How to Thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person
Learning to thrive with a highly sensitive nature
Being a highly sensitive person comes with both challenges and perks. The question we need to ask, then, is: How to thrive as a highly sensitive person? The answer is that there are lots of ways to do this! Even better is that most of them are incredibly easy to implement.
What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
Before learning how to thrive as a highly sensitive person, let’s first start be defining what a highly sensitive person is. Essentially, a highly sensitive person is just that — someone who is more sensitive than others to stimuli due to some subtle biological differences in their physiology.
Those who are HSP’s (the abbreviation for ‘highly sensitive person’) literally have certain differences in brain function and different genes which make them respond differently to the world around them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, despite what societal conditioning tells us (“Be extroverted! Be popular! You’re a baby if you can’t watch a violent film, and you’re weak for feeling so deeply”, etc.). In fact, it’s a superpower in many ways — HSP’s are generally more empathetic, more reflective and better able to live in alignment with their core values than others.
Highly sensitive individuals tend to do a few things differently than other people, including:
- Feeling emotions deeply and being very sensitive to the emotions of others
- Being easily overstimulated by sensory experiences such as noise, physical touch or bright lights
- Needing lots of time to recharge after a day of work
- Having a very strong guilt response after doing something wrong
- Getting easily distressed or affected by negative news, violent movies or violent video games
- Becoming easily overwhelmed when under stress, time constraints, or when there are a large number of things on their to-do list
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, however, if you tick many of these boxes, you may be a highly sensitive person.
How to Thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person
Now, let’s chat about what we’re really all here for: How to thrive as a highly sensitive person.
Take Time for Reflection… Often
Of everything in this list of how to thrive as a highly sensitive person, taking time for reflection is one of the most important.
As we covered above, HSP’s tend to be much more sensitive to stimulus in their environments than others. This often leads to feeling easily drained in situations where there is a lot going on, and can contribute to feelings of overwhelm that HSP’s are prone to.
In order to combat this and find a good sense of balance in our daily lives, taking intentional time alone each day is vital. During this time, we can take a step back and reflect. It can be helpful to use these times to journal, meditate, or move our bodies. Of course, these are simply suggestions — at the end of the day, as long as you feel good and refreshed during these times of sanctuary from the outside world, you’re doing it right.
Learn to be Your Own Source of Validation
This next point is a game changer when it comes to how to thrive as a highly sensitive person, and it is this: Learning to become your own source of validation.
Often, as highly sensitive people we feel things much more deeply than others around us — getting more emotional than is societally “appropriate” or feeling easily stressed and overwhelmed. In these instances, it can be difficult to find others who can relate. It’s easier for others to judge our “weaknesses” than to try to understand and validate our feelings.
This is why learning to self-soothe and become our own sources of validation is so important. We need to be able to validate our feelings, and if we are unable to do this, those emotions tend to manifest in negative ways. Here are some simple ways to begin being your own source of validation:
Talk to yourself as you would a friend. Create an internal dialogue with yourself and try to compassionately work through problems and feelings.
Journal out your thoughts. Getting them out onto paper is a great way to vent, and then take a step back to objectively look at the situation.
Create some validating affirmations or mantras that you can whip out whenever you need them. As a jumping off point, try something like “I am worthy and enough as I am”, “My feelings are valid even if others can’t understand them” or “Everything I experience is valid, beautiful and unique”.
Simply take deep breaths when you begin to feel really intensely. Some reports have shown that taking three deep breaths roughly five times a day can reduce cortisol levels by up to 50%! Plus, this is a great way to stop and take inventory of your thoughts.
Communicate Your Boundaries
Another key part in learning how to thrive as a highly sensitive person is setting effective boundaries.
Boundaries are important for everyone, but they are especially important for those who consider themselves to be HSP’s. Setting boundaries is important, but what is even more important is being able to communicate them effectively. If you can’t communicate your boundaries, no one will be able to respect them.
To begin setting these boundaries for yourself, begin by asking what is most important to you. Is it having some time to yourself every day? Is it eating nourishing and delicious foods? Connecting deeply with those you love? These are just a few starting points from which we can start creating and communicating boundaries.
If alone time is important to you, tell that to your friends and loved ones, and make it non-negotiable. If someone wants you to go out with them but you need to have some alone time instead, tell them something along the lines of “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but no, thank you — I need some time alone”. This approach works for virtually anything — tell your fast-food loving friend “No, thanks, I’m trying to do better things for my body” when they ask you to head to McDonald’s with them. Try making it known that you’d like to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with those you love. Whatever you need, begin setting and communicating those boundaries.
Another great way to start thriving as a highly sensitive person is to create.
Everyone is creative — humans are naturally creative creatures. Being creative can be as simple as making someone laugh or cooking a meal to things as complex as coding, inventing, and making works of art.
Creating is an amazing way to learn, improve skills and express ourselves. When you next feel overwhelmed, try to create something. It is incredible how soothing it is to divert our attention from the thoughts in our heads to creating in the present. Making something, whether a painting or a website, is engaging for our brains and our senses — it allows us to disengage from our spiraling thoughts and find balance once again.
It’s also incredibly fulfilling to learn and improve upon skills — almost nothing beats the satisfaction of feeling improvement and being able to say “I did that”.
Take Minimalism for a Spin
As us HSP’s are already hyper-sensitive to our environments — internal and external — it can be helpful to explore the concept of minimalism. When it comes to how to thrive as a highly sensitive person, this is often overlooked.
Minimalism doesn’t have to mean living with only ten possessions in a tiny hut in the middle of nowhere — it can simply mean living more intentionally, with what you need to be happy and no more. It’s about decluttering the excess, not deprivation.
In a world of consumerism culture and excess, it can feel overwhelming to take on so much of everything in our daily lives. This is true for both our physical and mental spaces — society pushes us to “buy, buy buy”, and to do as much as possible in order to be seen as “productive”. This is where minimalism comes in handy.
Try to start with baby steps. Donate or sell old possessions you don’t need. Take one thing that is unnecessary off your to-do list. Delegate a task you hate doing. Try out a capsule wardrobe. These baby steps will all add up over time, and being intentional in this way will likely leave you feeling much more free and light to live your life how you want to.
Finally, and importantly, prioritize self care. It is so important (for everyone, not only HSP’s) to take care of themselves first. If we aren’t doing well — if our cup isn’t full — we can’t show up as our best selves in the world. We’ve often heard the oxygen-mask analogy of “put on your own mask before helping anyone else”, but to truly thrive as highly sensitive people, we need to put that into practice. Here is a nudge to make self-care a non-negotiable part of your daily routine!
If you found this article helpful, feel free to find more similar content on my blog at anaestheteandherthoughts.com. I'd love to see you join our community there so that we can hang out and all become the best versions of ourselves. In the meantime, have an amazing day!
Wishing you so much joy and light,