The term “highly sensitive person” was first used in the 1970s by Elaine Aron. She wrote a book about her research on the trait and found that it is present in 15% of the population. Highly sensitive person is a term used to describe people who have a more acute sense of hearing, sight, smell and touch than the average person. It is not at all uncommon for highly sensitive people to grow up feeling different from their peers.
Highly Sensitive People, or HSP’s, are often introverted and shy because they feel overwhelmed by the world around them. They may also be more anxious or prone to depression because of their sensitivity. If you are an HSP you probably feel very sensitive to everything that is happening you.
You are probably more anxious but also probably have more empathy for people around you than most people do. Highly sensitive people are highly attuned to their surroundings and to the emotions of others. They are often introverts and can be easily overwhelmed by too much noise, activity, or other people.
In this comprehensive guide, you will learn The Most Important Self-Care Task You must prioritize if you are an HSP, How to Set Relationship Boundaries, How to cope at work when you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), Tips for Dealing with Criticism, Tips for Living with a Highly Sensitive Person (if You’re not one!), and finally Tips to Make Travel and Vacation more enjoyable.
What is The Most Important Self-Care Task That a Highly-Sensitive Person Must Prioritize?
There are plenty of things you can do as a highly sensitive person to enjoy better health and overall wellness. You can start eating better. Unfortunately, many modern dietary habits involve eating lots of highly processed food. You probably know that the more steps or processes your food goes through before it hits your dinner table, the less nutrition that food delivers.
You could start meditating. Meditation has been used for more than 5,000 years as a spiritual and emotional healing practice. It is so good at reducing stress and anxiety and boosting positive emotions. You can also stop spending time with emotional/energy vampires. These are the people that seem to drain the life out of you every time you are around them.
It is smart to approach your health from a lot of different angles. However, if you had to focus on just one self-care practice that delivers so many mental and physical benefits for a highly sensitive person, you could easily make an argument that it is your sleep.
Why You Should Always Get Lots of Rest
People that feel things deeply, often look for emotional fixes to their super-powered emotions. Sometimes the answer lies elsewhere. One sneaky way to crank up the happiness and soothe your highly sensitive nature is to approach the issue scientifically.
Google “scientific benefits of sleep” or some variation of that term and you find countless studies that show how important sleep is for health and wellness. You improve your memory and live longer when you regularly sleep 7 or more hours each night. You decrease inflammation and improve physical performance. You boost mental focus, are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight, and you curb depression.
That last one is important, especially for highly sensitive people. Depression is the enemy of mental and physical health, and sensitive folks are more at-risk of developing depression due to sensory overload.
Sleep is Important for Everyone, but Especially for the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
As much as we know about human physiology, we still can’t explain everything that goes on when a person sleeps. Scientists aren’t even sure exactly how the body repairs and re-energizes itself during sleep, but they know it is vital to health and wellness.
It is more important for soothing the super-sensitive individual than most. Here’s why.
The brain, nervous system and emotions of an HSP are always working overtime. The more work any part of your brain or body does, the more rest and recuperation it needs to repair itself. This is why people that suffer some great trauma will often sleep for 10 or more hours a day immediately following the traumatic event.
If you are a highly sensitive person that wants to get the most overall health benefits from one single activity, embrace better sleeping habits. Here are a few ways to do that.
Exercise in the Morning
Research tells us that people who exercise in the morning sleep better at night. This might seem contrary to what you would believe. You might think that working out and being physically active in the evening would help you sleep better, but there are plenty of studies that tell us this is not the case. Start exercising regularly in the morning and you will get better rest at night.
Start Wearing Socks to Bed
A Swiss study years ago revealed that if your hands and feet are warmer than the temperature in your bedroom, you fall asleep quickly and enjoy more restful sleep. Of course, this may depend on what stage of life youíre at, but it does help some people.
Replay Your Morning
Prevention magazine shared this surprising sleep-boosting trick. If you find it hard to nod off, replay your morning in your mind. Start with the very first thing you did when you opened your eyes that morning, even if it was as meaningless as turning off your alarm. Then think about what you did next, and what you did after that, and so on. This is an unconventional and little-known way to help you fall asleep.
Set the Right Mood (Temperature-Wise)
Goldilocks didn’t like her porridge too hot or too cold. She wanted it just right. As it turns out, there is a “just right” temperature for sleeping. Most people sleep more restfully when the room temperature is between 65 ñ 67 F.
