The world is a place filled with dizzying highs and deep lows, contrasted by the monotony of daily life. These ups and downs will often come unexpectedly into our lives and leave even the most stalwart of people a bit battered and bruised.
But what of highly sensitive people?
Today’s society likes to paint emotional, highly sensitive people with negativity. These character traits are often viewed as a weakness or liability. And it can certainly feel this way when a person is left hurting by the challenges they’ve faced in their life.
Emotion, caring, and love are neither weaknesses nor liabilities. But, these things do need to be counter-balanced by effective self-care so that the highly sensitive person doesn’t drown in the negativity of the world.
So, let’s have a look at some things that every HSP needs in their life…
The most important component of compassion, love, or feeling deeply is self-love. Self-love allows a person to draw healthy, effective boundaries and enforce them well. This is a necessary thing. No one else will take care of a person like they should take care of themselves. After all, we have to live every day with ourselves.
Being dependent on another person for our sense of self and wellbeing is a bad idea, because everyone struggles with their own internal battles. People prioritize their own needs and desires first, with rare exception.
People with high empathy or those that experience emotions deeply will often feel the pain of the people they choose to be around. Sitting in another person’s pain, especially as an empathetic person, is a difficult thing to do without self-love.
Self-love is imperative because it helps to balance the empathy one will experience with the suffering in the world. The only way to counter narcissists and people who will use their suffering to generate pity is to be able to say, “This is not okay and I will not be a part of it.”
Self-love is the cornerstone of staying happy and healthy in surviving the challenges of life. One cannot love others more than themselves and expect to stay happy and healthy.
2. Healthy Boundaries
People that empathize deeply with the suffering of others are ideal targets for the selfish, narcissists, and exploiters. Sensitive and emotional people with life experience have likely already learned this. Healthy boundaries are essential for keeping negative people and experiences from impacting one’s life deeply.
The emotional vampires of the world that want to latch on are typically looking for a soft and easy target. Broadcasting to the world that, “I am a loving and compassionate person” is essentially holding up a neon sign spelling out the word, “TARGET.”
Healthy boundaries not only make for a harder target which can deter predators, but they also help to preserve the core of a sensitive person. It’s not hard to find people who have been burned by trying to be loving and compassionate to a person that subsequently took total advantage of their kindness, treated them poorly, and was nowhere to be found to reciprocate that love and compassion when needed.
The ability to protect and preserve oneself means there is no love wasted on ingrates and predators.
3. Acceptance Of Oneself
The struggle for acceptance of oneself is a challenging one, particularly when facets of who we are can leave us harmed by the actions of others or the general flow of life. The unending narrative of the importance of being strong, tough, and not showing any weakness can make it all that much harder.
People can’t be hard and strong all of the time. They need to be able to experience and feel their emotions. It’s impossible to be hard all of the time without sowing the seeds of mental and emotional problems further down the road.
Accepting oneself and how we feel about ourselves is a key stepping stone to a more stable future. Accepting how we feel about other people and the world at large are further stones on the river of self-care. Acceptance allows us to take a look at ourselves through a more discerning eye, identify our strengths and our weaknesses, and then build toward them.
It’s easy for a person to find fault with themselves and their emotions if that’s all they look for. Acceptance helps to balance that. We must acknowledge not only our shortcomings, but the brilliant and positive things we could contribute if we were in an appropriate mindset to do so.
As we’ve established, the world can be a chaotic and difficult place. The highly sensitive person needs to have a place of peace; somewhere they can retreat to in order to recharge their batteries and step away from the chaos for a little while. Everyone needs some respite from the din and clamor of existence, but it is of even greater importance for an HSP. They will become over-stressed, burn out, and shut down if they are in the thick of things for too long.
A place of peace need not be a physical location, though it can be. Maybe it’s a car ride with some loud music, sitting by a stream and drawing some trees, diving deeply into a new book, or just a random activity to get out and have some fun. There is no wrong answer so long as it presents the opportunity to disengage from the chaos and unwind for a bit. Find or create a place of peace.
5. Kindred Spirits
An effective way to ease the challenges one is presented with in life is to spend time around other people with similar perspectives or problems. The ability to commiserate with people that understand the types of challenges that sensitive people face can be a healthy way to keep things in perspective. This kind of thing is common in circles of professional caregivers, where they may lean on one another indirectly to get through the challenges of their work.
Of course, not everyone finds themselves in healthy circles. Getting drunk together to trade war stories isn’t exactly a healthy coping mechanism. Finding people that understand and who practice mostly healthy coping mechanisms can greatly relieve stress and provide some peace of mind. Being around like-minded people helps us stay grounded and realize that we are not alone in the challenges we face.
6. A Schedule
Life is hectic and busy. The more we try to accomplish, the more responsibilities we put on our shoulders, the more imposing everything can be. Burying oneself in too many goals or tasks is a quick way to run screaming into burn out, especially since the stresses of life can hit an HSP harder than most. Thus, a schedule that we do our best to stick to becomes an important tool for self-care.
We must make sure we have enough time to do all of the things that we need to do and not stretch ourselves too thin. Furthermore, self-care and place of peace activities should be worked into a regular schedule to ensure that we actually do them. Activities like exercise, meal planning, or recreation should have their own allotted time that we avoid interrupting as much as possible. Life will swallow up time for oneself if we do not protect it.
Highly sensitive people tend to be givers. They often take great joy in watching other people find happiness and succeeding. That is an important thing that the world needs more of. Unfortunately, we cannot trust that other people will take care of our needs and feelings in the way that we do for others. Most people are too swept up in their own lives and problems to really go out of their way to look deeply into the lives of those around them. A solid foundation of self-care is the key to maintaining peace and stability in this life as an HSP.