From Bliss to Heartache: Surviving Life's Big Moments
How often have you been excited to attend a memorable gathering such as a wedding or milestone birthday party only to leave disappointed because the reality did not match your expectations? Or perhaps you were so touched by the experience that you felt elated to the point of overstimulation and couldn’t sleep that night. As Highly Sensitive People, we tend to have high expectations for life’s big moments and feel easily moved. I believe this is because we understand the importance and rarity of these significant events at a deeper level which can lead to a significant emotional impact.
When an event unfolds as our imagination anticipated, we are bound to revel in the beauty of the moment and feel blissful for days afterward. Life will feel hopeful and optimistic. On the other hand, any glitch or upsetting aspect during a special occasion might tarnish the entire event and lead to strong feelings of upset, anger or discouragement. More likely we tend to feel a complex range of emotions that may be unexpected or different from what others are going through. For instance, you may be surprised to find yourself feeling some sense of loss or grief at a joyous occasion such as a birth. Once-in-a-lifetime events can bring up feelings of sadness or instant nostalgia since they will never be experienced again.
Managing and processing our deeply felt responses to life’s big moments can be overwhelming and challenging, even when positive. Despite the difficulties or tendency to get easily overstimulated, we have the gift of appreciating all the little nuances to these important events. Be gentle with yourself and consider trying some of the tips below.
Big events can be extremely overstimulating with the emotional component, social stimulation and constant engagement. We need to keep our nervous systems regulated so that we have more capacity to manage our emotions and make good self-care choices for ourselves. How do we do this? It’s important to take regular breaks, whether that be taking a timeout in the restroom, going for a short walk outdoors or finding a quiet space to relax. If you are unable to step away, try any of these techniques:
- Close your eyes for a brief moment.
- Take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Press your palms together or give yourself a gentle hand massage.
- Notice as you push your feet firmly into the ground.
No matter what the outcome is, your highly sensitive brain is wired to process your experience of any situation at length, but especially more meaningful moments. You may find yourself replaying your favorite memories from the event in your mind or trying to comprehend why things did not unfold as planned. Give yourself time for this processing to happen. You may notice some self-judgement arise due to your different emotional reaction, whether that is more intense feelings of happiness, excitement, sadness or anger. Remind yourself that your heightened response is completely valid given your more responsive temperament.
Process Your Emotions
You will most likely feel a range of emotions from bliss to grief and will need time to process these reactions in order to let them go. Allow yourself space to cry or celebrate, journal and talk about your response with a friend or therapist. By giving yourself time to reflect, you will be able to make meaning of your emotional response as well as begin to dislodge any intense feelings such as sadness and honor the joyful moments.
Return to the Present Moment
Often times the intensity of our emotional response can cause us to have tunnel vision and only focus on what went wrong. This makes sense as we want to avoid feeling this difficulty again, but it can also cause us to forget the complexity of the occasion and miss out on the happy parts. Even when something goes awry, typically there are also successes. It can be helpful to look through photos of the event and talk to loved ones about positive experiences that you shared together.
Allow Time for Self-Care
Most importantly, give yourself time to rest. Experiencing a big life moment will be a lot to process both cognitively and emotionally, often leading to some level of overstimulation. Your body will need time to recharge and recalibrate. If possible, give yourself at least a day after the occasion to unwind in a quiet setting.
It can be very devastating when an important and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime moment does not go as planned or we feel too overstimulated to fully enjoy it. It’s true that we will never get that moment back, which can be difficult to accept. However, giving ourselves time to sit with the difficult emotions will help us process our experience and allow more space to focus on what celebratory moments did occur. Most importantly, know that whatever emotional reaction you are experiencing is completely understandable given your sensitive and responsive temperament. Give yourself time to reflect and recalibrate.