Tips For The Urban HSP

Tips For Urban HSPs

As an HSP, I sometimes think I must be truly nuts to be living in New York City, a place that seems like the very embodiment of the word “overstimulation.”

Crowded, loud, bright and always on, it can be a nightmare for the senses.

If you let it.

I’ve lived here for nearly 15 years now, and I’ve found ways to make it work. (I have a bit of a dream writing job, and this is one of the only places I can really do it, which is why I don’t leave, in case you’re wondering. Also, nearly everyone I love is here, which adds weight to the case for sticking around.)

 Attitude For An Urban HSP

I think the lessons I’ve learned as a Big Apple HSP can be helpful for all, particularly those who might be living in other, smaller urban environments. I think you have to start by just seeing city life slightly differently than many. Here, I think there’s often a default attitude of, “Only in New York! Gotta love it!” when, for example, you’re on a crowded train at 9 a.m. and all of a sudden theres’s a mariachi band furiously playing, mere inches away from your face.


You actually don’t have to love it. (I suspect very few people love it, but I applaud their generally optimistic ability to pretend that they do.)

So here are a few of the survival tips I’ve come up with to make being an NYC urban HSP work for me.

Protect Your Hearing

1) Get good headphones, and don’t be afraid to use them.
I’ve always been shocked that so many people are willing to put up with the crappy white headphones that come with an Apple product. They make my ears sore after only a few minutes of listening, and they don’t fit well enough to filter out ambient noise (nor do they stop everyone around you from hearing your music, one of my big pet peeves about public transportation these days: if you’re not wearing headphones yourself, you are more often than not subjected to the contents of someone else’s).

No, I’m talking about getting some of those little rubbery ear buds, or, if you’re loaded, a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones (they’re on my wish list). A little of your own curated music can radically change a walk through a chaotic city street, a subway car filled with yammering people and blaring conductor announcements, or a store where four overly cheerful salespeople come up to you within the span of a minute and say, “How ARE you today? Can I help you find anything?” Just point sheepishly to your headphones, as if they are surgically implanted in your head and totally beyond your control, and move away.

2) If you’ve got a smartphone, get a white noise app.
Music is good in many situations, but I find that when I need to really concentrate on reading or writing something, it’s too distracting. My white noise app is the best thing about my iPhone by far. Mine lets me create my own mixes of soothing sounds: beach waves crashing and light rain! Tree frogs and oscillating fan! Or just plain old white noise. Actually, brown noise, which is softer than white noise. Check it out, you’ll see what I mean. Any of these will instantly reduce my HSP stress by half. It’s also genius for hotel rooms while traveling (more on this in my upcoming sleep tips post).

Protect Your Boundaries

3) Make subway rides work for you. As Elaine Aron might put it, use your boundaries. Don’t worry about everyone else’s feelings so much. My instinct is generally to try to make other people feel good, so I’m not all that comfortable saying no or shutting things down even when I really need a break from human beings (which is pretty often).

But I’ve found that in order to stay sane, you have to just power through that instinct and be a little protective of yourself. For example: when riding on the train, someone sits down next to me eating an egg sandwich. She seems perfectly nice otherwise and part of me doesn’t want her to feel like a leper if I get up and move. But you know what? An egg sandwich smells disgusting, and it’s ruining the precious half-hour of down time I have in the morning. So I’m gone.

Ditto someone who’s having a loud, laughing cell phone conversation next to me. Or twitching just slightly oddly in a way that suggests they might be a bit off. Or wearing pungent perfume. Just get up and move. You’ll feel so much better when you do.

Similarly, when I’m leaving work and someone tries to catch me and take the train with me, I generally come up with a reason to split off (“I have to make a call first,” or “I have to run an errand”). I find that when my subway ride gets diverted into chitchat or small talk, I tend to reach my destination feeling depleted and annoyed, which reduces my ability to be present for whatever my next activity was. So I just find non-mean ways of getting out of the shared subway ride.

It’s best for everyone.

The Challenge Of Smelly Air

4) Get an air filter
One of my least favorite things about New York is the smells. And I’m not even talking about the stereotypical pee and garbage aromas, which tend, in my experience, to be a bit overstated. No, it’s the cooking smells that really do me in.

Apartment building living just inevitably comes with having to share the air with other people who like different food than you, and if you’re an HSP, those odors can feel like a punch in the face. Someone down the hall from me must, I think, own a deep fryer, because nearly every night it smells like Popeye’s in the hallway. This is not OK. This smell makes me deeply sad. But I can deal with it, because I have a pretty decent air filter going in my apartment’s entryway. It also just offers some psychological support, knowing I have a little mechanical sentry between me and the olfactory chaos going on outside my door. (In a pinch, I find that a Yankee Candle also works pretty well. Who knew? But it’s nothing compared to an air filter.)

Bottom line, just because you live surrounded by other people doesn’t mean you have to feel violated by their ill-advised culinary choices.

Create Your Own Lifestyle

5) Get a dog
In a way, this might seem odd advice, because a dog does come with its own set of stressors: they cost money, they require lots of attention, they may wake you up barking at absolutely nothing in the middle of the night. But if you get a good one, they can also offer a brilliantly convenient excuse for getting out of things and living a lower-key life than you might otherwise be expected to do as a city-dweller.

