How to Use Emotional Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

emotional overexcitabiity

Self care is a necessity, not a luxury, for those of us blessed with parenting differently-wired children.

Raising and advocating for our kids in a world not designed for them can take its toll, especially if we have sensitivities of our own.

Most of us are all too aware of the challenges overexcitabilities bring, but let’s not forget that OEs also allow us to experience the good things in life more intensely.

This post is the first in a series looking at self care through the lens of each of the OEs, starting today with emotional overexcitability.

Soul-nourishment for people with emotional overexcitability

We folk with emotional overexcitability feel things intensely.

Even a short errand can leave us feeling drained after we see a homeless guy begging outside the supermarket and a frazzled mum shouting at her toddler in the checkout line.

We’d love to be able to give the homeless man a warm bed for the night and to scoop up that toddler and tell her it’s not her fault her mummy yelled.

We can’t right all the wrongs in the world in one day. But by being compassionate with ourselves we’ll find ways we can make a difference – even if it’s just by being the kindest, wisest parents we’re capable of being.

10 Ways to use your emotional OE to nourish your soul

(1) Take 5 minutes to meditate on an uplifting emotion

Choose a positive emotion – fun, peaceful and playful are among my favourites. Slowly repeat the word to yourself, enjoying the memory of times you felt that way. You might be surprised at how the word – and the feeling – pop up at random times later in the day.

I do this before I get out of bed every morning – before any negative momentum has had a chance to get going.

Bonus: List as many positive emotion words as you can and make them into a word cloud. I felt wonderful after making the one above!

(2) Spread a little joy by performing an act of random kindness

Research shows that kindness makes us happier, boosts our immune systems and improves our relationships by elevating our oxytocin levels.

The random element is important here. People with emotional OE are drawn to helping others, and when our reserves are low we risk draining our own resources in the process.

By looking for opportunities to be randomly kind, we introduce an element of playfulness that shakes away resentment and rewards us with a healthy hit of feel-good chemicals.

(3) Tap into the healing power of animals

Spend time with a loyal pet, do a google search for ‘cute baby your favourite animal’ images, or watch an OE-friendly nature documentary with your kids (ie not one where the baby gazelle gets picked off by the cheetah).

Even watching cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions, with studies showing that the emotional payoff outweighs any feelings of guilt over time-wasting.

Being mindful of your intentions is key here. Cleaning out the cat litter or hamster cage doesn’t count, though brushing or walking the dog might.

(4) Tune into the good news

By most accounts the world is a safer, better place now than it ever has been – but you wouldn’t know that from the mainstream media.

When you need reminding of all that’s good in the world, turn off the TV and spend five minutes looking at the heart-warming stories over at The Good News Network.

(5) Drop through negative emotions

When you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, try this exercise I use with my therapy clients:

First ask yourself, ‘What’s the name of the emotion I’m feeling right now?

Don’t think too hard – whatever comes to mind first is okay. Name the emotion out loud.

Then ask, ‘If I were to drop through this emotion, what’s the emotion underneath that?

Close your eyes and imagine yourself physically dropping through the emotion. Repeat these two questions until you find relief.

I’ve had clients drop through layers of emotions for between 5 and 45 minutes. Eventually they always get to the feeling of peace that is at the core of who we all are.

(6) Keep a list of positive aspects

Make a note of nice things that happen or that you appreciate in a List of Positive Aspects. Mine includes entries like, ‘Ate the first tomato from this year’s plants’, ‘Nice email from C’s French teacher’ and ‘Beautiful autumn trees’.

Both the act of writing and looking back over my list help nourish my soul.

(7) Make a regular date with your partner

When you have kids, it’s easy to find your life running in parallel from your partner’s. A few months ago my husband and I decided to get intentional about spending regular quality time with one another. (Quality time as in, not slumped in front of the TV together after a busy day at work.)

