The Revealing Connection Between PCOS and The Highly Sensitive Personality [Podcast with Courtney Marchesani ] - PCOS Diva
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The Revealing Connection Between PCOS and The Highly Sensitive Personality [Podcast with Courtney Marchesani ]

Once you identify with being a highly sensitive person, things just open up in remarkable ways. From healing to learning how to heal, healing the way it works for you. To relationships, how to deepen your relationships through your sensitivity and how that works for you. It is magical.” – Courtney Marchesani

After many years of coaching women with PCOS, I can definitely say that most of our sympathetic nervous systems are more reactive. We worry and we struggle with overwhelm, but we also feel deeply and are highly sensitive to other people’s feelings.

I’m not one for labels, but when I discovered the highly sensitive personality (HSP), it made so much sense and I noticed so many connections between the HSP and PCOS.

I invited Courtney Marchesani to join me on this podcast to talk more about the highly sensitive person and to explore how it relates to PCOS.

Courtney specializes in the often-hidden mental health and emotional struggles of Highly Sensitive People (HSP). HSP’s were first written about by Dr. Elaine Aron in her book The Highly Sensitive Person. Often overwhelmed by the intensity and stimulation from the world, HSP’s make up roughly 15 to 20% of the population.

She won the Hay House 2017 Writer’s Workshop Book Contest with her proposal Four Gifts of the Highly Sensitive which identifies four specific archetypes of the highly sensitive person.

Listen in (or read the transcript below) as we discuss:

  • Definition & characteristics of the Highly Sensitive Person
  • How PCOS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, and fascia tension present in the HSP
  • How inflammation, which is one of the root factors of PCOS, is actually adding to the sensitivity
  • Tips and tricks to thrive as an HSP
  • The gifts of being sensitive

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Mentioned in this podcast:

PCOS Diva Podcast 37 – The Power of Perspective
Courtney Marchesani’s website: Inspired Potentials
Courtney Marchesani’s book: Four Gifts of the Highly Sensitive
Take the Sensitive Test
Dr. Elaine Aron’s book: The Highly Sensitive Person

Courtney Marchesani, M.S., Clinical Health Coach of Inspired Potentials, is an integrative mental health and wellness educator. She is a certified health coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (NYC) and also attained her Master’s of Science in Mind-Body Medicine from Saybrook University. She also provides education and holistic coaching programs for mental health issues such as anxiety, attention deficit, and depression.

Complete Transcript:

Amy Medling:

Most of the women with PCOS who I have worked with myself included have some level of chronic anxiety. We really worry. We take on other people’s feelings and energy. And I want to just point you to podcast 37. I talked to Dr. Nancy Dunn in that podcast and she was the first to really help me reframe this worry and anxiety into this, I think more positive thought of alertness where women with PCOS are very alert. And as Nancy Dunn said, “We’re mentally alert. Our nervous systems are in fact tuned up a little bit higher. Our sympathetic nervous system is a little bit more reactive when we have a higher androgen status like we do with PCOS. And in our current culture, that can mean things like chronic anxiety, insomnia, and can often lead to depression, but it can really be flipped on its other side to give us advantages of perception and motivation to change.”

And after I talked with Nancy Dunn on that podcast, I was also introduced to the work of Dr. Elaine Aron. She has written multiple studies and books on highly sensitive people, including the book, The Highly Sensitive Person. She estimates that between 15 to 20% of people have nervous systems that process stimuli intensely. These highly sensitive people think deeply, they feel deeply physically and emotionally, and they easily become over stimulated. I don’t know if that sounds familiar to you, but I wanted to explore this topic in greater detail because I truly feel that many women with PCOS are highly sensitive people. It’s an absolute advantage in life, but I think that it’s important to learn how to support ourselves and our nervous systems.

And so I invited the author of the Four Gifts of the Highly Sensitive, Courtney Marchesani to the podcast today to talk to us more about what it means to be a highly sensitive person. Thank you so much, Courtney for joining us today.

Courtney Marchesani:

Well, thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Amy Medling:

Let me just give our listeners a little bit about your background. You are a clinical health coach of Inspired Potentials. You’re an integrative mental health and wellness educator, as well as a certified health coach. And you attained your masters of science in mind-body medicine from Saybrook University. And you provide education and holistic coaching programs for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

And as I mentioned, you’re the author of a really just fantastic enlightening book called the Four Gifts of the Highly Sensitive.

