Have you ever been told you’re too sensitive or feel too much? These statements feel more like insults, and if you are highly sensitive, you know how challenging it can be to manage the influx of internal and external stimuli. You simply can’t turn off your high-level empathy or ability to absorb the energy around you. But it is critical to practice self-care ideas for highly sensitive people to maintain internal balance in a world where you feel everything.
What Is a Highly Sensitive Person?
First introduced by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron in the 1990s, Elaine Aron published a book, The Highly Sensitive Person, to explain what a highly sensitive person (HSP) entails. According to Aron, an HSP is an individual who has increased sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) to physical, emotional, and social stimuli, including a complex inner life. Yet, while HSP is a personality trait, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) does not classify it as a disorder or diagnosis.
What Causes People to Be Highly Sensitive?
Interesting fact; biologists found the highly sensitive personality trait exists in over 100 species. This means that high sensitivity is an innate trait and a survival strategy. For example, animals and humans who are highly aware of their surroundings have a higher probability of survival. Beyond this, a few other causes might explain why some develop HSP
- Environment. If you experienced childhood trauma, you’re more likely to develop HSP from being conditioned to stay on guard and alert in your surroundings.
- Genetics. If someone in your family has HSP, there’s a higher chance you will also develop this trait. Additionally, your dopamine system may play a role.
12 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
Several signs indicate having the highly sensitive personality trait. But you don’t need to resonate with every sign on this list to be classified as HSP. Everyone is different.
- You avoid violent movies or TV shows
- You’re overwhelmed by sensory stimuli
- You require downtime to recharge
- You’re an empath
- You are sensitive to pain
- You often experience anxiety and tension
- You are deeply intune with your senses
- You feel moved by beauty, nature, cinema, etc.
- You struggle to establish and maintain boundaries
- You are highly affected by sounds, lights, smells, touch, etc.
- You care a great deal about others and want to help them
- You experience a spectrum of deep thoughts and complex feelings
The Importance of Self-Care
Everyone needs a personalized self-care system to process their emotions, cope with life’s stressors, and maintain emotional resilience following setbacks. It’s your insurance plan to prioritize your basic physical and mental needs to prevent a host of problems, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic stress, depression, burnout, and anxiety. So, create and follow a holistic plan tailored to your needs that prioritizes a sleep routine, nutritious diet, movement, and of course, mindfulness and what you love to help you live your best life.
6 Self-Care Ideas for Highly Sensitive People
1. Recharge, recharge, recharge
As an HSP, it’s vital to recharge after socializing and intense sensory experiences to prevent burnout, depression, and chronic stress. If it’s not possible, meditate and breathe in between meetings or carry sensory toys with you to ground you when possible. Additionally, you can try to prepare in advance by scheduling the necessary time to recharge. For example, if you have a busy work week ahead, maintain your boundaries to avoid overextending yourself, and use your weekends to rest. A calming nighttime routine will also help you transition from your day-to-day overwhelm before bedtime.
2. Create a mindful check-in practice
Every HSP needs a check-in practice before they start their day. Doing so will allow you to balance the stimulation better without affecting your nervous system too much. For example, create a morning self-care practice that feels realistic to you. Maybe schedule the time to meditate for 15 minutes upon waking up, complete a 20-minute at-home full-body Pilates workout, and journal to release any stress. When you’re in a calm state of mind, you’re more capable of making decisions about what you need vs. worrying about others.
3. Learn from discomfort
Often HSPs have a habit of shying away from discomfort. They may condition themselves to actively avoid watching violent shows, socializing in crowds, or doing anything that might overpower their nervous system. But this habit teaches your brain to fear stimuli you don’t always have the power to avoid. Therefore, slowly inch yourself to embrace and learn from the discomfort. Reframing the discomfort as something that’s not always terrible can allow you to process your feelings and better handle internal and external stimuli.
4. Foster mind-body connection
One of the best self-care ideas for highly sensitive people is to foster a mind-body connection. Indeed, many feel sick or in pain after socializing. Therefore, take the time to process how you feel emotionally and physically, and ask yourself, “Is this my pain or sickness or someone else’s?” Asking this question will allow you to process the blocked energy in your body. Additionally, you may feel reactive or overwhelmed by the spectrum of emotions you feel throughout the day. Allow yourself to acknowledge these feelings, label them, and reflect on why you feel the way you do. If, after some time, you realize you need to return to a conversation or situation, it’s okay to do so. Give yourself patience and practice self-compassion exercises to release the overwhelm.
5. Own your unique sensitivity
No two HSPs function alike. Everyone is different. For example, perhaps you have an overpowering sense of smell that makes it difficult to interact with people who wear a lot of perfume. At the same time, your friend may have an ultra-sensitivity to sound (learn how to cope with misophonia), making it particularly challenging to sleep at night. Knowing and owning your unique sensitivity will make you feel less isolated while providing the much-needed space to create a coping system that adheres to yours.
6. Prioritize creative outlets
It’s common to feel overwhelmed by the daily stimuli your mind and body try to process. Yet prioritizing creative outlets, like poetry, art, music, or movement, will help you reconnect to yourself and channel the stress. Additionally, carve time out in your schedule to engage in meaningful activities. Whether you love connecting to nature (Most HSPs do), volunteering at an animal shelter, or meeting with a friend, prioritize what makes you happy.
Being an HSP certainly comes with its challenges, but remember, it also brings benefits. You’re more in touch with the world around you, display greater empathy, and have intriguing problem-solving and creative-thinking skills. Yet it’s important to practice self-care ideas for highly sensitive people to prepare you to better cope with the influx of stimuli and life’s stressors.
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