When you get a good rest, it will make it easier for you to handle what comes at you in this busy world.
To summarize, getting a good sleep is one self-care task that should not be overlooked in your quest to live optimally as a highly-sensitive person.
Relationships – 5 Ways for Highly Sensitive People to Set Relationship Boundaries
Some people are more sensitive than others. What may not seem like much of a speed bump in one person’s life, may cause serious turmoil for someone else. Sometimes this is seen as a problem. A person whose senses are very fine-tuned may be told to get over the fact that they react more strongly to sensory input than most people.
Actually, this ability to process sensory information more deeply can be a benefit in a lot of situations. This hypersensitivity can help a salesperson “read” a prospect better so she knows the best way to approach that individual.
However, it can also cause problems, especially in relationships. If you have a high level of consciousness and sensitivity, you need to know how to set smart boundaries for interacting with other people.
Boundaries recognize what is and isnít okay. They can improve your important relationships. Here are 5 ways highly perceptive and sensible people can enjoy less stress and more fulfillment in their relationships by setting clear rules and communicating them with others.
1 – Let Loved Ones Know You Need Plenty of Down Time
Everyone needs some time to “unplug” and spend some time alone. We live in such a busy, hectic, and loud world that it is easy for your senses to become overwhelmed. This is especially case the case with someone who is extra-sensitive.
Let your friends, family members and loved ones know there are certain times when you need to retreat to a quiet, calm place and enjoy some ìme time.î Tell them this alone time doesn’t mean you are upset with them. It is how you recharge your batteries so when you do spend time with them, both of you can enjoy the best experience.
2 – Be Honest with Your Significant Other
You care about your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. You have chosen to spend your intimate and personal time with this one man or woman. Have an honest conversation. Tell this person that you are naturally very sensitive, and talk about which of his or her behaviors or habits are especially hard for you to deal with.
Have a discussion about how your high level of sensitivity is causing stress and anxiety for you. Then use this information to create time and environment boundaries that you will both respect.
3 – Create Your Space and Their Space
Have you ever been smothered in a relationship? The two of you may have truly loved each other. Unfortunately, your partner never gave you time to breathe and that destroyed your relationship. This can happen unintentionally when clear physical boundaries are not set.
Creating unique, physical environments that belong to each of you is important for creating some breathing room. This doesn’t mean you can’t enter your partnerís space or they can’t enter yours. It just means that you recognize and respect this space as your partner’s sanctuary, and your partner recognizes yours as well.
4 – Talk Early and Often
Any relationship can fail without good communication. Talk about your feelings early on in the relationship. Do you like your music at a particular volume? Is wearing shoes inside a no-no? Do you allow no wiggle room in how a certain task or activity is performed, but you don’t care how other responsibilities are checked off your codependent to-do list?
You both want to make each other happy. This is much more likely to happen when you speak with each other about your idiosyncrasies, expectations and emotional makeup.
5 – Express That Your Empathy Doesn’t Make You a Doormat
People that are highly sensitive are often highly empathetic. They can unconsciously understand the emotions and feelings of others. This can mean putting the needs of others ahead of your own. Before you know it, you can begin resenting your significant other, friends and family members because you are always taking care of their needs rather than yours.
Sit down with those you care about and tell them that you may sometimes need help saying ìno.î They should also understand that when you do say no to a request it was probably very difficult for you to do so, and it would be nice if they recognized your difficult decision.
Work – 4 Tips To Cope at the Workplace When You are a Highly Sensitive Person
Sometimes work can be no fun. That’s why they call it work instead of play. For the sensitive person, the workplace can be a battlefield strewn with sensory landmines. By definition, supersensitive people respond more acutely to the things that go on around them. They may cry at the drop of a hat or experience over-the-rainbow joy and jubilation over a simple accomplishment.
Your sensitivity can be tough to handle at work. Some of your coworkers are trying to outperform you, and others don’t understand why you have to think about something so long before acting. Then you have bosses and managers giving you tasks that don’t sit well with your highly sensitive tendencies.
What can you do? Plan ahead. Get really honest with yourself. Lay out the ways your sensitivity hurts and helps you on the job. Then use these 4 workplace tips to maximize your productivity, minimize stress and anxiety, and enjoy your job.
1 – Have a Sit-Down with Your Boss
Sensitive people are like superheroes. They have one or more senses that work way better than the average person. This means any amount of input or incoming information can be very dramatic when it wouldn’t cause much of a response in someone else.