Tell us what it means to be a highly sensitive person. How would you define that?

Courtney Marchesani:

Well, the classical definition was really great how you opened your podcast, is because it’s people who are highly aware. That’s one of the ways I describe it. I hadn’t heard the 50% statistic classically, it’s like a 20% statistic of one in four and one in five people who are highly sensitive, and what that means clinically-

Amy Medling:

Just to correct, I think it was a 15 to 20%, so it may sounded like 50.

Courtney Marchesani:

Yeah, so 15 to 20%, there’s a lot of dispute about that. A lot of people are anecdotally just saying that that statistic is probably much larger, but there’s no evidence-backed research to show that right now. So it’s usually one in four, one in five people who have what’s called sensory processing sensitivity. That is the clinical term, SPS. And what that does, it’s an organic brain function that allows more generally sensitive people to perceive and be highly aware in their environment.

And that is basically sensory information that floods in, so sight, sound, taste, touch, smell the five classical senses. They perceive more sensory information than other people in their environment. And how that translates into a second component or a second factor is that they also react more, quicker, faster to what they perceive sensorially. That means that typically it affects the emotions. That’s how we see it really in the real world is that we’re more emotionally reactive in those environments where we perceive more sensory information.

Amy Medling:

That is really interesting because I definitely feel like I perceive… I don’t love loud music at really crowded environments, is something that I shy away from. And I think if I pack my day with lots of activities, I get overstimulated and my husband doesn’t… Well, we’re going to be celebrating our 25th anniversary in a couple weeks, so by now he gets it.

Courtney Marchesani:


Amy Medling:

Oh, thank you. But by now he gets it, he understands me. But he didn’t always and the only way that I was able to explain it to him for it to make sense to him is to think of me as a computer that’s processing so much information that starts adding glitchy and freezes, and then like a computer I have to reboot by taking a nap, or taking a hot bath, or going for a walk in nature or some other kind of self care. Then once I’ve shut down for a little while, then I’m restored and I can operate more efficiently. Does that sound familiar to you?

Courtney Marchesani:

Oh my gosh, yes. And I think that the highly sensitive person doesn’t always know. In their own subjective, personal experience, they don’t always know that they’re a highly sensitive person, so I think that’s the really fascinating part about all of this is that self care, we know about self-care now finally. It finally hit critical mass, where self-care is a conversation in the wellness community and how important self care is. But you and I are older in our generation where we’ve had to actually learn through experience what works for us.

And so I think some of the advantages of self-care now hitting critical mass are that, that is a conversation that we can have now in our communities about taking care of ourself and how important it is, but that wasn’t always the case. Especially in like work environments and things, it’s really in the past, it has been go, go, go, drive, drive, drive, performance, performance, excel, excel, excel. And highly sensitive people really learn through those grinding away kind of experiences that we can’t necessarily function at our best or optimal performance level when we’re not taking those routine breaks and providing ourselves those moments of repair, the downtime to repair.

Because our central nervous systems really are on a hair trigger and we really… The thing that’s hard to understand sometimes is that because sensitive people are so sensitive, it takes much less for our central nervous system to become exhausted. That’s why I think my book is a little different than other books because I do talk about things like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, how the fascia holds so many nerve endings and things and how it’s all connected to the highly sensitive person central nervous system.

That medical term of analogy has not necessarily been connected with the HSP personality. And I think that’s because the medical field looks at the HSP as just a personality type, but it’s so much more. When you integrate it into medical science, you really start to see those connections light up like you’re talking about where you have exhaustion or where you have chronic exhaustion, burnout, fatigue, and that these are connected to the way your central nervous system is always heightened or on heightened alert.

Amy Medling:

And a lot of women with PCOS have adrenal issues too. And I think that that adds to… Fuels the fire.

Courtney Marchesani:

Oh, it totally does the HPA axis, when you start to research the HPA axis and what that is and how it’s connected to gastrointestinal issues, functional gastrointestinal disorders, it’s totally connected with your adrenal system, with your hormones, so intricately connected. And PCOS is also connected with a lot of these sensitive states. The sensitive states, which are basically like when there is something inflamed in the body, which is also connected to our hormones, we experience more sensitive states.

