Are you one of those people who startles easily? Finds that you’re running a little too fast or being a little too concerned at what later look like minor events?

You’re not crazy, you’re not alone, and it’s not your imagination, nor is it a lack of self control, as you may have imagined (or been told).

Some people just have nervous systems that react more quickly and strongly than average. This difference starts at birth and persists throughout life.

According to Harvard researchers and authors of The Long Shadow of Temperament, Jerome Kagan and Nancy Snidman, approximately 15 to 20 percent of newborns show increased heart rate, jerky movements, and crying in response to moving mobiles and tape recordings of human voices. These differences correlate with later tendencies to be more fearful and timid. In fact, higher heart rates have even been observed in utero in babies later identified as timid. Well, who wouldn’t be a little timid if the world was a place that intruded too harshly on your senses?

In her book, Highly Sensitive People, Elaine Aron describes HSPs as people who react strongly to external stimulation, such as sudden loud noises, overly bright lights, and even to other people’s moods or to violent movies and TV shows. They are easily affected by substances such as caffeine and easily disrupted by hunger. (She does describe the upside of all this, including deeper enjoyment of music and art, appreciation of fine scents and tastes, and a rich imagination.)

As an HSP, does that mean you are doomed to go through life protecting yourself from being startled by avoiding stimulating activities, events, and people? Or feeling too easily intimidated by social situations?

No, you can tame those tendencies to respond too strongly to your world, and quiet that anxious brain by adding meditation to your daily schedule.

And, no, you don’t have to retreat for an hour or so in order to meditate. Research shows that as little as 5 minutes per day can bring beneficial changes in the area of your brain where anxiety is located.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently had an article about meditation myths. A persistent myth is that you must somehow think about “nothing.” (Huh?)

The Star Tribune quoted Stefan Brancel, president of the University of Minnesota’s Mindfulness for Students Club, as saying, “Some people can do that, but only after years of disciplined practice. If the average person tries to do it, you’re actually going to produce more stress because you’re going to start criticizing yourself for failing.”

So just focus on your breathing, and when your mind wanders, just gently bring your attention back to your breathing. That’s all? Yup, that’s all, but doing it regularly trains your brain to take charge over the impulsive lower level processes, where emotions take over. Another way to describe what you are doing to your brain is that you’re building will power, as you gently train those higher levels of your brain.

If you’re an HSP, and you are delaying taking charge of your brain and your life until you have more time, you might want to rethink your schedule. Persistent low level stress is a real killer, and it can be very subtly wearing away at your body – heart, arteries, brain cells, and all.

So take the time right now – whether you are an HSP or not.

Is you life is filled with too much stress?
Do you feel you don’t have time to:
Sit down and relax
Meditate every day

Author's Bio: 

Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years' experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.