Highly Sensitive People, It’s Time to Check In With Yourself

A highly sensitive person writes in a journal and checks in with themselves

Similar to getting a check-up at the doctor, HSPs should check in with themselves throughout the day to assess how they’re feeling.

I can’t believe this is happening again…

Another day, another headache. Once again, I was struggling to get through my work due to the obnoxious pain penetrating my brain. On top of that, I was also trying to manage feelings of frustration because of dealing with yet another headache this week. 

Upon reflection, it was easy to identify the source of the (repeated) headaches: I was feeling overstimulated, which happens more easily than I would like, being a highly sensitive person (HSP). And while there are traits associated with being an HSP that I love — such as my compassion for others and connection to my intuition — being so vulnerable to overstimulation is certainly not one of them. 

Due to the heightened sensitivity of our nervous systems, HSPs are more prone to feel as if we’re going from zero to 60 in terms of overstimulation, and it’s not fun (to say the least). However, when we make an effort to consciously check in with ourselves — such as how we’re feeling and what we need — we lessen our chances of experiencing emotional whiplash. This can have a larger impact on our overall well-being. And let’s be honest: We all need to protect our well-being as much as possible. As a psychotherapist, here are the reasons why I recommend that HSPs (in particular) check in with ourselves throughout the day, followed by some ways to do so.  

6 Reasons Why HSPs Benefit From Checking In With Themselves Throughout the Day 

1. You can properly attend to your needs, which helps with how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Our bodies are amazing in many ways, including how they let us know what it is they need (and in turn, what it is we need). When we listen, we can better attend to these needs — whether it be eating a snack to satisfy our hunger, engaging in mindfulness to take a mental break, or reaching out to a friend to help us feel less lonely. And, by doing so, taking care of ourselves in the process. 

Unfortunately, with the lightning-fast pace that many of us are subjected to, it can be all too easy to lose track of these needs, and consequently, our physicality, mental state, and emotions can all suffer in the process. When we make a conscious effort to check in with ourselves and what it is we need, we can continue to meet these needs and properly take care of ourselves like we deserve. 

2. Your sensitive nervous system will remain balanced.

As an HSP, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that it does not take much to throw our sensitive nervous systems off-balance. Perhaps you did not get enough sleep the night before (which HSPs need more of anyway), spent too much time talking to an emotionally draining person (like an “energy vampire”), or had too much on your to-do list. And when this happens, it feels terrible

When our nervous system is out-of-whack, it is like a nasty domino effect: We likely experience fatigue, grogginess, lack of energy, headaches, nausea, or some combination of all of the above, which then makes it impossibly difficult to function throughout the day. This, in turn, will undoubtedly lead us to a bad mood, which only makes matters that much worse. 

However, when we regularly check in with ourselves, we are more likely to keep our nervous system in alignment. Didn’t sleep well the night before? If your work allows, take some time off (whether a few hours or the whole day) — or at least let yourself have a slower morning and a relaxed day in the ways that you can, allowing yourself to rest instead of pushing through the discomfort. Do you notice you are becoming emotionally drained talking to someone? Set boundaries and remove yourself from the situation before soaking up any more of their negative energy, and take some time afterward to get rid of any of that unwanted negative energy. Is your to-do list causing you to feel overstimulated? See if you can delegate any tasks to someone else, or postpone some for a lighter load. 

Checking in with ourselves helps us know when our nervous system is approaching overwhelm, and therefore, how we can best get back on track and reset.

3. You can more easily prevent the dreaded “HSP hangover.”

Speaking of our sensitive nervous systems, what’s worse than experiencing overstimulation, especially as an HSP? Experiencing overstimulation, plus the aftermath the next day — i.e., the dreaded “HSP hangover,” when our sensitive nervous systems are overwhelmed to the point where we wake up the next morning feeling as if we have a hangover. Not fun (to say the least). 

It is all too easy to lose track of how our nervous systems are feeling and become overwhelmed as a result, leading to an HSP hangover. If we are more conscientious about checking in with ourselves, we can more easily avoid getting one. Even if we are unable to prevent feeling overstimulated in the first place, we can really tune into what it is we need in that moment in order to recover. For example, we may need time to relax with minimal stimulation (read: low lighting, calming music, or no noise), be alone, take a warm bath, or get high-quality sleep. By checking in with ourselves, we can then take action to do whatever it is that could help us spare getting the (literal) headache of the HSP hangover and feel more at peace.

4. You can avoid becoming emotionally overwhelmed.

By definition, as HSPs, we feel our emotions deeply. Although this can be a beautiful trait, this also leaves us more prone to becoming overwhelmed by our emotions, which can be unpleasant at best and debilitating at worst. It is not unusual for emotional overwhelm to happen when our emotions pile on top of each other, growing larger and stronger until they feel like “too much” and overwhelm us.