I had one reader when she read about sensitive states, she was just like, “Oh my God, this has changed my life.” And so sensitive states are when you have any kind of inflammation in the body, not only is that one area or that organ inflamed, but it also creates sensitivity throughout the whole body, so you experience more heightened sense of awareness or being on edge. Or just not knowing internally what’s happening, but feeling that sense of overwhelm and not necessarily understanding why.

Amy Medling:

It’s interesting how our body sends these subtle cues and signals that things are out of balance, but it takes us getting in tune with our bodies in order to read them. And that’s so interesting that inflammation, which is one of the root factors of PCOS is actually adding to the sensitivity. I didn’t realize that.

Courtney Marchesani:

Yes. And so once you make that connection, really deeply make that connection of what that means when you feel like you’re on pins and needles, or you feel for whatever reason like you are a more expansive state and it is a delicate state and you feel more fragile or vulnerable, or you’re tearful. Those different types of sensitive states, which are really magnifications of inflammation elsewhere in the body that you don’t necessarily know about, sensitive people are so highly aware once they start to track those sensitive states and moods with their cycle, and with these other physical things that are happening, there’s usually a connection.

And then you can figure that out and you can start to track it. And then you can start to really make those changes like you were talking about, like the down times, the naps. Sleep is so restorative to every… Every functional medicine doctor will tell you the same thing that sleep is just… Without sleep, your body cannot repair routinely without having certain amounts of sleep every day. It goes into the right kinds of foods, the right kind of people. It can affect every facet of your life.

I have a lot of sensitive people that say, “This is just a horrendous thing to have,” but I liked what you talked about in your opening of understanding there is a positive aspect to it too. Once you become aware of what your own body is signaling, then you can start to really repair and treat your body with the beautiful mechanism it is; able to heal, able to restore. A lot of times why we don’t heal and repair and restore is because we’re not taking enough time, and let’s face it.

Our society really isn’t geared toward that slow process of repair and recovery. It’s more like rise to the occasion, adapt, push through. And so, one of the things I always usually point out about sensitive people is because it does take a little bit more time and energy and patience with ourselves, with our bodies, with our mind and emotions, it takes more time to really tune in. And so a lot of times sensitives just push through those warning signs. That’s what they are.

That’s what I call them, is warning sensations. The warning sensations are the subtle sensory cues that we’ve been ignoring for so long, sometimes for a lifetime before we finally get tuned in enough to pay attention. And unfortunately, a lot of those times, it comes through some kind of diagnosis where we’re forced to backtrack and reevaluate. Because a lot of times there is no diagnosis for sensory or highly sensitivity type issues. It’s not able to be diagnosed.

Amy Medling:

This is interesting. My daughter who, she comes from a long line of women with PCOS. She was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder when she was younger. But I sense that that’s just part of her being a highly sensitive person. When I had shared that, I’ve shared it a couple times in different comments, on different threads on social media and a lot of other women with PCOS have chimed in and talked about having auditory processing disorder. Just curious if you’ve made that connection in your work.

Courtney Marchesani:

Yes. I think that sound sensitivity, auditory processing, sensory processing disorder, a lot of these different diagnoses are connected. They overlap in different ways, and so you’ll see people that say, “There’s no evidence to support that.” But as you start to anecdotally track different symptoms that relate to something that seems unrelated like an auditory processing issue, and then you start to track the other… It depends on how old your daughter is, but you start to track the other ways that sensitivity is affecting the mind and body, you do start to see patterns.

So things tend to run in patterns. That’s how I explain it. Is everybody the same? Does everybody who suffer from PCOS have auditory processing disorder? No, but it does overlap. It does overlap in interesting ways and I can give you an example of it. I was doing a talk and one of the yoga instructors came up to me and said, “I think what you’re really doing about anxiety is really interesting.” And then she asked me, “Do you see that empaths have candida more often?” Which seems like a random connection, but it’s not really random. Because when you start to look at the way empathy and compassion and these ultra feelers experience their subjective states of their emotions, it totally connects to the HPA axis, it totally connects with hormones. It absolutely connects with their cycle and how sensitive they are to their powerful emotions during different times of their cycle. So yes, did make the connection between candida and empaths long before you’re seeing some of these other medical conditions being connected to like a certain “personality type”.

But the reason you can make that justification for it is how empathy affects the person’s perception and their emotions, and it absolutely is connected. To say that it’s not, would just be to negate all these empaths’ experiences who are really struggling with something as important as candida, which can be really difficult. And so a lot of people with PCOS also struggle with candida.