Everyone in your office going out for happy hour, and you’re sort of expected to go, even though the thought of being stuck in a noisy bar making small talk makes you want to bang your head against a wall? Don’t sweat it, you have to go home and walk the dog. Sorry! Additionally, your dog will ensure that you must go on multiple rambles around the neighborhood daily, which is a practice that’s highly beneficial for soothing the HSP’s system. Which brings me to my next tip.

6) Live near a park
It doesn’t have to be Central Park (or your city’s version of Central Park). But if you have someplace you can get to reasonably easily where you can be among trees instead of human beings, that’s going to increase your quality of life a whole lot. (As well as your dog’s.) Go regularly. Go every day. Take deep breaths and always know, when you’re in the midst of the urban circus, that this will always be here waiting for you. Don’t live near a park? Make it a habit to walk through one on your way to work, if you can. Get off the train a few stops early and incorporate a park walk into your commute.

7) Get plants
Plants! It’s like having a mini park in your apartment.

8) When all else fails, Xanax.
Just kidding. (Not really.)


Stuck In The Spider Web Of Approval?

Are You Caught In The SpiderWeb Of Approval? - HSP Health Blog
Are You Caught In The SpiderWeb Of Approval? - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

I like getting approval. I suspect we all do. Yet I hate wanting or needing it.

I hate all the games that go with approval:

  • the withholding of it – treating it like it is a prize or a weapon.
  • the distortion of information to manipulate approval
  • the overvaluation of approval when we are really all in this together.

We are social creatures, so social issues are important to us. Since none of us survive alone, our social life has great weight and can cause us pain or provide us  with immense joy. Often we personalize social issues and judge each other, while disregarding the toxic social climate that can create many behavioral challenges. So many issues that are labelled emotional and are assumed to be simple but are really anything but. Approval is one of them and it is one of our biggest challenges.

What Is Approval?

Approval is a kind of social stake in the ground. A position, if you will, with group force behind it. That is why we take it so seriously and should.

Approval is the manifestation of group structures, an expected allegiance. The viability of any and all social arrangements require allegiances. Approval is a way of enforcing allegiances.
So it often feels as if we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t and there is some truth to that. We cannot simply ignore the group structures that we need to negotiate. We also cannot let destructive groups totally control us either.

One way to think of approval is  to consider it an initiation into human social culture. Of course, it occurs in our childhoods, and if unexamined rules our entire life. Approval is a handed down formula for how to be, how to behave and who to be courtesy of those around us especially our families.

Approval: The Spider’s Web That Claims Us

It is impossible to escape the wounds of our social structures. The best we can hope to do is do our healing work, find our integrity, our calling and make our contribution to the world.

We need to be kind to ourselves about approval because it is such an important part of our lives. Approval can be very seductive and cause us to feel safe. It is a false security but can cause us to give up opportunities to learn and grow.

One of the reasons we need to be kind to ourselves about our susceptibility to approval is that approval is an important tool for learning. When we are young we are learning and do so in a number of ways:

  1. trial and error as when we learn to walk
  2. imitating others or approval based learning.

Imitation is more than peer pressure or conformity. It is actually a way to learn skills. Neuroscientist David Eagleman, who has investigated conscious awareness, memory and unconscious mental processing, demonstrates how imitation is an important form of learning. In this article, he shows how approval was used to teach chicken sexing in Japan in the 1930’s and plane spotting in World War II in Great Britain.

It may seem like a reach, but the point is that much of our learning is absorbed through imitation, and cues from our environment from approval. We store the learning in our brains and draw on it in the future from our memories.

Therefore, it is inevitable that approval will play a role in how we learn. In fact, according to the article it can be the most effective way to learn some things. Unfortunately, we may also naturally develop the bad habit of starting to judge ourselves on the basis of the approval or disapproval that we receive.

The Application Of Approval

Approval may be used to teach us many things:

  • group values to promote social cohesion
  • how we are expected to demonstrate loyalty
  • our “identity”
  • how to be in relationship
  • what are acceptable behaviors and boundaries
  • what group customs are important
  • how we are to contribute to group stability and often therefore what change is likely to be rejected.

Approval is the past carried forward. It is a kind of solidified social opinion.

Often when we are making decisions we take the temperature of the social circumstances around us. That is not necessarily bad, however, it means that we will be constrained by the approval of others. If we are in a supportive, benevolent and constructive environment, we can easily make decisions that support us. If our environment is not so benign, our self affirming choices will likely generate a backlash.

Group norms which are supported through approval and disapproval play a huge role in the ability of a group and its members to embrace change and personal growth. For many, abiding by group norms is fine and comfortable. What do you do, however, when those group norms are toxic and resistance to change is high? What do you do when group norms become a kind of sleepwalking so that the groups members are really not engaging with reality and potentially risking the well-being of the group?

The big problem with approval is that we and other can become ossified by sticking to what is approved and what is not. What can be a useful learning method can come to block our ability to fully engage with life and our development.

Highly Sensitive People And Approval

Highly sensitive people have trouble fooling themselves about what they are experiencing because our nervous systems are like an ever present alarm system. So if the approved method of doing things is not working or even dangerous, we will likely become aware of it. As a result, we may not be able to go along with what is approved. Our awareness carries social risks. So we always have to make a decision about our awareness: to follow it, reject it, postpone it, tell others about it. It can feel like a tremendous social burden and it is. It can also help us develop our wisdom and serve others.

