Diet. We’ll start here with The HSP Body. I like to suggest, if not insist, that my HSP clients pay special attention to their diets. I always ask them to slowly taper their caffeine intake to “half-caff” and then decaf (if like myself, they just love the taste of coffee), otherwise eliminate it completely. The caffeine boost can provoke our cortisol levels (stress hormone) to release and spike when the body does not need them. Decrease refined sugar foods as well as processed foods as much as possible. HSP’s highly sensitive CNS (central nervous systems) can be very reactive to chemicals and additives. I define it as the 90/10 rule; 90% of the time, try to eat only foods that come directly from the earth and mother nature. The other 10% of the time, you can give in to your comfort food whims if you must. The highs and lows provoked by the refined sugar in processed foods, along with the caffeine and cortisol, can wreak havoc with your insulin and energy levels.These highs and lows can confuse our bodies and also provoke a strong sense of anxiety (as many of us have experienced with increased heart rate, sweating and jitters). As bad, is the irritability that being so wired can provoke.
For example, one of my 20-something clients had looked long and hard for a new job. After months, and many interviews and near-hires, she was finally employed by a good solid company with chance of advancement. She needed first to show her best side during a 90-day probation period. The new schedule, highly competitive commission-based position (not recommended for HSPs), and room full of buzzing colleagues were exhausting for her. During our sessions, she began to describe her increased irritability to the point of having outright arguments with her colleagues and even her new supervisors! I was taken aback, as this was not the congenial, easy going gal I knew. As I went through some basic questions with her, what came out was that she was suddenly drinking several cups of coffee a day to keep her energy up and her mental focus sharp. We discussed many alternatives to caffeine in order to achieve the same level of energy and alertness (without the need for boxing gloves at work ;-). Low and behold, within a few days plus a little Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, her mood was back to her natural good nature and the aggression and irritability towards her colleagues remitted. She did succeed in passing her probation period with flying colors and is now gainfully employed with the much needed benefits the company offered.
There are caveats to the caffeine moratorium. One is in the case of a solid diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Some studies have concluded that the highly charged brain state of a person with ADHD, added to the positive charge of caffeine, actually add up to a more neutral, manageable brain state. A second caveat to tapering caffeine, is that other studies have suggested that caffeine can help in treating migraines. Please do your research if either of these effect your life. Otherwise, consider the many dozens of non-caffeinated herbal tea’s on the market. So many of these teas possess enormous healing qualities for just about everything under the sun. I recently even saw a coffee-flavored tea! That is quite a clever alternative. Also consider vitamin supplements such as B12 to enhance the body’s natural energy. It will not be easy at first as caffeine is addictive and you will have some withdrawal symptoms (headache, fatigue, etc). Yet to many of my clients surprise, in only a week or two, one’s natural energy returns and is more sustainable. Your body will start to function as it was meant to without the artificial boost.