In this recent interview in Kossie, a modern living guide focused on mental health, I'm featured sharing tips for Highly Sensitive People:
You tend to sense other people’s emotions. Having too much on your plate makes you anxious. You find it hard to reject others.
If you’re nodding to any or all of these, then there’s a chance you might be a highly sensitive person (HSP). Now, before you go into panic mode by this intimidating-sounding term, know that being highly sensitive is completely normal and that you can honor this invaluable trait of yours so it can turn into a powerful strength.
To help you do this, we have Psychologist Dr. Julie Groveman here with us to identify signs of HSP and what it takes to overcome challenges so you can proudly and confidently call yourself a HSP.
Is HSP a Disorder?
“I do not think it’s a disorder, you can handle it if you understand it and try to harness it,” Dr. Julie said.
Just like any other personality type, being a HSP has its own strengths and challenges.
“The positives attached to being very sensitive are you’re more empathic, you’re more compassionate, and you are able to really experience what others are experiencing,” she said.
However, this strength could turn into a downside. “When you’re a HSP, you’re very open to the world, almost too open, you’re kind of exposed to everything,” she explained. And that can cause mental exhaustions like burnout or depletion if you’re not intentional about how your energy is being spent.
Biggest Challenges for HSP
One of the main symptoms of HSP, according to Dr. Julie, is experiencing feelings of anxiety, which can be manifested into different physical symptoms. “It could be physical sensations like rapid heartbeat, an upset stomach, or a change in body temperature,” she said.
For HSP, it’s harder to identify what emotion is yours and what isn’t. And so, you tend not to be sure about whether those symptoms are an internal experience or actually coming from the surroundings.
Being an emotional sponge
“When you’re highly sensitive, you’re kind of like a sponge to the energy that’s around you.”
You're really perceptive of the feelings of the people around you and you tend to take on others’ emotions and the energy of your surroundings. You might notice feeling overwhelmed and tired when being around too many people or being in certain draining situations.
“Because HSP are so attuned to others’ emotions, they can get caught into the trap of people pleasing.”
As a HSP, you know what others want from you, and it can be hard for you to be assertive and set healthy boundaries, which can then leave your energy vulnerable.
5 Tips to Overcome These Challenges
If any of these challenges sounds familiar to you, not to worry. Dr. Julie has a few tips to help you learn how to better manage them.
#1 See it as a strength
“The first step is becoming aware that if you are highly sensitive, it is a strength,” she said. “It’s something that can serve you in a lot of ways and that adds to your emotional awareness.”
But it’s very important you learn how to harness it by becoming aware of the signs that you’re feeling triggered or your energy is being depleted.
#2 Prepare ahead of time
“When you’re in these environments that drain you or trigger your anxiety, you’re not able to think clearly and your decisions might be impaired.”
By first becoming aware of the types of situations that tend to overwhelm you, you can then prepare ahead of time some ways that might help you feel calmer. For example, before going into these certain situations, you can do some meditation, make sure you’re eating well-balanced food, get enough rest, and practice deep breathing – are things she recommended that can help bring calmness within you.
#3 Tune into your body
“When you’re highly sensitive, you’re very focused on what’s outside of yourself, so really learn how to tune into your intuition and what your body’s communicating to you.”
Your body is constantly communicating if something’s in alignment with you. So learn to pay attention to what your body’s telling you so you can know when to say no and, more importantly, be assertive about it. This helps you set clear boundaries and thus protect your energy as well.
“It’s essential for HSP to monitor what they are allowing into their energy field,” she added, “and this means being able to set better boundaries with outside sources as well such as news and social media as these have the potential to be emotionally draining.”
#4 Practice stillness
It can be very emotionally draining when you’re often sensing other people’s emotions. And so, make sure you’re carving out the time to reconnect and restore your energy. One way you can do this is practicing stillness.
“Stillness is not just sitting down doing nothing, but it’s sitting down doing the things that help you feel calmer,” she explained. For example, being in nature, doing deep breathing, and having a creative outlet are all ways that help you to connect with yourself.
Not unlike stillness, practicing mindfulness can also protect your energy by helping you stay more grounded in the present moment.
“A lot of times when you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, it’s because you’re not being in the present, you’re thinking a lot about the future or the past,” she said. “And mindfulness is about bringing awareness to what’s happening in the moment and not judging the experience.”
There are a lot of ways to do it and you can practice it in your normal day-to-day activities, Dr. Julie noted. For example, you can practice mindful eating by paying attention to what you’re eating. Bring all your senses to it, really slow down to savor the experience. If you notice your mind’s wandering off, don’t judge yourself, just bring your attention back to what you’re doing in the present moment.
Are you a highly sensitive person? I'd love to hear your thoughts here!
with much compassion,