Let your boss or manager know that you work best with minimal distractions and are more productive when you handle one task at a time. You can also seek out jobs that cater to your abilities as a deep thinker.
2 – Set Boundaries for Communication
The highly sensitive person has the ability to hear and see things very clearly, usually more thoroughly than the average person. Add the fact that a very sensitive individual likes to think long and hard about a situation before acting or responding, and you discover that highly perceptive people don’t always move or operate at the same workplace pace as their coworkers.
One thing you can do to give you the time to respond to communication on the job is to set up an autoresponder on your email system. Whenever anyone sends you an email, they receive an automated reply.
It tells them that you respond to emails between 9 and 10 in the morning, and then again between 4 PM and 5 PM. This frees you up from having to check your email every time you get a notification. You can set similar boundaries for other forms of communication.
3 – Learn to Say Yes the “Right” Way
People who are more sensitive than most, often have a hard time saying no. On the job this means you can quickly get behind handling your own tasks and responsibilities if you’re always helping someone else. On the other hand, you also won’t last very long on any job if you always say no when given an assignment.
The key is learning to say yes the right way.
Understand that your desire to say yes comes from a good place. That doesn’t automatically mean that saying no is the wrong thing to do. If you have a lot of responsibilities or you are overwhelmed in some way, say that you need time to think about it. Then let the person you are dealing with know that you will get back to him tomorrow after you have had time to think about your response.
Be sure that you provide yourself with a realistic deadline (i.e. tomorrow by noon), and that you stick to it. Otherwise, you are going to cause yourself more stress by not having a timeline to make the decision, and you will look unreliable if you donít get back to the person asking.
4 – Be Clear and Direct
Highly sensitive individuals like to think things through thoroughly before taking action. With their ability to understand the emotions, feelings and thoughts of others, they often assume others can do the same with them. This isn’t the case most of the time.
Be direct and clear when you communicate on the job. Don’t assume everyone has your high level of perception and sensitivity. Don’t hint, suggest or be unclear. When asked if you can take on a specific voluntary assignment and you are already in the weeds with your own responsibilities, try this.
“I had been hoping you would ask me to help. Unfortunately, I have a lot on my plate right now and I don’t believe I could give you the attention that this project deserves.”
An indirect answer would be to say, “I’ll think about it.” All this does is put off your decision-making and give you one more issue you have to handle later.
Dealing with Criticism – 7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism from Others When You are a Highly Sensitive Person
Criticism hurts. Even when it’s constructive and well-meant, it can be hard to take. Friend and foe alike may be critical of your actions, beliefs or physical traits. Probably the most damaging is self-criticism, because we often have an incorrect view of ourselves; we are our own worst enemies.
This is where having a thick skin emotionally can pay off. On the other end of the spectrum are those who are more sensitive than most people. Depending on which statistics you read, about 15% to 20% of all people are highly sensitive.
As you already know, they respond to sensory input more strongly than others. Events or experiences that don’t raise much of an eyebrow for the average person, can cause dramatic emotional, physical and mental responses.
This is definitely the case when criticism is leveled at the highly sensitive person.
If you process things much more deeply than others, use the following 7 tips for dealing with criticism to lessen the negative impact.
1 – Become Your Own Best Critic
Get in their shoes. Think about why they said what they did to you. There could be a very good reason for their assessment of you, at least in their mind. People who criticize others may do so because they are having a bad day or for some other reason that has nothing to do with you. Identify the “why” of their judgment and you may be able to take the sting out of it.
2 – Look for the Facts Involved
This is harder than it sounds for people that feel just about everything very deeply. However, it is just what is needed to soothe your emotions. Try and remove the facts from your feelings.
This objectivity lets you see the reality of the criticism, not your emotional response to it. As Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Christine Reber says, “Don’t believe everything you feel. Feelings are not facts; feelings are feelings.”
3 – Treat Yourself
Why not do something nice for yourself after a wounding criticism? A long, hot bath, favorite meal or spending time with your best friend can lessen the pain of judgment.
4 – Watch the Clock
In other words, let some time pass before you respond. Knee-jerk reactions can be more damaging for a sensitive person than the comment that triggers a thoughtless and rapid response.
5 – Ask What They Meant
HSPs can sometimes misunderstand something they hear because their emotions are so ready to react. Ask questions. Ask your critic if you are understanding his assessment correctly. It could be that what you perceived was not at all what was intended.
