Written by Sarah Kirton | Updated On September 24, 2021

The Sixth Sense - Overcoming Overwhelm

The Sixth Sense - Overcoming Overwhelm

Tammy Goen from Lifescape Wellness is passionate about coaching Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) to decrease stress, anxiety and overwhelm, develop healthy coping strategies and identify and reframe limiting beliefs. This incorporates developing self-compassion and self-love.

If you were to define an HSP in one sentence, what would it be?

Processing information at a very deep level, Highly Sensitive People, who often feel  misunderstood, absorb everything in life like a sponge. And while that can lead to overwhelm, it also increases their ability to enjoy life’s blessings and to offer amazing skills to the world. 

Would you describe being HSP as having a sixth sense?

I love this question. It really is a sixth sense, like a combination of Clairs…hearing, seeing, feeling, knowing (even smelling). We tend to be acutely aware of everything around us and feel the energy of individual people and the collective. We are similar to the canary in the coal mine; we sense when things are off, when someone needs a little  support, when it’s not a good time to address an issue. We tend to just know things  others are unaware of. 

Often we are the ones people turn to when faced with challenges, because they know we will ‘get it.’ In  fact, we often find strangers sharing their life stories while waiting in line. We can usually tell if people are having an off day or have something to say but aren’t saying it, and we can walk into a room and just know that something is out of place or just not right.  

Because of this aspect, it is particularly important that Highly Sensitives learn to develop and maintain healthy boundaries, to not own others’ feelings or feel compelled to solve every situation. Usually being aware and supportive is enough. Sometimes it is necessary to check in by asking, “Is this mine or someone else’s?” in order to realize that we have taken on something that is not our own, then choose to release it. 

What is it like to discover you are an HSP?

Such incredible relief and validation! Like many Highly Sensitives, prior to realizing this was an identified and researched trait, I just felt weird, different, misunderstood, frustrated, wrong and in need of fixing. I got so tired of feeling overwhelmed by things and couldn’t  understand why I was SO sensitive and seemingly the only person feeling this way. Communication was a struggle at times. 

When I discovered the trait, I was having a rough spot with a couple of friends due to differing impressions of a certain event. I was really butting heads with one of them and felt so disrespected and hurt. Another friend suggested I research traits of Highly Sensitive Persons online, and it was the most amazing moment. Suddenly, I was ok. Everything made sense. And it wasn’t just me! That first realization that there were enough people feeling like I did for someone to create an inventory, was blissful. To have confirmation that I wasn’t crazy, that there was a perfectly logical, normal reason for my feelings, experiences and responses was priceless. 

I started researching and reading about the trait and reframing my whole life to that point. I also realized that my self-care practice was that much more important, and that other things were necessary, like learning how to share the trait with others to improve  relationships. I also realized that it doesn’t have to be such a struggle and the sensitivities can actually become a super power! Before long it became obvious that I would share my new understanding with other HSPs, including clients. 

Why do you focus your work primarily on HSPs? 

It was quite organic. I have focused for a long time on helping people decrease stress, anxiety and overwhelm and develop greater self-compassion and self-love. A few years ago, I began to realize that most people who found me for coaching or energy work were  HSP. I realized that there’s a need for practitioners who are aware of, and experienced  with HSP issues. And I’ve been there, I get it. So, I began to focus on Highly Sensitives, and I find that even those who come to me who aren’t aware of the trait, are in fact usually HSP. We tend to lay under the radar, even though 20% (or more) of the population is HSP, a large percentage doesn’t realize it’s an identified trait shared by others. I love helping people become aware of the aspects of the trait and reframe their whole lives, past and present. 

Clients who have worked with therapists or other coaches in the past have noted that they felt like they could only go so far because they weren’t really understood and didn’t quite connect with the therapist or coach in the right way. They realize that it’s the HSP awareness that was missing and understood that it hindered their progress. I’m grateful to be able to offer that understanding and personal experience. 

It’s also important for Highly Sensitives to realize, as I mentioned previously, that sensitivities can indeed be strengths, even a super power. It is not all doom and gloom and just coping. We are compassionate people and think out of the box, we are creative and notice details other miss, we are good at knowing what is needed and we are focused on doing a good job. I help HSPs learn to validate themselves and their abilities, and use them for great benefit in the world. We are already a high percentage of artists and creators, leaders and healers, and the world needs us now more than ever. 

Are anxiety and stress always indicators of an HSP?

So much of an HSPs’ experience comes down to self-care and the nervous system. Generally I would say Highly Sensitives who aren’t yet aware of HSP as a trait, or who haven’t developed coping strategies and the ability to reframe their sensitivities, are likely to experience stress, anxiety or overwhelm. Of course, non-HSPs can experience these as well, but they tend to be more intense or more likely for Highly Sensitives.  

