Shrinking my to-do list, taking actual lunch breaks, and squeezing in naps have been just a few ways I’ve calmed down my overstimulated senses.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I have spent much of my life overwhelmed and saddened by so many things: a coworker’s thoughtless comments, news headlines full of morbid stories, and war and destruction of the planet (to name a few).
It can quickly become mentally and emotionally exhausting. And, as an HSP, the above affect me more so than they might a less sensitive person. I may tear up at my coworker’s comments or cry while reading the news headlines.
If you’re like me, you may feel like you need to get away from it all. For many of us, especially these days, jetting off to a desert island is not a realistic option. Over the years, however, I have discovered methods that have saved me from buying a one-way ticket to Anywhereville.
Without taking some much-needed pauses, I’d find myself irritable, lethargic, and pessimistic, and would never really understand why (or how) I arrived at these emotions. Here are some ways I’ve dull the noise of the outside world and found some peace. (And you can, too.)
11 Things HSPs Absolutely Need to Feel at Peace
1. Create an “HSP sanctuary,” a quiet space to relax in.
I realized that if I could have one quiet room in my 300-square-foot apartment, it would be the bedroom. Blackout rollers. No television. Hell, I might even put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
My bedroom is now my refuge, my HSP sanctuary, from the noisy outside world. When I have had a long day in the office, I know my bedroom of solitude, free from all disturbances, awaits me.
A bottle of lavender essential oil is my new must-have item to complete the ultimate relaxation space. (It’s been proven to induce relaxation.) Sometimes, I also just look out the window or practice mindfulness and meditate. Either way, that little room of peace is my refuge.
2. Leave the office at lunchtime every day, no excuses.
Weather permitting, I love to go outside for lunch. Whether it’s going to the nearest park or sitting in my car and listening to the radio, there is no better way to break up my day.
This also helps clear my highly sensitive, weary, overstimulated mind for a whole glorious sixty minutes, so I will be even more refreshed when going back into the office.
3. Reduce social commitments (even online ones).
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began (and even prior to lockdown here in the United Kingdom), I made a conscious effort to reduce my social engagements.
I considered being out for more than two nights during the week simply too draining. (If you’ve ever had an HSP hangover, you know what I mean!)
So rather than contacting friends to meet up (even socially distanced), I took a step back.
If I had known before how wonderful it feels to have a semi-empty social calendar that I could fill up if I wanted to, I would have done it years ago! I now have more time for me, and I have more to talk about and catch up on when I do see my friends.
4. Create a library of self-healing, inspirational books to turn to at a moment’s notice.
Since turning 30, I have collected (and continue to collect) books on self-healing topics, such as childhood emotional issues and managing anxiety and fear. It’s one of the best steps I have taken as an adult.
Since we HSPs are big thinkers, to be armed with all kinds of knowledge makes me feel stronger by the day. Things that once hurt me — like past friendships when I had low self-esteem and my “friends” did not have my best interests at heart — are now the past. Or at work I’d feel very sensitive to pressure and take everything personally.
But due to my therapeutic reading, the new me is more confident in all realms and knows that an exciting future awaits me.
5. To lessen nervous energy, reduce caffeine consumption.
I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that I love coffee; my relationship with it is like that of no other with any food or beverage. A hot mug (or iced latte) is my go-to when I need to Get. Stuff. Done.
But, lately, I have decided to reduce my cappuccino consumption levels, as I felt it upped my nervous energy too much. (And my highly sensitive self already has enough energy!)
With less caffeine, life feels calmer and I feel more relaxed.
6. Shrink that to-do list — many things can wait!
I once heard someone say that even when you die, you still leave behind a to-do list. That kind of freaked me out. You mean my to-do list may never get completed?
Instead of running away with the circus and vowing to live on gas station sandwiches and discounted beer, I decided to keep a mental to-do list and then only save reminders for important tasks on my phone.
