may also be more aggressive than usual. I’m not talking about being violent and abusive towards people, but you might be more aggressive. 

You might find yourself losing your temper more often because your fuse is a lot shorter than it usually is. I found myself last year at the point where I had to keep restraining myself from screaming at my preschooler, for being a preschooler. 

He was not doing anything that would have warranted me screaming at him because he’s a small child. I just really felt like I was holding in screams all the time from the people around me. You might find yourself engaging in risky or destructive behavior. 

Things like drinking too much, shopping too much, or eating too much. Anything that you might lean into to try to numb the pain and the deep-in-the-pits emotions that you’re having. Another thing that happens is something called hypervigilance. 

I’m guilty of this. It’s when you are super alert all the time, looking for all of the bad things that might happen. Super aware to the point that you can’t ever relax because you’re on the lookout for the next shoe that’s going to drop. 

Wondering what’s the next bad thing that’s going to happen. What’s the next bad news that’s coming? Being in this heightened state of stress is not good for you. I’m naturally sensitive to sound and startle very easily. I am even more sensitive when I’m super stressed.

My poor son will walk around the corner and I’ll jump out of my skin. He always says, “Mom, didn’t you just see me coming down the hallway?” You might struggle with concentrating or sleeping. With all the things going on you’re overwhelmed. 

Your mind, your brain, and your body are overwhelmed with all of the hard stuff that you’ve been dealing with. From the outside this can sometimes look like withdrawal, pulling away from people, or you’re hiding. It’s really a way of trying to avoid overstimulation when you can’t handle one more thing.

There are things you can do when you feel like this. I’ll tell you right up front none of these things are quick fixes or cures. They’re things that you can do during survival mode until you get to a place where you can function better.

Walking through a hard time and aren’t sure how to climb out of your pit of despair and move forward? Get to the root of the problem by learning to manage your emotions and negative thoughts so you can learn how to recognize God’s presence in the messy middle of pain and suffering with a Peace-Filled Mind™ coaching session

HSP and Trauma: Know What Your Triggers Are 

The first tip is to know what your triggers are. I talk about this a lot when I talk about being an HSP or an introvert. What are the things that you already know tend to send you spiraling down? Is it health problems, financial problems, or relational problems? 

Pay attention to your body and your mind to know what it feels like when you’re triggered. What does it feel like in your body? Do you feel tense, is it hard to breathe, does your stomach or head hurt? 

The reason you want all of this information is so that you can recognize the spiral before it gets too deep and too bad. I have found that if I can catch myself at the beginning of the spiral I don’t spiral down as far as I otherwise would.

HSP and Trauma: Don’t Get Overstimulated or Stressed

The second tip is to try to not get overstimulated or stressed. This goes back to that withdrawal or hiding I mentioned before. It is okay to retreat to your safe place so that you can take care of yourself and avoid being overstimulated or adding extra stress. 

You might have to do one of two things for the people around you. Either explain it to them as best you can to try and educate them beforehand or be okay with the fact that they’re not going to understand and they may drive you a bit nuts. Trying to pull you out and get you to engage. 

Make up your mind which one of those two you can handle at the moment. It’s okay to retreat a little. To try to eliminate extra stimulus and stress while you’re trying to deal with the spiral that you’re experiencing.

HSP and Trauma: Spend Time with Your Safe People

On the flip side of that, I do want to encourage you to spend time with your safe people. We should all have safe people in our lives. People who know you, who love you, who support you, and who you can go to when you’re struggling to ask for help or support. 

Someone who is okay with you just showing up at their house and who will sit on the couch with you while you cry. People who will bring you a meal if you’re too down to cook or whatever you need like a lifeline while you are trying to cope until you can take care of yourself again.

HSP and Trauma: Give Yourself Space to Grieve and Process Your Emotions

Next, I want to encourage you to give yourself the space that you need to grieve and/or process your emotions. I know that these emotions are big and overwhelming and they can be scary, but you don’t do yourself a disservice by ignoring them. 

If you are devastated, be devastated. Just sit with it and allow yourself to feel the devastation and work through that. I have found that when spiraling into the pit, you stay there. You’re burdened by all the emotions and the feelings that you’re having because you’re not able to cope and deal with those things. 

As best you can, whatever you’re feeling, if it’s anger, grief, anxiety, or worry, whatever it is that you’re feeling, feel it. Give yourself space to sit with it, feel it, process it, and work through it. You’ll be better off for it.

HSP and Trauma: Ask for help

This is a fantastic space to ask for help. Maybe you have a friend that you can process things with, a coach, or a therapist as your go-to person to help you process things. A licensed counselor is a great choice because it’s what they’re trained for. 

Don’t be afraid to sit with the overwhelm, as hard as it may be, and process your way through it with support, help, and encouragement. Just remember to be kind and gentle with yourself. You’ll need a lot of rest, breaks, and downtime because being overwhelmed takes a toll on every aspect of your body. 

You don’t have to be stuck in the pit and resign yourself to just be in the pit and the downward spiral forever. You can learn to cope with it once you can work your way through it and you can come out on the other side. 

Final Thoughts on HSP and Trauma

These are all things that I have done in the past year and a half that have helped me. It feels really good to be on the other side of the constant spirals. I don’t spiral as much anymore to the point of being so down I can’t get out. I’ve been able to handle stress and the hard things that come a lot better by going through the things that I’ve shared with you here.

I know what my triggers are, I permit myself to retreat to a safe place, and I have people that I know are safe and take care of me. I learned the importance of giving myself the time and the space to process what I need to process and of asking for help when I need it. 

Getting that support and help that I need has been so key to helping me get to a better place with all the hard things going on.  I can live and enjoy my life. And when something tries to drag me down, I can recognize it and I move forward. 

I hope that if you are in this place where everything is just awful and you can’t handle one more thing, that you have found something that will encourage you today. Again, I just want to encourage you to reach out to your health professional or your mental health professional if you need it. It’s such an important tool and support that can make a difference.

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HSP and trauma doesn’t have to leave you overwhelmed and unable to live your life.

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