Amy Medling:


Courtney Marchesani:

But you don’t see those connections coming about. They’re not in like OB-GYN medical care. You’re not going to hear a functional… Not a functional medicine, but women’s feminine doctor talking about these issues unless they are functional medicine. Because the functional medicine piece is like, “Okay, how are all these conditions connected?” And you can usually find the underpinnings of how and why, and it always comes back to hormones. Endocrinology and the hormones that are being activated at certain times during women’s cycle.

Why are sensitivity or sensory things connected to that? Because hormonally, it’s totally connected. It’s just not a conversation that’s happening at that level of critical mass like we’re seeing about self-care, but they will be, it’s coming. In time, you’ll see that it will come because women’s care and these kind of issues, it’s bound to come up because women are struggling with it and they’re looking for answers as to why. And sensitivity is absolutely going to be a part of that clinical and diagnostic picture at some point it will be accepted. It’s not right now, but it will be.

Amy Medling:

In your book, I only thought that there was just one category of you’re sensitive or you’re not sensitive. But you’ve drilled that down even deeper, and I was wondering if you could share the four types of sensitive people that you’ve identified. And then tell people how they could find out what they are.

Courtney Marchesani:

Sure. Well, I think there’s more.

Amy Medling:


Courtney Marchesani:

The four types that I really drilled down on were the ones that I saw running in these patterns that we’re talking about, that were consistent, that could be proven through science, backed with science. And so I think that’s where you see why my work is a little bit different. I’m not just pulling from archetypes. What I did was basically look at medically the way that these gifts are connected to sensory perception and sensory awareness.

And so the first one is intuition. And intuition has been studied extensively in different areas, different disciplines, but as I studied it, it was the ability to process information at lightning speed to get answers sometimes without even asking a question, just the answer arriving. And then the question coming later, which is pretty phenomenal through subconscious awareness. And so people who are sensitive, who are highly sensitive have this ability to discern, detect, bring about information from their subconscious at lightning speed.

And they seem to be able to use that unconscious awareness much faster and more frequently than others, and that comes through the form of intuition. So it’s getting from A to Z without knowing how or why you get there. And like I said, if the person is highly creative, where they use a creative receptivity, these are the type of individuals who are receiving the answer pretty much before they’re asking the question.

Whereas intuition in other processes and other forms of discipline is very well known as a way to get information or knowledge through like brainstorming processes. I break it out in the book through a bunch of different types of fields. But the simple answer is, these individuals are able to get the information quickly without knowing how or why. I explain it in a couple different ways, but the best way is they’re able to take information that’s stored in their subconscious and perceive it as it’s bubbling up to the surface of their awareness. If that makes sense.

Amy Medling:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Courtney Marchesani:

And that’s not always the case. A lot of people get intuitive information and they’re not really tracking it, but these intuitives who are the highly sensitive people intuitives are able to discern and detect the information as it’s coming up. And sometimes they can develop that into creative processes where they can access it faster and more routinely.

Then there’s the empaths. I talked about the empathic individual a little bit, which I touched on it and how it’s connected to hormones. Empaths are individuals who are able to discern and detect other people’s feelings, but they also feel them in their own mind and body. They literally cannot filter out emotional, content is the best way to put it. But it’s not just content, it’s actually the moods of certain situations they can detect and discern the motivations of other individuals like what’s behind the feeling what’s driving the other individual.

The thing that makes the highly sensitive person empath different from traditional empathy as it’s been described to us, which is essentially like an emotional residence with others, is that with the highly sensitive person empath, they don’t always distinguish between their own empathy and the feelings of others. That’s a really good way to describe it. They feel other people’s feelings as if their own sometimes or a lot of times.

That can be difficult because that ability to distinguish or discern, hey, this is mine versus this is somebody else’s can really be where we literally see things like… That emotional reactivity can just make somebody look crazy. I hate to say it like that, but that’s really the way you feel when you’re not aware that you’re picking up on other people’s emotions.

Amy Medling:

I know for me, and I took your quiz and I’m a sensitive, intuitive and sensitive empath. And for me, I have to be really careful about setting boundaries for myself around negative people. People who have a negative glass half-empty view of life. If I’m around too many of them, it really rubs off on me and brings me down and puts me in that place too. That’s one area as an empath that I have to be really cautious about, on not taking that negative energy on.

