Self-Care for Highly Sensitive People (HSP)

red uk passport

You’d think it would be the first thing I’d check having booked a short break to Cairo (many, many years ago)… that my passport was in date.

Actually, it was only three days before we went that I realised that my passport had less than six months to expiry and I wouldn’t get a visa.

So I ended up with an emergency dash to Peterborough Passport Office, where I spent the whole day waiting in an endless queue for my new passport, followed by a motorbike courier taking the passport to the Egyptian Embassy in London the day after.

It was stressful, and I was a mess!

How is This Relevant to Self-Care for HSP?

I had been overwhelmed by all the things I had to do in order to be ready to go away, I was nervous about going to Egypt, somewhere I’d never been before and I shut down. HSP are well known for procrastination. Unfortunately, my procrastination meant that we almost didn’t get to go on holiday.

Self-care advice is all over social media at the moment; and in this often chaotic and overwhelming world, can be very useful.

Finding out that you might be HSP (Highly Sensitive Person- Am I One?) means that you might need to look at self-care a little differently to our non-HSP friends.

Self-Care, What Does That Actually Mean?

It is what it says on the tin! Anything that helps you care for yourself can be labelled self-care, but often the suggestions can be ‘quick fixes’, and miss the deeper meaning. I’m all for bubble baths and scented candles (who isn’t?!) but sometimes caring for yourself means making sure there’s enough fuel in your car, or booking yourself in for a dental appointment (or checking your passport). These things aren’t so ‘sexy’ but they are an essential part of making sure our needs are met.

Why is Self-Care Especially Important for HSP?

Hand holding a cardHighly Sensitive People use up huge amounts of energy by processing sensory input from the world around, so it’s easy for us to become overwhelmed. Add to that a caring and empathic nature, and HSPs can easily find themselves burnt out through social/family/work interactions.

If you’re an HSP who’s had time at home with family and friends over this holiday weekend, you’re probably feeling frazzled right now!

When I was a young child, my parents always made me ‘have a nap’ if we were going out that evening (I never did nap, but certainly had some ‘down-time’), because they knew how ratty and tearful I could get when I was overtired. The difficulty when we’re adults is that we have to recognise that for ourselves, and put things in place to support our needs, (so I’ll finish writing this after my nap).

What Does HSP Self-Care Look Like?

The first place to start is to become an expert on you, and how you function best. How many hours can you stand at a party before you feel like you want to escape? What constitutes a good nights sleep? When are the best times for you to eat so you don’t get ‘hangry’? Who feeds your soul and who saps your energy? How much silent/solo time do you need each day to function best (up to two hours a day is the recommendation)?

The list of questions could go on, but really, the key is to know what makes you function best; and then factor in your needs to your self-care planning (yes, planning can be fun!)

Planning HSP Self-Care

Routines are really useful for HSP, because they become automatic.  This means you don’t use up precious energy thinking about them every day.

Start with the basics. Food, sleep and rest, water, exercise.

Some examples might be…

  • Make a two week meal plan with a shopping list, that you repeat, so you know, “It’s Tuesday, so it’s paella”
  • Get a water bottle with a counter, so you can check that you’re drinking enough (use it to fill the kettle if you don’t just drink plain water)
  • Go to a weekly exercise class, or walk to your daily activities
  • Go to bed at the same time every night, after the same wind-down routine, and get up at the same time, even on the weekends.

Then add in routines for administration…

Some examples might be…

  • Have all your bills paid by direct debit on monthly basis
  • Use the ‘repeat’ function on your calender to remind youself of yearly healthcare appointments

And add in routines for social and leisure time…

  • Make a weekly date with a friend and laugh!
  • Spend some time in nature each week
  • Listen to music that makes your heart sing
  • Give yourself time before a busy social occasion to recharge your batteries before you start
  • And give yourself time after to decompress and wind down

What about Therapy for HSP?

Sometimes, we need extra help. Therapy is a valuable part of self-care (which is why therapists have therapy!)  It’s a space where you can safely explore all that’s going on in your life.  Then you can begin to put in place all the things that make your life feel better for you.

If this has resonated with you, why not get in touch and book a free initial appointment, either in my office in Benissa, or online?

Email helen@lazuli.es, phone or WhatsApp 654065721

To find out more about the research on HSP, and to take the HSP test click here.

Photo (Passport) by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Photo (Card) by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Photo (Purple socks) by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

5 Tips to Make Your HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) Life Easier

Recognising some of the indicators that you might be a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) can cause mixed feelings; it can be a relief to understand why you feel as you do, but you might also be worried about having a ‘label’. My first blog, “Highly Sensitive Person, Am I One?” gives further information on what might indicate that you are an HSP.

