When I was growing up I was often told You’re just too sensitive as though there was something wrong with me. I remember playing on the beach one day and becoming distraught when I saw some little boys taunting a small crab by pulling its legs off. I screamed and screamed, inconsolable to see such excruciating cruelty, but was then teased for being so upset as though my reaction was too extreme. When seen as a weakness, such an experiences makes it difficult to claim sensitivity as a gift. However it is important that we positively embrace and honour our qualities, since how we are affects our day-to-day needs.
A recent article in Psychology Today about Highly Sensitive People by Jenn Granneman resonated quite a bit with me, and while not having all the qualities of the newly emerging category of Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I identify with a lot of their needs. Jenn Granneman describes 14 elements which enable highly sensitive people to thrive so here I share some of the main points – though naturally, as unique individuals, we all need different things.
1. A slower, simpler pace of life.
Highly sensitive people process information deeply, and as a result, can experience the world a little differently than others, being adversely affected by sudden loud noises, bright lights, and busy schedules. HSPs may also move a little slower than others, needing more time to do certain tasks, like getting out of the house in the morning. For example, making decisions may take longer, such as which item to buy at the supermarket, because they are taking in not only the mountain of choices, but also nutrition information, price, and how they feel about the item they are buying. If they are buying something with chicken in, their mind may suddenly flash to chickens being cooped up in tiny cages then slaughtered … and so they must really consider if they can live with this reality on their dinner plate. All of this takes time.
2. Time to wind down and reset energy boundaries
Like introverts the extra-sensitive nervous systems of empaths can easily become overwhelmed by absorbing too much information from the environment and those around them As a result, they can get exhausted by taking on the energy of others, and need time to reset their energy boundaries relax and tune back into themselves. I have found that recognising and accepting my needs for restorative space has been essential to my wellbeing – rather than feeling there is something wrong with me for not being as sociable as others.
3. A calm, quiet space to retreat to.
Calm beautiful spaces are essential. Ideally, such spaces have soft lighting, little noise, a beautiful aesthetic, and favourite relaxation aids (such as vases of flowers, a book, music, a comfy pillow, etc.).
4. The need to honour and express emotions.
Not only are HSPs extra sensitive to environmental stimulation, they’re also sensitive emotionally, with a tendency to cry more easily than others. Sensitive people can’t help but express what they’re feeling. When I was younger, I would cry at the drop of a hat and still now, just listening to beautiful music brings tears to my eyes.
5. Time to adjust to change.
Transitions can be tough for anybody, but for highly sensitive people, the stress of change can be challenging and overwhelming. Even positive changes, like starting a new relationship or moving into a new home, can be overstimulating and require an extra-long period of adjustment.
6. Close, meaningful relationships.
HSPs need deep connections and meaningful intimate interaction with others. A surface-level relationship isn’t enough. They also tend to be selective about the energy of the people they bring close into their live, because as empaths, they can easily become depleted by giving their energies to others.
7. A gentle, healthy way of managing conflict.
Conflict with a loved one is difficult for most of us, but sensitive people tend to feel very anxious when conflict arises. Often an internal battle takes place, and the HSP may have strong feelings about something, but keep it to themselves, so as not to anger the other person, since dealing with an angry person can feel dangerous and overstimulating. We also hate hurting other people because we know from personal experience just how painful this is. Unfortunately, this means sensitive people often hide their needs and just “go along to get along.” They need a healthy way of dealing with disagreement that doesn’t involve too much intensity or drama.
8. A good night’s sleep.
A lack of sleep is enough to make anyone grumpy and unproductive but for an HSP, it can make life almost unbearable. Getting enough sleep helps soothe an HSPs’ nervous system and allows them to process their emotions. How much sleep a sensitive person gets can literally make or break their day.
9. Healthy meals, spaced regularly throughout the day.
Maintaining a peaceful equilibrium is needed, so if someone’s blood sugar is ‘out’, hunger can really unbalance a sensitive person’s mood and ability to concentrate – hence the term “hangry.”
10. Caffeine-free and non-alcoholic options.
Some HSPs (but not all) are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and alcohol.
11. An outlet for creativity
Many highly sensitive people have a strong need to create and express themselves as this enables the release and flow of energy from all the accumulated emotional and sensory data. Creativity can take any form – through art, poetry, music, and writing – or equally it might be expressed by creativity in their dress or home decor.
12. Connecting with life’s purpose.
HSPs, tend to think deeply about the big things in life. Who are they, why are they here, and what were they put on this planet to do? Whether it’s fulfilment through their career, writing a novel or involving themselves in a cause they believe in, it is important for an HSP to feel they are connecting with their life’s purpose.
13. Loved ones who understand and respect their sensitive nature.
Because most people are not highly sensitive, they simply don’t understand what it’s like to get very stressed by, say, a startling noise, a busy weekend, or a violent scene in a movie. Not everyone will “get” it, and that’s okay. But what an HSP needs is at least a few people who truly understand their sensitivity—preferably the people closest to them. Someone who not only gets it, but helps protect them from overstimulation. And, someone who sees all the wonderful gifts that come with this trait.
14. Natural surroundings and beauty.
Our environment affects us all, but for HSPs, the response to our environment is even more profound. For them, the way things look really matters. Often there is a need for order, cleanliness, balance and space. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments may be very unsettling, whereas beauty is a balm that rejuvenates and soothes. My go- to soothing activity is to sit out in nature, or to pick flowers from the garden and put little posies in the nooks and cranny’s of my home.Follow Us!