Every Sunday morning we now walk our dogs together then have coffee at an outdoor cafe. (A treat for me because my husband doesn’t really understand the point of having coffee out, so I feel loved just by him being there with me!)

We chat about each others’ weeks, the children, and then once all that’s out of the way we usually find ourselves talking about something completely different and really interesting, which reminds me why we married each other and makes me feel excited about sharing the rest of my life with this man.

smiling couple in autumn woods - emotional overexcitability

Bonus: Take a selfie on each date. Did you know that taking selfies can increase happiness and gratitude, decrease stress and deepen connections?

(8) Watch an episode of your favourite comedy show

The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, Modern Family, Friends… Writers of these shows are paid big bucks to activate our feel-good systems.

I challenge you not to feel better after watching an episode!

(9) Connect with an uplifting friend

If, like me, you’re an intense type who’s inclined to spend every moment you’re not with your kids being ‘productive’ (working (paid or voluntary), doing admin, organising the home or practising cello), you may have a tendency to let friendships slide.

People who have emotional OE have the ability to enjoy deep, lasting friendships. Be sure to make time for the uplifting people in your life – and be willing to let go of those who have the opposite effect.

(10) Feel awe

When I posted this photo on Instagram, I captioned it: ‘Sometimes I feel so full of awe at the magnificence of nature. I feel at once tiny and insignificant and yet extraordinarily loved, as if nature is putting on a spectacular event just for me.’

beach at sunset - emotional overexcitability

Later I discovered that psychologists consider awe to be ‘one of the most pleasurable and motivating positive emotions’ (Jane McGonigal, Superbetter).

Awe also changes our perception of time. When we feel awe for a moment or two, we feel we have more time for our own goals, are less impatient, and are more likely to volunteer time to help others.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we happen to see a beautiful sunset or magnificent waterfall to feel awe – we can also enjoy the effect by watching videos of things we find awe-inspiring, or by writing a few sentences about a time we experienced awe.

Resources and hat tips

Top 3 tips to up your energy and resilience level (if you have emotional OE) PowerWood (article)

5 Side Effects of Kindness David Hamilton (article)

Watching cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions The Independent (article)

The Good News Network (website)

SuperBetter Jane McGonigal (book)

How taking selfies and these types of photos can increase happiness and gratitude, decrease stress and deepen connections Hey, Sigmund (article)

Living With Intensity Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski (book)

Your Rainforest Mind Paula Prober (book – see my review)

What are overexcitabilities? (article on this blog)

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Do you have emotional OE?

How do you nourish your soul?

I’d love to hear from you!

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This post is part of a series on how we can use our overexcitabilities to nourish our souls. See also:

How to use imaginational overexcitability to nourish your soul

14 Delightful Ways to Use Sensual Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

34 Ways to Nourish Your Intellectual Overexcitability

How to use psychomotor overexcitability to nourish your soul (coming soon)

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I’d love you to join me learning how to have fun in a sensitive and intense family. To receive my weekly posts direct to your inbox, leave your email address in the Follow by Email box at the top of the page. 🙂


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16 thoughts on “How to Use Emotional Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

  1. What a great idea for a series, Lucinda! And I love the photo of you and your sweetie. (and thank you for listing my blog and your review in the resources!!)

    1. Thank you, Paula! It’s easy to forget the benefits of being an RFM, so I thought I’d write a series celebrating some of the many ways being sensitive and intense can enrich our lives. Reading your book was one of the most soul-nourishing things I’ve ever done, so of course it has a place here!

  2. I love this: some useful reminders here that I needed to read. As ever- thank you! X

  3. Lucinda,

    Recently, I’ve been in need of a bit of soul nourishment. I don’t take enough time to look after my own needs and then I get overwhelmed.

