Highly sensitive people need a bit of extra emotional armor to take on emotionally charged events.
You look at the calendar, and there it is — a highly charged emotional event. It could be your best friend’s wedding. It could be your upcoming Zoom job interview. It could be a funeral. What do you do?
Do you charge head-first in the wedding reception without preparing your highly emotional self, knowing that your ex and their fiancée will be there? I hope not. That’s like jumping into an ice-cold pool without a bathing suit. Yet it happens to the best of us, and you’re not alone.
Even though I know — on an intellectual and spiritual level — that I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP) to the bone, I forget to prepare myself for stressful events. Instead, I end up like Wile E. Coyote after chasing the Road Runner, body and soul splayed out, smashed into the ground.
Preparation Is Key When It Comes to Emotionally Charged Events
Look, we all go into every situation with the best intentions — whether it’s a job interview for our dream job or a happy event, like a wedding. But as highly sensitive people, we need a bit of extra emotional armor to take on these events to be fully present during it and not end up emotionally flooded after.
The good news is, you can prepare for highly emotional events.
Recently, I had a highly emotional and stressful event to attend — my mother’s Celebration of Life ceremony. Her passing was a tsunami of feelings, ranging from almost giddy-like — as though I just took a hit of helium — that she was no longer suffering to grief that siphoned every last ounce of energy from me.
Losing a loved one to dementia is like a jumbled-up grief puzzle with no corner pieces to frame the image. It’s a series of trying to organize the pieces, but the images on the pieces are blurry and don’t fit together.
The meeting with the funeral director to discuss her cremation left me drained and floating in a sea of sadness for days. I knew that even though we were bucking tradition by holding her service at the Chicago Botanic Garden, it would be another emotionally charged day for my family and me. It was also down to me to give her eulogy. I knew I needed to prepare myself before running into the emotional lion’s den. I wanted to be relaxed and in control of my emotions instead of them getting the best of me.
Hey, if athletes can prepare for the big game, HSPs can prepare for a stressful event. Right? “Give me an ‘H’! Give me an ‘S’! Give me a ‘P’! Here are some key ways to prepare for your next emotionally charged event.
5 Ways to Prepare for Your Next Emotionally Charged Event
1. Rally your emotional support team for advice and comfort before the big event.
I’m fortunate. I have an amazing emotional support team: a therapist, women’s circle, and career circle, friends, and of course, family. Before my mom’s service, I called on all of them for advice. Here are some of the questions they asked to help prepare me for the event:
- What are your triggers?
- When I’m tired, I can blow things out of proportion and spin out easily.
- Do you have a plan on how you can address them?
- The plan is twofold: Get enough sleep, and, leading up to the event, do not overschedule myself.
- How do you want to feel at the event? How do you want it to go?
- It was so important to lead with positive emotions, so I took some time to journal about how I wanted to feel and how I wanted the event to go.
I found that bringing awareness to my triggers and emotions that may bubble up during the event helped me ground myself before the big day.
2. Set an intention: What is your goal regarding the event?
For my mom’s ceremony, my intention was simple — to celebrate my mom and her life. That was it. I wanted the day to be about the light and love she brought into the world. And during her eulogy, I wanted to be fully present and articulate what she had meant to me as a mother and as a friend.
Say you have your best friend’s wedding; you can set an intention that you want to celebrate love in all its forms. Bringing awareness to the event will help you focus on what’s essential — like being happy for the couple — and help you release what’s not — like any bitter feelings toward your ex who’s there.
3. “Know thy self”-care tools (and utilize them!).
Between you and me, “self-care” is a trigger word for me. Often, I experience guilt around spending time and money on myself. But when I invest in a massage or manicure, it can make all the difference mentally. So I can’t stress enough how important it is to prepare and pamper yourself before an emotional event.
For example, sleep as self-care? As a highly sensitive person, this one is a no-brainer because you know how vital rest can be to keeping yourself in balance. Plus, HSPs need more sleep than non-HSPs because of all the overstimulation we experience. Did you know that athletes training for the big game shoot for 10 hours of sleep for peak performance?
Before my mom’s service, I made an appointment with a massage therapist specializing in Reiki healing, got a much-needed haircut and manicure, and bought a new pair of shoes and shapewear. I know it might sound shallow, but it helped put me in a positive and relaxed state of mind.
You may need to mix-and-match various self-care tools to find your winning combo. But it’ll be worth it, trust me.
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4. Put yourself in a protective energy bubble where nothing can “get” you.
I know this sounds a bit New-Agey, but hear me out. Putting yourself in a protective energy bubble is a must-do for all HSPs. Honestly, we should all do this every morning before stepping out into the world. (YouTube has lots of great tutorials.)
But you don’t have to watch an online tutorial to practice this exercise. Here’s how I put myself in a protective energy bubble:
- Take a deep breath and close my eyes
- Visualize a clear, impenetrable bubble surrounding my entire body
- Fill the bubble with a warm, healing light (like white or lavender)
This practice will help you stay protected out in the world so you’re not absorbing other people’s energy — which is all too common for us HSPs.
5. Plan time to decompress after the event.
After my mom’s service, I didn’t schedule anything; there’d been so much overstimulation, I needed to do absolutely nothing. So I went home and took a nice long nap. (This is where having an HSP sanctuary comes in handy!)
Not only am I an HSP, but I’m also one of those people who pushes herself to her outermost limits. If only I had a nickel for every time I’d scheduled drinks with a former colleague after a three-hour job interview to then find myself too emotionally charred afterward…
Riding the grief wave, however, zapped my energy and taught me to slow my roll and embrace a wide-open calendar.
Emotionally Preparing for the Event Helped Me Stay Calm and Composed
So how did it all work out for me? Yes, I became choked up and teary when I gave my mother’s eulogy. But taking the preparation steps above helped me remain calm and present. And, by doing so, I noticed that my composed energy allowed the guests the space they needed, as well, to enjoy the celebration and revel in their own memories of my mom.
While attending a highly emotional event as an HSP is not easy, it is doable: Be sure to remember to get plenty of rest, rally your emotional support team, and learn to set your intentions to ensure that you will not just survive, but thrive.
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