14 keys to thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person

It’s not always easy being highly sensitive in an insensitive world. These tips have helped me feel better along my journey, and I want to share them with you…

1. Be aware that you experience life through an extra-sensitive nervous system

What all HSPs have in common is a hyper-responsive amygdala – the part of the brain that governs both fear and pleasure. This means that for the HSP, everything is amplified; experienced in high definition. “It’s like feeling something with 50 fingers as opposed to 10,” explains the psychiatrist Judith Orloff, author of Emotional Freedom. You have more receptors to perceive things so you are more sensitive to emotions and all forms of sensory input. Just being aware of this can be powerful in helping you reframe the challenges that come up in your life, as well as any from your past that are still troubling you. With this awareness in mind…

2. Let go of the idea that you should be able to live as the “average” person lives

You become more quickly and easily overstimulated, and then overwhelmed and frazzled, than most people so you need to do things differently. Some people can be out among crowds all day long, only to party the night away surrounded by more crowds and noise. For you, that would be unbearable.

3. Honour your need for quiet time alone

When you’re out in the world your brain works overtime processing sensory input and soaking up others’ moods, so you need time to decompress and recharge. After a hectic day all you want is to relax and unwind, so build plenty of downtime into your schedule.

4. Spend your time and energy wisely

This can be very simple when you put everything you’re considering doing through the following filter: “Is this essential, meaningful or fun?” If it isn’t at least one of those things, don’t do it.

5. Set boundaries and clearly communicate them

It’s not necessary that others understand you – they may or may not – only that they respect your needs.

6. But don’t let fear hold you back

As an HSP, you don’t want to overdo things. But don’t fall into the trap of playing it too safe and settling for less than you’re capable of. So next time your instinct is to say no to something, ask whether this is because it’s not in line with what you want; or whether it is, but you’re resistant to taking the necessary action. In order to get what we want in life, we all need to regularly pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and do things we don’t want to do. In Elaine Aron’s book – The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You – there’s a section on getting this balance right, with a mini quiz entitled “Are you out too much? In too much?”

7. Surround yourself with people who uplift you and limit contact with those who drain your energy

The more negative people and influences you let into your life, the more of your energy you’ll expend simply trying to stay on an even keel. And as the author Wayne Dyer has warned, when those of us who are sensitive and “porous” are around negative people, they can actually make us sick. So choose your company wisely.

8. Immerse yourself in “positive” at every opportunity

Read inspirational books, listen to uplifting CDs, watch motivating movies, and repeat positive affirmations.

9. Make time, too, for other activities that calm your nervous system and build your energy

Some suggestions: meditation, yoga, walking (preferably in a natural environment), dancing, any other form of physical activity you enjoy.

10. Give yourself plenty of time to get things done

Concentration can be challenging when you’re an HSP. We very easily get our knickers in a twist and our brains in a scramble when we are toiling under time pressure, or without the quiet and solitude we need.

11. Rein in your perfectionist tendencies

By nature you are thorough, highly conscientious and super attentive to detail. This is fantastic for your employer and/or clients but not always for you – when taken to extremes, it can become a time drain that also drains most of your energy. If this applies in your case, try this new mantra on for size: “Good is good enough”.

12. Create a sanctuary

Make your home a serene and beautiful place to retreat to. Clutter will scramble your brain and drain your energy, so keep your living space zen-like.

13. Get enough sleep

Some people can get by on four hours a night, but not you. Because your nervous system is so active during the day, it needs to recharge at night with the total rest only sleep affords. Help yourself by stopping work and other stimulating activities before dinner, eating dinner early, and aiming to be in bed by 10pm most nights. In order to ensure the deepest slumber, do what you need to to ensure you’re sleeping in total quiet and darkness.

14. Eat for success

As an HSP, you are especially sensitive to the stimulating and sedating effects of foods, and to hunger. How you eat can either balance you or send you reeling. For the low-down on what to eat and what not to eat, go here.


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