If you think you might be HSP, here are some ideas that might help to make life easier for you.

Group of hands1. Recognise Your Tribe

Knowing that around 20% of people share this trait can be a relief, because often HSP feel ‘different’ and ‘misunderstood’. It can be hard for non-HSP to know how to deal with your strong emotional reactions, and they may not understand why you need lots of time to rest and recuperate after a social occasion. (You can find out more on Relationships as an HSP here).

The 20% figure means that roughly one in five of the people around you, are experiencing the world in a similar way to you; you are not alone! This on its own can help! And HSP often make excellent friends; loyal, good listeners, empathic…

Basketball court2. Play to Your Strengths

At 1.59m I am realistically too short to be on a netball or basketball team, and expecting me to play would be setting me up for failure. Luckily, my netball teacher recognised this, and taught me to referee, which, it turned out, I was quite good at!

Being HSP is like that. There will be situations that you find exhausting and overwhelming, but there will be other situations that let your HSP gifts shine. As much as possible, create your life to suit your strengths.

The scientific term for HSP is Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS), and that says it all; putting yourself into positions where you will be overloaded with sensory stimuli will take its toll on you. So it’s fine to go out to a concert for an evening; your heightened senses may well mean that you enjoy it more than your non-HSP friends, but expecting yourself to work in a similar situation for 40 hours a week, might well result in you feeling awful.

3. Rest is Not a Sin

We are constantly bombarded with ideas about what we ‘should’ be doing with our lives. Often, even our down time is caught up in this;

  • Go out with your friends!
  • Volunteer!
  • Read!
  • Live in a beautiful house!
  • Exercise!
  • Cook and eat healthily!
  • Sleep eight hours a night!

The pressure is on to ‘perform’, even for our rest and relaxation times. The key here is to understand that this is YOUR time, so YOU get to choose what to do with it. It’s absolutely OK to lounge around in your pjs for a day, whilst watching reruns of Friends (or whatever takes your fancy) if that’s what will help you to feel restored. Others might not understand or agree. They don’t have to! Rest means allowing your HSP mind to free-range (it’s highly unlikely to switch off), and there are no rights or wrongs about what you should or shouldn’t do. You are in charge!

4. Be Gentle With Your HSP Self

HSP are often kind, empathic and understanding of others, and judgemental, harsh and critical of themselves! You might have picked up messages through life that have made you think that you should be less sensitive, more robust, less affected by ‘things’. Sometimes those messages stay with us, and we use them on ourselves when we have trouble.

A tip here is to listen to yourself! Sometimes those messages flow through our minds without us even being aware of them. When you ‘tune in’ to yourself, you can catch those unhelpful thoughts, and reframe them. It can be useful to ask, “Would I say this to my best friend?” If the answer is no, then it’s probably not helpful to say it to yourself either. Catching these thoughts can be tricky, and take practice, but it is possible to change how you treat yourself over time.

Crowds standing by waterfall5. Fill Up Your HSP Senses

HSPs experience the world in glorious technicolour, and that can be overwhelming. It can also be amazing. An important factor here is choice. When I commuted on the London Tube, the crowds, noise, lack of air and smells were overpowering and uncomfortable, but I had no choice. In contrast, standing in a crowded cave under a waterfall, which was also cramped and deafening, was an incredible experience that I won’t ever forget. The first example had no choice, took place daily, and (seemingly) had no end, but the second was something I chose to do, once.

Using mindfulness can help you find those ‘waterfall’ moments. You can choose to notice beauty in nature, a friend’s laughter, your favourite music, the warmth of the water while you wash up. And choosing to fill up our senses with things that make us go, “Ahhhhhhh!” can help to overcome the times when our senses have no choice.

If You Want to Know More!

These are just a handful of ideas to add to your HSP toolbox. If you’d like to know more, or would like to schedule a free initial session, please get in touch here.

Waterfall photo by Collins Lesulie on Unsplash

Basketball photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Big Boys Don’t Cry (Or At Least That’s How The Saying Goes …) by Thomas

I’m sure that at some point in your lives you have heard the saying, ‘Man up’ .I remember hearing it many times as a child from family members, friends, and even teachers! However, it wasn’t something that I gave much thought to growing up – I guess I just accepted it as the norm.

Another similar saying that you may have come across is; ‘Big boys don’t cry’. You can almost picture the little boy who has fallen over and scraped his knee. He is crying in pain and his father says to him; “Come on, son, big boys don’t cry”.

Although these sayings may seem harmless and very normal to us, they are part of the bigger picture that we are talking about today. As society, we convey the message that men should ‘Man up’ or be a ‘Big boy’, which can mean that we, as men, find it very difficult to show any weakness or vulnerability.

