Business Overwhelm

I am a psychotherapist who specializes in supporting people who have the genetic trait of high sensitivity in thriving and leading.

You: “Genetic? High sensitivity is genetic? And what do you mean by sensitive? Like emotionally? Or, with noise or lighting or food?”

Me: “Yes. All of it.”

About 20% of the population has a more highly sensitive nervous system that is literally picking up on more. This creates a whole different way of living for that 20% that is often COMPLETELY and ENTIRELY the opposite of the dominant culture.

Lots of entrepreneurs and small business owners are highly sensitive and know that they can’t work for anyone else because of their unlimited and ever-changing self and/or they are artists and innovators and have their own creations to sell or share that aren’t already on the marketplace. They very quickly learn that they need to figure out marketing in order to be successful on their own, and that means being online. I am one of those highly sensitive entrepreneurs as well as a small biz owner. I knew there was a lot that I didn’t know about online marketing and I was instantly overwhelmed! My sensitive body was picking up on all the things I needed to do and went into immediate shutdown. That was before I got the smackdown from Laura Roeder herself in a mastery program we did together. You can see an interview she and I recently did together about tech overwhelm here.

Maybe you can relate to me. With these sensitive bodies, us highly sensitive people are naturally externally focused due to all the stimulation we feel coming at us from outside all the time. One implication is that we naturally have a very large and expansive, complete and powerful view. This is why we got into running our own business in the first place and this is really valuable. This view is also what can be overwhelming if it is not also paired with physical reality and our physical desires. In simple terms, being online can create instant overwhelm if you don’t let yourself take it one step at a time in a way that works for YOU. If you try to work for IT, you will burn out mentally, physically, and emotionally.

In my work with sensitive people on this, I have developed a model called Sensitive Leadership where you work with your sensitivity to lead your life. It is based on my theory of The Highly Sensitive Hierarchy of Needs, which comes from Maslow’s theory.

Rather than going from the bottom up, we go from the top down:

If you are highly sensitive, you will not do well trying to start out with an arbitrary plan that someone else told you to do, comparing your self to what someone else has done, or setting up a plan before you understand why you are doing it. Instead, you can use whatever sensations you are feeling to get more of what you want. It’s all valuable and useful information. Even overwhelm.

So, what does this all actually mean for you when you are feeling overwhelmed with all the little pieces and moving parts of your business, being online, marketing, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter……AAAAAAH!

First, breathe.

Start with the most subtle sensation, whatever it is, and bring it down to a more dense practical reality:

1. Transcendent :: What you sense now in literal terms (tingling, buzzing, fluttering, cold, hot, tight, heavy, light), and keep breathing with it.

2. Self-Actualization :: What is here now, that you are here now (I am here in this room with this stuff right now and this is what is factually here/going on).

3. Aesthetic :: What experience you desire or what would feel better, what would feel beautiful to you (my example: right now I want to feel support).

4. Cognitive :: What you know (when I imagine the feeling of support I get an image of having someone to talk to consistently about my business).

5. Esteem :: What you can do (at least 10 possibilities of things you can do to feel supported this way).

6. Love + Belonging :: What you actually do (choose one of your options: I set up an accountability buddy each week to help me accomplish one main goal for the week and feel connection with another business owner like me).

7. Safety :: What you trust (establish the rules for how it will work, create the boundaries: I trust that doing this weekly at the same time over the course of a couple months and then a year can support me in having a recordable history of my accomplishments and someone else who knows these accomplishments who can remind me how awesome I am and support me where I am each week).

8. Physiological :: Commit and do it! Now you have or are on your way to having what you want in the physical world. YES!!

Having the trait of sensory sensitivity means that you can be a natural leader and that you can naturally get what you want when you let yourself follow your desires all the way to a physical reality that works for you. The physical outcome is the natural result of following your desire. So many of us get stuck spinning in analysis paralysis about our sensations and we never bring them to fruition. We expect that we will work like many others and we try to force ourselves into plans that we don’t really want or understand. Instead of that, use your sensation to bring it to a physical reality.

If you want to learn more about this and see some really helpful free videos, check out my Sensitive Leadership model at


Need more actionable advice?
Get your FREE weekly marketing “to-do” list
straight to your inbox every Wednesday:
Ane AxfordSelf-described as a highly sensitive person, Ane Axford of is also high sensation seeking, introverted, a licensed mental health and relationship therapist who specializes in working with highly sensitive persons. Ane has a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Human Development and Psychology, a Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, a Marriage and Family Therapy license (LMFT) in New York State, over 450 hours in clinical hypnotherapy training and a Clinical Hypnosis certification. She has facilitated individual, relational, and group therapy for over 6 years as well as many workshops, training, coaching, consulting, and classes. You can also connect with Ane on Facebook + Twitter


  1. I have to say that you really explained some details for me here that I wasn’t able to spot so accurately. I know I’m a bit sensitive, but now it makes a bit more sense

  2. This is an interesting concept. I agree with Lily – it isn’t spot on for me but does have aspects that apply. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for sharing this really good article, if you have time please visit my blog on Twitter Marketing ––build-your-organization/