- “There are too many noises happening at once!”
- “I can’t go down that aisle, the scents are too strong!”
- :: screams or gasps when someone walks into the room ::
- “The waistband is just too tight!”
- “I’m sooooo thirsty!”
- :: lots of tears over any kind of movie/IG post/story etc. ::
- “Tell me when I can open my eyes again.”
- “Crowds are not my thing.”
- :: soooo many feeeeeelings ::
These are some things that I’ve said and experienced, probably hundreds of times each. (Can you relate?!) One of my core traits is sensitivity, and I describe myself as an HSP, or a highly sensitive person. Many of the young people and parents I have the honoring of seeing in my coaching practice also identify as highly sensitive, which I am not at all surprised about. Like attracts like.
What Does HSP Mean?
A highly sensitive person is someone who tends to experience stronger responses or reactions to physical, mental, or emotional stimuli, sometimes resulting in overwhelm. Just as with any other trait, there are gifts and challenges that come with being highly sensitive. Check out this IG post from Ilyse Kennedy about some of the superpowers HSPs have!
Dr. Elaine Aron, a clinical psychologist, has been studying and writing about sensitivity since the early 1990s. She reminds us:
“Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population–too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.
It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it in over 100 species (and probably there are many more) from fruit flies, birds, and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others’.”
If you’re wondering if you, too, are an HSP, my guess is that you probably already know the answer. 🙂 AND if you’d like to explore the possibility a bit more and become familiar with some of the characteristics of HSPs, you can take a quiz here!
Ways to Care for Your Sensitivity
Because HSPs tend to have a heightened awareness of the environment, people, and needs around us (IN ADDITION to everything happening in our own system) our batteries may become depleted rather quickly. We may also be more prone to pushing ourselves beyond our limits because we are activated, physically, intellectually, and/or emotionally. And, again, like attracts like.
Through the coaching process, many young people feel ready to create or revamp their toolbox for self-care. This practice is important for EVERYONE, and especially HSPs. The following list includes ways that you can tend to yourself and your sensitivity, both proactively and once you’ve hit overwhelm.
- Spend time understanding your sensitivity trait and recognizing how/when it shows up for YOU.
- Give yourself plenty of time, especially around transitions and changes.
- Protect your sacred alone time.
- Create and honor a schedule/rituals/routines that work for you.
- Check-in with yourself regularly.
- Prioritize quiet, soothing activities.
- Spend time with people who give you energy.
- Have snacks and water at the ready.
- Honor your need for rest.
- Spend time off of screens.
- Allow yourself to daydream, brainstorm, and proces– mentally or in words, images, or other creative forms.
- When it feels helpful, explain your trait and preferences to friends/family/teachers/etc.
- Have exit plans for events/activities that you know will be draining.
- When you are overwhelmed, take a break or make your exit.
- Give yourself time to recover/recharge after overwhelming experiences.
What other tools come to mind? How else are you already tending to your sensitivity trait? What else is working for you?
Other Resources for HSPs
As you explore your sensitivity and find your own ways of tending to, appreciating, validating, and working with this trait, you may enjoy documenting your support system with this guide + map. Additionally, you might like to connect with a coach or other support professional who gets you. If you need help getting started, please reach out!