How the Environment Influences an Introvert’s Creativity

As a child I had the blessing to have a room of my own and an understanding mom who by most part, left me alone to draw, daydream or nap. Often she would engage in cooking delicious meals and baking, leaving the house filled with the sounds of her activities. Once I withdrew into my room with the door closed, the silence was heavenly. It remained this way until adulthood. And then I got married, and moved in with his family.

I would not say that both homes are exact opposites of each other – very different perhaps. For one thing the television seems perpetually on and at a rather high decibel (at least to an introvert’s ears) and so are their talking voices. The home is smaller than my childhood’s and so even with the door closed I can hear the tv and conversations taking place outside within close proximity. And of course, the hubby who likes to blast open the room door every so often to “flit-about” and then go out again.

I must admit, I would like very much to blame my lack of writing output to my surroundings. The effect had been insidious and so gradual that as my mind went blank, so did my desires, urges, promptings and habit to journal. I wondered why and attributed it to perhaps change in interests. But today I got a full day back in my parents’ home and finally was able to get this out. So here’s a list of how-to-kill-an-introvert’s-creativity-fast (or the opposite of which is how the environment nurtures an introvert’s creativity); from personal experience of course:

Noise and Interruptions- 

This is the number one anathema for introverts trying to churn out creative works. Although some might enjoy working from a public cafe amidst some white noise, I am talking about the noise that grates your senses and makes your back prickle. It includes the obvious ones such as drilling, dogs barking, mahjong, and noisy next door neighbours. They are also frequently the ones that are out of our control. I would also like to highlight the less obvious yet devious ones such as poor sound proofing. You hear them at low levels – the sound of the television playing outside the room and the conversations, the sound of footsteps from the upstairs neighbour, some complaining going on outside that is maybe related to you. Or if you are sharing the living premises with roommates, then perhaps they might do their chores outside your room door.

On the surface it does seem very little – something you can choose to ignore since it doesn’t seem to disrupt much. The thing is, introverts have too much going on in their heads to accept any kind of noise and interruptions. As soon as they are conscious of something else outside of their head (ie. a human presence, negative energy), the flow of thoughts stop. Period. Yet, your body might have been maintaining a kind of peaceful energy prior that keeps you from realising the extent of the interruption. But when you try to pick up your thoughts it somehow feels disjointed. Some of my long posts have been created in one sitting, and once in a while when I happen to read them, the insights seemed like it came from another frame of mind.

Bright Light – 

It falls together with noise under the category of stimulation. I suggest a dim room with a lit candle. Draw the curtains in the daytime and switch off the ceiling lights at night. I find candle light gives off a comfortable amount of light that doesn’t vie with my computer monitor and calms the space. A dark room reduces the amount of distraction, especially if your room isn’t at all spanking neat. You might want to choose a study table light too; a light to shine focus on your task at hand.

Breaking Time into Short Periods – 

Ideally the best would be long periods of solitude. I am frequently transversing between two homes, and in between there are chores. The anxiety of breaking away from writing in order to meet a specific time can really cut creativity. It takes a disciplined mind and well-scheduled habits over time to avoid having this drag you down. And I am far from it.

Waking Up to an Alarm Clock – 

I guess this is a luxury that most people don’t have. If the body were allowed to wake up naturally from sleep, it has a higher chance of dream recall. Dreams make good fodder for journalling – and ideas.

Sitting Anywhere to Write – 

When you think of a freelance writer, you’d probably imagine this idyllic scene – the writer gets a burst of inspiration, and reaches out for her notebook that is always close by. She opens her Macbook and sits down by the steps of an art museum and starts typing away.

In reality I think this only works for short bursts of writing, and then what probably follows in a couple of hours is an achy back. In this case, think ergonomics, like a comfortable office chair. Don’t let the feeling of soreness distract you. Believe me, soon the feeling can override whatever ideas you have in your head.

