I’m just a sensitive mom raising a sensitive son in a loud and chaotic world.

I cry at commercials and beautiful art. I feel deeply moved by music and poetry. Too much noise and commotion makes me anxious. Criticism hurts for days. I notice the small things most people don’t pick up on. Strong smells are an assault to my senses.

I am part of the 15-20% of the population carrying the trait of high sensitivity.

I have written about the challenges and joys of raising and loving a sensitive son, but what about the challenges and joys of being a sensitive mother? Do you carry this trait as well?

Here are some signs according to Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person:

  • During busy days, do you feel the need to withdraw to a darkened or other quiet space to find relief?
  • Are you easily overwhelmed by strong smells, bright lights, loud noises, and coarse fabrics?
  • Do you have a complex inner life?
  • Do you try to avoid violent movies or television shows?

Motherhood is a roller-coaster ride for the senses. Children are, by their wonderful natures, exuberant, spirited, energetic and loud.

My ears have been subjected to both quiet coos and high-pitched screams. My nose has experienced a range of smells, from light and sweet baby shampoo to dirty diapers and chunky vomit. My eyes have witnessed bloody noses that nearly made me pass out but also the sight of a peacefully sleeping baby that I grew inside my own body.

I’ve tasted sweat from forehead kisses and the “banana milk” experiment my 7-year-old made in a dusty teapot. I’ve experienced the gentle caresses of a loving toddler and the painful yank of a fistful of hair.

Many times, I’ve been overstimulated from the barrage of sensory information to the point of being completely frazzled, and I’ve felt the need to escape to find peace and quiet.

This isn’t always easy to do, especially when children are very young and you are the sole caretaker at the moment you find yourself overwhelmed. This overstimulation can cause sensitive moms to get irritable, and because of our sensitive and often perfectionistic natures, we sometimes carry guilt both for feeling the need to escape and for becoming agitated.

I can become easily overwhelmed if:

  • My kids have made a huge mess or there’s a lot of clutter.
  • I’m wearing something uncomfortable or the temperature isn’t right.
  • I have too much on my to-do list.
  • The kids are loud in public or spill a drink at a restaurant and people stare.
  • My son’s emotions are high.
  • I don’t have adequate downtime.

Although high sensitivity can be a challenge, it also brings joys. I believe this trait is a gift, and our strengths of compassion, intuitiveness, and noticing are strengths that the world very much needs. We make the very world that overwhelms us brighter, softer and kinder.

Being intuitive helps me assess my children’s needs more easily and understand them better. I often know what they are feeling before they verbalize it. I feel the joys of motherhood intensely, and my heart nearly bursts with pride and love each day.

Learning to manage my sensitivity has been important in helping me show up at my best for my family. When I practice good self-care, I’m not as easily overwhelmed, and I just feel generally calmer and more patient.

Here are 5 ways sensitive mothers can manage their superpower trait:

1. Say “yes” to a slower, more intentional life.

I just can’t be the mom who plans big parties and has my kid involved in every single sport and extracurricular out there. There have to be blank days on the calendar for cozying around the house. These free days are essential for allowing my nervous system to rest and recharge.

2. Cultivate strong emotional connections.

Just as I discussed how sensitive kids need a positive bond, so do mothers. Those bonds with our partners and kids can sometimes become weakened due to busyness, relationship struggles or just not being intentional with our time together. But all humans have a basic need for positive bonds that allow us to rest in love, be who we are, and feel supported and accepted. Because sensitive mamas are often more emotionally attuned, a lack of connection is felt deeply.

3. Create a sanctuary.

I turned my bedroom into a calm and delightful area with ambient lighting and a soft comforter. Plus I filled it with books. If you can’t transform a room, take over a small area. Fill it with things that are pleasing to your senses. A soft pillow. A lightly fragranced candle. Go there and listen to something calming or inspiring, write in a journal, read a book or just sit quietly.

4. Set boundaries.

Just as it’s important for our sensitive kids to learn to set boundaries, it’s important for us as well, both so we can model what that looks like for our kids and because it helps us avoid certain triggers and overstimulation. This means that I consciously protect my space, including my head space, my spiritual space and my physical space. I’m careful about what and who I let in. Guarding our spaces is critical for sensitive mamas.

5. Cultivate an atmosphere of peace at home.

I really work hard to make home a haven. While it does get loud and messy at times, I’m focused on creating a place of emotional rest, which is not only needed for my sensitive son but for all of us—no one needs a place of emotional rest more than I do!

I’m also constantly working on helping my boys have a positive sibling relationship because a house where there is constant bickering is not a place of peace! Home must be a place where the most sensitive of us can let down our guards and soak up lots of love.

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