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How to Kick-Start Your Mornings as an HSP

How you recognize, and use, your highly sensitive qualities will have a direct impact on your mornings. Here’s how.

Mornings are hard. 

So hard, in fact, I spent the first 30+ years of my life as a night owl, and a burly bear you didn’t want to cross before 9 a.m.

It wasn’t even that I liked sleeping in — I just found that, the majority of mornings, my mood and energy (both physical and mental) could best be described as “cranky” and “low.” 

But that’s not the case anymore. 

Sure, I still have off days — but, for the most part, I’m now firmly a morning person.

It turns out, a lot of my trouble was not recognizing, and respecting, my unique highly sensitive qualities — and how they impacted my mornings.

After a lot of learning and listening, as a highly sensitive person (HSP), I now have rock-solid rituals and routines to begin my day on the best foot possible. And you can, too. 

Keep in mind, the goal isn’t to wake at the crack of dawn. (After all, highly sensitive people need more sleep than others, especially since all our emotions can keep us awake longer at night.)

Instead, it’s about setting yourself up for a successful start, whether it’s 6 a.m., 11 a.m., or somewhere in between. Here’s how to do it.

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9 Ways to Kick-Start Your Mornings as an HSP

1. Make sure you get enough sleep.

Much of the success of a morning depends on what happens the night before. Being tired has a way of heightening everything and can make even the least sensitive person touchy and irritable. For an HSP, this can spell disaster. (Remember what I said about sensitive people needing more sleep?)

To start your day on a positive note, make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep at night. 

Put your phone down for at least half an hour before bed. Do a brain dump and journal about whatever is on your mind before crawling under the sheets. Sip a chamomile tea. Commit to a consistent sleep routine, also known as “sleep hygiene” — going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time, too — and develop healthier habits. 

It can be a lot of work until you get into the swing of things, but it’ll be well worth it on the other side.

2. Change your alarm ringtone. 

If you’re an HSP, chances are you don’t particularly like loud, startling noises. So why start your day with a loud, startling alarm right from the get-go? 

Yes, your alarm needs to do its job, but there are much gentler choices than a blaring beep. 

So turn down the volume — or better yet, change the tone completely. Nature sounds, vibrations, or your favorite song can offer a less jarring way to wake up. You can even buy an alarm clock that uses gradual light to ease you out of your slumber, cutting out obnoxious noises altogether.

3. Food for thought — make sure you start your day with a nutritious breakfast.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that may be even more true for an HSP since being more sensitive to hunger comes with the territory. 

Take the time to sit and mindfully eat a nutritious, well-balanced meal each morning. Include plenty of protein to keep you feeling fuller longer — instead of just eggs, add some bacon or an avocado, too. Because we all know how quickly hungry can turn to hangry (hungry+angry), and that’s no way to start your day. 

4. Wean yourself off caffeine, which will help you feel less anxious.

While a cup of hot coffee might go perfectly with that aforementioned nutritious, well-balanced breakfast, as an HSP, your nervous system already has enough to deal with without introducing caffeine into the mix. (Research has found that caffeine can make anxiety symptoms worse.)

Instead, try herbal tea. It’s a great caffeine-free option that will still give you that hot drink fix, minus the jittery (and anxiety-inducing) side effects. 

If you absolutely need a cup of joe, go with decaf or make it a weekend-only indulgence. You can start by drinking half-caff (half-regular, half-decaf), and then slowly wean yourself off of it. Or try a coffee alternative that is tea-based. 

5. Squeeze in alone time as much as possible. 

Spending your morning in solitude can definitely be a challenge. Life circumstances (like kids) obviously complicate the matter, but even five minutes alone can make a big difference. 

Being free of other peoples’ energy allows you time to calibrate and really tune in to yourself before going about your day. Due to all the overstimulation we experience, highly sensitive people need alone time more than others, so grab it whenever (and wherever) you can!

Want to reduce stress and thrive as a highly sensitive person? We recommend these online courses from psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland. Click here to learn more.

6. Set boundaries around what you need (and don’t need) in the mornings.

If alone time isn’t attainable in the morning (or even if it is), try to set some clear boundaries.

Don’t like talking first-thing? Have a respectful conversation with your partner or roommate (preferably not in the heat of the moment) and let them know. 

The sound of the TV or radio is too loud? The morning news is too much to process? Communicate. The people around you aren’t mind readers, but if you voice your needs, they’ll likely listen.

7. Use some  common “scents”… 

If you’re sensitive to scents to the point they cause a negative reaction, skip to the next paragraph. (Chemical sensitivity is real, especially among HSPs.) But — this might be a case where you can use your sensitivity to your advantage. 

Aromatherapy can offer a mood-enhancing morning jolt, and it’s quick and easy to incorporate into your routines and rituals. (Lavender has been shown to have many calming effects, for instance.)

Light a scented candle, or diffuse an uplifting essential oil (such as eucalyptus or citrus), while you get ready.

Similarly, you can use an energizing coffee or peppermint body scrub in the shower. Your skin will be soft while your senses awaken and get ready to tackle the day.

8. Move your body to get a dose of mood-boosting endorphins. 

Exercise in the morning is always a good idea in my book, HSP or otherwise. Getting a hit of endorphins early on in the day can make everything that lies ahead that much easier to tackle. (Research has proven this to be true, too!)

Find what works for you and take it at your own pace. Figure out if you’re an “up and at ‘em” kind of person or more “slow and steady wins the race.”

While a grueling spin class before sunrise may not be for you, even a quick walk or a few minutes of gentle stretching can deliver some serious feel-good benefits to sustain you throughout the day and help you befriend your body.

9. Try practicing mindfulness to get back in the present moment.

If things don’t start out exactly how you’d hoped, don’t let it derail your whole day. This is obviously easier said than done in a lot of cases, especially for HSPs. But having some tried-and-true coping mechanisms in your mental health toolkit can go a long way. 

A grounding meditation, or a few minutes of deep, mindful breathing, can help bring you back to the present moment. Try to visualize any feelings or circumstances negatively impacting your morning as a balloon. Let it go and watch it float away. (And if you have trouble doing this, keep practicing!)

Or, when all else fails, sometimes it’s as simple as accepting things as they are and looking forward to a better start tomorrow.

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