When you’re sensitive to your surroundings and other people and you feel easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation and information, life can feel both challenging yet also soulfully rewarding.
Tiredness, overwhelm and feeling scattered and discombobulated may be feelings you know all too well. You crave withdrawal from this frantic world.
You’re also conscientious, observant, intuitive and empathetic to others’ feelings. You think about things deeply, you deeply feel the beauty of our natural surroundings and can easily be profoundly moved by music, art and acts of kindness.
You’re tuned into life around you. You have a delicate appreciation of the subtleties of life.
You may feel anxious, kind, connected, different from everyone else, aware, soulful, confused…
In short, you experience life intensely and sometimes it feels like a blessing and other times like a curse.
I know all this because this is how I experience the world. And if, like me, you’re Highly Sensitive (and if you’re not sure then take this short test) then you’ve probably felt all of these feelings, and more.
It’s important to realize though that there is nothing wrong with you.
It’s just that, along with a fifth of the population who are also sensitives (men and women), you have a nervous system which is finely tuned to its surroundings because your brain processes things more deeply. Your nervous system is more sensitive to stimuli and reaches saturation point and overwhelm way before non-sensitives which can mean you spend a lot of time in the “fight/flight/freeze” response.
But I urge you to embrace your sensitivity. This frantic world sorely needs people who are empathetic, considerate and who see and understand deeply and act after careful consideration.
And to be able to act from a place of sensitive power you need to allow yourself the self-care you need as a highly sensitive person.
This might look slightly different for each of us, but here I’m sharing some of the ways I care for my highly sensitive nature so I can live from a place of nurturing and sharing my gifts of compassion, creativity and soulful connection as a highly sensitive person.
1. Watch what you drink
HSPs tend to be highly sensitive to caffeine. This makes sense. Caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. HSPs have a nervous system which is already on high-alert because it’s extra sensitive to its surroundings.
So, simples. Cut out caffeine! I haven’t drunk caffeine for years (no coffee and no tea, even green tea).
I have a very strong memory of a time where I used to work in a local FE College Library. We had “real” coffee at break time (i.e. not instant stuff) and when the head librarian was away we naughty assistants would have two cups and take a longer break (shocking behaviour!). Whenever this happened, oh my, I got the shakes. Badly. My hands would tremble. I’d get the sweats. And my head would be all over the place.
It’s your choice, but consider cutting out caffeinated drinks to give your nervous system a break.
2. Spend time in nature
Get outside. Feel the sun on your body, the wind in your hair, the fresh air caressing your skin.
Gaze at flowers, hug trees, say hello to a bush, watch the clouds pass, wonder what it would feel like to be that bird you see in your garden, connect your feet to the earth.
Sensitives have a deep appreciation of the subtle and delicate beauties of our natural surroundings.
Now this is something I really need to allow myself more time to do because it fills me up! I feel connected. I feel the oneness of life when I’m outside.
Just a 5 or 10 minute walk at lunchtime or around the block will help you connect to your soulful, sensitive nature in a positive way.
3. Allow stillness into your life
We live in a busy, frantic, over-stimulated and over-stimulating world. Just look at the high levels of stress and anxiety.
We’re under pressure to keep doing, pushing, getting on, achieving.
If you’re sensitive you need to let all of that go. I’m not saying it’s easy. But sensitives have a tendency to swim against the tide.
Your nervous system is easily revved up and easily over-stimulated, tipping your body into the stress response (leading to sweaty palms, dodgy digestion, difficulty sleeping, chronic tension).
You NEED to rest. You need to recharge. You need time away from the world to process (HSPs process experiences and thoughts more deeply).
A practice which I have found to be absolutely essential to my self-care is Restorative Yoga.
This is a calming, quietening style of yoga where you use bolsters and other props to completely support the physical body, keep yourself warm with blankets, cut out the stimulus of light with an eye pillow and rest on the ground to feel safe and supported. It’s not sleep, but deep rest.
This manipulates the nervous system to come into a state of rest: to move into the parasympathetic response (otherwise known as the body’s “rest, digest & heal” response”).
It is also a practice which can calm the mind and emotions – it creates a sense of stillness and safety. My experience is that it creates a safe container for emotions and thoughts and feelings to arise and pass through.
I am always amazed at how quickly this practice calms my mind as well as my body.
4. Reflect & connect
Now we come to the biggie. What for me is a non-negotiable practice.
Meditation enables me to connect to my true nature. To find that place of stillness within. It quietens the chattering monkey mind so I can hear and listen to the quiet voice within me that just knows.
Deep healing happens when you meditate. This may surface as your mind getting louder when you sit to meditate – a kind of processing can happen whereby the stuff you’ve been squishing away in the attic of your mind forces its way out into the daylight.
But you can also experience a deep sense of oneness: of connection to all that is.
As a highly sensitive person you are fine-tuned to experience this soulful connection and bliss.
Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated.
Here is a really simple way to meditate:
- Sit comfortably (spine dignified and alert rather than slumpy otherwise you may fall asleep)
- Watch your breath. Feel the breath at the tip of your nose or feel the rise and fall of the chest & abdomen.
- Let the thoughts come and go. Breathe. Watch your inner landscape unfold.
- Let it all be. Let it go.
- Connect to your heart and ask your inner guide: “what do I need to know”. And let the answers come.
With self-care and compassion, step into your sensitivity proudly. Those of us who understand and reflect and connect deeply are what this world sorely needs!