If you’re a current or prospective client reading this, there’s a 50% chance you have a trait called high sensitivity and that you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP). And I know what you might be thinking – “isn’t sensitive a bad thing?”
First of all, NO – being sensitive is not a bad thing, and in fact, I believe it’s a tremendous gift. Being a highly sensitive person means you’re extra in tune with yourself, others, and your environment. You notice subtleties in your environment and feel them deeply. Once you befriend your sensitivity and smash harmful assumptions, you’ll see how special it can be. However, I also understand the word “sensitive” has a bad rap in our society. So let’s break down what it means to be a highly sensitive person.
Here’s the scientific bit:
High sensitivity is an innate trait found in humans and over 100 species of animals. It’s beneficial for our survival because those with the trait are extra aware of their environment and alert others when there’s a threat. It’s biological, which means we are either born with this trait or not.
So what are the signs of a HSP or Highly Sensitive Person?
- You become overwhelmed by sensory input, such as bright lights, loud sounds, smells, etc. Think of being stuck in an airplane with the AC blasting, the person beside you smacking gum, a baby crying, and uncomfortable, tiny seats. Nightmare.
- You’re very emotional. You feel emotions easily, strongly, and deeply. Maybe you’ve been told you’re “too emotional,” or that you need to “toughen up.” When you’re high you’re high, and when you’re low you’re low. But I promise there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just sensitive
- You’re kind, compassionate, and caring. You might be a natural caretaker. You really feel the emotions of others and notice subtle shifts in affect, body language, and tone.
- You’re intuitive. You know when you walk into a room and you can just feel the vibes? Trust that – it’s your intuition speaking. You might also avoid large crowds or busy environments because of this.
- You need more downtime than others. Being highly sensitive can feel incredibly exhausting. You’re noticing and taking in so much that you might feel extra drained or tired at the end of the day.
- You’ve been labeled as “sensitive” or “shy” as a child. Highly sensitive people tend to be observers. When others are talking, you might be scanning the room, picking up on the subtleties of what they’re, or trying to make sense of the situation. To others, this can be perceived as shyness, but really you’re just noticing. And sometimes, after you’ve been told you’re shy your entire childhood, you start to believe (and act) like it.
- You avoid violent movies, tv shows, or news articles. Violence can feel heavy and your sensitive nervous system would rather not take that in. You’ve got enough going on inside of you already. You’re not alone if you’re staying out of politics and the heaviness in the world right now. You want to help, but it’s just too much.
Top tips for managing and working your traits as a highly sensitive person:
- Allow yourself to work less and take more breaks. There is absolutely no shame in working fewer hours than others and sleeping in a little longer. Downtime can feel lazy, but really you’re just taking care of your sensitive system.
- Create and nurture an environment that feels calm and relaxing. This could mean switching to a slower-paced, emotionally supportive work environment. Or maybe you want to dress comfortably, find natural instead of fluorescent light, listen to calming sounds, wear earplugs, or keep lots of blankets around.
- Prioritize self-care. I know, self-care is such a buzzword right now. But it’s so important! Dance in your living room, sit on the floor with the lights off, spend time outside, drink water, or read a good book. Become in tune with yourself so you know what fills your cup.
- Release the extra tension and energy. Highly sensitive people are like sponges, you’re constantly soaking up messes from the world around you. Take time each day to release whatever it is you’re carrying. I personally love to exercise, physically shake it out, engage in mindfulness activities, or practice yoga.
- Choose a social circle that supports and encourages your sensitive nature. Your friends and relationships shape how you view yourself. When you’re around others who value your sensitivity, you’re much more likely to feel confident in yourself as well (not that we should rely on external validation, but it does help!). We all need support, love, and belonging.
- Set boundaries. Not everyone will understand your sensitivities. It’s important to be kind but firm to protect yourself.
- Be kind to yourself. You’ve been through enough shaming, criticism, and heaviness. Send some of that empathy that you give to others back to yourself.
So wipe the word “too” from you’re vocabulary. You might be extra sensitive, but you’re not “too” anything. If you think you might be an HSP and would like some additional support, find an awesome therapist you click with to help you come back to yourself.
Grace Ripperger, LPCC is a very skilled, highly sensitive therapist. She comes with a calm, intuitive energy that all but gives you an invitation to step into you wisest self. She’s passionate about helping others embrace their sensitivities, navigate their inner worlds, and increase their self-confidence. Read more about Grace and how you can work with her.
Grace is informed by one of her favorite authors…“How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Elaine Aron.