Highly Sensitive Refuge
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4 Reasons Why HSPs Love Routines (and How to Create New Ones)

Routines put HSPs back in the driver’s seat — they provide an element of control that’s always there, even if the world around you is shifting.

My favorite thing to do before bed — after a long day of work — is rewatch episodes of Friends.

There are thousands of shows on Netflix, Hulu, and every other streaming service available these days, with friends raving about this or that new series and how binge-worthy it is. But I’ve hardly watched any of them. 

I also tend to listen to the same songs, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed. And if I can’t start each day with my usual reading time, it throws me off. 

These are just a few examples of repetition I’ve developed in my life, and if someone was a fly on the wall, I might worry that I come across as boring or odd for it.

But I recently realized that I’m not alone in returning to the same routines and media again and again. In fact, it makes a lot of sense since I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP), and HSPs often thrive with daily routines or rituals.

Here’s why.

4 Reasons Why HSPs Love Their Routines

1. Routines give HSPs a break from new stimuli.

We HSPs are very sensitive to all types of stimuli, so we’re easily overwhelmed by it all: that coworker tapping their foot, the sun shining through the window into our eyes, hair on our face, an itchy sweater. 

And then there’s the internal aspect — the need to process everything we see, hear, feel, and think. We’re processing daily interactions with other humans, thinking about work deadlines or upcoming bills, contemplating what we want to do with our lives in the next year, and on and on…

The world can be a lot for anyone, yet HSPs tend to struggle the most with (over)processing everything. And although a new show, music album, or unexpected to-do can be exciting, it’s also just another form of stimuli.

Doing something new requires extra energy, focus, and processing time. But doing the same thing you did yesterday gives you space — to think, reflect on the day, and take a breath while enjoying the process.

And it’s actually not just sensitive types who have been feeling this way lately. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, research has found that everyone has been dealing with a higher cognitive load and turning to familiar things over what’s new.

2. Routines equal sacred mental health rituals for HSPs.

One of my routines is reading with a cup of coffee before I start working for the day. Even if I only have 15 minutes, I make time to sit down and fall into a fictitious story or learn something new from a non-fiction book. 

This time is precious because I can quietly tune out the world and begin my day with extra calm. Before I started a morning routine like this for myself, I experienced a lot more anxiety throughout the day because there wasn’t something peaceful to look forward to. Even meditation didn’t help as much as creating a routine tailored to me and my needs.

If we sensitive people don’t get alone time to process and “recharge,” their mental health can suffer. Routines make it easier to pencil in scheduled activities that are calming to our nervous systems. We can stay better grounded and connected with ourselves — no matter what is happening around us.

3. Daily routines make it easier to handle change.

Change is difficult for HSPs. New things can make us feel out of control and anxious — even if we like the change that’s happening! For instance, my husband and I recently moved across the country. Although it was an exciting and positive move, it still produced a lot of anxiety since there were so many unknown variables, from how long I would have to take off work to managing two easily-stressed pets to coordinating rest stop and arrival times with those helping us move.

But routines put us back in the driver’s seat. They give us an element of control that’s always there, even if the world around us is shifting. We know what to expect, and that’s comforting. With my move, for example, my husband and I still had some built in routines so we could keep some semblance of control, like me having a moment of quiet in the morning, stopping to eat at regular times, and packing healthy snacks. This way, even with all the unknown variables, we were better able to manage them knowing we still had some routine(s) and structure in our lives.

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4. It’s not about strict structure — it’s about taking back control of our schedules.

I am actually not someone who likes to follow a strict schedule (in fact, just the thought of it makes me anxious). I get bored if every day is the same, which might seem confusing when I’m talking about routines. But actually, routines allow HSPs to be more free-flowing and creative.

HSPs tend to be the creatives and deep thinkers, and research shows that mental downtime is necessary to tap into that side of the brain. 

When we have engagements and responsibilities that take over our schedules, routines can give us some of that control back. We can create the balance we need to check in with ourselves and better thrive as an HSP.

Waking up and immediately jumping into our to-do list is jarring for HSPs. We need time and space to wrap our heads around the day and everything it brings, like my reading example above. Plus, by focusing on one thing at a time and single-tasking, our HSP brains are less likely to get overwhelmed as much.

How to Incorporate More Routines Into Your Life as an HSP

If you don’t currently have routines you love — or you want to create more — there’s no better time than now to start! The fun thing is, they don’t have to be anything extravagant or involved. You can also develop routines that work best for you, not anyone else.

It can help to think about what activities help you feel less stimulated and more tranquil. Do you need more time to sit with your own thoughts? To feel productive? Move your body? Have more moments of quiet? Which small routines will help you get more of that?

Here are some examples of HSP-friendly routines:

  • Drinking tea or coffee 
  • Reading a book
  • Going for a walk (or any other form of exercise)
  • Practicing mindfulness — sitting and breathing deeply
  • Writing or journaling
  • Watching your favorite TV show or YouTuber
  • Listening to your favorite music or podcast
  • Taking a short nap
  • Snuggle time with your kids, pets, or partner
  • Stretching or yoga

And then, decide when you’ll add this routine to your day. For example, you might do it before work, during lunch, after work, or before bed. It might take a few tries to figure out a routine that works best for you and with your schedule, but definitely set aside a specific time for it.

And don’t be afraid to mix things up as needed to bring you joy! The point is to build simple routines into your day that make life more manageable and allow you more of the processing time that HSPs require. They are also a significant form of self-care, especially when you’re highly sensitive and life often feels like too much. 

We highly sensitive people love routines because they give us more control over our lives, something we can look forward to each day and let us know exactly what to expect. So find routines that work for you so that you remember to take that vital time for yourself. Once you see how it’ll help reduce your sense of overwhelm, trust me — you won’t look back.

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