6 – Look for Destruction or Construction
There are a lot of ways to say the same thing. If someone is intentionally trying to hurt you with destructive criticism that points out faults and failures, the problem is more about the critic than you. Constructive criticism seeks to help you by discussing something you should work to improve, and is coupled with friendly, positive advice. Ignore destructive appraisals.
7 – Understand that Good Can Come From this Critique
Being objective can be difficult when you are extra-sensitive. This is when it is really needed. You get to decide how you see anything, whether it be positive, neutral or negative. If you take a little time to step back from the situation and be honest with yourself, you might find that the criticism is helpful. You can use it for positive change.
Living With Someone who is HSP – 4 Tips for Living with a Highly-Sensitive Person – When You Aren’t One
Most people have what psychiatrists and psychologists would call an average nervous system. There are a few individuals that don’t have much of a response to any sensory input, and then there are those who are the exact opposite. These highly sensitive people need a lot of time to process information, and they often respond to input in a very dramatic fashion.
No two people are like. You are going to meet people that are very different from yourself, emotionally, physically, mentally and in a lot of other ways. If you are one of the majority of the population who is not highly sensitive, it can be difficult for you to understand why an extra-sensitive person acts the way they do.
When you are living under the same roof with someone who doesn’t share your sensitivity alignment, this can put a lot of stress on your relationship with that person. If you don’t feel things as deeply as someone you are living with, you are going to have to work a little harder than usual to foster a healthy relationship. Here are 4 tips for living with a highly sensitive person (HSP) when you are not one yourself.
1. Give Them Their Time and Space
It takes a lot of energy to power sensitivity that is supercharged. This means your HSP will probably need more time than you will to process information and reach an emotional level of normalcy.
Time is not the only ingredient for a healthy relationship here. The typical HSP needs personal and physical space as well. This doesn’t mean this individual doesn’t care about you. It simply means that he or she will often require more time and physical detachment then you will need to get through a normal day.
Talk with the highly sensitive person in your life about these requirements and honor them, and you can enjoy a healthy relationship.
2. Your HSP May Cry … a Lot
Highly sensitive people are usually going to cry more than the average Joe. This is just the way they are hardwired. It is not a statement on what they think about you, so don’t take it personally. HSPs will cry when they are sad, just like everyone else. Just realize that what may not invoke much of an emotional response from you, could very easily get the tears flowing for someone with highly tuned senses and emotions.
They may cry when they are happy, when they are angry, or for seemingly no reason at all. The way to handle this situation is to quietly and calmly ask if you can be of any help. Most likely, you will be told that they are fine and they just need a little time for their feelings to return to normal.
3. Help Them Make Decisions When You Can
HSPs hate making decisions. Something as simple as deciding what to eat for dinner can cause paralytic fear for a sensitive person. What if the food tastes bad? What if it is cooked improperly? What if you could’ve eaten something else that was much better?
These and other common, daily decisions can be difficult for the sensitive person you are living with. Help in the decision-making process when possible, can be a saving grace for your super-sensitive housemate.
4. Don’t Tell Them That They Take Everything Too Personally
Sensitive people know that they sometimes take things personally that they shouldn’t. Their emotions just run that way. It is not constructive for you or the person you live with, if you remind him/her of this unhealthy habit.
What Can Parents Do To Help Their Highly Sensitive Children Cope?
Adults are not the only people that can be highly sensitive. That’s because this is not a condition that develops. It is not a disorder or a disease. You are either highly sensitive or you aren’t. Your level of sensitivity depends on your nervous system, and your nervous system was designed before you were born.
This means that your children may have extra-sensitive nervous systems.
They can respond to otherwise normal events and situations very dramatically. They notice any subtle change in their environment and in your behavior. If they put off cleaning their room or completing some other task you give them, it is because highly sensitive persons need to reflect and think deeply before acting, even regarding seemingly simple situations.
The First Thing a Parent of a Highly Sensitive Child Needs to Do
We mentioned that an abnormally high level of sensitivity is not a disease or disorder. This means you can’t change this character trait of your child. It doesn’t need changing. It is who your wonderful child is as a person. You want the most for your child in every way, and the first thing you need to do to make that happen is to educate yourself.
Search for the term “highly sensitive child” on Google and YouTube. Find a local therapist that specializes in treating highly sensitive people. Start reading. A great place to begin your research is with the book “The Highly Sensitive Child”, written by Elaine N Aron. The author has a PhD in psychology and has focused her practice on highly sensitive individuals and their families.