Tough Guys, Sad Minds…

So, how does this stereotype fit with men and seeking out mental health support? Quite simply it doesn’t appear to. The ‘men should have a show no weakness bravado’ that we see in the media and through these stereotypes, does not appear to sit well with seeking out mental health support for men, as it may be seen to be in conflict with the role that society expects of them.

Indeed, with superhero men in the media often portrayed as invincible, powerful, human beings that never show weakness, along with the constant message to ‘Man up’. This can lead to men developing the belief that ‘real men’ or ‘masculine men’ should not be struggling. Men, are therefore, essentially brought up in fear of thinking or talking about emotional problems, and often repress their emotions, or shy away from expressing their struggles for the fear of being seen as weak or not masculine.

When it comes to seeking out mental health support when we need it, we are not getting the support that we really need.

The Figures…

In the US, an estimated 6 million men were living with depression last year, whilst 12.5% of all men in the UK were suffering from one of the common mental health disorders in 2017. Do these figures seem high to you? If you are saying yes, then I would agree. However, the worrying thing is that it is believed that these figures do even come close to representing the true extent of the problem.

The number of men who are suffering from mental health may not be represented in suchfigures, as they are simply not reaching out for the help that they need.

The Barriers…

A survey by a mental health foundation found that, in 2017, only 28% of men sought help for their mental health problems, and only a quarter of men had spoken to friends or family about what they were going through. They also found that 35% of men waited more than 2 years to disclose their mental health problems to friends and family.

Worryingly, it has been found that men are four times less likely to seek mental health support than women, and are four times more likely to die from suicide. Unfortunately, suicide is now the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, with middle-aged men found to be more vulnerable to mental health challenges, substance abuse and suicide.

Shame, embarrassment, fear of treatment, concerns about confidentiality, not believing that theyneed help, and wanting to handle it on their own, are some of the main barriers that men face for accessing mental health support. Unsurprisingly, given these figures, it has been found that 46% of men stated that they would be embarrassed or ashamed to take time of work for a mental health concern, compared to 13% if it was for a physical injury. In addition, 38% of men showed concern that their employer would think badly of them if they took time off work for a mental health problem.

Asking For Help is NOT Showing Weakness…

I think it is fair to say that we, as a society, are slowly challenging the stigma attached to mental health. In recent years, campaigns, such as; ‘Movember’ have been launched, whilst celebrities such as; Prince Harry, Prince William, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and a number of others, have spoken openly about their mental health struggles. But it does feel that there is more work to be done, especially considering the recent statistics highlighting that men are still often not accessing the mental health support that they need.

We therefore need to further challenge the stereotypes and myths that it is weak to ask for help!

I believe that we can all challenge our beliefs and develop new healthier beliefs, such as:

  • Depression is an illness, not a sign of weakness;
  • Reaching out for help and taking control of your mental health is the best course of action, we don’t need to cope on our own;
  • All humans, including men, feel sadness, this does not mean that feeling sad is not manly;
  • A sign of real strength is acknowledging and facing the challenges that arise, this does not mean that you are not a ‘real man’;
  • To help depression or other mental health problems, takes skill and strategies, simply suggesting someone snaps out of it’ does not usually work;

I don’t feel right, but I’m not sure I’m mentally ill”…

Perhaps another barrier inhibiting men from accessing support for mental health is a lack of awareness that they are struggling with it! It’s true that men can experience different emotions to women and sometimes may not realise what they are feeling, just that they don’t feel right. This is because men often repress their feelings and symptoms as opposed to showing sadness or crying.

As a result, men can therefore also exhibit symptoms that are ‘masking their feelings’, such as;

  • Irritability and anger;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Risk taking behaviours.

Access the support that you need, and talk to a friend or someone you trust…

I feel that there is a bigger picture that we need to look at, in order to truly challenge the stereotypes and stigmas related to mental health. I believe that we need to look at parenting; how we bring up our boys, such as; reducing critical and ‘Man up’ talk.

However, ultimately for now, men need to feel able to engage with support for mental health, and the first step towards this treatment is the individual feeling that they can talk about how they are feeling.

For this to happen, we all need to work together to help challenge the negative stigma and stereotypical views of masculinity, that are stopping them from doing so. We need to be kind and supportive to our friends if they don’t seem themselves, something as simple as offering to go for a drink or walk with them and being there for them can be a huge support. And if you feel that you are struggling with mental health, remember that there has never been a better time to reach out for support. The first step can often be the hardest, but it can lead towards getting better.

If you feel that you may benefit from talking to someone about any of these issues, why not book a free initial appointment with Thomas via thomas@lazuli.es or +34693554925, or share this post with a friend. Together we can overcome this.