by Paula Prober,
Complex. Deep thinking. Intellectually gifted. These are just some of the traits of a rainforest mind (RFM). People with RFMs may prefer a good read to a rousing day at the football stadium. They draw accurate conclusions when everyone else is lollygagging. They’re at the intellectual finish line when others are just leaving the starting gate.
Many RFMs are introverts and/or highly sensitive people. They are capable and perceptive. They are thorough, curious, and creative. They analyze the implications of trends on social media when their friends are preoccupied with, well, reality TV. They are scuba diving through life when others are simply water skiing.
Unfortunately, RFMs are often misunderstood. Their coworkers would benefit from their insights if only they could realize that it’s insight. But others don’t understand the RFM’s creative leaps — and it gets tiring to constantly fill in the blanks. So, RFMs might sound unreasonable or weird. They’re called “overthinkers” or “drama queens.” Or both.
Sound familiar? You might be a sensitive introvert with a rainforest mind. To learn more, see my post, 12 Signs You’re an Introvert With a ‘Rainforest Mind.’
You Are Overwhelmed and Underwhelmed at the Same Time
If you have an RFM, you may experience a sense of being out-of-sync with friends, family, and coworkers. As odd as it sounds, on many occasions, you might feel both overwhelmed and underwhelmed.
Let me explain.
Being a highly sensitive introvert, you are easily overwhelmed. Due to your wiring, you process and feel things deeply. And life is full of potentially overwhelming experiences. “Little” things that others brush off are magnified — strong fragrances, leaf blowers, bad architecture, buzzing that no one else hears, noisy chewers, unexpected weather events, houses painted orange, rock concerts, the problem of homelessness, the news, violent images, groups of more than one, unimaginable beauty, great kindness, the night sky, others’ intense emotions, others’ subtle emotions, premonitions, responsibility to save the world.
To name a few.
If you have a rainforest mind, you are often analyzing and synthesizing ideas more deeply than your non-RFM cohorts. You may not have realized that this means you are also often underwhelmed. This may have begun in school when you already knew the material that was being presented. You were an eager learner in the beginning, but if your teachers didn’t notice your advanced skills, you may have spent much time disillusioned and bored in school.
And now, as an adult, you may still find yourself in situations where you need to slow your speech or adapt your vocabulary. You may find that people can’t keep up with you or that it takes them a long time to grasp what you’re talking about. They tune you out when you are just getting started. At your job, meetings may feel intolerable if you have the answers and need to wait for others to catch up. You may find yourself spending a lot of time waiting. You are underwhelmed.
So what can you do?
7 Tips to Help With Overwhelm and Underwhelm
1. Just because you have lots of skills and abilities doesn’t mean you have to step in and rescue others.
Or take that terrible job. Or say yes to every request. Even though you may feel guilty at first, it would be impossible for you to do everything you are capable of. So let yourself be selective. (Here are some tips to say no effectively.)
2. Boundaries, limits, and alone time are crucial to nourish yourself.
If you take care of yourself, you’ll be better able to help when the situation is appropriate. Practice this phrase when someone (including your child) asks for something: “Oh. Interesting. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” Then, take a breath and think about it.
3. Find intellectual stimulation.
If you are frustrated at your workplace or at school, give yourself permission to find intellectual stimulation in a way that won’t draw uncomfortable attention. Use your creativity to find ways to entertain yourself in the dull moments. Knit at meetings or do the NY Times crossword. Bring a book everywhere you go. Daydream. Look for the humor in a situation. Give yourself permission to find careers that have variety, challenge, and creativity so that you won’t be bored. Change jobs when you need to. Start writing your memoir.
Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our newsletter. One email, every Friday. Sign up here.
If you are wanting to change the culture in your workplace, get a copy of Rebels At Work and join their community. The authors, Medina and Kelly, write and talk about ways sensitive, creative, complex thinkers can work to change the system from within the organization. You will see that you are not alone and that change is possible.
4. If you are a parent, it’s especially important that you know your limits and take time for self-care.
Your introverted soul will need to take breaks. If you make time for rest and self-nourishment, your child will benefit. If you have a highly sensitive rainforest-minded child, you may need some extra guidance. These children can be very verbal, energetic, and intense. When they enter school, you may need to be very involved if they are advanced academically. This can be draining. Look for books by Mary Kurcinka for parenting suggestions. For guidance around schooling, this post might help.
5. Meet other RFMs.
Because rainforest-minded humans can be hard to find, you may feel lonely and a sense of extreme underwhelmedness when you look for friends or partners. Find activities that appeal to you through meetup.com. Join an online group such as intergifted.com. Start your own meetup group, book group, astronomical society, or online community.
6. Learn the Argentine tango.
Yes, really! The tango is the perfect dance for RFMs. It requires sensitivity, intensity, creativity, and intuition. All of the things you have plenty of. You will not be underwhelmed. This is a tough dance to learn. And, yet, it is worth it. You will be moving with one person at a time, engaged in an in-depth, beautiful conversation, and no words need be spoken. If dancing isn’t your thing, you might try organizing a silent reading party or joining The School of Life global community.
7. Read my blog to gain more self-understanding and strategies for self-care.
Join many of my readers commenting on the posts and see what others are saying. Read my book for case studies of sensitive introverts in therapy and for a more detailed look at how having a rainforest mind may mean that you struggle with perfectionism, relationships, empathy, and a deep sense of social responsibility.
Above all, dear RFM, remember…
It is normal for you to be both overwhelmed and underwhelmed because of your smart, effervescent, multidimensional, perceptive, sensitive, rainforest mind. Managing your rainforest mind isn’t easy. All of those mosquitoes, monkeys, and tangled vines. It is a very, very, busy place.