The Highly Sensitive Person’s Road Map to Mindfully Controlling Stress and Anxiety

highly sensitive person mindfulness

Life is full and it moves fast. For some people, that fast-paced fullness can feel exhilarating — even fun — but for highly sensitive people, a fast pace can quickly become stressful. That stress can cause some pretty intense and challenging emotions like anxiety, fear, and loneliness, just to name a few.

And since highly sensitive people (HSPs) process and feel things deeply, those negative emotions can quickly become completely overwhelming.

But there’s good news: You can naturally stop anxiety. The key to transcending these overwhelming emotions is the key to most of life’s problems: mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm stress and soothe yourself.

In a state of mindfulness, you make space to step back, reflect, and thoughtfully respond — rather than spontaneously react — to the varying ups and downs of life. For many HSPs, mindfulness comes naturally, but it’s about learning to intentionally step into it.

Blending the science of psychology and the magic of spirituality, I’ve developed six steps to help HSPs acknowledge, understand, and transform worrisome emotions in a mindful way.

“Mindful awareness of my feelings allowed me to take some of the fear out of what I was experiencing.”

6 Steps to Stop Stress and Anxiety Mindfully

1. Accept your emotions

Emotions demand to be felt.

So many HSPs are left feeling ashamed of their emotions; it’s a message they get over and over because they feel things more deeply than others. But the only way emotions will pass is by acknowledging and accepting that they’re there in the first place. Ignoring what wants to be seen will only cause it to bubble up and explode later, creating more intense emotions or even a complete emotional meltdown.

Extend yourself the same kindness you would to an overwhelmed friend, and sit with and accept your emotions. Here’s how you can do that:

  • To become more fully aware of the emotion you’re feeling, notice where it lives in your physical body. You might feel it as a stomach ache, shortness of breath, or muscle tension in your shoulders or back. (Highly sensitive people especially tend to feel emotions as physical sensations.)
  • Just be with the emotion: Don’t ignore it and don’t push it away. According to a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, emotions like anger often pass within 90 seconds. (It may take longer for many HSPs, depending on what you’re feeling, but that’s okay — give it that time it needs.)
  • Remember that your difficult emotions are a signal; a teacher with an important message. They are trying to help you wake up to what’s going on inside (and perhaps, outside) of you before a major crisis occurs.

This mindful acceptance will allow you to be with yourself and your emotions with greater self-understanding and compassion.

2. Name your emotions

After my son was born, I felt a deep and chronic sense of anxiety, overwhelm, and some resentment that my life was no longer my own. Eventually I had to acknowledge and label my emotions so that my life wouldn’t be run by them. So I allowed myself to get into the habit of asking, for example: Am I feeling sad, ashamed, angry, resentful?

What’s important to remember is that although you are pinpointing your emotion…

…YOU are not that emotion.

It’s the difference between — I am angry and I am FEELING angry. One version is tied to your identity and the other is simply a passing feeling.

So I would go within, name my emotion and then say: “I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now, and that’s okay. I am going to allow myself to just be with it.”

Of course, all of my bad feelings didn’t just go away — and on some occasions, they were still quite painful and disruptive — but pinpointing and labeling my feelings allowed me to take some of the fear out of what I was experiencing.

3. Recognize the impermanence of your emotions

When you’re in the middle of a tough season, it can be hard to remember that seasons come and go. And so too do difficult emotions.

When you can remember and recognize the impermanence of your emotions — that you won’t always feel this way forever — you will begin to experience them in a more fleeting manner, like clouds that pass by in the sky. They are here for a little while and then they disappear.

Maintain that observer perspective and encourage the processing of those emotions with acts of loving-kindness toward yourself.

Ask yourself:

  • “What is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?”
  • “How can I nurture myself?”
  • “What do I need right now?”

Answering these questions (and following through on the insight) fosters deep connection with and compassion for yourself.

4. Investigate the origin

Looking at and investigating the root of your negative emotions will help you gain critical insight into what you are experiencing. Take a moment to reflect and explore what happened to cause this negative emotion in the first place. Maybe you are feeling angry or unappreciated or disconnected from a co-worker, a friend, or a romantic partner. Dig deep and get to the root cause (something that comes naturally to many HSPs).

Ask yourself:

“What is causing me to feel this way? Was it something I or someone else said, did, or didn’t do?”

Refuse to just “push through” and slog it out. Instead, take time to explore your emotions and create space for authentic answers.

“Do your best to be patient with your ‘messy’ emotions. Open up to believing that all of life is supporting your ever-constant transformation.”

5. Let go of control

Another important key to mindfully dealing with your difficult emotions is to let go of your need to over-control or immediately “fix” them.

“But I’ll feel sooo much better if they go away,” you might say. “Why NOT get rid of them immediately?!”

Here’s the thing: You don’t need to expedite your way through negative emotions to also trust that you’re going to be OKAY.

Sure, it can be extremely uncomfortable to tolerate the anxiety of unresolved emotions, but moving through (rather than avoiding) tough stuff also cultivates personal depth. As therapist and author Katherine Woodward Thomas once said: “Living with questions requires us to sit with the messiness of what it is to be human without the ability to tidy everything up immediately. Sometimes this is what it is like when one is seeking wisdom.”

When we try to micromanage our inner lives, we mess up the order of life. Nature has an innate intelligence, so allow the wisdom of the Universe to do what it does best.

Do your best to be patient with your “messy” emotions. Open up to believing that all of life is supporting your ever-constant transformation — and try to believe that maybe, just maybe, sitting with your pain will guide you toward priceless insight and greater happiness.

6. Meditate with a mantra

Meditating with a mantra is an immediate, effective, and easy way to relieve stress, control anxiety, and release pressure — providing long-lasting calming effects that you can take with you into your day. It has been clinically proven to boost your health (see here and here), your happiness (here and here), and your productivity (see here).

Even a small practice of three minutes a day will create greater peace and satisfaction with your relationships, creativity, and career! Here’s a simple but impactful guided meditation to help you:

Try This Guided Meditation for Anxiety

Primary Effect: Lessen feelings of anxiety or pain and improve feelings of calm, centeredness, satisfaction, and harmony

Posture: Sit cross-legged with a straight spine

Mudra (Hand Position; optional): Place the tip of the index finger against the tip of the thumb; keep the rest of the fingers straight

Movement: None

Time: 3 minutes

Instructions: Set an alarm on your phone for three minutes, and mentally repeat this mantra:

“Breathe in peace, love, forgiveness. Breathe out anything that no longer serves me.”

End with three extended inhales and exhales:

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Stretch arms upward for 10 seconds lengthening the spine, and exhale.

Remember that being mindful about your emotions — becoming aware of them, acknowledging them, and meditating through them — is the only way to truly let go of them for good.

I can help you create the harmonious, successful life you’ve always desired. Learn more about my coaching programs for women here.

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A version of this article was originally published at the author’s website.

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