For instance, we may start off the day in a bad mood because we are running late and have to rush. This bad mood then worsens when our coworker or partner says something insensitive to us… then progressively grows worse yet as the stress of our work day gets to us. We then hear about the horrible world news and return home to a messy house… And, finally, we snap. 

By checking in with ourselves to keep track of our feelings, in addition to the needs associated with those feelings, we can more easily manage each emotion as they arise rather than becoming overwhelmed by a slew of strong emotions.  

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5. You can take steps to avoid burnout.

Burnout is unfortunately common nowadays. And even if you are not in full burnout mode, many of us at least feel “crispy” (a term coined by my brilliant coworker to signify being on our way to burnout). It can be extremely difficult to find the motivation and energy to go about our daily lives when we are always crispy or burnt out. And, due to the heightened sensitivity of our nervous systems, we HSPs are more vulnerable to feeling crispy or becoming burnt out

According to an old proverb, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.” This is where checking in with ourselves can come into play. After all, we don’t just become burnt out overnight; it happens on a spectrum, and we will notice ourselves feeling crispy first. When we notice the crisp set in, it is time to check in with our needs. This may look like asking ourselves what it is we need to do each day in order to properly relax, knowing whether or not we are able to make that event this weekend or if we should stay in our HSP sanctuaries and engage in self-care, or assessing if (and when) to take a mental health day off of work. By checking in with our needs, we can take better care of ourselves and prevent burnout.   

6. You can know yourself better, which can help you be more proactive in your self-care.

The more we check in with ourselves, the more answers we have. And the more answers we have, we can start to notice patterns that emerge, which, in turn, helps us to know ourselves better. And knowing ourselves well is the key to engaging in the self-care that works best for us, including being more proactive in our approach to self-care. 

For example, as an HSP, I need alone time every day. This means that it is important for me to decline after-work events on weeknights, lest I feel exhausted and miserable the next day. Similarly, when I check in with myself about my hunger and thirst cues, I want to be able to meet those needs, too. So I make sure to always have water and snacks on me so that I don’t go thirsty or hangry (hungry + angry), which HSPs are more prone to. Knowing yourself and your needs can also help you find your optimal time to go to bed and wake up, signs of fatigue, emotional triggers, and other factors that play a role in your well-being.

Ways to Check in With Yourself

Now, what are some ways to best check in with yourself to make sure you’re actually doing so? Here are some ideas that have worked for me.

  • Make a habit of checking in with yourself at regular times throughout the day. It is best to associate the act of checking in with yourself with another activity or two that you do every day. For example, you may want to check in with yourself upon waking up and going to bed, when sipping your morning cup of tea or coffee, or when sitting down to eat each meal. This way, checking in with yourself becomes a habit, something you regularly engage in, which means more consistency.
  • Set reminders on your phone. Take advantage of how easily accessible technology is by setting reminders to check in with yourself throughout the day. Most smartphones have a “reminders” feature. You can also set a recurring event in a calendar app, perhaps with specific check-in questions for yourself, such as “How am I feeling?” and/or “How have my feelings changed throughout the day?” and/or “What precipitated these changes?” and/or “What is it that I need right now?” and/or “How can I better take care of myself in this moment?” and so on.
  • Engage in mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to be in the present moment. This includes noticing our bodily sensations, emotions, thoughts, etc. — both how we are currently feeling, as well as if we observe any changes occurring. And when we notice this information, subsequently, this naturally gives us an opportunity to check in with ourselves and our needs.  
  • Find introspection through journaling. The act of journaling helps you make sense of your emotions since it requires looking inward, which we can use to check in with ourselves. We may want to do a brief check-in at the end of every day, or have a weekly ritual of reflecting upon our week, analyzing how it went, how we are feeling now, and what it is we need from the week ahead.
  • Utilize your HSP superpower of intuition. HSPs are strongly connected to our sense of intuition, which can be used to check in with ourselves. Whenever your intuition is having a strong reaction, use that as a moment to pause. After all, we have strong feelings for a reason. Investigating the messages that our intuition is guiding us toward forces us to check in with ourselves. 

Finally, remember to follow through after checking in with yourself. Knowing that you need to rest is one thing, but it won’t do much good if you don’t give yourself the rest you need.

Similar to the check-up of an annual physical, HSPs can take better care of ourselves by checking in with ourselves throughout the day. After all, we HSPs need to do so regularly in order to thrive, especially over the long-term. And remember: Your sensitive body and soul are worth taking care of.

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