The Othering Of The Highly Sensitive Person

HSPs: The Shadow People - HSP Health Blog

The highly sensitive person is different.

Being different means that they often live in the shadows.

I thought about this today when I was reading an article about feminism in Great Britain, written by Anna Ford, a respected British journalist.

What struck me about the article was her wonderful description about the marginalisation of women, an endlessly repeating story that she has experienced her whole life.

The wonderful qualities that women bring to the table are mostly devalued.

Isn’t that also true of highly sensitive people?

The Marginalization Of The Highly Sensitive Person

Marginalization is an interesting and recurring experience for many people.

It manifests in the process of othering.

Othering is nasty.

It is a way of relating to someone as if they really do not have the same right to be here on the planet, that in being different there is something wrong with them.

Are there any HSPs who haven’t had that experience?

As a highly sensitive person, I have been othered my whole life.

Othering can be subtle or overt.

It is often patronizing or condescending.

When being othered you are often invisible.

What Is Othering?

According to Advanced Apes:

the othering process is the human tendency to believe that the group (race, religion, ethnicity, culture, gender, country, sexual orientation, species etc.) that they are a part of is inherently the ‘right’ way to be human.  As a consequence of this, people who other consciously, or subconsciously, believe that anyone who is not apart of their group is a threat, an enemy or a liability that must be converted to conform immediately to the norms and standards of their group, subjugated permanently, or eradicated completely…

The phenomenon of othering has its roots in our evolutionary history.  We know from primatological studies that group solidarity is exceptionally important in all of the African apes.  Knowing who is, and who isn’t a member of your group is exceptionally important for reasons intimately connected to survival.  And basic evolution theory states that any behaviour or trait that confers a survival advantage will be selected for; and the stronger the survival advantage, the stronger it will be selected for.  In the case of ‘othering’ behaviour, it probably became an extremely valuable behaviour that would have become permanently fixed within our lineage millions of years ago.  Whenever territory, food, and mates were scarce (which would have been frequently, and in most cases permanently), intra-species competition would have been strong and othering behaviour would have been selected for.  Forming a group can allow you to align yourself with other individuals altruistically to maximize your own (and everyone else in the groups) ability to acquire territory, food and mating opportunities.

The Experience Of Othering For The Highly Sensitive Person

Many highly sensitive people are very uncomfortable socially. They experience themselves as different and unwelcome in the world.

They may also be subject to bullying, taunts and social rejection.

Highly sensitive people are in the minority in the world since only 15-20% of the world’s population is highly sensitive.

Their different biology means that they do not share the interest in competitiveness and aggression that unites the non-HSP population.

HSPs offer wisdom, perspective, compassion and empathy to those around them, but those traits are not as valued as competitive skills.

As a result, many highly sensitive people, experience themselves being excluded, treated with condescension and even blamed for their different nature.

When we are othered, we are treated as not normal, and not right. People around us including our families often try to change us into a “normal” person, someone who is right by their standard of normalcy.

They are wrong to do so.

There is nothing wrong with the highly sensitive person. HSPs are simply different.




Why Highly Sensitive People Are Practical!

Highly Sensitive People Are Practical - HSP Health Blog

Benn sewing a bit again :-) © by storebukkebruse

Highly sensitive people are often treated poorly.

HSP’s are empathetic and creative and as a result do not easily fit into the Western cultural model.

To many people, apparently our being different causes them to judge the highly sensitive person as a flake.

Not so fast!

Differences Between Highly Sensitive People And The Non-HSP

Highly sensitive people have nervous systems that absorb everything in their surroundings. The HSP nervous system is like a sponge taking in all forms of sensory information as well as nuances in the energy of the people around them.

So highly sensitive people are highly aware which is really a wonderful gift!

All of the information that HSPs take in needs to be processed. It has to be taken in, assimilated and dealt with. That means that  the highly sensitive person usually has to slow down to deal with and understand the information that they are taking in. Slowing down provides the highly sensitive person with the ability to conscientiously process information.

Non-HSP’s do not take in the volume of information that HSP’s do. Their nervous systems do not pick it up. Non-HSP’s are often faster than HSP’s. However in being fast, they are often wrong, too.

HSP’s And Information

I am sure you have heard the expression, “Knowledge is power,” and there is some truth to it. It would be nice if we could apply it to HSP knowledge not just non-HSP knowledge. Apparently we cannot – yet. I guess what is defined as knowledge does not really apply to energy fields, psychic perception or empathic ways of knowing.

The highly active nervous system and right-brained orientation of HSPs causes them to take in different kinds of information. Therefore, highly sensitive people are likely to approach the world without the ideological frame for information that accompanies many non-HSP’s. They benefit from a holistic rather than linear perspective.

HSP’s have a natural openness to the world because of their biological structure and natural empathy. It lets them see what is there rather than what they want to see. It gives the highly sensitive person a big picture perspective. That is a huge advantage in getting a handle on reality.

Non-HSP’s And Information

The non-HSP approaches things differently. The non-HSP nervous system does not recognize all forms of information. Whereas the highly sensitive person is sensitive to stimulus and energy, the non-HSP has a more linear approach to information and problem solving. Non-HSP’s have a more short-term problem oriented approach to information.

The non-HSP has a cause and effect processing method that is often grounded in the material world, whereas the HSP is grounded in the energetic world. So often the two “worlds” will seem at odds or at least incompatible.