Courtney Marchesani:

Yeah, you’re being 100% on point there, because the thing about empaths, deep empaths or… Sometimes it’s been described as extra sensory empaths. These individuals who are really far out on the spectrum of sensitivity and they are so finely tuned and highly aware that it becomes routine for them to be able to discern what’s coming at them. It’s self-preservation, but it’s also burnout. If you’re constantly being exposed or exposing yourself. Let’s talk about like a toxic relationship.

If you’re an empath in a toxic relationship, which is your primary relationship with the person that you love and care about, but you’re not highly aware or you just haven’t known what that toxicity is. Maybe it’s because it developed from early life experiences or it’s a pattern that you know and are familiar with. But as you mature and you become more aware of it, and you’re constantly being exposed to that level of toxicity. Whether it’s negativity, or whether it’s control, or whether it’s gas-lighting, whatever it might be.

For an empath, that is a death sentence. And the reason why I say that as heavy handed as I am saying it is because it leads to chronic fatigue, chronic burnout, depression, anxiety, a routine vicious cycle that they just cannot get out of. And the reason why is because they live with somebody who’s not healthy, well or balanced and they take that on. And so a lot of my work is with individuals like that to teach them to detect, discern, “Okay, this is where it is,” and identify it.

It takes a lot of hard work as an empath to extricate yourself from those types of relationships. But a lot of time that’s like the first step towards healing, and it’s a self-preservation mechanism, but I think it’s overlooked in our society that a lot of empaths are experiencing empathy, fatigue, and burnout. Whether it’s in their relationship, whether it’s in their job. I’m thinking it’s really great that you bring up this point because we’re talking about it.By having these conversations and letting people know, you might be an empath, you can start to weave those threads, and follow those threads, and figure it out. And that’s the first step on the process, is identifying it.

The third gift that I talk about in the book is vision. Vision, it’s like empathy. Empathy, we’re talking about the negative or the downside of it, but the positive side of empathy just before we move on is there’s different types of empaths. Empaths who are really highly aware, who have figured out they are an empath or have just been able to rise up and transform through their empathy. They’re able to use it in phenomenal ways to help our societies.

They become advocates of social justice. They become spiritual leaders and develop, because their great compassion and care for others. They develop usually nonprofits and things to help their communities, which are that salve to the soul because they’re more like spiritual empaths. So there’s different types of empaths that I go into the book, but I also want to let people know that empathy is a great ability. It’s a great gift when finely tuned.

Just going back to vision, visionary awareness is similar to empathy as there’s different types, there’re different colors of it. Is the subtle nuances. Vision in my way of describing it is it’s the ability to use the mind’s eye, which I describe as an area right in front of your eyes, an imaginal space where you solve problems. And you solve those problems by using a visionary capacity to, it can be turning objects over in that space, it could be seeing a problem visually and putting the pieces together because it’s a more fluid mode of thinking versus using rational thought, which can take a lot more time.

And so it, with the visionary, they’re able to… They make great engineers, they make great film creators, film editors. You can use that visionary ability practically. Sometimes they’re clairvoyant, so you’ll have somebody who just gets images in that imaginal space and they’re somewhat precognitive through extra sensory perception. Then those nuances just continue on through different types of abilities, so they might have a photographic memory, they might be great at directions, cartography. They might have great facial recognition or be able to discern micro facial expressions because the visionary ability comes about in different ways. So it’s just a fascinating, phenomenal ability.

Then the final one is expression. Expression is the ability to use a creative fusion. And this came about through my research of aesthetic sensitivity. It was one of the sub-factors in all the research that’s been done about sensitivity. There is these sub-factors and aesthetic sensitivity was a certain type of subtlety that comes about through sensitivity, where these individuals are super highly attuned to their own environment. Once again, like the other types, but this pattern expresses itself where it’s a feeling, the heightened aspects of beauty, harmony, the interconnectedness of life. And not only do they feel those qualities in their environment, they have a way of depicting it through their artistic expression into different art forms. So they’re literary people, writers, painters, dancers. Any type of creative process where they are articulating that beauty, synthesizing with it and channeling it through their own being. And it’s not usually just that singular quality of creativity, they’re also usually giving meaning to the human experience through their own interpretation of that artistic fusion, if that makes sense.

Amy Medling:

Oh, that’s a beautiful gift.