I have placed a stronger emphasis on the home environment since all my writing is done there. The suggestions are mainly for introverts like me who are highly influenced by external stimuli. Some might also say that where there’s a will, there’s a way. But why make the elusive writing process harder for yourself? Perhaps making a few changes will help getting into the flow again. I hope for those whose brain suddenly went dry and are clueless right would find it helpful.

May your writing flow always.

Sleep as the Most Important Meal of the Day

Recently I came back from a short trip to Hong Kong. It was a tiring trip. Tiring because it involved a number of people (6 in fact) and also because the itinerary included everything except sufficient sleep and downtime in the hotel room. So while on paper we retired to the room at midnight everyday and only gathered at 8.45am (a good eight plus hours), in reality it was: Reach hotel at midnight, unwind in front of the tv and have supper 30mins, bathe 30 mins, pack the stuff we bought for the day 15 mins, check that everything was ready for tomorrow 15 mins, dry my hair and facial care 30 mins = Sleep at 2am and wake up at 7.30am to get ready. Zero downtime for me since TV didn’t count as relaxation. I had brought my journal but never got around to use it.

As a result, the trip felt unsatisfying and it took me 2 weeks to really recover myself and settle into my schedule prior to the trip, which included daily Reiki, prayer, journal and my job search. The viewpoint of the itinerary creator was that sleep can wait. Yes, probably to some extent and for most young people. But at what cost?

Having been born and lived in urban Singapore all my life, I am no stranger to sleep deprivation. I can still remember the late night cramming for exams, projects and also giving in to the temptation of internet chats and video games, resulting in only 5-6 hours of sleep daily. And not too far off, the stress of balancing home duties, work duties, me time and me-other-half time. And in the peak hours of the early morning, there is always someone in the working crowd who has his head rolling about as they doze off on the trains, much to the chagrin of the ones sitting next to them.

Sleep deprivation is more than detrimental to the sensitive soul and introvert as they process more in their heads. Here are some effects that I felt over the two-week recuperation period:

1. Brain Fogginess

It feels like you are still stuck in a dream state after you wake up. The brain is clogged up and you find yourself having to push yourself for action. I think I usually feel like I haven’t completed my previous task of sleeping and hence my brain doesn’t move forward to doing the next one which is brush my teeth. And if you have to get moving, your motions seem to be on auto-pilot, with no actual awareness of what you are really doing.

2. Lack of Motivation 

This follows after point No.1, that because you are doing most of your tasks on auto-pilot and feeling numb most of the day, quite likely you will be demotivated to complete whatever tasks you intended to do the previous day, making your day quite unproductive.

3. Lack of Focus 

This is also linked to No.1 and No.2. For people who are working on affirmations or prayers, they require a consistent effort and dedication to set aside some time each day for these. It isn’t really the amount of time as it is really about the habit and focus. So you could be reciting the affirmations daily but if you are not focused on it ie. you are only reading aloud, it doesn’t bring about a positive vibe to your psyche. As in a previous post, I tend to read my prayers twice as the first time my mind is usually wandering due to the repetition of it. So if you are sleepy, quite likely you will zone out as you read them and it makes affirmations pretty useless since the mind isn’t focused on it.

4. Falling Asleep during Reiki

There isn’t anything wrong really, if you fall asleep while giving yourself Reiki, because it is such a relaxing treatment. I find that if I am well-rested, I can stay awake and in a relaxed state throughout 35 minutes. But if I am sleep-deprived, I will fall asleep and find myself suddenly awake anytime between 10 minutes to 1 hour later. It kind of peeves me off because I use the 35 minutes of Reiki as sort of a meditation as well. Sleeping is a kind of meditation they say, but what is the use of meditation if you are unconscious of it?

5. Dumbs down Intuition

As an Aries, I feel that the magic and joy of life sometimes comes from being able to explore places on a whim. I do it if I feel an urge to go somewhere or eat something, regardless of whether it’s coming from my intuition or not. Tiredness just dampens that “feel”. This results in a pretty lethargic Aries who doesn’t know where to eat or do even if they have all the time and money in the world.

