The Highly Sensitive Person’s survival guide.

Karolina Fotyga
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If you’ve already read this article on HSPs and you know you might be a Highly Sensitive Person, you might want to read further. You’ll learn all the best ways to take care of yourself, to facilitate your life so that you can feel a lot better in your own skin. (I’ve been meaning to write a 2in1 – a guide for both – parents of the HSP children and for adults. As it turns out though it would be way too long to read, so I divided it into 2 parts. The one about helping your sensitive kids will be up next. Today I’ll focus on the Highly Sensitive Adults. )

Let’s start with the big one:

GET ENOUGH SLEEP

It’s not rocket science but it’s still science. What the essence of a HSP is is basically being in a constant sensory overload. Your nervous system is working on a 7th gear anyway, so you NEED that sleep to wind down. When you’re tired, you’re more irritable, your concentration, productivity and good mood decrease immensely. You have noticed that, haven’t you? And I’m not even talking about sleep deprivation. What I’m addressing here is merely a situation when you’ve had one or two too few hours of sleep.  

Because you’re an HSP – your senses are already pretty heightened and adding the lack of sleep is another level of difficulty.  

EAT REGULARLY 

Have you heard the word “HANGRY”? I’m pretty sure if you’re a true HSP you know what I mean. It’s the state when your hunger pretty quickly turns into burst of anger. Or at least certain irritability.  

What can help you with that is planning your meals. Or at least the times when you eat. Try and be mindful about it. Maybe you don’t need breakfast, but if you miss the time for the first meal – it’s pretty much down the hill from there. Dizziness, headache, irritation. HANGRY. 

Make sure you TAKE CARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS.

As you know there isn’t a precise pattern all the HSP have. People may have different triggers – just stay curious and mindful about yours. Then you can try and make yourself comfortable: 

if you react to the bright artificial light – change the lights at home, you may try and do it in your office too if you work alone or others don’t really mind. You can also wear glasses that block the blue light. If you’re a freelancer – maybe you can plan your day around morning hours? Maybe you don’t have to spend majority of your workday with the artificial lighting?  

if you react to the sudden noises, traffic sounds, construction works at your neighbors – earplugs or headphones with some white noise or music will be your friend. 

– if you know that a place or a situation is a trigger, and you cannot change it or decrease your reactions, you may try to arrange it so that it’s not that disturbing. If you can’t stand shopping centers/malls – don’t try to visit them on a Saturday afternoon. Tuesday morning is your option, you know? Or do your shopping online. It works like that everywhere – notice and facilitate. Say, for example, you happen to get triggered on the beach. In July. With all the partying people, disco theme and the constant white noise – but you still love the beach;) Scan the surroundings. Choose a place far away from the families with small children;) or a grill, or that group of teens with a huge boombox. What you can’t change you gotta accept and/or work around it..

highly sensitive person survival guide

Make sure you have SOME SPACE TO DECOMPRESS when you need it.

It can be as much as your own office, or as little as a 15 minute walk in the park. You’ll need a place you can be on your own for some time to simply wind down.

One thing not many people think about, but I find it surprisingly effective is clothing. Be mindful about what you wear. No matter if you’re used to shopping in the chain stores, or if you visit high-end boutiques. Try and focus on the quality of the materials. The way they feel on your skin, if you can breath underneath… If they irritate your skin – it’s a red light. 

BE MINDFUL ABOUT YOUR CAPABILITIES.

If you know that at work – after those 3 intense meetings in a row you’re gonna be in existential pain – try and adjust your schedule in advance. It may sound simple and obvious, but you’d be surprised how few people actually think about their schedules this way.

If you know there’s a dinner party in your near future that you want  (*really should*) go to – do plan ahead. Don’t pack the day of the party with lots of interactions with other people. You’re gonna be in agony by the time you’re supposed to leave for the party and you’ll be more inclined to cancel. And you’ve already been there, haven’t you.

Speaking about the schedules. Something to pay attention to is the TIME that you need to get things done. You will be better off when you’re pretty good at time management. When you know that mornings are your preferred time of day – you can work on smoothing out the evenings. Just to be able to wake up early – before everyone else at home – and have a good day’s work. 

You may be an owl, and prefer to work in the night. It’s disputable whether or not it’s actually healthy, but for the sake of this article let’s focus on the fact you might simply prefer it for the time being. You may like the quiet of the house when everyone else is asleep. Just try and don’t work till 3am because you’ll completely mess up your biological rhythm. 

ROUTINES. 

When you’ve worked out what the best time of day for your is, you may want to think about some routines. There are ways in which you can make those crucial times of day more peaceful. There’s certain beauty and a sense of security in those activities we mindfully repeat time and time again. Your herbal tea, or specific beauty regimes, a book, maybe meditation. You know best what makes the experience of morning or end of the day more pleasant for you. 

Notice how I repeat mindfulness time and time again? That’s because: 

mindfulness is THE KEY

You first need to know yourself enough to notice all those little things. How you act, what triggers you, what you like, what calms you down. Mindfulness in its essence is about ‘being here and now’. It’s about focusing on the present moment. When you pay attention – you learn. About yourself and about the world around you.  

So pay attention – learn what calms you down. If it’s breathing – nothing’s easier – make time for those deep breaths throughout your day. Maybe it’s some physical activity, or going to empty museums, or a certain white noise. Do your soul searching and find out what it is. Then bring MORE of it into your life.  

Surround yourself with music that soothes you, put that one paining that is a sight for sore eyes on the wall. It’s all about taking good care of your mental wellbeing. Everyone needs that, but being an HSP makes you more vulnerable. All those little things you can do for yourself every day will bring a lot of benefit. 

Many HSPs are minimalists – or better yet – essentialists. Working towards having only things that are beautiful and useful around them. Decluttering all the unnecessary noise makes a Highly Sensitive Person’s life much more peaceful.  

Even though being a Highly Sensitive Person is not an illness it might be worth paying attention to the degree it influences your life. 

There’s two instances where I’d recommend consulting with a therapist:

One would be if the symptoms you experience are really interfering with your life.
Surely enough, not all of us need to watch horror stories or go to loud techno parties. But if your 
misophonia or regular every day situations trigger you into bursts of uncontrollable anger or just make it very difficult to go about you day or be with others – you might need a couple of sessions to work on some skills that you’ll need to flatten the severity of your experiences.  

The second one would be if you pay a lot of attention to your reactions. Those you don’t quite understand where they came from and those that make you anxious. Some people think there’s something definitely wrong with them, that they are different or difficult. That they are the only ones with high sensitivity – simply because they haven’t met anyone else like them. It’s not like people share these experiences very easily. It could be beneficial to work on those self defeating thoughts and learn about the ways you could make your life more pleasant.

It seems crucial to be able to find a healthy balance in life. One between trying to remove all the obstacles and overstimulation from your days and actively pushing yourself just a little bit to deal with what you can to eventually react less. Again – mindfulness is the key. It will help you both pay attention to your body, your needs and capabilities and then engage in certain activities that may also soothe your system.

Are you an HSP? Would you add anything that works out for you? Let me know in the comments:)

highly sensitive person's survival guide

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