An honest story of what anxiety looks like for a highly sensitive person

Hi friends! I’m Pamela and I’m a creative, highly sensitive person.

As a highly sensitive person, I always want to know the why of things. I’m a seeker. Eye-opening moments, shifts of perception, make me feel alive. This seeking process involves a lot of reaching into my feelings and dreams. I wouldn’t change my high sensitivity for anything, but sometimes it feels mentally or emotionally overwhelming.

There is a thin line between daydreaming to create and ponder, and from going into your head not to nourish and create but to escape the scenario where your body is at. When your fight-or-flight response kicks in, you flee to safety by going into your mind. That, my friend, is the book definition of anxiety.


Are you curious to know what anxiety looks like for a highly sensitive person? Either out of curiosity, or because you’re looking how to articulate and understand your anxiety or sensitivity, this post is for you if you’re interested in:

  • What anxiety looks like for a highly sensitive person
  • The possible causes for contemporary anxiety
  • The deeper reason behind social media sparked anxiety
  • Understanding anxiety
  • Not being where your body is
  • The habit of being out of one’s body
  • Navigating anxiety during times of uncertainty
  • Embracing your high sensitivity & understanding your anxiety

Embracing your high sensitivity & understanding your anxiety

If you want to know where you are, to play with transforming your interests, or to write your own How to book for what you wish you knew, I’ve created this printable pages with games and illustrations for you to finish coloring, sketching, transforming. Why? Because connecting pen with paper is a physical activity that grounds you to your body. Luckily, my seeking of whys has allowed me to develop design thinking practices and polish them over time. I want to share with you how visual thinking helps me find solutions to real problems or express the presence of such problems and finding peace in being able to name them. Nonetheless, our tougher aspects are where we grow the most. Anxiety has allowed me to apply the essence of overthinking into creative thinking by developing the skill of looking at something from every possible angle.

Is social media to blame for our contemporary anxiety problems?

Google has a lot of questions that point social media as the answer for our contemporary anxiety problems. Have you ever wondered what lays behind social media problems? The internet seems to have a lot of answers for that. It’s true: mobile technologies can cause angst, but I believe there is something deeper behind our worrying. Hint: social media is the tip of that iceberg. Have you ever taken an Am I an anxious person? What does anxiety look like for a highly sensitive person? Why can’t I stop scrolling quiz?


I am a person with anxious tendencies.

I have taken those kinds of quizzes. It took me a while (actually years) to understand what anxiety really means in my life, to begin questioning the origin of it in my story and be able to pause my actions and realise oh, this is anxiety. Take a minute to think where your anxiety comes from .


I first learned the word before knowing what it was. As a kid, I constantly heard the word anxiety in Spanish -ANSIEDAD- at dieticians’ offices.


Understanding anxiety

(In this GIF, I wanted to deconstruct Anxiety. So, I returned each of its letters to their original position in the alphabet : )

Yes, I was an overweight kid and girl, did the world work on reminding me of that. I grew up listening to ‘no tienes hambre, tienes ansiedad’ (you are not hungry, you are feeling anxious). For starters, it’s rude to assume what a person is feeling, unless such person has clearly expressed their emotions. I hadn’t done that.


Quite the opposite. I hadn’t expressed what I was feeling because I didn’t understand my feelings and didn’t have the words or resources to articulate my inner world. When there’s no name for a problem, you can’t see it. You can’t say it. You can’t solve it. You have to find the narrative to be able to construct an alternative version.


I was a highly sensitive kid who got too in my head because I didn’t want to be where my body was. I was disconnected to myself. 


Ultimately, unless you’re brainstorming, daydreaming is projecting yourself out of the current time-space coordinates where your body is at. I wasn’t in touch with my body, and still, sometimes I’m not. Not only because I was shamed about it at school but because that social interaction literally made my surroundings unpleasant. Living in my head was way more comfortable in those uncomfortable situations. So, I literally swiped left from there and hopped into an extemporal scrolling in my head of alternate realities and pictures of the future. In all these scenarios, I was living somewhere else. I didn’t want to be where my body was.


