Give yourself the gift of space

I sat down with a good friend this week for tea.

(Well, she had tea – I’m on a how-much-caffeine-can-i-possibly-consume-before-i-spin-off-the-planet kick, so I indulged in a snooty Nicaraguan blend with notes of caramel and moose drool and the joyful tears of sloth babies, or something like that. Anyhow, it was delicious).

But I digress.

They poured my friend a beautiful cup of tea, and set her tea cup on a small plate. Like usual, I suppose. But this plate was different – the ring where you set your tea cup was off-center, which allowed for more space on one side of plate for setting your tea bag, spoon, etc.

My friend cradled her tea cup for the first time, actively steeping her tea back up and down, and noticed the unique tea plate. She exclaimed, “Do you know how happy this extra space makes me?!!”

Apparently, very happy, if the big smile, the sigh of relief, and the relaxation of her shoulders were any indication.

Extra space feels good for highly sensitive people.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about giving yourself extra time in transitions. This, essentially, is allowing yourself to have more space. And space, especially when created intentionally, is one of the most powerful tools for working with and managing high sensitivity.

Space can mean different things in different contexts. For example, in a physical space like an office. It helps my nervous system if my office room feels spacious. It keeps excess stimuli to a minimum while I’m trying to give readings or write blog posts. In order to give myself this space, I invest in closet organizing (to capture, tidy and hide the clutter), choose a favorite paint color that’s soothing to me, and decorate with styles that send calming signals to my system.

When it comes to living life on the day-to-day, space equals time, meaning that in order for the day to feel calm and spacious, I must place extra time before and after appointments, in any sort of driving transition, and during any other major transitions (like sleep to wake, wake to sleep, meal to work, etc).

This space isn’t just for convenience sake – it will improve the healthy of your body and mind by eliminating excess stress and stimuli from the nervous system.

The more time you invest up front in setting your life up with ample space, the more easily your system is able to navigate through the day. Your baseline stress is lower because you’ve been able to keep background stimuli at a minimum.

In the post I mentioned above, I write about the concept of being in survival mode – the place you go when you’re running on fear and adrenaline. Something I didn’t speak about in that post is how our highly sensitive nervous systems can be thrown into survival mode simply by not having enough space in our day.

When you don’t have enough space in your day – the space for your nervous system to easily disengage and rest – then your actions become reactive, rather than responsive. You run on a sense of urgency, rather than from a place of agency.

Operating from urgency never feels good. Operating from urgency long-term can have major consequences for the health of your body and mind.

The good news is that you can start operating from agency at any time by asking: Where in my life do I need more space? In other words: Which parts of my life feel confining or stressful?

  • Do you need more space around sleep?
  • Do you need more space around social media?
  • Do you need more space in your place of work?
  • Do you need more space in on your plate?

When you find those places of space that delight you, bring them into your life. They might seem small or insignificant because, culturally, we are taught to glorify the busy and the productive. But remember – the world wasn’t created by highly sensitive people. It doesn’t usually offer space. You have to be the agency that creates it for yourself.

I know what to get my highly sensitive friend for her birthday – more space, in the form of tea cups and plates.

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