Do you react strongly to bright lights, crowds, loud places, or too many stimuli? Do people ever tell you you’re too sensitive? How about high maintenance?
You might be a highly sensitive person. A highly sensitive person (HSP) is someone who has an increased or deepened central nervous system with extra sensitivity to physical, emotional, and social stimuli.
In this week’s episode, you’ll learn strategies to up your comfort level in all areas of your life so you can thrive!
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
I am a highly sensitive person and for me, that means crowded spaces can overwhelm me, I can’t tolerate loud music, and I need the lighting in my space to be dim (just to name a few of my sensitivities).
It took me years to understand that as an HSP as well as an empath, it is extremely important for me to effectively communicate my boundaries, set limits, protect my energy, and mindfully curate my day-to-day life for success.
For so many HSPs, we can hear things like, “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re too high maintenance,” or “Get over it.” I’m here to tell you there is nothing wrong with you and you don’t need to get over it. Being an HSP is a real thing.
The term highly sensitive person originated with Dr. Elaine Aron, who began studying the trait of hyper-sensitivity in the early 1990s. In the therapeutic landscape, it is also referred to as sensory processing sensitivity (SPS). High sensitivity is not a mental illness, and it is not in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
That said, it is thought that about 20% of the population experiences high sensitivity. If you think this is you, welcome to the HSP club! It’s just the way we’re wired, but there are so many things you can do to make your life better and more comfortable, especially if you are struggling right now.
First, let’s go over some common sensitivities and traits of HSPs:
- Sensitivity to light and sound. I can’t tolerate bright overhead lights and I don’t love being in the sun. My eyes are incredibly sensitive. It’s very unlikely you will find me at a concert or live music event because it is just too loud for me.
- An elevated responsiveness to positive and negative influences and energy. Many of my therapy clients who are HSPs are highly sensitive to other people’s moods and energy. They often identify with being empaths. Highly sensitive people are deep feelers and while they can be negatively impacted by low vibe people, they also have a great capacity for joy and gratitude.
- Deeply feeling and thinking. HSPs have deep inner lives and are often moved to a sense of awe. They can feel very dialed into the beauty of nature and the human spirit. You might have a rich fantasy life. Highly sensitive people tend to be deep thinkers about the world, themselves, and other people.
- Sensory overload. Sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound – too many sensory stimuli can be overwhelming at times for HSPs. I can’t wear anything that is scratchy or rough and in order to get any sleep, I need smooth bed linens, complete darkness, and my earplugs and an eye mask. I feel uncomfortable in noisy crowds or at sporting events. There’s just too much going on for me.
- Need for downtime. You might notice you need to get away from noise and interaction and seek out a quiet space to reset, especially after being in an environment with a ton of external stimuli or after spending time with a lot of people.
So what can you do in order to thrive as a highly sensitive person?
- Figure out what might be getting in your way. Inside this week’s guide, I’m walking you through an exercise to help you get clear on your preferences and what is and isn’t ok with you. Are there environments you are in that can be adjusted to make you more comfortable? You can grab your guide right here.
- Take stock. You’ll also take an inventory of your current relationships and situations to identify what could be inducing more stress on your nervous system than is necessary. Are there any energy vampires in your life? How can those relationships be modified and/or limits put into place to preserve your precious bandwidth?
- Better boundaries. Setting better boundaries means knowing what your preferences, needs, and non-negotiables are and learning how to communicate them effectively. You are the only one who can create boundaries for yourself and if you are an HSP it is essential to your internal peace and wellbeing.
- Protect your energy. We have to protect our energy, especially as highly sensitive people. It is very easy for us to take on the energy of others- the good, the bad, and the ugly. HSPs are like sponges, and even if we’re absorbing positive energy, it can still be overwhelming for our systems when we don’t have healthy boundaries in place.
Inside the guide you’ll find out how to make your ok and not ok list, a quick inventory to take stock, plus more ideas and some of my favorite strategies to thrive as an HSP! Download it right here.
If you are struggling with exhaustion, stress, emotional reactivity, or overwhelm because of your highly sensitive nature, I invite you to take some time and space to care for yourself.
In my therapy practice, I have seen HSPs with overwrought nervous systems develop autoimmune disorders, extreme fatigue, TMJ, insomnia…the list goes on.
Before I knew I was an HSP, I wasn’t doing anything to protect or restore my energy. I found I would get very bitter and resentful. I would hit a tipping point and feel angry, put out, and taken advantage of by others. But the truth was when I got down to it, it wasn’t really about them taking advantage of me, it was about me serving myself up on a platter because I was a boundary disaster.
I was in a self-sabotaging cycle of seeing a need, any need, and trying to meet it even if it wasn’t on my side of the street. I wanted to be the good girl, the good friend, the good partner, etc. But it would always get to the point where I would let myself get so exhausted and emotionally fatigued that instead of getting joy from these things, everything just became about checking a box.
If you can relate, I promise that you can learn how to thrive. It starts by deciding to create better boundaries in your life and realizing how you feel, what you think, and what you want are important!
You can turn what seems like a vulnerability into a superpower because only then are we able to be fully present for our people.
Make sure to grab your guide here so you can begin to put some protective practices into your life.
Have an amazing week and as always, take care of you.