When HSPs have solid self-care practices and calmer nervous systems, and take care to provide themselves with enough alone time and activities that fill their reserve tanks, they don’t necessarily experience high stress or anxiety. While they might be triggered more easily, they can return to calm fairly quickly. And it is possible to reduce the  triggering threshold; since I committed to daily meditation in addition to my other self-care practices, I have found that I’m much less reactive and more calm overall. I do think we continue to be overwhelmed more easily, and it is important to maintain good boundaries and to recharge, but this can be handled effectively to minimize or avoid anxiety completely. 

How do you proceed with treatment? 

My free discovery session allows us to see if we are a good fit and to identify the right services. While I do offer energy sessions and EFT sessions as stand-alone services,  the real progress happens during a committed journey of self-realization, shifting of  beliefs and creating a new plan for the future. My primary offering is a 3 month in depth  coaching program with 2-hour sessions (it’s challenging to make much progress in 1 hour increments), which include energy work if appropriate, many self-care tools (with custom audio files), exercises and activities for between sessions, and ongoing connection through email and text. We create a personal journey based upon each person’s unique life experience. 

Do you think your upbringing has had an impact on your professional journey? 

Absolutely. One of the interesting things about High Sensitivity is that the level of  security and support in childhood has a huge impact on our development of coping strategies as we get older. Those who are supported tend to do even better than average at handling life, and using their gifts in positive ways. Those with very challenging childhoods often struggle with this and are far more likely to develop depression and anxiety, turn to substances or addictions, or completely shut down, as coping strategies. 

While sensitivity was never acknowledged in my childhood as a trait that many others shared, I was considered a little quirky, but overall valued, accepted, loved and supported in spite of my sensitivities. While I certainly felt misunderstood, I still felt safe and loved and had good role models for taking care of myself. I was always aware of  what felt good and right for me, even if for a long time I felt odd or even guilty about following this realization. It was therefore natural for me to pass these along to my clients. I knew first hand how important and effective they were. I was drawn naturally to learning more and more self-care techniques, meditation, journeying, and various alternative  modalities. 

This was all facilitated by a ‘woo woo’ grandmother with whom I resonated deeply. While others thought she was a bit ‘off’ or at least odd, I was fascinated by her accounts and explanations of aura readings and channeled writing, past life impressions and connection with spirits. I’ve always been interested in the energetic realm, likely due in large part to this grandmother. And I probably felt a deeper connection since I, too, felt like others saw me as “off’ or ‘odd,’ and she ‘got me.’ 

Tell us a little about your holistic approach to healing? 

Early on in my adult life I became frustrated with western medicine and practitioners who only focused on one possible cause and solution to any problem. I can’t tell you how many times I was told, “Well, that can’t happen,” or “That’s not related,” as though I was somehow wrong or crazy for not fitting into a textbook protocol, or worse, making it up. And if I didn’t agree with, or respond well to something, that was another issue. 

I was drawn toward those who consider the whole person, not what fits into a box, or a list of predetermined ideas. I found it so compassionate and supportive for someone to ask about me, the whole me and my life, not just a symptom or issue. 

I have a very eclectic background. I have worked as an adult fitness coach, a licensed counselor, massage therapist, artist, energy healer and coach and see benefit in addressing all aspects of life. While working with clients, I usually address not only the primary issue, but lifestyle, spiritual focus, relationships, work environment, and anything that could influence the clients’ experience and goal realization. I work with what is presented, but there are always other factors which play a role and can both hinder and support the clients’ goals.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. No client goes through the same  process. It is a journey that moves in the direction that best suits them. It is a creation of their own lifescapes. 

Do your treatments generally involve a blend of modalities? 

Yes, I have a very eclectic approach. I incorporate EFT/Tapping for shifting beliefs and releasing emotions; HeartMath and other types of meditation, breath work and guided imagery for calming the nervous system and creating self-care routines; a combination of energy work modalities (CranioSacral Therapy, Chakra Balancing, Reiki,  Acupressure) for releasing blockages; and general coaching techniques like identifying  and reframing challenges, and goal setting. These are used, of course, according to the clients’ preferences, issues and comfort. 

Where to from here? 

It is so important for HSPs to learn about the trait and spend time with others who understand them. I have a MeetUp group with in person gatherings for those in the Central Oregon area and virtual groups for folks everywhere (I’ve had people join from South Korea and Australia, and across the country!).

I also have a Facebook group open to all HSPs, to learn and share and find resources. I offer free discovery sessions  for anyone considering embarking on a personal program of awareness and growth. All of my contact options and resources, including blog posts, are available on Linketr.ee/ tammygoen.

About the author

Sarah is a keen and passionate advocate of the spiritual and healing components within the mystical realm of the world we live in. She resides in Cape Town, South Africa, where she enjoys spending time in the outdoors, kite surfing, and playing guitar.