Like a rubber band, resilience is all about stretching and bouncing back from setbacks.
If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that resilience is something we all need in our mental toolbox for coping with the demands of modern life.
For highly sensitive people (HSPs) like me, whose nervous systems are more reactive to stimuli, navigating the world can be overwhelming at times. Our emotional, mental, and physical responses to stimuli are deeper and stronger than those of non-HSPs.
This doesn’t mean that we HSPs aren’t capable of demonstrating resilience — it’s just that we may take a bit longer to ready our emotional armor.
Yet, at the same time, it is because of our HSP traits that we are ideally positioned to utilize our unique abilities and build resilience, often more so than we realize!
What Is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to cope — both mentally and emotionally — with life events and stressors, hardship, and/or crises, and then rebuild your life afterwards.
When we think of resilience, we may call to mind stoicism, or a toughness and steely resolve to overcome. This rigid assumption is not the only way to be resilient. The emphasis on returning to a pre-stress state is key to resilience, which means that the goal is to adapt rather than ignore, deny, or just “push through.”
Resilience doesn’t mean always being strong, just as highly sensitive doesn’t mean always feeling especially sensitive. We build and demonstrate resilience by overcoming and working through our struggles. Resilience is all about stretching and bouncing back from setbacks. And even though HSPs may experience overwhelm more frequently than non-HSPs, they demonstrate strength in other nuanced ways. Here are five ways highly sensitive people show resilience.
5 Ways Highly Sensitive People Show Resilience
1. They adapt every day (and may not even realize it).
Sometimes my sensitivity causes me to struggle, particularly through times of change.
As a result, I’ve learned to use healthy coping mechanisms when life throws me a curveball (or several). One strategy I use is to imagine I’m in a hot air balloon, floating gently above the landscape of my life. I pick out the parts that are going well and the parts that aren’t going so well. I begin to see how I adapt every day as an HSP and realize I’m just too caught up in my thoughts to see it!
HSPs are constantly processing and assessing the world around them. Every day, I find myself adapting to the world around me, whether that means self-reflection when I realize my bad mood isn’t mine — but has been absorbed from my colleague’s troubles — or adjusting to the surroundings of a new meeting room at work. (Again, we HSPs don’t like change.)
HSPs live in a world that sometimes seems at odds with their nature, and they often make little adjustments every day to restore balance to their sensitive souls.
2. They’re familiar with big emotions.
Highly sensitive people experience big emotions. Although this can take up a lot of our energy, it also has its benefits, especially since we show great emotional capacity for others. We can’t help but feel the emotional charge or shift in a room, even when such subtleties pass most people by. Being empathetic creatures, we often take on (and lessen) the burden of others.
While it takes effort to avoid tipping into negative emotional overwhelm, HSPs can also be encouraged by their ability to make sense of big emotions. Precisely because I readily show empathy to others means I’m well aware of the transformative effect of showing empathy to myself. It’s a case of prioritizing me and treating myself with kindness in times of stress. I do this by connecting with my body through yoga, long walks, and listening to music, all of which shift my attention from my mind to my body.
3. They strive for balance.
Resilience centers on returning to balance and gives people the strength to tackle problems head-on, overcome adversity, and move forward with their lives.
An HSP’s strong reaction to their environment is the result of their nervous system trying to keep them safe. HSPs may display a stronger reaction to external stimuli than non-HSPs, but their bodies and minds are constantly striving for balance.
For example, working in a large open plan office resulted in a constant effort to allay my nervous system, which was hyperalert to the unpredictable noise of my colleagues going about their work. Although exhausting, I found ways to achieve balance, including wearing headphones when I needed to focus on a task and booking an afternoon off after a week of networking.
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4. They seek something greater than themselves.
Having the support of others — or knowing where to look for it in times of crisis — is a key component of healthy coping strategies demonstrated by resilient people.
Research shows that those with a purpose or meaning in life cope better with knocks and setbacks. Highly sensitive people can have deeply spiritual natures, which bring lots of benefits when dealing with life’s challenges, both big and small.
For HSPs, tuning into their spirituality may not always have a religious component. They are deeply affected by nature, for example, a force larger and greater than themselves. Having the ability to think deeply on large topics — such as the universe — allows them to develop perspective and gain comfort.
5. They appreciate the small things.
For highly sensitive people, a restorative walk by the ocean or through a meadow can bring a deep experience of joy.
I can be moved to tears by the sight of swallows dipping and diving over a pond to catch insects, or spend hours watching the spray from the waves leaving patterns on the sand like delicate lace.
Most of my friends appreciate nature, but don’t really understand the intense sense of gratitude and wonder I experience when surrounded by the natural world. For HSPs, this intense appreciation of the world is something that can help their well-being and provide a balm to their soul in difficult times.
For HSPs, noticing the subtleties in life offers meaningful moments that often escape unnoticed by non-HSPs. For example, I can appreciate the individual notes within a perfume and their ability to transport me someplace else. And on a practical level, I experience a deep sense of safety and calm when my bedroom is newly cleaned, tidied, and the linen is freshly laundered.
While HSPs may experience stress more deeply, they also demonstrate strength and courage every day, which builds up their resilience — and is a wonderful basis from which to heal and bounce back.
Fellow HSPs, what are ways you show resilience in your day-to-day life? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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