April 15, 2017

Five ways to Support the Highly Sensitive Personality.

In today’s world, we have access to endless opportunities, activities, and interactions.

With the advent of social media and technological advancements, humans have increasing contact with an abundance of information and social outlets. This is a blessing in many ways, but for those of us who are highly sensitive in our fundamental nature, stepping outside into the world can serve as stimulation overload.

I, for one, am about as sensitive as it gets and have to continually manage my life in order to maintain my welfare. I spent many years dazed and confused due to a lack of knowledge about my personality.

Through self-discovery, I now understand that my essentiality isn’t tainted, and that I simply need to acknowledge myself as someone who is highly sensitive.

Accepting myself in all my glory has been of paramount importance and it is my hope that we will all work toward loving this part of ourselves and thereby spreading awareness about this often misunderstood personality trait.

First researched by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D, a few decades ago, highly sensitive individuals (HSPs) aren’t as much of a rarity as we may believe, making up roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population.

There is no one-size-fits-all definition for us, but it is safe to say that we feel things more deeply than the rest of the populace. The brains of highly sensitive individuals tend to process incoming stimuli with greater sensitivity and reflection, which may result in consequent experiences of overwhelm, anxiety, and/or confusion.

This is especially the case when highly sensitive people come across more stimuli than they can handle, and there are singular differences in what particular individuals may withstand.

There are tests that you can take in order to discover whether or not you are highly sensitive and, by knowing so, you can create a life that supports your highly sensitive nature. In fact, this realization will serve as the first step we need to take in order to maximize our happiness and ease in life.

There is nothing to be ashamed of if we happen to be highly sensitive as it signifies our deep essenceand propensity for creativity and conscientiousness. Yet, there are particular actions we may want to take if we aim to nurture our sensitivity.

Here are five things we can do in order to support this beautiful personality trait:

Moderate exposure to noisy, crowded environments.

Highly sensitive people are more in tune to external noise and activity, so placing ourselves in the exact settings that set off our sensitivity meters may produce more harm than good. We may wind up in states of extreme agitation or distress as a result.

Although we may be able to handle such places in small doses, it may be smarter that we reduce our exposure to a minimum. Personally speaking, I am conscious of both the mental and physical ramifications of my personal space being compromised, with strong feelings of panic overtaking me whenever I am in crowds.

Traveling to New York City a few months ago served up a storm of overpowering anxiety. So, I tried my best to seek out spaces of solace amidst the concrete jungle. Aside from my big city travels, I also attended a rave some time ago and had to leave midway owing to panic. The symptoms I experienced included shallow breathing, nausea, and a migraine.

Everything was just too much for me and it fascinated me that so many others were seemingly unaffected by the factors that caused me great anguish.

Examples of settings we may want to be wary of are music festivals, concerts, street fairs, night clubs, and theme parks—among others.

Practice mindfulness.

Focusing on the present moment and all of its varying sensations, feelings, and thoughts encompasses the practice of mindfulness. This is a wonderful way for highly sensitive individuals to still their minds and be absorbed in the sheer simplicity of each moment.

This will reduce the possibility of mental exhaustion for HSPs as we can learn how to quiet our mental chatter and remain grounded amidst the unpredictability of the external world.

There are various ways of implementing mindfulness into our lives. One example: I utilize being mindful immersion via yoga. When I do yoga, I fully envelop myself into the present moment and dance my way from pose to pose, essentially blocking out all else that is around me and thereby turning off the symphony of mental pandemonium that I tend to experience.

Additional avenues for mindfulness include anything in which we can lose ourselves into present moment awareness, whether that be hiking, reading, sailing, acting, or anything else that stirs our souls enough to keep us fully hooked.

Incorporate deep breathing amidst overstimulation.

There are going to be instances in which we will come across over-stimulation from the external world, whether it be through the hustle and bustle of traffic, a jam-packed yoga session, or at a networking event. There is no need for us to cower and hide or to lose ourselves to a full blown stress party.

Instead of reacting to our surroundings with urgency, let’s take deep, long breaths. By doing so, our nervous systems will instantly lessen their hyperactivity. I have been breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth whenever I find myself in over-stimulating situations—the aftermath of internal serenity is almost magical.

Self-care is our best friend.

Since we are sensitive to our environments and are more significantly affected by particular stimuli, it is vital that we recharge ourselves via self-care. Although self-care is an imperative component of every healthy life, for HSPs with reactive nervous systems, taking care of ourselves in the wake of activity is essential.

Examples of self-care include avoiding an overabundance of caffeinated beverages such as coffee or soda, getting ample sleep, as well as incorporating peaceful renewal time into our daily regimens. Going to the spa, meditating every morning, or taking quiet evening walks are all good tools that a highly sensitive individual can use in order to gain some points on their self-care meter.

According to Elaine Aron, eating irregularly or staying hungry for long stretches of time can also tamper with our consequent mood or ability to stay focused. Moreover, neglecting our bodies and minds through an unending flow of movement may seem feasible in the moment, yet more times than not, we will burn ourselves out as a result.

If you are one of those HSPs that is always on the go and beginning to feel off kilter, perhaps it would be smart to take a few steps back and incorporate self-nourishing pursuits into your life.

Surround yourself with understanding people.

Our personal lives matter a whole lot when it comes to our life satisfaction. We crave quality over quantity and therefore seek out support systems that are meaningful to us. It is also imperative that HSPs surround themselves with friends and contacts who accept them fully, rather than try to invalidate or disempower them.

HSPs may be more emotional than the rest of the population or a bit more particular on what kinds of activities we can partake in, and for that reason we require socialization with non-judgmental, supportive contacts. If you happen to be one of many HSPs who finds yourself having difficulty being a social butterfly, realize that you may not be designed for too much social activity. Don’t beat yourself up about it! The key is to love yourself as you are and proceed to find intimate, heartfelt connections with others who you are organically drawn to.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for the entire highly sensitive population. However, these guidelines are a great place to start as we work toward developing closer relationships with ourselves.

Most importantly, if we listen to our inner voices and feed our natures accordingly, chances are that our happiness will be amplified.

Whether we need to leave a job that is too stressful or a relationship that doesn’t support our gentle spirits, we should always be on the lookout for ways of nurturing our high sensitivity.

Author: Shirin Karimi 

Image: Porsche Brosseau/Flickr

Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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Shirin Karimi