So everyone can’t do without food and water. Too little and your body tells you it’s hungry or thirsty. It’s a biological mechanism. So is sleep. Similarly, your body tells you that it is sleep-deprived. But so often we choose to stave off sleep in order to do that few more things in the day or to play an extra hour. Can we treat sleep as a meal and feed our bodies first thing in the day? All we need is a change of mindset and understand that sleep can do far worse to a sensitive or introvert compared to majority of humans.

Now how about a sleep buffet over the weekend?

 

How to Deal with Sudden Overwhelming Feelings of Dread, Anxiety or Doom for the Sensitive Person

Recently I had a friend who messaged saying he suddenly had a strong wave of negative emotion like something bad was going to happen. It was the end of the workday for him and he was driving home. He is a sensitive person but also a well-balanced, functioning human being.

So I asked him some questions to bring some awareness to the emotion he was feeling. Perhaps if you are feeling the same you might want to check in with the following:

1. Are there any negative events whose emotions were unprocessed?

Did you quarrel with someone in the day and then repressed the embarrassment and anger you felt in order to continue your day? Did you feel shortchanged by someone who perhaps cut your queue or tailgated while you were driving but you let it pass so as not to “blow a small matter up”? Or maybe during lunch you were sitting beside a customer who was ranting on and on about a co-worker.

A sensitive person tends to hold these emotions somewhere in their body if they were unprocessed, even if they were forgotten from the conscious mind. For me, it helps if I could sit down immediately to process the event. On retrospect if it was a really small event (compared to the big issues in life) such as having someone snatch your seat on the train or refused to give way at the entrance of the mall, you could practice letting it go and focus on the important things in life. If the event is something recurring, such as a toxic family member that you have to face again the next day, you would have to visualise cutting energy cords between yourself and the toxic person. If it was an incident that caused considerable damage to you mentally, spiritually, physically or otherwise, say being shouted at from a stranger in public without any apology, you would also require some time to re-imagine the event in your mind and reframe the situation in another way to lessen its impact on you.

If left unprocessed, you might have sudden residual feelings that seem to come out of nowhere but was really your subconscious bringing them up to be processed and flushed out of energy.

2. Did you encounter any negative entities?

Ok this is more to the woo-woo part but it happens to apply to friends who encounter entities from the other dimension from time to time. I mean, ghosts. Even though people like you and I can’t see them, the spiritually sensitive also do not see them all the time. Not seeing them does not mean that some negative entity or energy does not see you. Maybe you have attracted one or two due to your high vibration and sensitivity.

If you do not have the habit of imagining white light around you or praying, you might want to do a clearing of your energy by praying to Archangel Michael or any other higher being that you believe in. And no, Michael is not religion-exclusive.

3. Did you eat well in the day and rest well the night before?

This is really a no-brainer but sometimes a hungry stomach can wreak more havoc to a highly sensitive person’s psyche. You might find that these feelings dissipate after a good meal.

4. Are you a growing adolescent?

I am evidently well past the age of adolescent. But I remembered that when I was a teenager I was very emo towards teenage crushes, fellow schoolmates, gossip, exam stress etc. There was no lack of sources for churning emotional upheavals in my life then. Now that I am very much older and have had some life experiences, somehow these have decreased some what in quantity though not intensity.

5. Is it premonition?

I hate to say this, but sometimes these are really warnings from your intuition and if there are really no known psychological or physical causes, you might want to ask for more information to come to you via your intuition. If points 1 to 4 did not apply to you, and the feeling persists (in a steady sort 0f way), perhaps the Universe might be asking you to take notice of something and it does help to pay more attention to it, no matter how scary it feels.

I am no stranger to these overwhelming feelings. While they may end up dominating your life due to the intensity and frequency, know that they will pass over time and processing these emotions always helps as you acknowledge, bring them to awareness and do some work to let them go.

