To My Fellow “Sensitive Systems”



Tracy Shawn, M.A.


When I was in college, my friend Lauren and I joked that if we were ever to start a band, we’d call it “The Sensitive Systems.” Kindred spirits, Lauren and I commiserated about how we felt different than the other students: parties, lecture hall classes, and even hanging out with roommates for any length of time exhausted the both of us.


Through the years, my sensitivity has only increased. I startle so easily that I actually scream if someone jokingly creeps up from behind to surprise me. I become so overwhelmed while shopping at big chain stores, I forget half of what’s on my list. As much as I love connecting with others, even the nicest of social functions can drain me after a couple of hours. I even get headaches if I’m online for too long!


Living in our fast-paced culture is not always easy for those of us “Sensitive Systems.” I know that I sometimes berate myself for not getting more done and push myself to move faster. Lately, though, I’ve come to the realization that this is my natural state. There’s nothing inherently bad or good about it: genetics, temperament, and physiology all play into how our body (and mind) reacts to stress.


I’ve learned that it’s helpful to take mini-breaks throughout the day, to arrive a bit later to parties (and/or leave earlier), to eat a well-balanced diet and get plenty of exercise. I also give myself permission to say no to some social events, as well as limit my time with people who—for whatever reasons—tend to drain me when I’m around them. And above all else, I’ve learned to appreciate my sensitivity as a trait that increases creativity, empathy, and even humor!


Tracy Shawn, M.A. lives and writes on the Central Coast of California. Her award-winning debut novel, “The Grace of Crows,” is available on Amazon and other online book outlets. She is currently revising her second novel. Please visit her at: