How Overwhelm Can Actually Be Your Ally as An Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person

Would you say you get easily overwhelmed? Factors like like bright lights and sudden noises, the moods of other people, having a lot to do in not much time, and big changes in life circumstances, can all be sources of overwhelm for highly sensitive people.

A lot of the time we think of overwhelm as nothing but a bad thing. We try with all our might to avoid it by removing all potential causes. While this kind of response is understandable and can lead to a slightly more peaceful life, it also runs the risk of numbing us to a full spectrum of experience. And it denies the possibility that on the flip side of overwhelm are important lessons about who you are, how you can be the best version of yourself, and what really matters to you.

Your overwhelm can be your ally

Overwhelm can be an ally…

Isn’t that just a stupid idea? Don’t we just have to try and find ways to numb ourselves to the stuff that overwhelms us so that we can cope?

By all means…this is a valid option if that’s what you want to settle for. However, I struggle with that kind of resigned approach to life. I don’t think it’s helpful or necessary. None of us needs to go for the numbing approach to life if we don’t want. We just need to be open to explore some questions, and to be willing to learn from the feedback we gain from our experiences.

It sounds counterintuitive but I believe overwhelm can become an ally of highly sensitive people and introverts. And in this week’s podcast I explain what I mean and how we can turn overwhelm from something to fear into something to accept and learn from.

Ten Big Causes of Overwhelm

Certain things might be more overwhelming to you that they are to other people, and vice versa. I settled on 10 specific sources that can produce that overwhelmed response within us. And anchored them to traits on Elaine Aron’s self-test, so that we can see they are linked to the temperament.

Emotional Responsiveness

“I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.”


“I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.”

Art Type Things

“I am deeply moved by the arts or music.”


“I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.”

Moods of people/groups/situations

“Other people’s moods affect me.”

Environmental Factors

“I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.”


“I have a rich, complex inner life.”

Changes Outside of Your Control

“Changes in my life shake me up.”


“When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.”

In this episode I look at each of these 10 sources of overwhelm and suggest how we can see them as shining a light on “superpowers” rather than writing them off as curses.

Over to You

What resonated with you in this episode? Have you any experiences of turning a moment of overwhelm into something positive? Please share your response in the comments below.

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