The Highly Sensitive Person’s survival guide.

Karolina Fotyga Psychotherapy online
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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 and to facilitate your life, so that you can feel a lot better in your skin. (I wanted to write a 2in1 – a guide for both – parents of the HSP children and adults. As it turns out, though, it would be way too long to read, so I divided it into two parts. The one about helping your sensitive kids follow. 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 science. What the essence of an HSP is, is being in 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 bursts 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 – 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 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 the majority of your workday with 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 your needs. 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 breathe underneath. If they irritate your skin – it’s a red light. 

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR CAPABILITIES.

If you know that (at work) – after those three intense meetings in a row, you’re going to 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 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 going to 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 it’s actually healthy, but for the sake of this article, let’s focus on the fact you might 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 3 am because you’ll completely mess up your biological rhythm. 

ROUTINES. 

When you’ve worked out the best time of day for you, 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 a 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 the 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 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, hang that one painting 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 benefits. 

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

One will be if the symptoms you experience are 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 everyday situations trigger you into bursts of uncontrollable anger or make it very difficult to go about your 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 will 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 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 how 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 react less eventually. Again – mindfulness is the key. It will help you pay attention to your body, your needs, and capabilities, and then engage in certain activities that may soothe your system.

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

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