15 Life-Changing Lessons for Highly Sensitive People

A highly sensitive man listening to headphones while walking in the park

Since highly sensitive people see the world differently than those who are less sensitive, the way HSPs deal with it is different, too.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I experience a lot of overstimulation and overwhelm on a daily basis, and the same is probably true for you if you’re an HSP, too. After all, the world is full of unwanted noise, light, smells, textures, you name it… These can be too much for anybody, but are magnified even more so for those of us who are more sensitive than most.

So what’s a highly sensitive person to do?

Luckily, over the years, I’ve discovered many life-changing lessons that we highly sensitive people can benefit from. But first, let’s talk about what it means to be an HSP anyway.

The Science Behind Highly Sensitive People

A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a term used to describe individuals who possess a heightened sensitivity to stimuli in their environment and to the emotions of those around them. Scientists refer to this trait as environmental sensitivity or, in some cases, sensory processing sensitivity (SPS). HSPs are thought to process information, including emotional information, more deeply than others. It’s estimated that nearly 30 percent of the population may be highly sensitive. (Meanwhile, about 40 percent of people are average in sensitivity while 20 percent are low in sensitivity.)

HSPs can be affected by a wide range of stimuli, such as noise, light, and temperature. They may also be more sensitive to physical discomfort, such as pain or hunger, and more easily overwhelmed by intense or prolonged stimulation. They are often affected by the emotions of others, too — it feels as if others’ pain is their pain.

In addition to being sensitive to external stimuli, HSPs may also be more introverted, needing more alone time to recharge, and have a rich inner life, with a deep connection to their emotions, thoughts, and imagination. They may be deeply moved by art, music, and other forms of creative expression, too, and have a heightened appreciation for beauty and aesthetics.

Being highly sensitive can be both a strength and a challenge, HSPs tend to be more compassionate, empathetic, and able to pick up on subtle cues in the environment. However, at the same time, the overwhelming amount of information can lead to feeling easily overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed. This can lead to feeling emotionally “flooded.” Therefore, it’s important for HSPs to learn how to manage — and make use of — their sensitivity, setting boundaries and finding ways to take care of their emotional well-being.

It’s also important to note that being a highly sensitive person is not a disorder, but rather a trait that some people possess. It can vary in intensity and not everyone who has this trait experiences the same challenges or benefits. It’s always recommended to seek professional help if someone is struggling to cope with their sensitivity and has difficulty in managing their life.

Now, without further ado, here are 15 life-changing lessons highly sensitive people can benefit from.

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15 Life-Changing Lessons for Highly Sensitive People

1. Understand your own sensitivity and the impact it has on your life. 

This can involve learning more about what it means to be a highly sensitive person and understanding the characteristics that are associated with it. This may include becoming more aware of your emotions, recognizing when you’re overwhelmed by stimuli, and having a deep connection to your environment. For each of these, you can also enact a coping mechanism if things become too much and your highly sensitive soul goes into overdrive, like taking a time-out and getting some air, going for a walk, and so on.

By understanding your sensitivity, you can better communicate your needs to others and make more informed decisions about how you spend your time and energy.

2. Learn to recognize, and manage, your triggers.

Triggers can include specific events, environments, or types of people that cause an emotional or physical response. As an HSP, you may have a lower threshold for certain stimuli, such as loud noise or bright lights. By learning to recognize your triggers, you can plan ahead to avoid or cope with them, and minimize the chances of feeling overwhelmed.

For example, shopping malls may be a trigger for you, with all their glaring overhead lights (not to mention, way too many people). Or a low-key concert may be more your thing than a 10,000-person one — HSPs tend to be better with “selective noise” rather than that which is forced upon us.

Chances are, you’ll be able to figure out your triggers pretty quickly. The next step is then doing your best to do Plan B instead. 

3. Set boundaries and learn to say “no.”

As a sensitive person, you may feel pressure to please others… but it’s important to prioritize your own well-being. Setting boundaries is about setting limits and knowing what is acceptable — and unacceptable — behavior from others. 

Saying “no” can also be a form of setting boundaries, as it’s a way to communicate your limits and assert your right to make decisions about your own life. For example, your friend may beg you to go out on Friday night. But after a full work week, you know it’s in your best interest to stay home and relax instead. So instead of giving in to your HSP people-pleaser tendency, saying “no” to your friend — and “yes” to your needs — is a great way to enact a boundary.

4. Practice self-care, like getting enough alone time to decompress from the day’s overstimulation.

This can include taking time for yourself, getting enough rest, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. Self-care can also include developing a healthy lifestyle, eating a nutritious diet, and finding ways to relax and unwind. 

