You may have heard the term “highly sensitive person” being thrown around a lot, but what does it mean?
It’s not the same as introversion – A Highly Sensitive Person HSP can be both introverted or extroverted. Since Dr. Elaine Aron researched the HSP personality type, many questions have been asked about the HSP personality trait and how such a person can cope with high sensory processing sensitivity.
Characteristics of a highly sensitive Person
While there is no specific test that can determine hyper-sensitivity, research has shown that some individuals have a central nervous system that is more sensitive to physical, emotional or social stimuli. You may have hypersensitivity if any of these characteristics describe you:
1. You’re hyper-aware of subtleties around you
If loud or harsh sounds leave you feeling raw and overwhelmed, you have High Sensitivity, a genetic variation which allows the nervous system to process subtleties. Highly sensitive people tend to be bothered by intense stimuli (noises, bright lights, strong smells, hyperactive surroundings) and strong sensory input more than others. If you feel like retreating to a darkened room when you are over stimulated, you may be a HSP.
You might find yourself constantly monitoring your physical response to hyper-arousing external stimuli. Some HSPs may be scared of the slightest sound, some may jump at loud noises or cries of distress, while some HSPs can become hyper-vigilant when they hear a sudden noise. HSPs often prefer work environments where they have more control of the external stimuli. Highly Sensitive People are highly attuned to external stimuli profoundly and are deeply affected by and absolutely abhor violence. You can find them avoiding violent movies when they can because it is extremely upsetting.
2. You’re great at picking up emotions and feelings of others
There’s a reason why people like to confide in you or seek advice from you – HSPs are great listeners, have keen ability to sense other people’s feelings, motivations, and intentions. You quickly sense conflict, sense others feelings and the mood changes taking place around you. HSPs are often hyper-aware of the energy in a room and pick up on both positive and negative emotions more easily than the average person. They make great team members.
3. You’re easily overwhelmed
One of the typical personality traits of HSPs is that they can be both emotionally and physically overwhelmed. When meeting new people, HSPs may become hyper-aware of the other person’s feelings, making them withdraw if they sense that someone is hyper-critical or full of rage. It can leave them feeling exhausted even after just a few hours spent with others. When a HSP is overwhelmed, feelings of anxiety are common. They can be excited for a change and be anxious about it at the same time.
4. You’re hyper-aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions
HSPs are extremely self aware and tend to have a rich inner world. They feel things more profoundly than most other people. You stay true to yourself by being honest with your feelings. HSPs are hyper-aware of their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and tend to have low self esteem. This can make it challenging to live in a world where everyone seems unable to appreciate how highly sensitive you are.
5. You don’t handle criticism well
You may find yourself unable to separate your hyper awareness of emotions from other people’s criticism or disapproval. HSPs react strongly to criticism. HSPs tend not to usually express anger or annoyance, but they tend to take things personally.
6. You seek meaning in your work and life
Although HSPs have above average ambition, seeking out meaning in everything is an innate trait. HSPs can be motivated by intrinsic factors rather than extrinsic factors. If you’re a HSP, you know that things will always have a downside, no matter how good something is. You are hyper-aware of subtle cues and need to do work that’s fulfilling to the HSP.
7. You’re a problem solver
Hyper-sensitivity allows a Highly Sensitive Person HSP to solve problems with greater accuracy since they can see things from many different angles – they can view both sides of an issue. They are skilled at integrating complex information and making connections.
8. You’re extremely empathetic
Brain scans have indicated that HSPs have more active mirror neurons that are attributed to feelings of empathy for others. There’s a good chance that you’re highly aware of other people’s emotional states. You might find yourself getting easily swept up into someone else’s feelings and emotions. They are deeply committed to fairness and can lead teams well. HSPs also have hyperactive mirror neurons, which help them understand other people’s emotions really well.
9. You’re detail-oriented
You are extremely perceptive and hyper-aware of details of the tiniest changes in your environment. Noticing small clues can come in handy when a HSP is solving problems. Additionally, dedication and commitment make HSPs great team members.
10. You’re more likely to be an introvert
It’s unlikely that you’ll enjoy attending parties or talking to strangers. You know that stimulating environments can be too much to handle, and you may opt to spend time alone instead of in crowds.
11. You have good manners
HSPs are hyper-focused on the world around them. They notice etiquette and are hyper-aware of the social landscape. They are hyper-observant of other people’s feelings, which means you know what types of things are considered rude. Being a HSP usually comes with good manners.
12. You love nature
Being close to nature is necessary for your mental health and well-being. You are hyper-aware of environmental changes and possible dangers. Being connected with nature helps you ground yourself.
13. You’re introspective
Introspection allows HSPs to remain hyper-aware of their actions in the world. HSPs cherish reflection and if you’re a HSP, you might feel that your mind is constantly buzzing with thoughts and ideas. Hyper-awareness can lead to hyper thinking, where a HSP has difficulty shutting off restless thinking. HSPs cher
14. You have a vivid imagination
A HSP is a creative thinker who expresses themselves through creativity. Hyper-sensitivity allows HSPs to have vibrant inner lives, use vivid imagery in their work and encourages visualization. Being hyper-aware of emotions makes them deeply moved by the arts or music. This may lead HSPs to write or paint in an attempt to express their hyper-awareness.