How We Grew Apart

There was a time long ago when HSP’s and non-HSP’s worked together with considerable regard for one another, a time when the skills of both were appreciated.

When people lived in close contact with nature, our home, they needed every tool available to them. In tribal societies, people could not escape their considerable vulnerabilities.They had to be as mindful as possible about all aspects of their environment.

They listened to the wind, the sun and all aspects of nature. Their deep connection with nature was how they knew when they were at risk. Shamans, trackers and others gifted in energy perception were very important to the well-being of the tribe. Problem solvers were important as well. Having the ability to provide material support to the tribe where little material advantage existed was also valued.

In this environment, both the HSP and non-HSP worked together for the well-being of the community.

Of course, it changed. The material and tactical non-HSP ascended as we “conquered” nature, and highly sensitive people were devalued. As we separated ourselves from our natural home, many of us lost our ability to relate directly to the natural world of which we are a part. In a way you could say that we rejected our home and our connection with it.

Except, of course, HSP’s who are gifted with a close connection to nature.

Who Is More Practical?

The non-HSP is often directed toward problem solving whereas the HSP direction is first toward understanding.

The left-brained, linear thinking approaches of non-HSP’S have given them an advantage, which is that they have developed many tactical skills for problem solving. Those skills mattered when there were few of us and an abundance of natural resources to put to use to make life at least minimally livable.

Tactical skills are also very important when your life in danger and are also what we draw on to accomplish something. They are the “how” of accomplishment.

Tactical skills are great but they are NOT intrinsically practical. In fact they can be highly impractical if they are used indiscriminately. One example is the tactic of using medication to deal with human ailments. Used as a tactic whenever a symptom of illness or discomfort arises medication is not practical and just temporarily defers the problem. In fact it can be dangerous. The leading cause of accidental death right now is from medication.

Being a problem solver does not mean you know enough about a problem’s context to be wise in your use of your problem solving tactics.

Contextual thinkers are often the highly sensitive because their natural awareness gives them more information to construct an accurate picture of the context.

Understanding context means taking a holistic approach to a situation so that you can accurately describe a situation, where there is a problem, and what the problem is. Holistic thinking takes you out of reacting to people and circumstances. Rather than eliminating symptoms of problems, holistic thinkers seek constructive solutions not just in the short term but also the long term.

How HSP’s Help The World

Highly sensitive people have been treated as second class citizens for a long time. However, as our world becomes more compromised by environmental and other crises of human life, it is apparent that the tactically oriented non-HSP has made a mistake in excluding us from the social and governing space.

As a species we need to develop ourselves so that we become as constructive as possible in how we live. We cannot afford anymore all of the collateral damage from poor living choices. The damage is piling up and drowning us. Highly sensitive people have the ability to help the human race to become more contextual and holistic in its approach to life, an ability that we sorely need.

Life has been defined as a war. It is time for us change that definition of life into one that is more sustainable. HSP’s are the people to make that happen.

What could be more practical?

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HSP Identity: A Plant In The Right Place

My name is Lisa McLoughlin and I am from Green Alder coaching, based in the UK.

I would like to share a personal account of my journey to discover that I am an HSP.

Is There Something Wrong With Me?

Most of my life I felt like a weed— not belonging to my environment. Being a weed was a bad thing and needed to be fixed, eradicated, changed, and just a blot on the landscape.

I often wondered, “If only I could be like all the others…the ornamental and outrageously colorful, extravagant man-made plants (people)…perhaps my life would be easier on me?”

Well, what is a weed? ‘A plant growing in the wrong place’ is the commonly accepted description. But wait a moment, how are we to know it is in the wrong place?

The war on weeds began with the coming of intense farming and public opinion. Who’s to judge a plant and name it a weed when all it is doing is trying to survive? Surely, a weed is entitled to the same life as any other plant?

Despite mans’ persistence to eradicate weeds by hand and chemical weed killers (like the Extrovert Ideal), the war has never been won. The same old weeds show up in the same spots, demonstrating gritty resistance, and persisting through centuries of persecution.

You have to admire their tenacity!

It’s only recently that I have come to respect the weed and understand that it is a plant, that might not fit in with expectations of it’s environment, but it has just as many rights to thrive and flourish as any plant—often with useful properties and benefits to the environment. So, I am left asking, “What if a weed is entirely normal and just needs to stand proud and comfortably in its environment—room for us all?”

Harsh Words

So, my life—to date—has been built on the sense that I was flawed or damaged in some way and that my purpose in life was to fix myself and fit in with others around me.

“You will never set the world on fire…you are so quiet…you are boring…you are a swot…you are too sensitive….stop crying…toughen up…you have the McLoughlin bad-luck…you are self-absorbed…you don’t contribute” were some of the general comments I received through my childhood and adulthood.

I noticed the harsh words struck deep into my heart and I felt myself shrink into melancholy instead of flourishing in spite of them. The comments were like chemicals trying to eradicate the weed, so that an outgoing and colorful ornamental pansy would grow in its place—just like all the rest of the ornamentals’ in the garden.

How I Came To Feel Damaged

Deep down I quite liked myself. I loved my ability to paint & draw and my creative drive and imagination, my spirit, and the rich texture of my internal world.

I could quite easily entertain myself for hours and I thrived when my environment was nurturing and supportive of the unique me. I had an internal warrior-like fire of passion and persistence.

Why didn’t my inner brilliance show in my external world? Why couldn’t I shine and show who I really was?