HSPs quite enjoy alone time — it’s important for them to have time for themselves in order to recharge and maintain their emotional well-being.

5. Learn how to manage your stress and anxiety.

HSPs may be more prone to stress and anxiety since they are more affected from daily stimuli more than others. So it’s important to learn techniques to manage these feelings. 

This can include meditation, journaling, and/or talking with a therapist or support group. Research has also found that exercise and physical activity can also be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety.

6. Don’t compare yourself to others. 

Every HSP is unique and has different needs and ways of coping. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, but this can be detrimental to your self-esteem and self-acceptance. 

Remember: Everyone’s journey is different. So, instead, focus on your own progress and self-improvement. What are some positive things you’ve achieved this week? Month? Year? Make a list of things you are proud of and it’ll help you feel better about yourself. This way, you’ll focus more on your accomplishments vs. others’.

7. Seek out supportive relationships. 

As a highly sensitive person, you may find that you are more affected by the emotions of others, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who understand — and appreciate — your sensitivity. 

Sadly, sensitivity is often misunderstood by society. So it’s best to cultivate relationships with people who are supportive and accepting of your needs, and who will be there to listen and help when you need it. 

Need to Calm Your Sensitive Nervous System? 

HSPs often live with high levels of anxiety, sensory overload and stress — and negative emotions can overwhelm us. But what if you could finally feel calm instead?

That’s what you’ll find in this powerful online course by Julie Bjelland, one of the top HSP therapists in the world. You’ll learn to turn off the racing thoughts, end emotional flooding, eliminate sensory overload, and finally make space for your sensitive gifts to shine.

Stop feeling held back and start to feel confident you can handle anything. Check out this “HSP Toolbox” and start making a change today. Click here to learn more.

8. Create a comfortable and nurturing living space.

“Environmental psychology” is a thing, especially where HSPs are concerned. So you may find that certain environments are more conducive to your well-being than others. 

This can include creating a space that is calm, quiet, and free from excessive stimuli — your very own HSP sanctuary. It’s important to have a comfortable and nurturing living space that allows you to relax and recharge after a long day; the more you maximize its sense of calm, the better.

9. Learn to identify — and honor — your feelings.

Instead of repressing or denying your emotions, it’s important to acknowledge and validate them. Embrace your feelings, whether they are positive or negative, and take the time to process them. 

We sensitive types have “big emotions,” and the more we understand them, the better. This can then help us better understand ourselves and make healthier decisions.

10. Practice assertiveness — be clear with others (and yourself) about what you want and need.

Assertiveness is about communicating your wants — and needs — in a clear and direct manner. As an HSP, it’s important to learn to be assertive, as it can be easy to be taken advantage of or taken for granted. For example, highly sensitive people tend to attract narcissists for this very reason (among others). 

Assertiveness means standing up for yourself and your needs, and learning to say “no” when necessary. The more assertive you are, the more you’ll be able to recognize a toxic relationship, too.

11. Recognize that being an HSP is a strength, not a weakness.

It’s important to recognize that being a highly sensitive person is not a weakness or something to be ashamed of. While it’s a unique aspect of your personality that comes with some challenges, it also comes with many strengths

For instance, we HSPs often have a deeper level of empathy and emotional intelligence, and we can have a profound appreciation for the world around them. The more you embrace your sensitivity, the more you’ll love it. Trust me!

12. Set realistic expectations for yourself.

As an HSP, it can be easy to put too much pressure on yourself. It’s important to set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish in a day, a week, or a month. 

So be mindful of your limitations and don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go as planned. After all, highly sensitive people do not like time anxiety or to feel under pressure, so try to make things as easy on yourself as possible. This way, you will reduce overwhelm in your life, too. 

13. Practice mindfulness to get back in the present moment.

Mindfulness is the practice of staying present in the moment and being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. This can help HSPs get grounded and tune out distractions. This way, they’ll focus on what’s truly important. 

Deep breathing techniques — which are often a part of mindfulness — can also help minimize anxiety and stress, too, research has found.

14. Seek professional help if needed.

If you are experiencing difficulty coping with your sensitivity — or things that may be associated with it, like anxiety — it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A therapist or mental health counselor can provide guidance and support, and can help you develop strategies for managing your feelings and triggers. They can help you create a “coping skills toolkit” so that you can calm yourself down when everything gets to be too much.

15. Practice self-compassion and self-acceptance.

Self-compassion is about treating yourself with kindness and understanding, rather than judgment and criticism. Accepting yourself as you are, with your strengths and limitations, can be a powerful step toward self-acceptance and living a fulfilling life as an HSP. An easy way to do this is to give yourself the same care and understanding that you would give to a friend or small child.

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