As a child, deep down I always knew I was little different from other people, and that confused me. I was affected by things that others didn’t even seem to notice. If I was pushed on the playground by a classmate, my fun-loving mood was shattered. I felt pain – not from my skinned knees after falling – but in my heart.
I cared a lot about other’s feelings, too. I would go out of my way to make people feel especially comfortable. I would worry about them at night if I thought there was something more that I could have done to make them feel better.
As a teenager, I developed close friendships with just a few girls my age, and they meant everything to me. Adding to my friend circle was difficult because I didn’t have the capacity for the dedication I felt I owed to them. My feelings were hurt easily, and after a busy field trips or lots of social activities, I would come home feeling drained and exhausted.
It was at age 23, when someone recommended that I read Elaine Aron’s book “The Highly Sensitive Person,” that my life changed forever.
It all made sense – the way I was – this book was written about me.
Since that day, I have been on a journey of growth and self discovery, re-learning parts of myself that I didn’t understand; this time, with love and acceptance.
They say knowledge is power.
I am here today to share some of the most important strategies I’ve learned to use in order to thrive as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person).
The benefits of being a Highly Sensitive Person.
The first point I would like to make is that the more you understand your sensitivity, the more you can use it to your advantage. HSPs have so many gifts! They are usually extremely creative and tend to find great joy and deep reward in seeing projects through to completion.
A classic characteristic of an HSP is empathy. HSPs pick up on subtleties in their environment that others miss – I almost guarantee that when an HSP walks into a room, they will remember who is there, and notice when someone leaves.
They’ll also have a sense of what needs to be changed in a situation to make others feel more comfortable. Highly Sensitive People can get a strong read on others – they may even see someone pass them by in the street and just have a feeling about what is going on in their life. I have no proof – but I’ll bet that their feeling is right.
HSPs have big hearts; they love deeply and have complex inner lives. They bring a wealth of self-awareness to the table. They’re natural leaders, and can actually be introverted or extraverted in nature.
Lots of amazing characteristics, right?
The challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person.
On the flip side, I know from experience that when a Highly Sensitive Person does not take the necessary self-care that they need to maintain a balance, life can turn into a downward spiral. HSPs need to approach this fast-paced world they are living in a little differently than the average person. Their kindness can easily be taken for granted, so it is important that they stick to their boundaries, and listen to their gut when it comes to making friends, choosing jobs and entering relationships.
HSP’s also need downtime in order to function at an optimal level. They have the tendency to say “yes” to too much (and even though you better believe they will get it all done), they’ll end up feeling drained and warn out because of it.
HSPs are processing their external environments, including the emotions of others on deeper levels than the average person, so it makes sense that their minds and bodies would need more downtime to process and recuperate.
Downtime can be anything that makes you feel calm and rejuvenated. Try coloring, or taking up a simple craft. Go for a walk outside in nature by yourself, especially near the water – water tends to have a very calming effect on HSPs.
Once you have identified some rejuvenating ways to spend your downtime, the trick is to notice subtle cues that indicate when you are becoming too stressed and overwhelmed, so you can nip-them-in-the-bud before you have a “total breakdown.” Sound familiar? I have had many of these before I learned how to manage my sensitivity so don’t worry, I get it.
Are you starting to feel your fuse shorten? Is your capacity to engage with others and answer to your life’s demands becoming limited? Are you getting upset and frustrated easily? Are you blaming others for things that you shouldn’t be? Are you feeling confused and angry about why you are feeling these things?
There are all signs that you need your downtime – stat.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that through my work I try to stay away from strict categorization, such as: “You’re either an HSP, or you’re not. You’re an empath, but not an HSP, etc.” If you feel that this article resonates with you, then I urge you to explore more. You might only identify with a few of my points, and that’s ok too. Regardless, I hope this has helped you realize that there are others out there just like you.
Latest posts by Chelsie Aichelberger (see all)
- Should you trust your thoughts … or your feelings? - August 7, 2016
- How to own being a Highly Sensitive Person - July 2, 2016