As HSPs, daily disappointments are going to happen. We can’t avoid them, but we can help ourselves by preparing in advance.
We’ve all been there. The gift we ordered for Mom arrives too late, we missed an important deadline, our health insurance denies a costly claim, we get into a fender bender, or our significant other says they “want to talk.” These are daily disappointments we all face, but for highly sensitive people (HSP) — nearly 30 percent of the population — these frustrations can push us to the brink. After all, we tend to be perfectionists, so it’s hard when things don’t go our way…
Here’s an example that happened to me recently. Because of COVID-19, getting my dog, Jackson, into the vet for a check-up — to discusshis aggressive behavior toward other dogs and anything on wheels — had been a huge challenge. I tried five different vets and finally found one who could see him in two weeks. I gathered his health history, planned to walk him ahead of time and, since this was his first visit with me, I wanted to keep him calm.
I was all ready for the visit — and feeling quite proud of myself for being so prepared — when I realized I missed the appointment by an hour. I’d now have to wait another two weeks to get him in. I’d looked at my calendar the night before — how did I miss it?
Trying to Make the Most of It
I decided to make the most of it, so Jackson and I headed to a nearby State Park to walk along the waterfront, something that usually soothes my HSP soul. We had just gone the previous weekend, but we love it so much that I’d purchased a season pass so we could go whenever we’d like. Somehow between the previous Saturday and this one, I lost the season pass, a $35 mistake. Plus, when I got to the park, the park ranger asked if I had a pass and I said “Yes.” Now I had inadvertently lied, which I loathe. But wait, there’s more. When we got there, it started raining. It seemed nothing was going my way.
None of these things by themselves would cause me to lose my cool, but it was one thing after another, and my highly sensitive self was overstimulated by it all. I texted my boyfriend, hoping for a little support or sympathy. Instead, his reply was “Don’t stress.” Really? That’s not what I needed.
Why are days like this such a big deal? One disappointment too many creates emotional overload and, all of a sudden, everything seems to be falling apart, even if it actually isn’t. While we may be highly sensitive, life’s daily ups and downs don’t have to sink us. Here are seven strategies that help me deal with things beyond my control.
7 Ways HSPs Can Effectively Deal With Life’s Daily Disappointments
1. Acknowledge the disappointment or frustration without judgment.
My first thought after missing the vet appointment was to beat myself up (how could I be so stupid?). But that didn’t solve the problem or make me feel better, so instead I took a few deep breaths and figured out what I could do to rectify the situation. After all, it wasn’t about me; it was about getting my dog the care he needed. While his behavior was concerning, it wasn’t an urgent medical need, and his behavior wasn’t going to change overnight. Problem-solving was the next best thing.
2. Identify possible solutions.
I called the vet right away to apologize and to ask if they could see Jackson later that day. They couldn’t, but they rescheduled the appointment and let me drop off his paperwork, so at least I was able to check that off my mental “to-do” list. This way, my HSP mind was able to relax more and let that minor frustration go.
3. Practice self-care.
Practice good self-care: take deep breaths, go for a walk, or curl up and take a nap — or maybe all three. We often hear “take deep breaths.” The act of breathing alone causes you to put your attention on something besides your frustration. A walk can do that for me, too (and HSPs love being in nature anyway). A nap works if I can turn my mind off, so it isn’t always foolproof.
I also learned a mindfulness trick I’d read online: name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. By the time you’re done, you might find that you’re a bit calmer (or at least distracted from what originally upset you).
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4. Choose one of your “go to” activities that always makes you feel better.
Because I get wound up when I have days like this, I can’t always think clearly to identify those “feel-good” activities, so I have a list of things on my phone that make me feel better. Then all I need to do is choose one: call a friend, take a bath, read a book to help me escape, color, or watch a feel-good movie. By having this list ready, I don’t have to think about what will calm me down, which can also be stressful (“How do I relax?!”). Instead, it is plug-and-play.
5. Know your limitations and ask for help.
Let’s say you had a fender bender and your highly sensitive self is triggered by this commonplace-but-still-annoying event. Call someone, like a friend or family member, to come help you. Maybe they can help you call the insurance company, get a rental car, make you a cup of tea, or just listen and give you a hug.
Caution: Choose the person you call carefully. If it is someone who will make the situation more dramatic than it already is, or who will tell you all about their bad day rather than hearing about yours, call someone else. You want to be heard, not dismissed.
6. Avoid making other decisions when you are triggered by the little annoyances in life.
Being on emotional overload is not the time to break up with your boyfriend, quit your job, or tell your BFF you’re really ticked off she wasn’t there for you. Save such decisions and conversations for when you feel calm and can think more clearly. Otherwise, you risk misdirecting your anger or frustration — and possibly damaging an important relationship. Sometimes, you can’t unring the bell.
7. Cut yourself some slack.
We all have bad days or difficult moments, but they don’t have to rule the day. Take a step back, determine how serious the problem really is, and try to find the humor in it if you can. For instance, last week, I gave my board of directors custom-made “superhero” mugs to thank them for working so hard this past year. When packing my car, I dropped one of the mugs in my driveway and it shattered. That was my mug, so when I passed them out, I joked that I wasn’t quite ready to be elevated to superhero status just yet.
So try to remember a time when you thought the sky was falling — but you totally nailed it! You’ve probably had way more good days than bad, so try not to sweat this one. You are stronger than you think.
As HSPs, we know these daily disappointments are going to happen. We can’t avoid them, but we can help ourselves by preparing in advance. Make a list: If this happens, I’ll do A; if that happens, I’ll do B. And so on. That way, when things go to *!@#, like we know they will, you’ll be ready, and the events of the day don’t have to derail you. You’ve got this!
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