How to cope if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person
If your hyper-sensitivity is taking a toll on your life, there are many ways you can learn to cope.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and attentive to what you’re feeling and experiencing at any given moment without judgment. For HSPs, this means not dismissing or ignoring their hyper-awareness and hypersensitivity but instead accepting it and acknowledging what is happening in their surroundings. Mindfulness can be practiced by becoming aware of when you’re breathing without judgment or trying to be more present when you eat or make a cup of coffee. Do anything that brings you into the moment and allows you to notice what is happening around you. This practice can be strenuous, but it will help HSPs better cope with hyper-awareness.
Many highly sensitives experience stress or anxiety because of their hyper-awareness, which reduces the ability to relax and calm down after a long day at work or while trying to focus on schoolwork (or children).
Meditation is a simple way highly sensitives can reduce their hyper-awareness and hyper stress. This sounds contradictory, but it’s true. When practicing meditation, highly sensitive people are encouraged to focus on nothing for 10 minutes to relax the mind. highly sensitive people who practice meditation regularly find that stress and anxiety begin to subside as a result.
3. Spend Time Alone
Hyper awareness can drain highly sensitive persons by the end of the day. Take some time away from the restless world to recharge and relax. Walking in nature, journaling or spending time with pets is an excellent way to relax for many HSPs. You could turn hypersensitivity into a positive thing if you take the time to embrace your hyper-awareness.
4. Banish Negative Thoughts
Many HSPs are ruled by negative thoughts and self doubt that tell them they’re not good enough or weird because of their hypersensitivity. These thoughts are counterproductive, so focus on the positives of hyper-sensitivity and hyper-awareness and don’t pay attention to your self doubt.
5. Find a Support Group
HSPs often feel alone and isolated because it can be challenging to find other people who share the same symptoms as you do. Finding a support group of other highly sensitive or highly sensitive people can be very cathartic.
6. Get Some Exercise
Exercise increases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that boost your system. This can be as simple as taking a walk outside or running around the block with your dog.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Many HSPs find that the lack of sleep results in anxiety, which is why highly sensitive people need to get a good night’s rest so they can function well.
8. Try Yoga
For many, yoga is a great way to relax and recharge. The physical poses allow the highly sensitive person to let go of hyper thinking. Yoga teaches the highly sensitive person to focus on the present moment, which is similar to mindfulness.
9. Be Kind to Yourself
When you’re highly sensitive, it can be easy to develop self-esteem issues because of the negative thoughts that creep into your mind. Try to embrace your highly sensitive nature rather than fight or resist it.
10. Allow Yourself to Follow Your Own Path
HSPs are so attuned to the needs of others that they often put their own needs on the back burner, which can be exhausting. Psychologically, it’s not healthy for highly sensitive people to repress their feelings or hide who they really are, please others, or make them accept them. Be yourself by following your own path.
11. Ditch the Guilt
There will always be people who don’t understand your hypersensitivity or who might try to take advantage of you because they know they can push your buttons. Try not to feel guilty about things that aren’t your fault or things that happen to you that you can’t control.
12. Learn to Say No
Although highly sensitive people hate making other people feel bad, highly sensitive often struggle with saying no because they’re concerned about causing a stir. Don’t be afraid to decline invitations for events you feel overwhelming. It’s essential to take care of yourself.
13. Watch Your Fuel Intake
Food is fuel for the body and mind. Certain foods such as sugar and caffeine cause the body and mind to react negatively. HSPs should choose foods that aren’t acidic or fried that will help them stay grounded.
14. Talk It Out and Be Honest About Your Needs
Talking about your feelings is the best way to cope with your hyper-awareness if you’re a highly sensitive person. Sharing feelings and thoughts allows you to feel better without having to stuff them away for later.
15. Create Healthy Boundaries
highly sensitives often have difficulty setting boundaries because they don’t want to hurt anyone. You can establish healthy boundaries by setting time limits and expectations.
16. Surround Yourself with Positive People
You know the negative people in your life that bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself. If you have high sensitivity to negative people, find ways to avoid these people, or use the lessons you’ve learned to set healthy boundaries with them.
17. Listen to Your Body
When highly sensitive people are in tune with their bodies, they’re more likely to notice what makes them feel good and what makes them feel bad. This is why hyper-aware people need to consider how certain foods, activities, and people affect them.
18. Embrace Your Intuition
Intuition is highly sensitive people’s greatest strength, which is why hyper-aware people need to embrace their intuition and gain wisdom from the things they learn along the way.
19. Don’t Isolate Yourself
Isolating yourself can cause stress, so you need to surround themselves with close relationships and supportive people who understand your needs. Join a club or start a new hobby that allows you to socialize in an environment where you feel comfortable.
20. Permit Yourself to Be Imperfect
Highly sensitive people tend to be so hard on themselves that they never permit themselves to make mistakes. People are allowed the freedom of being imperfect, so allow yourself this same freedom.
Hyper-sensitivity is a positive trait and a gift. If you have spent your life confused by the feeling that your emotions are too intense, it may take time to adjust to this new way of seeing yourself.
Highly sensitive people are a unique group because their hyper-awareness allows them to appreciate the finer things in life. Embrace hypersensitivity for what it is because hyper-awareness is a strength, not a weakness.