Unfortunately, I had a tricky upbringing with a mixture of overprotective love from a mum wracked with anxiety and guilt, and a father who had a severe form of Multiple Sclerosis (since I was two-years-old). Boy, did my mum and dad struggle. But, they did the best that they could at the time.

My mum was cautious and my father was a gentle-giant of a man (an angel from heaven). My sister and I willingly tried to please them both; to make them proud, to soothe them, and make them happy. Due to our difficult circumstances, my sister and I were forced to grow-up before we were ready. I remember wrestling with my desperate need to stay as an imaginative child playing with my dolls, against the pull to be a responsible adult for my mum and dad’s sake. My sister and I were pulled into situations such as mopping my mothers brow as she cried herself to sleep (when my father was placed in a nursing home), or, at the age of ten, dragging my father from the front door to the living room chair—he crashed out of his wheelchair trying to let the dog in, whilst my mum was at an evening class. She found the three of us laid out exhausted on the living room floor.

It kind of deeply affects an HSP as you grow up. It blossoms and develops your kindness and empathy, but also caustically hurts to the point of feeling ‘damaged’ in some way.

The HSP Career Challenge

During my childhood and early adult life, I looked to external guidance on what I should do as a career— I just wanted to paint and draw. But I was gifted in school with regular ‘A’ grades. I confused everyone with my hard efforts to please, often waking at 4 am just to revise and get better grades; to make my mum and dad proud.

My internal compass went awry, and I reluctantly agreed to pursue the sciences which eventually led me to physiotherapy (a role that required extroversion, ability to be with many people and groups for long periods of time and constant interruptions from junior staff and NHS bureaucracy).

The whole of my physiotherapy career was a private hell. I tried self-improvement courses, numerous physiotherapy courses and general soul-searching to see if I could change myself and grow into the role—it never happened. I was glad to eventually find some peace with regular mindfulness meditation and yoga since 2008.

In my personal life I was naturally gravitating towards caring for the planet, positive news and healthy and nutritious food. Something inside of me was starting to take control and gain momentum—I liked the feeling. I became a voluntary Director of a Community Supported Agriculture Scheme (CSA) and trained in permaculture design.

I was instinctively averse to the regular negative news; depressing soap operas; seeing cruelty to humans, plants and animals; I even struggled to watch the harsh realities of a wildlife program. There was a continued tendency to feel overwhelmed in work (seeking solitude at lunchtimes), in my personal life, and I became frustrated that I did not seem to have the robustness as others did around me.

The Beginnings Of Change

As a misfit in my personal and work life, I eventually burned-out with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. It’s no surprise I was anxious, I had increasing pressures in a career I disliked, and my marriage was imploding.

I did not resonate with the label of social anxiety disorder, but it was a start for healing. I noticed myself shrinking and struggling with a husband who, although extremely supportive, did not know how to nurture me gently. He too saw me as broken; just like my family and me.

With a call to adventure and internally growing courage and inner trust, I had no choice but to follow my deep-down instincts—I realised that external advice and manipulation had not worked and was actually harming me.

I left my old life and gradually grew into myself.

My inner guidance lead me to coaching the quiet person, painting, drawing, Susan Cain, Elaine Aron, writing and to a beautiful replenishing and nurturing experience—my new life.  On this journey I serendipitously discovered I have been normal all the time—an introverted HSP. The power of knowing and feeling this label is immense.

I stand tall as a unique plant in exactly the right place!!!

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Are You Numbing Your Sensitivity?

Are You Numbing Your Sensitivity? - HSP Health Blob


As I stood in line waiting to order my cup of coffee, I reached for my phone in my purse. You know, just in case there were any new updates within the last 5 minutes since the last time I checked it.

I didn’t feel the need to check. I just did it. You might be thinking that yes, you do this, too. It’s like we are on autopilot sometimes. Or are we?

Avoiding Our Sensitivity

What if we aren’t? What if we know exactly what we are doing?

What if we are checking our phones—or eating when we’re not hungry, or watching another episode on Netflix, or {insert supposedly mindless activity here}—because feeling our sensitivity just feels like it’s too much?

Do you do this? Do you participate in little actions throughout your day to avoid your sensitive self feeling too much, feeling life around you?

Why We Numb Ourselves To Our Sensitivity

I get it. We HSPs know what it’s like to truly feel our way through life. It can get overwhelming. Eye contact with a stranger. Sitting too close to someone on the train. Returning a phone call we don’t want to make. Showing up to a stressful job. Meeting new people at a party. Heck, even being with our own families at a holiday gathering.

It can be a lot to handle. Because we feel life’s moments more intensely, the volume can feel like it’s turned up too high a lot of the time. Mere eye contact with a stranger can feel like it’s just too much to handle when you’ve already got an ongoing to-do list in your mind, plus you’re still dwelling on the conversation you had earlier with a friend that just didn’t sit well with you.

Because there’s already so much going on internally, numbing our sensitivity to the stimulation around us can feel like the most natural thing in the world to HSPs.

Sensitivity Does Not Have To Be A Trap

But what if that moment you’re missing is one that may change your life? What if you could have both—a lively inner world and a way to meet the stimulating present moment with courage and calm, at the same time?

It takes some heart to heart time with your intuition, regular practice, and compassion for yourself along the way, but it is possible. With practice, HSPs can slowly baby step their way out of numbing their sensitivity and begin looking at life around them with curiosity, offering it their attention even if it feels awkward. Even if it feels scary.