One thing she emphasizes with parents of sensitive children is that they can turn this hardwired trait into a positive. Too many times, parents who don’t totally understand their children seem to think of their differences as negatives. Parents need to understand that this can be a very positive attribute if handled in the right way.
Here are a few things parents of highly sensitive children can do to help their kids cope with their super-sensitivity.
Don’t Ignore Discipline, Set Limits
You might be inclined to bend the rules for your highly sensitive child. You should keep in the back of your mind your child’s enhanced sensitivity at all times, but don’t throw discipline out of the window entirely. Discipline and rules help your child develop into a responsible adult.
Provide a Quiet Room
Super-sensitivity means your child will often want a quiet, calm and simple environment. A small room with very little furniture and distractions is perfect for the highly sensitive child to recharge his batteries.
Teach your Child to Unplug
Adults are not the only ones who need to learn to unplug in this very busy world of cell phones and other electronics. For the highly sensitive child, this is an important skill to learn from an early age.
Teach Your Child to Talk about Feelings
Talk to your child about emotions and feelings. Teach “feeling words” so he knows how to verbalize his feelings in appropriate ways. Highly sensitive children often speak with their behavior rather than words, so teaching your child to identify and communicate with feelings is important.
Teach Step-by-Step Problem-Solving Processes
Highly sensitive people don’t like uncomfortable situations. Nobody does, but the highly sensitive child is especially upset when faced with a difficult problem, event or environment. Teaching step-by-step processes for handling uncomfortable situations can give your child the confidence needed to tackle any difficult experience.
7 Travel & Vacation Tips for Highly-Sensitive People
Between travel arrangements, packing, flight delays and weary highway travel, there’s a lot to dislike about travel. Traveling long distances for business and personal reasons outside of vacations can be a real hassle too. You have to learn to roll with the punches when traveling because things don’t always go as planned.
Unfortunately, highly sensitive folks may not always seem like the most laid-back individuals.
There are a few things you can do to make traveling and vacations much more enjoyable as a supersensitive person. There are tried-and-tested tricks and techniques to make your next trip terrific and tantalizing instead of terribly traumatic. Here are 7 travel tips for highly sensitive people that will have you looking forward to your next travel trip, vacation, or road trip.
1 Get Your Own Room
This is really a no-brainer. Try not to share a room unless you absolutely must. Rooming with a coworker on a business trip might sound like a wise move financially. You may be thinking the same thing about sharing lodgings with several people in a hostel. Would you rather save a few bucks or save your sanity?
If you are with your family of four, however, you can rent a suite with separate kitchenette, sitting area, and still have your own bedroom.
2 Do Your Homework
This really applies to anyone traveling, and not just highly sensitive people. Knowing what you can expect ahead of time allows you to prepare mentally and emotionally for the experience.
3 Don’t Forget the Earplugs and Dark Sunglasses
Your senses are more capable and fully aware than most people. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not, like when you have to put up with the cacophony of noise at an airport. For this reason and others, earplugs are your friend when you travel. Dark sunglasses help when you are subjected to bright lights.
4 Pick and Choose
You know that being subjected to a lot of sensory input doesn’t make for the best experience for you. Sure, you may be concerned that you will never get back to this beautiful spot, so you may want to do and see everything. However, overloading your senses can lead to overwhelm, stress, headaches, fatigue and a less-than-enjoyable trip. Pick a few sites you consider must-see destinations and leave the rest for some other time.
5 Spend a Little Extra
Whether you are traveling for fun or for business, there are times when you will have to make financial decisions. If spending a little extra will reduce stress and anxiety, go ahead and do it. This could mean traveling first class so you have plenty of physical space, or taking a taxi instead of walking everywhere.
6 Be Prepared to Be Unprepared
Even the most serious and well-planned travel can go off course (think Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America when all he was trying to do was get to Asia). Some things are not going to go according to plan. This doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Breathe in, breathe out, calm down and have fun.
7 Pack the Snacks and Food You Like
Sometimes travel means going somewhere you have never been before. How do you know you will be able to find the snacks, food and beverages you like? This is not a problem if you carry along the things you know you enjoy eating and drinking.
Summary – HSP Survival Guide
We hope these tips offer practical tips for feeling better and coping more effectively with a variety of situations you may encounter. Let us know in the comments what specific tips have worked best for you!