By Sherry W.
Recognizing when our inner critic takes over and how to stop it.
In the clinical world, RSD stands for Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. For those with sensory
processing sensitivity due to their brain structure, emotion is a part of that sensory system.
When RSD takes control, it causes emotional and physical pain as a result of perceived or
real rejection/criticism from others.
RSD doesn’t stop attacking from a distance. These thoughts become invasive and
internalized. RSD causes a negativity loop’ in our subconscious that our conscious brain
picks up and slams us with, lying to us.
There is hope. It begins with identifying when your subconscious starts lying to you. It takes
our active participation to stop it from happening.
Identify feelings of shame, embarrassment, criticism, rumination of past
(perceived/real) mistakes, defensiveness, irritation and feelings of being observed or
When this happens, take a deep belly breath – sigh out the breath. Bringing your brain and nervous system together to know it is safe, and then ask the following questions.
- Is my brain lying to me right now?
- Is there a slight chance I need to be more accurate with the intent of the
person I believe is the worst now?
- What are the facts?
- Am I ignoring facts and rationale in favour of feeling upset?
- Am I giving this person too much credit and or power over me?
- Why am I allowing this situation to consume me? Is it worth my happiness?
Brains become used to this RSD loop. The pattern will not only repeat, but as the nervous
system carries increased cortisol due to the stress, worry and anxiety attached to the
behaviour, it can cause other illnesses within the body and mind.
Once we identify and interrupt the moments RSD attacks us, we should talk ourselves
through each instance.
Just as the nervous system adapts to the negative loops, our brains will do the same with positive ones. The difference is that instead of cortisol, which makes us feel horrible, the nervous system and brain will share a new series of feel-good hormones—dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
Our brains respond to us working things out with them, out loud. Talk to someone about
your process or to yourself. It is healthy to speak to yourself when working out a problem.
- My brain is taking their words and twisting them. I am doing great.
- My thoughts on this were reactionary and not accurate. My brain was lying to me,
and I saw it right away. I know this person loves me and does not judge me like that.
- I twisted their words when they made that comment to make them sound hurtful to
me. They didn’t mean it like that. RSD is an asshole. I know their intent was only
- They watch me because I am attractive, not because they think I am a loser. I cannot
possibly know what is happening inside their head; I should stop imagining it is
terrible. I will start assuming positive intent.
- This person does not know me. I am giving their uninformed opinion far too much
control over my emotions.
- This comment is not personal; I can learn by listening to constructive feedback. It
can be enlightening to see how others perceive my behaviours or words.
- No one else noticed or cared about my mistake as much as I did. I need to give
myself the same compassion and understanding I give to others.
- If no one noticed the mistake I made today, chances are, the ones that I have been
worrying about and ruminating over for years are the same. I am the only one that
is making them a big deal. I should give myself empathy and kindness.
- I am experiencing paranoia associated with RSD. Asking the people who are with me
if everything is alright is what I have to do. Trusting the people who care about me is
the logical thing to do.
When we have learned to identify our RSD, we must work on our emotional intelligence.
Becoming emotionally intelligent takes patience and time. Identifying our emotions will
involve recognizing them before they erupt into reactions. Once we accept them, we can
healthily process them.
There is one more step in being free from the grip of RSD: nervous system and emotional
regulation. Making sure your brain and nervous system are both working together to help
you feel safe is the best way to maintain your feelings of calm and balance.
Our vagal nerves are the primary nerves that travel from our brain stem throughout our
nervous system to every organ and life-giving system in our body. Ensuring this section of
the nervous system is toned and functioning to the best of its ability will assist in a
balanced brain/body connection.
Vagal toning will be achieved by regularly doing the following:
- Preferred Breathing Method – Meaning when taking a deep breath, inflate the
stomach, not the chest. Inhaling through the nose, mouth, both or
alternating. It doesn’t matter; be sure to be comfortable with each breath as
it is drawn in. Upon exhaling, SIGH each breath out. Do not blow, huff or
force the breath out in any way. Simply SIGH it out.
- Humming, singing, growling, gargling, chanting or sighing will stimulate the
whole system to calm due to the vagal nerves becoming thick cords of nerves
threaded down either side of the neck. This sends a calming vibration for the
feel-good hormones to travel on.
- Chill out with cold therapy. There are many variations to choose from, and
effective toning relies on finding what works best for us. The cold slows down
our thought process allowing our allowing the impulses between our brain
and nervous system to take their time. Our unique life experiences will
dictate which cold therapies will be most effective for us. Cold shower, cold
face cloth. Ice mask, immersing face/hands or feet in cold water,
chewing/sucking on ice cubes/popsicles/milkshakes/cold drinks, and or cold
compresses on known tension areas.
- Tension release will allow us to tone the vagal nerve by teaching the brain we
know where our tension is stored and how to let it go. Where ever tension is
stored, concentrate and tense those muscles for a count of five and then
relax. Not sure where to focus this energy? Start with hands and face.
Squeeze eyes and fists tight. Pull all the frustration there. Upon relaxation,
shake out your hands, roll eyes back and forth, open and close your mouth,
and hang out your tongue. This is communicating to our brain all of the
stress and anxiety we usually feel are being released, naturally, by us.
- Dancing, singing, walking, listening to bilateral/binaural/8D music, writing,
drawing, painting, crocheting, colouring, DIYs, gardening, meditating,
massage, stretching, yoga, full body motion and shaking it out.
When we become emotionally regulated, we will find our RSD will become less intense.
Over time new neuro pathways are built due to our strengthened nervous system.
Once you clear out the negative messages within and about your body, your brain will be able to help you on your journey to healing. Working together is how it was intended.