HSPs compose between 15 and 20 percent of the population. Yet, one of the pioneers of the study of HSP — Dr. Elaine Aron – believes that we account for close to half of the people currently seeking therapy.
Having worked with various people in therapy – even before I was aware of the Highly Sensitive nature – I have seen this phenomenon. We tend to be deep processors – we feel our emotions vividly. Many times, we can pick up on subtleties and nuances, but when these things are abundant, we can shut down. Think of every video you ever watched in science class. Our eyes adjust to the dark and everything seems normal. The video ends and Mr. Teacher flips on the light without a second thought. And immediately we’re flooded with sensation.
Self-care for Highly Sensitive People means learning to adjust ourselves to the overwhelming sensations – or removing ourselves from them.
Why Self-Care for the Highly Sensitive Person is Important
Trying to live life as a Highly Sensitive Person can be overwhelming. Racing thoughts and overwhelming emotions on the outside get amplified on the inside. And – probably most importantly – this has a cumulative effect. The stress hormones in our brain keep living there until we find a way to talk them down. In other words, you are not going to offload your stress in 5 minutes.
It takes time and daily practice.
Proper self-care works to both reduce the overall stress hormones and, at the same time, lets your mind learn how to work through stress.
What is Self-Care for the Highly Sensitive Person
Self-care is for the WHOLE highly sensitive person. Human beings are more than just a body – they are mind and spirit as well – and each component needs care. It’s not ignoring the problem, though that can be a small component just to have the head space to deal with it.
Once you have that space, you can work on some of the individual areas of self-care:
Self-Care for the Body:
Highly Sensitive People are in fact … people – which means they have an innate biological nature that needs care over the life span. Many times, we respond in with greater sensitivity to sugar, caffeine, and other substances. Dr. Aron’s research indicates that we tend to thrive when given positive environments and not do well in negative ones (think of us as amplifiers).
This means that we – like every other human out there – need to make sure we’re taking care of our basic needs: regular exercise, balanced diets, adequate and restful sleep, even appropriate supplements (as indicated by a doctor) are crucial for highly sensitive people.
Self-Care for the Mind:
Highly Sensitive Minds need to find a sense of balance. Too stimulated and we become restless. Overstimulated, and we become anxious – or just shut down. And since we’re all individuals, it’s hard to know the balance – but we know when we things are “out of whack.”
Self-care for the mind can come from outside. Take a look around you and look at the stimulation. Are things cluttered? Chaotic? If they are, chances are your mind feels that way too. Now, not every pencil needs to have its place, but the more we’re able to structure our surroundings, the better we’ll feel. Being able to de-clutter can be therapeutic by itself or as an ongoing state.
Self-care can also come from the inside. Journaling is an excellent way to help organize the thoughts. Remember, Highly Sensitive People are deep processors, so it helps just to have something to slow the thoughts down and give words to feelings. Part of this can even be practicing gratitude and teaching our minds that it’s okay to feel good about things. Keep in mind too that not all journaling needs to be “Dear Diary, Today I was pompous and my sister was crazy.” Journaling can be done with music, colored pencils, or any other way that your mind can sort information.
Self-Care for the Soul:
Highly Sensitive Souls are like kites. They need an anchor point … and they need to fly. Spirituality is a personal decision, but it needs to be something everyone should contemplate.
Certainly, many religious practices can provide self-care, but these can also be substituted for mindfulness if your belief system is set up that way. Daily rituals can provide that anchor point when we need it. Do we have music or readings that we can utilize? Or can we just sit outside and meditate on the nature of beauty.
One of my best times with God was when I had an early class in Bible College. I would cut through the chapel on the way to class – which was pretty empty at that time of the morning. I would just sit down by the altar and tell God, “You know, I don’t really have anything today, so I’m just going to chill here with you for a little bit if that’s okay.” It was a wonderful moment that could let my soul be quiet – and I loved it.
Speaking of love, one of the most helpful self-care activities you can do is to love yourself. Practice affirmations. Allow yourself to be cared for – not for what you do, but for who you are. Celebrate your HSPness and dwell on the positive things about it.
So what about you? Whether you are highly sensitive or not, what is your self-care plan? What is working for you so far? What areas do you need to work on? Check out the helpful and handy infographic below!
Helpful HSP Hint: Pick ONE thing (yes, you – overachiever who even after I said that still has a list of 32 things in his or her head) that you can star working on TODAY. If you pick more than one, you tend to lose focus. And if you wait until tomorrow, you’ll be waiting for too many tomorrows. One thing. Do it! Now!
And If you need help creating a self-care plan – or if you have tried and not succeeded on your own – contact Covenant Family Wellness and we will help conceptualize what stands in your way and then what will work to help you de-stress and get back to living in your gifts!