Highly Sensitive People – 4 Ways To Stop Emotional Snowballing


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highly sensitive person

Your heart pounds, you begin to tremble, your chest constricts, pain shoots through your core, your mind blurs ...  and all this, simply as a response to a threat, insult or even a simple tone of voice.  Highly sensitive people frequently live life on the brink of emotional snowballing, a term I use to describe a situation where emotions get out of control, and quickly become out of proportion to the situation at hand.

Just think of a small snowball rolling down a very steep hill - it becomes larger and larger and rolls faster and faster very quickly.  Form many highly sensitive people, this emotional turbulence is a fact of life.  But why?  As Elaine Aron pointed out in her book The Highly Sensitive Person, "most of us are deeply affected by other people's moods and emotions". In fact, you could say that most highly sensitive people are simply excellent chameleons to the emotional landscapes around them.

This can be good news if everything is peachy bliss, but many times, highly sensitive people find themselves absorbing the poisonous negativity around them.  You could say that the highly sensitive person's problem is taking things too personally.  But it's much more than that.  The highly sensitive person is deeply affected by any highly stimulating situation, whether physical, mental and emotional.

In a sense, you could say they feel everything at a more extreme level than the non-HSP person.  While this can make life a lot more profound for highly sensitive people, it can also make interpersonal relations very bitter indeed.

Below you will find 4 techniques I have found useful in preventing emotional snowballing.  I'm a highly sensitive person myself and hope these will help quell the tidal waves of emotion when they roll your way.

Highly Sensitive People - 4 Techniques To Stop Emotional Snowballing

Although these techniques appear to be very common-sense and obvious, remembering them and putting them into practice is easier said than done.  My hope is that they will implant a seed in your mind that you can carry away with you and remember, when the time comes to deal with any emotional strife that comes your way.

1.  Seek out a quiet, empty spot to cool down.

As I mentioned before, highly sensitive people suffer a lot at the hands of hyper-arousing and stimulating situations.  The best thing to do when you become aware of the symptoms of emotional stress is to remove yourself from the situation.  Excuse yourself, or simply walk away from the person or people that are causing you harm and find a deserted, empty place.

I say deserted and empty because the least stimulating, the better.  You need to make time to re-cooperate and soften the violent sensations inside of you.  I find that the bathroom is usually the best place to go, especially when the lights are out and everything is muted and dim.

2.  Focus on something that made you happy today.

If nothing made you happy today, try the past week, or you could think about the best thing that ever happened to you.  I find that focusing on something positive helps break the cycle of negative emotions that begin to quickly increase inside.  It also helps remind you that life wasn't always as painful as it seems in the present moment, and helps give you perspective.

If you have had a bad run in with a specific person in particular, you can also try thinking of the last time you enjoyed being in their company.  Did they make you laugh, did you share something nice together, were you excited to talk to them?  This works especially well with family members and close friends who have upset you.

It's good to remember that everyone has bad days once in a while, and they aren't necessarily angry at you - in fact, usually they aren't.  They are simply reacting to their own bad feelings and taking it out on you.  Once again, this technique of focusing on a past positive experience works well after you've sought out a quiet and empty spot to re-cooperate.


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3.  Listen to, or watch something upbeat. 

The biggest mistake that I made as a highly sensitive person was to listen to melancholic, dark music when I felt emotionally strained.  Although it's nice to feel as though others can relate to the way you feel through their music, this is not a healthy way to deal with emotional turmoil.

If you're primarily an auditory learner like me, listening to happy music is one of the best ways to stop emotional snowballing.  Try listening to "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bob McFerrin for starters!  If you're primarily a visual learner however, the next best alternative is to watch a comedic movie that will allow you to relax and break out of the negative cycles of emotion.  Have a list of comedy movies at hands, just so you don't loose time frantically scavenging for one.

4.  Remember that this too will pass. 

This philosophic approach to preventing emotional snowballing for the highly sensitive person, is a powerful way to transcend your emotional strife and look at life with a birds eye perspective.  Think of everything good and bad that has ever happened to you.  All of it has passed by and has been replaced with something different: the good with the bad, and the bad with the good.

Life is a constant flux, and a wax and wane of good and bad.  If everything was always good, we would find life boring and we'd take it for granted.  In this way, the bad moments in our lives can even be seen as necessary and beneficial - they provide a contrast for the good so we can appreciate it even more fully.

So just remember: when you are close to an emotional snowball, remember that this too will pass.  Like everything in your past, it will perish and be replaced with something else.

 If you have any suggestions for fellow highly sensitive people, please share them below.  As they say, sharing is caring. :)

Photo by: Davi Ozolin


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  1. Glow says

    Cool tips! Tnx! I recently got married, boy! So much more emotions to deal with. Didn’t know what an HSP was up until a week or two ago, and I definately tick all the boxes. Keeps a man humble… Unfortionately over reacting causes extra damage in this fragile new marriage, I have to learn quick :) Good to know that I’m not the only one out there. I’ve recently told my wife to let me go chill for a bit if I realise that my emotions are getting the better of me, this definately helps, as you said in point 1.

  2. Livnam says

    I have non-verbal learning disorder, the autistic spectrum disorder Asperger syndrome, and people whom I have only met online claim I am anything from a Lightworker to an Empath and Earth Angel and goodness knows what else. I am constantly on the brink, and things like for example a full moon is enough to throw me off for days. I got a text from my mother today saying that “I don’t know what’s wrong with you these days, my daughter is not nice to be around.” I cover my hairline and top of my head when in public and around people to avoid impressions, but how can I best stop my spiritual sensitivity? Pardon the rough word, but I hate the phrase “Sensitivity is a gift from God”. It’s like reading how menopausal women claim the period is sacred and wonderful. (girls with Asperger + the monthly cycle is a disaster.)