Courtney Marchesani:

Yeah, it really is. And so you start to see how these qualities fuse together to create… It is a personality type, but I hate to just say it’s a personality type, because it really minimizes the great depth of a lot of characterization of these qualities and how they reveal themselves to the individual and then how they impact society.

Amy Medling:

Thank you for explaining those. I’m wondering if anybody listening is resonating with any of those highly sensitive types. I took your quiz on your website. Tell us what your website address is and we’ll put it in the show notes.

Courtney Marchesani:

It’s easy to find me by typing Inspired Potentials into any search engine because I’m the top, but the actual site name is It’s a mouthful, but it’s an informative site. As you mentioned, I’m all about education and coaching and awareness, and so part of that is the first step on the road, which is to identify. It’s really like-

Amy Medling:


Courtney Marchesani:

… who you are, who am I? And so this test is just a guidance tool. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s 20 years of my research looking into, well, how does these patterns express themselves? And so it’s a 40-question quiz, it is a bit long. But then you get the results, I send you a personalized email. I analyzed results each one and look at each test because sometimes there are different types of patterns that are new, they’re emerging research. And I send an email that says, “Hey, this is what your types are.”

Sometimes there’s overlapping types, so you might get intuitive empath or intuitive visionary, or empathic expressive, or empathic visionary. And so the way those coalesce, I call it multisensory intelligence, because there’s a convergence between the different patterns and how that convergence expresses itself is also unique. So it gets into quite a bit of intricacy, but for what we have right now, it’s usually pretty consistent. So I always like to ask people, “Well, how do you feel your results resonated?” And most times they feel like it’s one of the biggest ahas they’ve had.

And so I feel very validated in the fact that these do exist, and so that’s why I wrote the book was to really validate sensitives in their experience to know that they are gifted and it’s not just this, I don’t know. A lot of time sensitivity is just banded about like it’s a bad thing or that it’s not real, or that our experiences aren’t truly expressive. We get called exaggerators or we could call dramatic or all these different things. And that’s other people’s perceptions of how our sensitivity is revealed in the moment that we might look that way.

But honestly, in our own skins we feel that way, and the reason why is because it’s the intensity. It’s the intensity that we feel of our deep emotions or our rapid fire processes that happen so fast that just can’t be explained. I wanted to validate a lot of that experience for sensitives with this book-

… so that they have something they could rely on and say, “This is real, it’s not all my imagination.”

Amy Medling:

I wish that I had your book as a resource when I was writing my book, Healing PCOS, and I’ve so enjoyed reading it. But in my book, after I had that aha that I was a highly sensitive person, I wrote, “I no longer see being mentally alert or highly sensitive as a limitation. It’s an asset as long as I know how to support myself. Being highly sensitive is a characteristic of a truly alive and compassionate human being.”

After reading your test results for me, which I came out as sensitive intuitive, and sensitive empath, I realized what a gift that is for coaching women in the way that I do with women with PCOS, it allows me to really help them on a deep level. So I am just so thankful for that gift, but as I said, you have to learn to support yourself. I know that you had your own health journey realizing that you were a sensitive person and had to learn how to support yourself.

So I was wondering if we could just shift now to talk about some of those ways that as sensitive people, we can support ourselves. As I mentioned, naps, getting enough sleep, walking in nature. But what are some other ways that you like to coach women on how to support themselves?

Courtney Marchesani:

Okay. Just, I first wanted to say, before I go into the tips, tricks and tools, one of the things that was occurring to me as you were talking about your own test results and your coaching business is one of the things that was intuitively popping up in my mind as I was listening to you and being receptive to what it means for you specifically. And this is rare that I do this, but I really feel like you are going to have great insight with the people that you coach.

And so it occurred to me that that insight might arrive and you maybe be able to validate this right now in the moment, in the present or in the future as you work with individuals is because you’ve been through the process with PCOS and you understand it so intimately that I almost feel like you’re going to be able to have somewhat like of a medical intuition, that you are going to gain insight, working with somebody that they might not have themselves, because you’ve been there done that. Or you’ve covered that ground enough that you’re going to have that.

Intuition will work for you in that way, like a lightning speed insight into an actual symptomology that the person that you’re working with might not know or understand themselves. So I just wanted to give you that.

Because that flashed through my mind and I was like, “This is important, I don’t really want to neglect that and just move on.”

Amy Medling:

Thank you. It is a gift and my journey of PCOS at the time, the suffering, it’s difficult. But then when you can turn, I think Oprah says this life’s wounds into wisdom, it really is a beautiful thing, and that’s what I’ve been able to do. So thank you for saying that.

