Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person
I am a highly sensitive person. I was often teased for this and not because anyone was necessarily mean, they just did not understand my intense responses to life. And neither did I. It wasn’t until graduate school, that I came across Dr. Elaine Aaron’s research identifying the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) as a naturally occurring phenomenon, describing approximately 18% of the population. HSP’s are often misunderstood for experiencing the world far more forcefully than at least 80% of humanity. You see, our brains work differently. We tune into the subtleties of life and are easily overwhelmed by the things most people barely notice. Because sensitivity is not highly valued within our culture, HSP’s typically have issues with their self-esteem and struggle with self-acceptance.
And boy, was this true for me!
I have also found that many of the shaman, intuitive and psychic people that I know, are Highly Sensitive People. From my intuitive perspective, being HSP is a soul thing. We feel this world quite differently than most. In an indigenous shamanic culture, being highly sensitive was understood and valued as a precursor for working with the Spirit world and serving the community. But being HSP in our contemporary western culture is not necessarily valued or easy. Still, it is not only possible to manage as a highly sensitive person, you can flourish when you understand who you are. When an HSP takes responsibility their sensitive being, they can create an environment and life-flow that supports their thriving!
In a world designed to support the other 80% of life, we have to take exceptional care of ourselves. Here is what I’ve discovered as essential ingredients for thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person:
- HSP’s need to take time to understand what it means to be wired this way. Do your research. Being HSP is a naturally occurring genetic orientation that can be a powerful asset, when understood and valued with respect and specific care. This shifts your high sensitivity from a challenge to overcome into an authentic expression of your Super-Power!
- Create a schedule that supports you
- HSP’s thrive when they have more time to accomplish tasks; are not rushed; and create effective routines that nurture their well-being daily. They need more time in the morning to get into flow and more down-time after work or school. They need more time to transition in between tasks. HSP’s require restorative time on the weekends and after any social interaction. They are greatly impacted by travel and typically require planning to adjust to time and environment changes before, during and after. Consistent self-care practices help the HSP remain balanced and healthy.
- Regular Energy Clearing
- All people are impacted by energy, but HSP’s have an extra–sensitive nervous system that requires consistent care. It takes specific effort to release the energy that the HSP accumulates from the stimulation of work, school or socializing. Depending on their upbringing and environment, HSP’s may develop keen defenses for being in an overstimulating, mildly chaotic or significantly toxic environment. Their system may become used to searching for threats, leaving them feeling vulnerable, easily triggered and overwhelmed most of the time. This can be fully healed through conscious attention, supportive energy practices and creating a healthy environment. Regular exercise, yoga or Qi Gong, dance or time in nature; massage; energy healing and specific energy release methods are helpful for restoring balance and calm within the sensitive energy field of the HSP.
- Soulful Retreat
- HSP’s require more alone time than most and they rejuvenate through the practice of sacred retreat. This does not mean isolation, rather, when engaging in deliberate practices that restore mind, body and spirit, a highly sensitive person thrives. HSP’s benefit from regular meditation; walks in nature; salt baths; or sitting in silence. Retreats can be created within 20-minutes of quiet or a more formal, structured commitment. Quiet, reflective practices within soothing environments are essential ingredients for the HSP to self-care.
- Compassionate acceptance of deep emotions
- HSP’s cry more frequently than 80% of the population. They are significantly empathic. They feel the full spectrum of emotions deeply and express their emotions intensely. Very often, HSP’s are deemed too sensitive or depressed, when they are just processing the over-stimulation of their environment. Tears flow or anger rises and often in inopportune moments. Within our culture, crying is viewed as a sign of weakness. But crying is a natural expression for the HSP and happens far more frequently than most understand. Even health-care professionals are not always educated about the Highly Sensitive Person. Education, self-acceptance and allowing their emotions to flow without judgment serve their well-being. Even in an ideal environment, HSP’s cry regularly.
- Time to adapt to change
- HSP’s find changes, even positive changes, to be highly stressful, unsettling or draining. They require a longer period to adjust to change and may appear to be resisting transitions, when they are actually processing the experience more deeply than a non-HSP. If a non HSP requires a month to cope with a life change; triple that time for the HSP.
- Restful, restorative sleep
- HSP’s require a full night’s sleep to thrive. They are especially impacted by disrupted sleep because it stresses an already sensitive nervous system and impedes their ability to process thoughts and emotions well. Without sleep, their high sensitivity goes on overdrive and they feel the exhaustion in their body, mind and spirit.
- Healthy diet
- HSP’s are often sensitive to specific foods. They may also react adversely to food additives and dyes; processed foods; refined/processed sugar; artificial sweeteners; caffeine; alcohol; tobacco and pharmaceuticals. They thrive on organic, simple, plant-based diets that promote balance and calm within their system
- Creative Expression
- When HSP’s process their intense energy overload through creativity, they feel in flow. This allows their introspective insights, emotions, intense experiencing of life to have a meaningful outlet.
- Trust their Intuition
- HSP’s are keenly attuned to their environment and often very intuitive. When they learn to trust their intuitive cues and act upon them consistently, they flourish.
- HSP’s take in their surroundings through all their senses. They tend to be moved by the beauty of the world: whether artistic, natural or human acts of kindness. HSP’s often require their spaces to be simple, pleasing to the senses, clear and clean to feel supported. They are taken by natural beauty and healed by it.
- HSP’s feel connected to all life and require a sense of purpose in what they do. They are contemplative about most things. If meaning isn’t implicit within any given situation, they will search and ascribe it, as a way of feeling connected to whatever they do.
- Understanding from their loved ones
- HSP’s are impacted by the very stimulating world in which we live. They can feel stressed by sounds, lights, tastes, touch and the empathic energy from their environment. Bad news hits them hard. Social interactions drain them. Rushing, deadlines and demands can be extra taxing for the HSP. Unkind behaviors, bullying, rejection or taunting will be felt extra deeply by the HSP. They require a lot of alone time. They need time to shift gears more overtly than most. They are emotional and deep. And they often struggle in relationships because of their overwhelm, growing up in a culture that most-likely shamed or marginalized the HSP and not understanding their needs. When they do not understand themselves or know how to handle their highly sensitive nature, they struggle and so do their relationships. Understanding and honoring these traits, rather than shaming, judging or personalizing them, helps the HSP self-regulate and thrive.
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? Check out Dr. Elaine Aaron’s work at https://hsperson.com/
As an HSP, you deserve to thrive. Self-awareness helps. Take time to understand your needs and develop a supportive schedule, engage in nurturing self-care practices and create a sensory-soothing environment to ensure that your beautiful, sensitive being is honored with dignity and grace. When you nurture your highly sensitive being, you claim your whole self and activate your HSP into a Super Power that benefits you and your world.