Gratitude, Lost and Found

The other day I took a cab out together with hubby as he went for work. I was holding a handphone and ez-link together in my hand which thereafter I slot both into my pocket. Anyone who has done that before can tell you it’s an almost-certain recipe for disaster, especially if you pull your phone out several times in the day. (You know, like to turn Pokestops.) Not long after on the cab, I realised my ez-link was gone.

I sat in the cab with a glum face after telling hubby the news, since he was the one who topped my card  yesterday with a full $20 that could last me several days. I tend to rarely lose things in public, so I was feeling being pretty regretful. Suddenly the thought of asking for the angels’ help came in to my mind and with a mix of desperation, hopefulness and feelings of silliness, said a prayer in my mind to find my card. Maybe they could watch over it till I get home. Maybe a miracle would happen that no one would notice a bright red ez-link sitting on the ground. Maybe the card might somehow come back to me.

It might be pure coincidence. It might a blessing from the other realm. As soon as I finished my prayer, I happened to shift around in my seat and saw something bright red on the floor of the cab! I had glanced the floor of the cab and it wasn’t there before. In any case, my feelings of gratitude were genuine and gushed over my body in waves as I looked upwards and thanked my angels.

If you are a spiritual person, you might have set up a gratitude practice, like giving thanks to the Universe at the start of the day. Well, I do it too. The problem is the routine of doing the same day after day sometimes makes me feel numb, like saying the words on autopilot. It is these events that trigger off your awareness and create the feelings that make you feel alive again. I am pretty sure down the road I will gradually lose this feeling again unless I consciously replay this event and its associated emotion in my mind. Humans are forgetful creatures.

Similarly, have you ever had a situation where you thought you were going to lose someone dear to you? In that moment, all you can do is to turn to prayer. The urgent, focused desperation for divine help and then things turned round for the better. Do you still remember the feelings after that? Gratitude might be simply too mild to describe.

What I am saying is that most things that humans do everyday – habits, routines, frustrations, problems – creates a certain numbness that slowly creeps in. The next problem that comes along when one is solved. The to-do list that seems too big to tackle with limited time and energy. While I would not wish for traumatic events on anyone, sometimes these are the very events that wake those who have been deeply asleep and far too long. Choose to be awake, or let life be your alarm clock.

The HSP Iceberg

I have been unemployed for a pretty long time (which explains why my name is the idle soul) and also conducting my job search for a pretty long time as well. To keep tabs, my SO printed a list to fill in the number of resumes that I sent out each day. Similar to corporate ways, I get reprimanded if I fail to send out any and praises when I hit above his baseline of five. He doesn’t care if there were fewer suitable job openings for that day, nor does he care that we had been out the whole day and it was nighttime when we reached home. To him, and any other corporate manager, all he sees is the tip of the iceberg and the rest are just excuses.

I am also living with my SO’s family who seem mainly extroverted with a not-like introvert introvert (aka noisy). I think, it takes a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) living with non-HSPs to really feel the difference. For instance, crowds and long periods of noise are perfectly normal to them. They get by without needing solitude at the end of the day. Frequently they also make snap decisions easily and never, ever ponder about the big mysteries of life.

I show emotions on my face. There was a period of time when I cried frequently over a seemingly purposeless life and my SO just couldn’t get it. He simply felt that I was too idle as an unemployed individual, and spending time on unnecessary thoughts. When we are going out for dinner and my SO asks my opinion for a dinner place, I try to intuit the answer. So an answer sometimes comes after 30 minutes.

What non-HSPs see and acknowledge are simply the tip of the iceberg. Below it is where our great emotions churn when we think about our life, spirit and soul. It is also the place where we keep our deep sentimentality for treasured friends and family. It is where we go to when life moves on after the loss of a loved one and realised that life really, somehow stopped with them. Below the tip comes forth these tears that perhaps are never-ending because we never really know how deep our iceberg goes.

So when we tell others we are a HSP, know that there really is a huge chunk of us that is too huge and scary to show it all at once, not excuses. And as I shake your hand and introduce myself – all you are seeing is the tip of the iceberg.