For HSPs, living in a state of unsustainable uncertainty can feel like too much to bear. But there are ways to make it easier to cope.
“The world is hurting my soul.”
A friend and fellow highly sensitive person (HSP) sent me these words over the weekend, and it made me realize how much the world is hurting my soul, too.
We’ve all been through a lot over the past few years, living in a state of unsustainable uncertainty, anticipatory grief, and heartbreak. As the war in Ukraine breaks hearts around the world, for us sensitive souls, it can feel like too much to bear.
How we cope and exist and survive has to look different because we’re wired differently, and the world needs us during times like this. Here are eight ways to take care of yourself when you’re triggered, drowning in emotion, or feeling completely overwhelmed.
9 Coping Strategies for HSPs During Times of World Upheaval
1. Explore your emotions and see if they’re helping, or hindering, you.
We highly sensitive souls are wired to feel deeply, and as a result, it’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral of negative emotions. One of the most effective ways to stop this is getting some objectivity around what you’re feeling.
- Are these feelings helpful or useful?
- Can I learn from them?
- Are they trying to teach me something?
- Are they nudging me to do something?
Regardless of whether your answer is yes or no, it’s so important to name your emotions so they lose some of their power. Feel your way through them as long as you can, but don’t allow yourself to get stuck inside them. Then let the emotions that aren’t serving you go, or they’ll continue to weigh you down.
2. Try ‘dry bathing’ (a Japanese Reiki technique).
As HSPs, we’re taking on the emotions of others all day long, so it can be extremely helpful to try “dry bathing” multiple times a day — and especially when you’re feeling weighed down by the world.
Dry bathing has been life-changing for me. You’ll likely feel strange doing it the first few times, but this Japanese Reiki technique feels like I’m literally brushing layers and layers of heavy emotion off me. IIt’s a technique for ritual purification using energy vs. water. To do it, you follow a series of steps that involve a Gassho meditation, as well as touching various parts of your body. You can follow the steps here.
3. Let yourself cry — without judgment.
There’s no question that HSPs cry easily, whether it’s from watching the news or appreciating a beautiful piece of music. The other morning, I started crying in the shower. There was no clear reason, and I’m still not completely sure why I was crying, but a weight lifted off my shoulders as I allowed the tears to fall.
With all the emotions we’re carrying, sometimes it can feel incredibly healing and cleansing to allow the tears to fall — without even asking ourselves why.
4. Practice intentional breathing.
I’ve also started taking a few minutes each day to do some deep breathing, and very intentionally let specific things go — from the tragedies happening in Ukraine to other things that I’m carrying, too.
This is both mental and visual for me. I breathe in positive emotions like joy, gratitude, and peace, as I exhale the heavy emotions I’m feeling that are attached to specific situations and specific people, like frustration, sadness, or stress.
Speaking of which, I carry all my tension and stress in my right shoulder blade, so as I exhale, I’m visualizing the release from the exact point in my body where it all builds up. See where you feel tension; it may be where your tension and stress are hiding.
5. Pray (a lot) — whatever “pray” means to you.
My faith is an integral part of who I am. One of the most impactful things I do, after the breathing exercise above, is pray for the people in Ukraine.
I’m struggling a lot right now with why Russia is attacking Ukraine, because I know this is breaking God’s heart, too. But praying is something that I can do, and it’s another way to let go of something that’s completely beyond my control.
Your “praying” may be meditating, going for a walk, talking to the Universe, or simply sending positive thoughts to Ukrainians. Whatever it is for you, make sure to take time for these periods of silence and reflection.
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6. Move your body to release your excess (and negative) energy.
Movement is another powerful way to release emotions that aren’t serving you or anyone else in your life. You can move in an intentional way, like yoga or running, or in a freeing way with no rhyme or reason. In no time, you’ll shake off those negative emotions and get into a better mental state.
7. Write about your emotions to better process your feelings.
Writing is another technique I use a lot. Putting your feelings and emotions down on paper, while allowing yourself to free-write with no plan, can lead you to places you didn’t expect. By journaling your way through everything you’re feeling, it’ll help you process emotions you may not have even realized you had.
8. Donate to important organizations and causes.
If you’re able, turn your heartbreak into help by giving to an organization that is on the ground in Ukraine. Together Rising is a non-profit that I’ve personally vetted, and they’re focusing on the most urgent needs — which include medical supplies, food, and cash, as well as medical and psychological support.
I’ve always had the deepest respect for therapists, social workers, and people who risk their lives by being on the ground to offer humanitarian aid because I know that my heart couldn’t survive that.
So instead, I donate whatever I can, whenever I can, to give these heroes the funds they need to do the work I can’t do.
9. Be mindful of your media consumption, as the news is often too much to bear.
But shortly after the murder of George Floyd, I saw an Instagram post from a Black HSP, talking about how she didn’t have the privilege of turning off all the hard stuff. She was living it.
Something inside me shifted after I read that. I felt a responsibility to stay informed enough to know what I could do to help, and I started reading The Skimm. It summarizes the facts of what’s going on in the world, and often offers ways to help.
If you choose to stay informed this way, give yourself permission ahead of time to stop reading if it gets too heavy or painful for you, and then use one of the strategies above to help you release any emotions you’ve picked up. (I still recommend staying off social media, or carefully curating your news feed, so nothing too heavy pops up.)
Also, know that you’re not alone in the way you feel. Nearly 30 percent of the entire world is highly sensitive, and their souls are feeling as heavy as yours right now — they feel as deeply as you do. So be sure to take care of yourself so you can keep showing up with the unique gifts our world so desperately needs.
Fellow HSPs, what coping strategies are you using these days? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
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