A nod to a stranger, a “How are you?” to your cashier at the supermarket, showing up to a networking event, not looking at your phone during time spent with a loved one—it may not seem like it, but these are all brave acts for the HSP.

They require us to feel multiple things at once. They ask us to get real with the world around us.

Checking our phones to avoid feeling the world around us is just one way we may be numbing our sensitivity. The ways are endless, and some much more destructive than others. Avoiding feeling too much by drinking alcohol, doing drugs, sleeping too much, eating too much, the list goes on.

Do you catch yourself numbing your sensitivity? If so, how do you do it? What is one small step you can take this week to connect to the world around you while still feeling safe and OK in your HSP skin?

Share with us in the comments below.

Emotional Healing and the Body

Emotional Healing And The Body

Emotional Healing And The Body - HSP Health Blog

Highly sensitive people come into the world very attuned to the sensory world.

We perceive so much from inside ourselves and from observing and sensing others.

When we encounter intense pain or even trauma, that same gift of sensing can overwhelm us with too much sensation and information.

Our system can shut down to protect us from this “too muchness”.

Counter intuitively, returning to sensing in our bodies can also be the path back to wholeness and health.

The Necessity Of Pain Processing

“Most importantly, I learned that as much as I wanted to, I can’t simply “turn off” the hurt, and move on to the next chapter without fully processing and experiencing the associated pain. Truly feeling my emotions and acknowledging physical responses to stress and pain has been hugely beneficial to me.”- L. H. on healing from a painful divorce.

Working with the body can help facilitate emotional healing. Trauma and pain are stored in the body – we remove our conscious awareness from certain parts of our body in order to stop feeling the pain or trauma. Often we first experienced this pain or trauma when alone. It overwhelmed our singular energy system and so we shut it off. Healing can come when we put our conscious awareness back into that part of our body where it was shut down. Then we can allow the process to unfold at a pace that we can manage (and not be overwhelmed) until a natural resolve is reached and we authentically move on.

How Being Highly Sensitive Helps Healing

Being highly sensitive can assist with this process as returning to simple body sensations is the most effective way to re-open the shut off area. Going directly into emotion can quickly return the original overwhelm, whereas re-entering through awareness of body sensations can return awareness step by step and begin to open the shut off area without overwhelm.

Careful attention to the unfolding sensations will bring vital energy back into the area, and movement and growth will resume in the most microscopic, manageable way. Underlying physiological processes that were cut short can resume and be allowed to resolve.

The Importance Of A Healing Partner

Having another person involved helps as then there are two energy systems to contain the energy. Then it is not as overwhelming. The other person can also monitor the unfolding process and stop it or slow it down when it becomes too intense and we risk re-traumatizing ourselves. Re-traumatization occurs when the energy opened up is more than we can stay present for. Therefore their system closes down once again with a sense of helplessness and overwhelm.

When consciousness returns to the blocked off area, the helping person watches for signs of “too much” – for example, heart rate elevation, rapid breathing, eyes not able to focus – and stops or slows down the process when these signs emerge. Slowing down the process can be achieved by returning to purely physical sensations, letting go of the emotional reactions to those sensations and allowing more distance and open space around the sensations.

The task when the process is stopped is to comfort the pain and distress that has arisen and return the person to a grounded, balanced place in the present moment. In working to heal trauma, sometimes safe places are established as body memories during one of the early sessions. Then they are returned to when the pain and distress has arisen, as a place of comfort and restoration.

Healing Helps You Regain Your Power

The overall task of healing is to be present to small, manageable size pieces of the pain or trauma, in a number of sessions over time, until there is a natural resolution. It is also important to allow the body to cycle through and complete any physiological processes that were begun, so that physiological balance is restored and the body moves on naturally.

Doing this work uses the natural gifts of your sensitivity. The work may be natural as you already are tuned in to sensations. Emotional healing through the body can be very rewarding as you restore your own presence, awareness and vitality in your body. New energy and awareness can help you to truly come into your own power.

Create A Successful And Peaceful Work Environment


shutterstock_73796224Many specific methods can help create a more peaceful work environment helping the HSP become more successful at their job.

Consider which of the suggestions in this section are germane to your workplace and try to incorporate some of the following ideas into your work situation.

Make Your Physical Work Environment Beautiful

You can listen to calming background music to reduce or eliminate ambient noise at work. Many HSPs have told me that they frequently listen to music, wearing a headset, while some wear earplugs on the job. Put up inspiring pictures of natural settings such as land or seascapes or family pictures.

If you are working under fluorescent lights or in an artificial urban setting, gazing at nature will soothe your nerves. It may also help if you bring flowers and plants to your office. Your nervous system will be calmed by inhaling the delicate fragrance of flowers or by gazing at an exquisite bouquet. Surround yourself with the love of pictures of family and friends. Make sure that you have a comfortable chair to sit in throughout the workday so that your muscles are relaxed. You can buy a massage cushion for your chair that will electronically massage your tension away throughout the day.

Try to transform the sound of the telephone ringing at work into a relaxation cue. First lower the volume if possible. Let the ringing remind you to relax your muscles, take some slow deep breaths and repeat a mantra such as peace. If possible, don’t answer the phone until the third or fourth ring. Use those few moments to relax deeply.