This way, I no longer have to check my calendar several times a day, yet everything still gets done. The difference is, I no longer feel pressure to finish everything in one day. If tasks do not get completed, I simply let them roll onto the next day and give myself a break.
7. Start saying no to overstimulating triggers, like TV commercials and trips to the mall.
My brother has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and I remember when he was young my mother told me he does not like supermarkets because they “overstimulate” him. She went on to explain that lighting and noise distress him. I was shocked and asked, “Doesn’t everyone feel like that in crowded, noisy, artificially lit places?”
It turns out that I, too, get stressed, irritable, and uncomfortable when there is a lot of stimuli around me. To help quell it, these days I mute the TV when commercials come on and limit my time in supermarkets and shopping malls and try to go when I know it will be less crowded and quieter.
8. Become anonymous on social media and delete personal profiles. (Yes, it’s possible!) Or, use social media less.
Like many millennials, I grew up on Facebook. I had a dawning realization last summer that I had spent my entire adult life with a Facebook profile; my entire 20s was summarized by an online photo album. That profile had seen me through the best of times and the worst of times.
I decided to bite the bullet and remove my profile photo, all my photos (yes, all) and become an internet nobody. Same profile. No photos. No information.
It was the most peaceful and reassuring feeling going back to a simpler time, free of overthinking and overanalysis of every post I made (something we HSPs are so very good at).
9. Take little naps here and there (to help the overstimulated HSP brain).
You may be aware that HSPs need more sleep than less sensitive types — we need our recharge time — so that’s where my need for naps comes in.
I used to think that taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon was lazy or meant I was missing out on things. But that extra little nap helps me relax and reminds me that there is no rush; it is perfectly OK (and necessary) to take a break sometimes.
Just like the toddlers we once were, there are simple pleasures found in reverting back to the quiet and peace of a restful afternoon snooze.
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10. Become more cognizant of music and the feelings it triggers.
Like most people, I love music and its ability to take me away and increase my mood. But on the flip side, it can also do the total opposite, especially for my highly sensitive soul.
Having recently experienced mourning an old friend, which I am still processing, the real temptation was to play music that would remind me of those times when we partied while living together in London.
But the trouble with reminiscing with a nostalgic soundtrack is that it can very quickly become very painful for us HSPs. I am not saying I cannot, and should not, process my grief; I do need to go through these feelings. But I need to choose the time wisely.
We need to remember that our emotions can be a choice: We can choose to feel lower depths of sadness or we can choose to reach up and stay positive even while heartbroken and grieving. So I’m selective and sometimes choose not to listen to music that I know will make me feel even more emotional.
11. Stop ruminating on past hurts and start writing about thoughts and emotions that come up.
Overthinking and ruminating are one of the biggest challenges we HSPs face.
But one day, I felt like enough was enough with recounting all the bad things that had happened in my life that would play in my mind repeatedly — like the way an old best friend had flirted with my crush.
So I decided to write a list (a long list, I might add) of all the things that I was still holding onto.
While some feelings are harder to put into words than others, either way, write about them. It may be that emotions, feelings, and experiences may become a poem, short story, journal entry, or even a song.
It feels good to express yourself and your sensitivity is your biggest gift. So give life to your feelings; your feelings are what makes you who you are. And if you need more support when it comes to letting go of the past, I suggest seeking out a therapist, too.
Need to Calm Your Sensitive Nervous System?
HSPs often live with high levels of anxiety, sensory overload and stress — and negative emotions can overwhelm us. But what if you could finally feel calm instead?
That’s what you’ll find in this powerful online course by Julie Bjelland, one of the top HSP therapists in the world. You’ll learn to turn off the racing thoughts, end emotional flooding, eliminate sensory overload, and finally make space for your sensitive gifts to shine.
Stop feeling held back and start to feel confident you can handle anything. Check out this “HSP Toolbox” and start making a change today. Click here to learn more.
You might like:
- How to Create Your Own HSP Sanctuary
- 13 Problems Only Highly Sensitive People Will Understand
- 9 Signs of Chronic Overstimulation
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