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, 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

Highly Sensitive Person – Am I One?

Life as a Highly Sensitive Person means seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting everything in technicolour

Statistics show that around 1 in 5 is a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP for short), and so it’s possible that you are.  This blog looks at how you can find out.  My new Theme Thursdays will give more information about what it means to be HSP, and how you can live your best life as one.

What Does HSP Actually Mean?

Sensitivity gets a bad press. People usually think of sensitivity as a as a female trait, and label it unhelpfully with words like, “Snowflake” and “Weak.”   Elaine Aron, (Author of “The Highly Sensitive Person”), however, sees high sensitivity as a personality trait rather than a personality disorder.

Some definitions of “Sensitive” can be found here, and one of the examples really struck me…

Spiders are sensitive to the vibrations on their web”

The heightened sensitivity helps the spider to sense and catch its prey, it survives through doing so.

Even though HSPs are not likely to be catching prey in a web, they are highly attuned to what’s going on around them.  They notice the moods and emotions of others, they feel changes in the atmosphere and environment and process all of this deeply.

What Does Being A Highly sensitive Person Mean for Everyday Life?

Every human (and most animals), works best when their nervous system is running smoothly; not too stressed, but also not understimulated and bored.

HSP nervous systems are wired to produce a higher reaction to stimuli than people who aren’t HSP… most people will react to a car backfiring with a hardly a glance, but an HSP might jump out of their skin. And the reactions are usually greater for all the senses; loud noises, bright lights, a big crowd, strong smells, all of these might induce a stronger reaction from an HSP, than they would from someone who isn’t.

It doesn’t just stop there.  HSPs process information more deeply too, which means they reflect on everything that’s said in a discussion.  They analyse motives and reactions, and have brains that are active at a high level for much of the time, even in the middle of the night.   So if you want a late night philosophy discussion about the meaning of life, find yourself an HSP!

Being HSP Sounds Hard, Are There Any Good Bits?!

Yes! This in depth processing means that HSPs have a much more complex understanding of what’s happening in situations.  They pick up the subtle clues and nuances that others might miss, and this gives them insight and intuition.

Seeing the world in so much detail can also increase levels of creativity and innovation; so it’s no surprise that many artists, actors and creatives are HSP.

And actually, seeing the world in technicolour and surround sound can be amazing!

What About Overwhelm?

This is one of the more difficult things that HSPs have to deal with.  All this nervous system activity can be exhausting.   What might seem like a walk in the park for a non-HSP, might feel like wading through treacle if you are.

Take a night out at a concert.  Crowds of people.  High levels of noise.  Lots of social activity. Possibly unusual or strong smells (could be BO or perfume depending on the concert).  Then there’s travelling to the venue, differing levels of temperature, along with the excitement of seeing the concert itself. Whilst enjoyable, this also could overload an HSP’s system to the point that they can’t cope.

In future, I’ll be looking at ways that HSPs can manage their nervous systems to reduce overwhelm.

A Different Way of Looking at HSP

Instead of seeing being a Highly Sensitive Person as a curse, it can help to reframe this. Elena Herdieckerhoff talks about this in her Paris TED Talk, which you can see here.

If you’re interested in reading more about Elaine Aron’s work, click here.

My next blogs will look at “Tips To Make HSP Life Easier” and “Managing Relationships As An HSP”.

If you’d like to book a free initial appointment to talk about any of the issues above, please contact me here.