What Are Highly Sensitive People to Do?
I think everyone would agree that today’s world is faster-paced and more chaotic than the past. There are so many demands, expectations and time-crunches. There are more people than ever, more crowds and busyness. There is so much violence and so many inexplicable events, all of which are blasted out every day…every minute, on the media, tv, radio and social.
Such a world is that much more challenging for Highly Sensitive People. Generally, we don’t do well in crowds or chaos or high tension. We can’t comprehend the reason for so many negative behaviors and events and react deeply. We become overwhelmed so easily to everything going on around us, so when things are chaotic or inhumane or unjust, we can feel immobilized or despondent, depressed, anxious.
Sympathetic/Parasympathetic Nervous Systems
It’s even more important for HSPs to practice a regular program of mindfulness and self-care. We really need to calm our nervous systems and center ourselves in order to manage daily life. The sympathetic nervous system responds to stress and danger with the “fight, flight or freeze” response (classic reactions of HSPs). This is protective and if we’re being chased by an animal or assailant, this will be very beneficial. When that system is engaged…the nervous system on high alert, digestion slows, breathing and heart rate increase, healing slows, etc.
If we’re always operating in a stress mode, the sympathetic system stays in control and the body can’t function optimally. We need the parasympathetic system to bring the body back to balance. This system is responsible for “rest and digest” and healing. In order for this to occur, we need to practice stress management techniques, have a healthy lifestyle and feel safe, secure and at peace.
Highly Sensitive People need this even more. We need to calm the nervous system. Because we process things so deeply, and have a more difficult time letting things go, our bodies can continue on in a state of overwhelm constantly if we don’t step in and make changes.
Sounds good, but how?
So how do we do this? I maintain a healthy lifestyle and practice many techniques, all of which really help maintain a more calm energy system…regular time in nature, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, calm alone time and mindfulness activities, like body scans and paying attention to sounds around me, noticing every little detail while walking or hiking, breath work, visualization, etc.
While these practices are helpful and, I think…necessary, I have found meditation to be the most effective tool for calming. After several months of daily meditation I discovered that my sensitivity level decreased more. I’m able to handle more chaos for longer periods of time and feel less triggered by news stories and the state of the nation. I’m less reactive to others’ behaviors. This has been beyond reassuring…it’s blissful to feel that shift.
That said, it’s still very important for HSPs to take time out for rejuvenation. Regardless of our lifestyles and practices, there will likely be events, experiences and duties that are too much to handle. Remember that it’s always good…for us and others, if we step away and breathe when overwhelmed, or remove ourselves completely. It’s not helpful to isolate and never participate in social events, or to avoid responsibilities, but it is good to establish and uphold boundaries, take baby steps, create a reasonable schedule and get out and try things.
Awareness is also imperative. Understanding ourselves more and the differences between the way we and non-HSPs approach life helps us to be able to step back and be more responsive rather than reactive.
The Next Step
There is a lot of information on the web about Highly Sensitive People. Reading a book on HSPs is very helpful and reassuring. Starting or expanding a consistent plan of self-care is so important. If you’re in Central Oregon, you can contact me about joining our weekly HSP community group where you can share with others who understand you, increase awareness and learn tools for coping with sensitivities and turning them into strengths.