What are your biggest challenges as an HSP? High sensitivity is definitely a gift…a SuperPower even, but it can also present some difficulties that can make daily life challenging. We can be easily overwhelmed, be more sensitive to emotions and tend to feel more deeply than others. We may be more empathetic and able to pick up on subtle cues that others miss. And then there’s energy…we tend to pick up a lot of that, as well.
I often hear from HSP friends and clients about a variety of challenges, some of which can lead to us wanting to just not be sensitive. Let’s look at some of the most challenging things about being highly sensing, and some ways to shift out of the struggle. These are just 5 common issues; I’m sure you can list a few more.
One of the most challenging things about being highly sensitive is quickly becoming overwhelmed by so much sensory input, such as loud noises, strong smells, or bright lights, or others’ energy. If we don’t maintain a healthy self care practice this can lead to anxiety, stress, and fatigue.
It’s possible for us to manage the experience of our day only to return home or put away the work computer to find that we’re just exhausted.
HSPs may feel emotions more deeply than others. This can be both a gift and a curse. Highly sensing people may experience more joy and love than others, and we may also feel more sadness, anger, disappointment and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for us to stuff our feelings, because they’re so intense or we’ve heard from others that we’re too emotional.
Difficulty setting boundaries
I often hear that other HSPs feel like doormats. We may struggle with setting boundaries and saying no to others, especially without also feeling guilty. We may feel anxious about disappointing others or causing conflict, or having someone be upset with us. This can lead to burnout and resentment, as we aren’t getting our needs met.
Sensitivity to criticism
HSPs may be more sensitive than others to criticism. We may take feedback personally and feel hurt or defensive, and this can lead to self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Sometimes assumptions are made, about what others think of us or what their intentions are, that don’t feel good. It may be hard to hear even very constructive, gentle criticism.
We can be prone to overthinking and ruminating on past events and things people say. We may replay conversations in our heads repeatedly or worry about things that haven’t happened yet. This can lead to anxiety and stress. And when we bring up issues with others, we can hear things like, “That was yesterday, just let it go,” or “It’s not a big deal.” This can also interfere with our skills of focus and problem solving.
So how can we counteract these challenges so we can let our strengths as Highly Sensing People shine?
Overcoming the Challenges
~ Take regular breaks throughout the day to decompress and recharge. This could be as simple as stepping away from your desk for a few minutes, going for a walk, or taking a few deep breaths.
~ Having a designated quiet space in your home or workplace can provide a refuge when you need a break from stimulation. This space could be a cozy corner, a meditation room, or a park bench. If nothing is available, you can lock yourself in the restroom.
~ If noise is a trigger for you, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. These can help to block out unwanted sounds and create a more peaceful environment. For a more subtle option, I’ve found that silicone or wax earplugs (not foam) can help a lot. I actually sleep with mine.
~ If you’re maxed out, leave the situation if you can or reschedule something when you realize you’re not going to have the bandwidth for it.
~ Maintain a regular meditation practice. I found that once I committed to daily meditation I became less reactive to external stimuli and emotional and energetic input.
~ Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you stay present and grounded, even when your emotions are overwhelming. Try mindfulness exercises like deep breathing or body scans to bring your focus back to the present moment.
~ Writing down your thoughts and emotions can help you process them in a healthy way. Try journaling for a few minutes each day to help you gain clarity and insight. Before bed can be helpful, or when you’re in the midst of an emotion you’re not enjoying.
~ Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or coach can provide a safe space to express your emotions and work through challenging situations.
~ Learn and practice emotional release techniques that resonate with you.
Difficulty setting boundaries:
~ Understanding what triggers your emotional responses can help you create effective boundaries. Make a list of situations or people that trigger you and think about how you can protect yourself in those situations.
~ When setting boundaries, it’s essential to be clear and assertive in your communication. Use “I” statements to express your needs and be firm in your boundaries.
~ Prioritizing self-care activities like exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep can help you feel more resilient and better able to handle difficult situations.
~ Recognize that when you do set a boundary, you may receive backlash, as you’re inherently asking someone to change their own experience and that might be disappointing or uncomfortable for them. This is not a reason to give in; just be prepared.
Sensitivity to criticism
~ First, take a deep breath and focus on your body and surroundings. This can help you avoid reacting impulsively and saying something you might regret.
~ If you’re unsure about how to improve in a particular area, seek feedback from someone you trust. This can help you learn from the criticism and grow in a positive way.
~ When receiving criticism, it’s easy to focus on your flaws and shortcomings. Take time to reflect on your strengths and accomplishments to help build your confidence and resilience. Criticism may be helpful in your growth, or out of line, inaccurate or unhelpful. Regardless, you can accept it quietly and process it later and remember that this is someone’s opinion.
~ Mindfulness techniques can again be helpful with ruminating, by helping you stay present and focus your mind. These tools can help you break the cycle of negative thoughts and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings.
~ Identify the situations or events that trigger your overthinking. Once you’re aware, you can work on developing strategies to manage those triggers.
~ When you notice yourself overthinking, challenge your thoughts by asking yourself if they are based on reality or if they are simply potential ‘what if’s or if you’re connecting with emotions you had about the situation. You can also try to reframe negative thoughts into neutral or more positive ones.
~ Engage in activities that you enjoy and that can help take your mind off of your worries. This can be anything from going for a walk, practicing a hobby, or spending time with friends and family.
~ Talk to someone you trust about your overthinking. Sometimes, talking about your thoughts and feelings can help you gain perspective and find solutions to your challenges. If no one is available to share with, journaling can help with this.
Yes, there are definitely challenges to being Highly Sensing. With the right tools and mindset, and a lot of patience and self compassion, we can embrace the benefits of our trait and let them shine. If this is a significant struggle for you, I’d love to help you move from that struggle to thriving with your trait. Let’s connect.