Courtney Marchesani:

Yeah, the flip side and the growth of that comes from that deep dive and development into what PCOS, what has been for you, but what it is for other people. So I would just reinforce that, that I think that intuition is a great gift for you in that capacity.

So how can you see these wonderful gifts that we’re talking about more often? Well, it totally comes through self-care. It totally comes through the ability to discern and detect with your own mind, body, and spirit need.

We talked about the warning sensations, so let’s just drill down into sensations what warning sensations are. Warning citations quickly are those sensations. They’re not emotions now, these are the sensations that cue you into the fact that you’re having an escalation of sensory awareness, which means your perception is peaked or has been peaked for a while through those hypersensitive states or hypersensitivity, and it could be from inflammation or some other process in your body that sending out an alert system.

When you start to become aware of what your own warning sensations are, you learn to tune into those and then to back off and to take steps, concrete routine steps to ward off a full-scale breakdown, is typically the way it’s described. Whether that might be a mood or maybe that would develop into some kind of symptomology or being more symptomatic or highly symptomatic. Walks in nature, absolutely, quiet time, the rest, the sleep is important, but other things are also crucially important.

You talked about auditory. Auditory is a huge overlooked area of medicine where we need to be able to tune out, just tune out from sound completely. It’s so rare to us that we would go into silence, but that’s why meditation and meditative movements have been so important, because it teaches us to get quiet. And how quiet are we really being? And then how much quiet do we really need? Anybody who’s experiencing sound, vibration like tinitus type symptoms needs to learn what that sensory escalation is immediately and then to tune out from loud sounds. Because we don’t realize how sound sensitive we really are until we start tracking it.

Second thing, food. A lot of times, we’re using foods to cope in any kind of given environment. And so sometimes just working with a traditional food preparation and to take out a lot of the harmful foods can be hugely restorative. Even just using the five flavors from something like ayurvedic nutrition can be helpful or using herbs. Calming herbs, healing herbs that you can use those phytochemicals in the plant to really help the nervous system or help multiple sensory systems.

Amy Medling:

Can I just a chime in there?

Courtney Marchesani:


Amy Medling:

I thought it was so interesting that the… You’re not a PCOS expert, but the herbs and the nutraceuticals that you were recommending are actually very helpful for PCOS. Things like melatonin and magnesium and Rhodiola and GABA and electrolytes. I just thought that that was so interesting that these kind of supplements really helped heal on such a deep level.

Courtney Marchesani:

Well, and let’s just talk about Rhodiola specifically. Rhodiola was used in Russia for pilots long, long time ago, because it’s an Arctic herb. It’s called commonly like Arctic Rose. So they were using it in Russia and giving them to their pilots to help them not only have sustained energy, but to have increased focus in the cockpit to deal with loss of sleep and lack of sleep and to be able to have endurance through their job performance. But flash forward years ahead into modern research and they took Rhodiola from knowing about this use of it in pilots in Russia and they did a pilot study down at UCLA for anxiety.

Solely for anxiety and anxious symptoms. They gave it as like a nutraceutical in their clinical trial and 50% reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Amy Medling:

Wow. That’s awesome.

Courtney Marchesani:

I saw that and I read that research because I took a deep dive down into Rhodiola, because a functional doctor had introduced me to the plant. So now I grow Rhodiola because I live in Alaska, and so I follow the plant, I look at it. I follow the seasons of it and I see how remarkable it is, but it can be relatively harmless. So the things that I promote in the book, it’s not like this is the one way, especially things like GABA, so important. Magnesium, we don’t make magnesium, it’s something that we have to take.

So people who experience a lot of depression can benefit from magnesium, but I’m very careful with how I say it and what I say. And I cannot say in any way, “This will heal you.” But it’s up to the people who are experiencing things like PCOS or PMDD to take on some research themselves and figure out what works for them. So I by no means say, “This is the best thing,” but those are things that I promote in the book that I know will work, that will be helpful regardless.

Vitamin D and vitamin C, they’re such valuable things and they’re often overlooked. Rhodiola to me is like a powerhouse for anxiety and you can get high-quality Rhodiola anywhere now, because once again, it’s hitting critical mass. But I’m also very careful because we saw things like St John’s wort back in the ’90s be this miracle herb for depression, and now we’re experiencing just it being overrun from wildcrafting and things. So you also have to be in balance with nature.