Reduce Stimulation In Your Work Environment

It’s a good idea to create a daily work schedule to reduce stimulation, rather than just immediately jumping into a busy workday every morning. When you first arrive at work, center yourself by spending a few moments either meditating or doing some slow, deep abdominal breathing. Look at your work schedule for the day and decide, given your sensitivity, what is a realistic expectation of assignments to be completed. Try to schedule some time for relaxation breaks and remember to practice progressive muscle relaxation at your workstation.

The HSP traits of being very responsible and feeling easily overwhelmed by time pressure can really exacerbate stress. If you feel that the demands of the day will be too overwhelming, try to scale down your workload or talk to your supervisor. Be realistic and don’t create added stress by trying to push yourself beyond your limits.

I have learned to say no to taking on extra commitments at work and in my personal life. Although I sometimes feel guilty when I say no, the alternative for me is increased anxiety since I always feel that I need to follow through with any commitment that I make. However, if I feel that my energy is strong and I have free time, I will frequently volunteer on the spot to help out in areas that I previously didn’t want to commit to. This method of spontaneously assisting others seems to suit the HSP temperament by employing the characteristic of compassion without feeling overwhelmed by future commitments.

Since HSPs are easily affected by other people’s moods, when you are working under time pressure, you may write, talk and type faster, which exacerbates tension. You may want to put a note on your desk reminding yourself to work slower, rather than being swept away by the frenetic moods of your colleagues. You can remind your coworkers that Type A employees succeed in spite of their time urgent, competitive and aggressive behavior, not because of it. The pause to reflect trudging tortoise beats the hyper hare.

The use of aromatherapy, which is the inhalation of vaporized essential oils, is another effective method to create tranquility at work.  Certain essential oils have proved effective against stress and help create relaxation.  For example, a study showed that keyboard errors decreased by over 50% when the fragrance of lemon is diffused into an office.

If you’re sitting all day at work, it’s important to periodically take walking or stretching breaks to reduce stimulation from your intense job. You can always do stretching, even while seated in your chair. Try to do progressive relaxation for a few moments every hour by visualizing all the muscles in your body relaxing further and further as you take some slow, deep breaths. I remember one student who worked in a very busy medical office told me that she didn’t have time to take even one break throughout the day.  However, she tried using progressive relaxation while working and found it quite effective in reducing stress.

If you have clients or customers who come to your workplace, you may want to have some uplifting magazines available to create a peaceful environment.  In addition, having calming herb tea and healthy snacks, like fruit, available for clients and staff is another potent method to create a tranquil work environment.

Some progressive, large companies have fitness centers and meditation rooms for their employees. You may want to investigate with your supervisor the possibility of creating a meditation room. You could point out that employee’s efficiency would improve if they had a peaceful room to meditate in for short breaks during the day.  A quiet dark room is a godsend for the HSP who works in a stimulating environment.

Harmony Is Important In Your Work Environment

To help increase harmony at work, recommend to your supervisor to install a suggestion box. Since the HSP may have many complaints and feel embarrassed to be asking for changes, the anonymity of the suggestion box would be beneficial. The suggestion box could also give an opportunity for non-HSPs who may be mildly bothered by some of the same conditions to express their opinion.

HSPs with insomnia usually find it stressful to be at work early every morning. Ask your employer about the possibility of arriving at work later in exchange for taking a shorter lunch hour or working a little later in the day. One student told me that when he didn’t have to be at work early every morning, he wouldn’t have as much difficulty falling asleep. He would tell himself that he could always sleep later the following morning, so it didn’t matter if it took some time to fall asleep.

However, if you enjoy going to work early, it can be beneficial for HSPs to start the day in a peaceful manner with few distractions. By the time the other employees arrive, you have already calmly started your day. You may then be able to go home early before rush hour traffic and have an opportunity to take a nap or take a walk in a park after work. You can explore with your boss if you could do some work from home, which is ideal for the HSP. More and more people are working part-time to full time from their home office, which really lessens over-stimulation for the HSP.

Remember that one of the most important factors in job satisfaction is experiencing positive interpersonal relationships at work. You can positively affect your interpersonal relationships at work when you are relaxed. If you’re feeling anxious, the tension amongst your colleagues will grow. However, when you are taking regular meditation breaks and utilizing other relaxation methods to create inner-peace, your coworkers will also become calmer. When you keep your sense of humor and smile frequently, your feelings of joy and happiness at work will increase.

By implementing the above techniques, you will create more inner peace for yourself and be more successful in your job.

I Love My Cat’s Life

I adore my cat and how she lives.

I have often wondered why the way we live is so different.

So many people think animals are not as smart as we are but I remain unconvinced.

I see the soul in her eyes, the living being that is no different.

My cat takes life in stride. Why is that so hard for us?

Taking Life In Stride: A Piece Of Cake For A Cat

Many sages talk about the importance of just being.

Being is the state when you are in the moment without a need to make something out of it, prove anything, or be anybody.

Being is a state of oneness with the universal life force.

It’s a state of is-ness.

My cat is good at being. With being comes a total lack of self doubt, that I as an HSP love.

She doesn’t have to be somebody and she knows that this world is hers as much as mine.

There is no question in her mind about her right to be here.

My Cat Has Status

In all honesty, my cat has status.

She has a ridiculous number of pet beds around the house that she cycles through to selet her favorite spot of the moment.