    • says

      There could be many explanations for your sensitivity Livnam. In the end it is really up to you and what makes the most logical and/or intuitive sense. You could go for a down-to-earth explanation such as your sensitivity is due to emotional/chemical imbalances that need to be harmonized somehow. Or you could go with a more mystical explanation such as you are an empath, indigo child, or other concepts.

      Personally, I think that being a highly sensitive person is a reasonable explanation, particularly with physical sensitivity both towards yourself (and say, what you feel inside when you go through menstruation), and the environment, e.g. loud noise, temperature, smells, etc.

      Rather than figuring out what to define yourself as, I think it would be more constructive to find ways of balancing your emotions and thoughts — perhaps with medicinal herbs, or different types of practices (tai chi, qigong, meditation, PMR).

  3. Katherine says

    Thank you for the articles you have written about HSP. I came online, because I just had a horrible morning. I made a mistake at work last night and someone wrote a negative comment on yelp about it. My boss texted me, I apologized, and he said “no worries, let’s handle this situation differently next time”. So I wasn’t really in trouble, but it didn’t matter though. I cried and cried and cried this morning!! It made me so upset that I had made this mistake, and it just feels so scary that if something trivial like this can make me so upset, what will happen when I make huge mistakes or experience real pain?? It is so exhausting and it can feel so defeating. Situations like this happen to me all the time, and I guess I am realizing, this happens to other people too? These strong emotions are normal for me, and others too? I am not defective because I am SO SENSITIVE??

    • says

      Katherine … I really feel where you’re coming from. In the past I experienced this REALLY badly, and every little thing seemed to set me off. It’s scary walking around in life realizing that anything can tip you over the edge – and that thought was what inspired me to finally explore myself and understand WHY I was over-reacting to everything. I discovered that the primary source of my problem was low self-esteem. I didn’t have faith or confidence in myself, and I found it hard to like the person I was … and so when that was reflected in any way in other people and their behavior towards me … I felt absolutely shattered. HSP’s are definitely more sensitive to their emotions than other people, but it is not at all impossible to regain that inner strength and resilience. I really recommend that you work on developing self-love. Start with daily affirmations, and learn to consciously reprogram your inner talk. I find something so simple as: “It’s OK honey, you’re going well, you can do this” said by me, TO me, helps me get through these difficult times. The more self-respect you develop, the less you will be affected by what other people say and do.

      I hope this helps!

      And no, you are not defective for being so sensitive. You can use this sensitivity to tune into what you need from yourself (as mentioned above). Sensitivity can work for us, or work against us – it is simply a matter of what we choose.

      • Katherine says

        Thank you so much! Yes, that makes sense about the low self esteem issue. I have been trying very hard to work on that and it is such a long process. I read many self improvement books, etc., but it certainly takes a while to reprogram what you have told yourself for years. It is so comforting to know you finally got through it. Hopefully I will too.

  4. Al says

    Thankyou luna,
    I have been instinctively following those suggestions before reading this, it has really helped to remove myself from an overstimulating environment and take time to gain perspective, i have also found that if i have to stay in uncomfortable place i take a deep breath and watch my thoughts and decide to choose positive thoughts and think: how can i handle this citation better, if i listen to my intuition i find peaceful solutions, eg i take steps to reduce noise turning radio off or explaining to others im overwhelmed or have a headache.

    • says

      Listening to your intuition is an excellent strategy for better peace of mind Al. In fact, I’d say that WITHOUT listening to it, we are often stranded because we do not have that deep connection to our mind and bodies. Thank you for the ideas!

  5. Onizuka says

    Hello Luna,
    thankyou for the article.
    Just 2 hours ago, ive come across the term HSP and realised that I am not the only one experiencing this.
    I want to know if all the HSPs manifest their reaction in a similar manner.
    For instance on many occasions when i am confronted, my lips start to tremble, as if i am just about to cry. Is that what other HSP’s experience as well or is it different for every individual?

  6. Luna says

    I discovered a little while ago that I was a HSP! A little before that, I had just gotten over a really tough year- alone. I’m glad that there’s people like me out there, but I have yet to meet someone who really understands me in person! I really appreciate all the articles you and Sol put out- they really help.

    I’m still having tough times now and then, of course, but not as bad as last year. I think that it’s like food for the soul, your articles, giving some insight on the mysterious ways of life. :)
    Even if I’m just a kid, I enjoy reading your articles and tests and will continue to do so.
    Thanks to you and Sol!

    • says

      Luna (cool name by the way, haha), it makes me so glad to know that the work of Sol and I can help to support, and nourish you, in this way. Not too long ago I also went through a very lonely and dark period in my life where nothing made sense, and I couldn’t relate to any single person. I felt like a complete alien searching for something, but not knowing what exactly I needed to find. Now I know that my struggles weren’t in vain, and that is a beautiful realization. And who knows? You could help others, and be a shoulder of support to those who have experienced what you have in the future, through whatever path you decide to take!

      Thank you so much for reading! :)

  7. Lupe says

    Great article. I don’t think I’d ever survive without tip #1. We HSPs definitely need our space to calm down and recenter ourselves. I realized this just today after having such a hectic day (running around doing errands then going to work,only to find out we’ve all been laid off),I felt a cacophony of emotions (sadness,bitterness,anger,all at once). After retreating to a quiet dark space (my room) for a few hours,my head is a lot clearer and my body feels a lot less fatigued.These techniques are definitely essential for HSP survival.