What does ‘not being in your body’ look like?

It depends and varies from person and timing, but right now, for me, many times it looks like scrolling endlessly. For me, not being in my body is the physical manifestation of being distracted. Of being overwhelmed by my worries and escaping my present. An activity of escaping discomfort which in itself creates even more discomfort. Ignoring the body and pushing into the brain is not a pleasant experience for neither mind nor body. Es desconexión. 


How does anxiety become a practice?

How does anxiety become a practice? We get so used to it that we don’t know we’re doing it and our mind does it out of habit. With skills I’ve acquired over time by working on myself, I’ve come to understand that not being in my body is a sign of anxiety, not the other way around. I’ve noticed that when I leave my body, I twist my feet while sitting or standing- then becoming literally not-grounded. My head goes to the future and the past simultaneously. It is not a pleasant feeling. The most curious thing is that I wasn’t even aware of doing this. The power of being in your head is such that you lose touch with reality and come to believe that this sense of urgency and worry is natural to you, or a truth of the world. I’ve become more aware of this, precisely through deliberate seeking to stop feeling this way. Spoiler: that’s not the solution, but that’s for another conversation.


The habit of being out of my body

Being out of my body was something I was already doing before mobile technologies came into my life. Diving into social media perhaps enhances it. Makes it more accessible. But in the end, it is a corporeal version of zapping, where you are semi present in your environment, with your head up in your brain. Scrolling, swiping, liking, without your full attention, aligns your distraction with an activity and gives a concrete form to not-being-in you-body. Your scrolling materializes that escapism,  with something that in a way seems pleasurable for the brain because this escapism is rewarded with likes, comments, follows. Not being mindful is compensated. So, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, like the rest of the internet universe, I scroll.


Navigating anxiety during times of uncertainty

I get overwhelmed when I don’t know something, I wish I could know. My thirst for knowledge may have gotten spoiled with Google’s instant hits of answers. Don’t know something? Type it in, there’s your multiplicity of answers. But what about things a search engine won’t provide a finite answer for? Your career, your love life, the state of the world. I’ve noticed that uncertainty is something that super speeds my drive to anxiety road. ¿What is your relationship with not knowing what comes ahead? ¿What are your earliest memories of uncertainty? When you don’t know what is the next step you’ll be taking or you sense that following step is somehow out of your control, where do you feel uncertainty in your body?


For me, uncertainty is an intermittent, simultaneous knot in my throat and a heartbeat clutched to the pit of my stomach. A ‘tightness’ feeling in two mouths of my body that allow things in, to process, to nourish. Could it be a defence mechanism I developed as a know-it-all kind of attitude? A ‘I will outsmart you’ defence turned praxis. That, combined with my seeking of whys, makes not knowing why, a rhetorical question that makes me feel stuck and propels me into my head. When I don’t know, I get tangled up in anxiety masqued as frustration. My head gets foggy and I cross my feet, as if disconnecting the surface of my heels from the ground, as if this made the takeoff from body-to-head more effective. I’m currently working on shifting the narrative of I don’t know or I don’t know how, for I’m figuring it out, and that makes my journey much calmer. I remember to breathe (that’s how I connect to my body), and to lay my feet flat on the ground so I remember to be where my body is.


To conclude this train of thought:


  • Not being where my body is, is a sign of my anxiety, and I want to know the why behind the reason when my body is not where my attention is.
  • I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are things that escape my current knowledge control. I can’t know everything at the same time.
  • And when I don’t know, I remember I am figuring it out.
  • Understanding where my anxiety comes from gives me inner peace
  • I open my feet wide to ground myself and connect to the earth (most often concrete) below me. And I remember to breathe, where I am.

Print these pages to color, doodle, scratch, cross out. Digitally color them. Post them on InstaStories and pump ’em with GIFS.

Tag me @pamelacalero 🙂 I’ll be super happy to see what you come up with!