She climbs under the covers at night and has the first choice of where to sleep.

She has my lap to climb onto when she wants some reiki energy.

Kelly tells time: when I should get up and when I should go to bed.

Keeping On

Kelly has only one working eye and a poorly healed broken pelvis, so we go for walks with her in her harness and coat. She doesn’t love it, but we make it work.

We got her as a companion for our cat Socrates who has since passed away. She came with her health issues since she had been dumped after a serious accident.

We are lucky to have her.

Kelly is very dainty and girlie, the only girlie cat I have ever had. Socrates was definitely a macho man.

Every day we go outside several times.

We start at 5:30AM when we go outside to say hello to nature. Kelly  sniffs around the house to check out who may have visited our turf during the night.

We feed some of the feral cats that live in the woods who now come to greet us when we come out of the house. One of them, a large black and white female cat especially loves Kelly, and runs over to her and loves on her. Kelly is not always thrilled. We have nicknamed Kelly, the Celebrity of the Backyard, and the other cats her Paparazzi.

 At Home

She doesn’t need money and things, so there are no transactions going on. She meets her needs, and enjoys the day.

What else is there?

I admire the way she lives each moment with no drama.

Like all animals she can be afraid, but she doesn’t seem to have a lot of anxiety.

There is no adversarial relationship between the world and Kelly.

She is at home.

In being so at home, she teaches me to be the same.

She is a treasure to me.

I am very grateful to have her to teach me how to live.

Embrace Respect: It’s Good For Your Health

Respect is something we all want.

Even HSPs.

Why is it so elusive?

Why Respect Is Important

Respect is so important for our well being that we feel our positive energy grow when around it and we feel our energy become depleted when we are disrespected.

For highly sensitive people, the issue of respect is particularly acute since we are frequently disrespected for our “soft” values and gentle, non-aggressive personalities.

Whether we are accepted or not, we still need to experience respect – not just be someone that others put up with.

We want to be well regarded by the people in our life and also to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with ourselves.

Because our nervous systems are so easily stressed, we also need to be aware that disrespect damages our health and as a result our ability to function well. It creates emotional injury and more stress for us to deal with. On a long term basis disrespect will make us ill.

Implications Of Respect

Respect has important benefits:

  • it helps us open to the world
  • it makes us open to listening to others
  • it helps create trust
  • it helps us have confidence in ourselves
  • it creates space for mutual problem solving
  • it creates a feeling of safety
  • it lets you receive
  • it lets you give
  • it helps you to relax
  • it helps to feel one with the universe
  • it helps you heal
  • it helps you forgive
  • it is necessary for love
  • it helps you feel happy
  • it helps you be present rather than want to escape the present
  • it helps you to be with whatever you are involved with so persistence becomes easier
  • it helps you feel less needy so you are more satisfied

Respect is so important that people spend their entire lives chasing it. In a competitive winner-take-all culture like ours, external respect can be very hard to come by, which is why we need to spend time considering the implications of respect in and on our lives.

Do we base it on our values, our performance, our possessions, our relationships?

How do we manage respect issues when cultural values mean that external respect is unavailable to us?

Can we respect ourselves and have that be enough?

Respect And Wisdom

One of the first lessons that Japanese children learn is the importance of respect. It is not taught to meet the demands of the social structure but  because you need respect to learn and become wise.

This means that in their culture respect is the beginning of the journey to well being and effectiveness.

In the Western culture, respect is something you earn from others. So it is extrinsic and even rare.

Intrinsic respect or self worth is something we get from our parents and educators during our childhoods. When we do nor receive it we are less able to withstand the negative message of our culture. We may know intellectually that we have worth, but without the experience of it, we are left adrift.

When we lose access to intrinsic respect, we lose our ability to effectively navigate our daily lives. We lose our compass, our capacity for sane and responsible action, and our ability to manage. We have an insatiable hunger and often do not know what it is for.

HSPs are usually “misfits” so often our natural curiosity and wisdom may have been denied to get us not to bother others. Being treated as a bother is tough to handle as a child, so we may stop believing in ourselves because no on else does. As a result we may be afraid to learn because we do not receive positive feedback.

The Importance Of Respect For Learning

Respect elevates learning. It puts us on the stewards path.

In the West, educational goals are often about innovating which is great but there is a pitfall. If we treat current reality with disrespect in order to innovate, then we are essentially shooting ourselves in the foot. We are innovating by competing against and rejecting the present, rather that looking to make the present better.

Without respecting the present we lose the ability to discern what is working and what is not. We may treat the present as something  to discard, like consumer goods, like the packaging for a loaf of bread.

When disrespect as a basis of “progress” it creates serious issues within our culture.  Environmental degradation, health issues and social problems are all caused by a disrespect for nature, people and their well being.

HSPs And Respect

None of us can live with disrespect all of the time. It is like dying slowly.

For HSPs the situation is more serious than for non-HSPs since we are more likely to be affected by the stress of the inherent rejection in disrespect.

The good news for HSPs is that our natures are very supportive of respectful living even if our culture is not. We have to come to terms with the implications of our nature and what respectful living means for us so that we can forge a path that we want to embrace.

I suspect that we HSPs are here to help our race find its way to a stewards path, a path of respect that has been denied in the interest of economic gain.

Embracing respect and the stewards path is not easy, but it is also essential for our well being and the well being of everyone around us.

Everyone benefits in the end.