And sensitive people usually are aware of that and are careful with how they live in balance with nature, and so we don’t need that much. That’s the other thing. As sensitive people, you’ll always hear about people who are… They just can’t take a lot of Tylenol or they can’t take… Sensitive to people are typically the people that don’t need a lot to get a big impact, a big therapeutic impact from whatever they’re taking.

Herbs can be very helpful. Calming herbs to the nervous system will always be helpful to a sensitive person. So then my advice is then just to target. Target those symptoms with synergistic herbs. That’s the other thing that a lot of people do not understand, which would be helpful to go see whether your acupuncturists who are familiar and well-versed in like five-element therapy and how that works with plants. It gets so intricate and detailed, but what ends up happening when you find that right person or that right medical provider who’s versed with these things, they’ll find synergistic herbs that work in synergy or harmony for what you are specifically experiencing.

Courtney Marchesani:

That’s my best advice, if you want to go into the natural or holistic medicine route. And it takes time as you know to find the right person for yourself.

Amy Medling:

Then you had an interesting section about different types of movement based on your type of sensitivity. I loved when I was reading that the sensitive empaths may enjoy Pilates. Because I really do love Pilates. I’m a big fan of barre, which incorporates so much of the Pilates. Whenever I go to a workout like that, I always feel more grounded and stable, I guess afterwards. It just grounds me.

Courtney Marchesani:

I think once again, it’s so overlooked, all the core work that you’re doing in barre or Pilates or other types of movement that are building that core strength. Empaths, this is another connection that I’m making that you just don’t see a lot of times where I’m connecting a movement modality to a specific personality type, if you’re going to look at it that way just generally. But because of the intricate ways that empaths are such strong feelers in the world, having a strong core is essential.

And so they’re going to benefit so much from movement therapies, even in yoga that are engaging the core. Because it’s a way of ballast, it’s a way of strengthening and core conditioning with the systems. I don’t know if you picked up on this, but I also talked about the ecstatic states that empaths feel so routinely when they are in balance, because they feel such depth through their emotions that when they’re doing core movement or any kind of movement that’s tapping into that feeling or that mode of experiencing the emotional ecstasy, that’s just going to make empaths feel so blissful.

So they do experience bliss, and so I talk about bliss yoga, which you can also get from more like Pilate type movement or barre type movement where you really experiencing that bliss. It’s groundedness, yes, but it’s also expansiveness like how expansive can you get through your movement? And so once you have a practice as an empath or even as an intuitive empath, you’re going to feel those hyper-connectivity states with those more transcendent, is what I would call it or transformative emotional states.

Amy Medling:

Courtney, we only had an opportunity to just scratch the surface of all of the information in your book. I really encourage if you’re listening to today’s podcast and this struck a chord, you had an aha moment. You think that you might be a highly sensitive person to pick up a copy of Four Gifts of the Highly Sensitive and check out Courtney’s work on her website. We will list that in the show notes.

But I think I would just love, Courtney if you just leave us with just if somebody had an aha moment today, what would you say about moving forward with this new sense of awareness that you may be a highly sensitive person?

Courtney Marchesani:

It is a gift, don’t let the world get you down. A lot of times we are flooded in our society with imagery or… And especially right now when things really feel like they’re just burning down around us. Just know that sensitivity really is a gift and that as you start to dive into it and see how it works for you, where I think the magic comes is in recognizing it. Because once you identify with it, things just open up in remarkable ways. From healing to learning how to heal, healing the way it works for you. To relationships, how to deepen your relationships through your sensitivity and how that works for you. And it is magical.

And then the third thing would be, how can you help others? I’m really big about advocacy and service not just only to self, but to others. And so once you’ve done your own healing process, it’s neat to see, well, how can I serve others? Because sensitivity will usually connect you to your communities in those ways like how can you help? Those are the three things that I typically say start with.

Amy Medling:

Well, excellent advice. And thank you so much for all of the research and the work that you’ve done on this really under-serviced topic. Thank you so much, Courtney.

Courtney Marchesani:

Thank you. Thanks for having me and it’s just so nice to be together in community with people who are like-minded, kindred spirits almost, having these conversations.

Amy Medling:

Yes, I love it. And thank you everyone for listening to this episode, I look forward to being with you again very soon. Bye-bye.

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