    What a wonderful list of suggestions. I hopped over to the Good News Website. Until I saw your link, I didn’t even know such a site existed. I particularly like 7, 8, and 9. I sometimes take photos of Andy when we go out on dates together, but I never take selfies of both of us. What will I have to look back on in the years to come? I think I’d better start taking some! Taking photos makes me slow down and look carefully. I love capturing scenes that inspire awe. I also love looking at your photos. I think we shared some thoughts of awe due to the above photo on Instagram. Thank you for being my uplifting friend!

    1. Sue,

      I have you to thank for number 7! James and I are really enjoying our weekly dates. I always used to think dates had to mean fancy dinners out in the evening, which is tricky to arrange when you have children and besides, I find it too pressurising thinking I ought to be making the most of an expensive evening out. A beautiful walk and coffee suits me better. Are you and Andy still meeting over coffee to talk about podcasts you’ve listened?

      I took a photo of James and I on our first walk because the trees in the background were looking especially spectacular in their early autumn finery. Then I thought I might take one each time we visited and the woods changed with the seasons. It’s become a fun ritual now to take a selfie in the same spot each week.

      And you’re right, we did have a lovely Instagram chat about the magnificence of nature around the time I took that photo (I confess, I looked for the original pic and couldn’t find it other than on Instagram, so I used artistic licence and told the story about a very similar photo ;-)). Gosh, those summer walks on the beach seem so long ago now. I just received a text telling me it’s going to be minus 4 Celsius here at 6am tomorrow. I think I’ll have a lie in!

      Sorry to hear you’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I hope you’ve managed to take some time since you wrote your comment to nourish yourself. It’s so easy to overlook our needs, but then re-finding our balance feels wonderful.

      Thank you for being my uplifting friend, too!

  4. Love that photo – beautiful! Your post reminded me of things that I regularly do to de-stress (and the stress stems from the same source.) I’ve had people in cars next to me at the stopped traffic light look very puzzled because I’m craning my neck to watch the hawk fly overhead. Great article, I loved it!

  5. What a lovely post, Lucinda. So many great reminders in there.
    It can be quite simple things that are the most uplifting I find.

    A couple of days ago it was hearing the distinctive call of the black cockatoos that visit every summer. A and I dashed outside and basked in the wonder of the beautiful place we live and the wildlife we get to see here.

    This morning I was letting our chickens out at the crack of dawn and paused to enjoy the pinky sunrise and the early morning birdsong.

    Our OEs can be challenging at times, but they also colour our experiences in beautiful ways.

    1. “Our OEs can be challenging at times, but they also colour our experiences in beautiful ways.” Perfectly put. 🙂

      I love hearing about the wildlife in far away parts of the world. Black cockatoos sound very striking! I love sunrise too. The quiet, the colours, the stillness of a brand new day.

  6. Love this!!! Treating strengths as strengths! I’m very very interested in dropping through emotions and seeing how that serves me.

  7. Loving this series and all your great ideas. I think I identify with every single one of these! I’ve signed up to the Good News Network after you mentioned it in a previous blog and enjoy hearing positive stories from around the world. I am also working on having regular(ish) daytime dates with my husband – so much better than evening for us too as he suffers from sleep apnea and tends to get tired early and I enjoy being able to spend time in nature together.

    I am intrigued by the ‘dropping through emotions’ technique – might have to give that a try. I find listening to music can also be very uplifting, but I suspect you may have that listed under your post on nourishing sensual OE. And yes, the older I get the more I realise just how crucial uplifting friends are to my well-being.

    1. We’re definitely kindred spirits, Kirsty! 🙂 Daytime dates in nature are absolutely my favourite kind. I reached out to a potential new friend last week (the homeschooling mum of one of Cordie’s friends, whom I’ve never met) and was so happy when she suggested a walk followed by a cuppa!

      Yes, I think I put music under the sensual OE list but it could equally go here, couldn’t it? This afternoon I was feeling a bit blah so I went to the gym. Half an hour on the cross-trainer while listening to music lifted me right up. (Exercise … of course that will be in my last in this series – psychomotor OE!)

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