The past couple of years weren’t easy, especially for HSPs. But the lessons I learned have helped me master being an HSP in 2022. Here’s how.
When things started to get bad in March 2020, I felt the worldwide panic seep into my bones. And for the longest time, I felt an incessant need to throw myself out there — do something! But the longer the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns went on, the more I realized that maybe what I truly needed was to just stop. Not just stop, but STOP!
For a good chunk of 2020, my mental health steadily declined. Being an empath — on top of being a highly sensitive person (HSP) — it just felt impossible to even move around the house. With my family’s collective anxiety wearing me down, and the added dread from all over the world, I just collapsed.
Making a Decision to Work On My Mental Health
Fast forward to January 2021 — I was able to travel to attend my brother’s wedding. And on the ride back home, I felt grateful that I didn’t succumb in 2020. All of a sudden, I felt a renewed sense of wonder for living. And I made a conscious decision to work on improving my mental health.
Naturally, I needed time to process this decision. I needed to assess what I could feasibly accomplish within a year, given that the pandemic was still a reality and I hadn’t gotten any less affected by it. These are the initial steps I took.
- I decided to start small, by taking morning walks. Not only did it help me have some time to myself, but it had the added bonus of being physical exercise. I committed to a minimum of 30 minutes, and learned to take that time to detach for a while.
- I learned to journal. And even though it’s something that I’ve failed to maintain, the mental exercise of journaling has helped me significantly. What I learned from my brief journaling experience is to process my thoughts in a much healthier way. It helped with intrusive thoughts, as well as was helpful whenever I felt the world’s weight bringing me down again. Plus, there are so many different types of journaling, so you’re bound to find one that’s right for you.
- I reconnected with my best friends. When I shut down in 2020, I was barely able to keep in touch with my friends — it felt like everyone had their own stuff to deal with, and I didn’t want to be an added burden. Luckily, I have such great, compassionate friends — they understood and forgave my withdrawal from them. And it’s been comforting to realize how much we mutually missed each other. Even though it may be tough to make the first move and reach out to others, community care is important for HSPs.
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Slowly, I started feeling much better. And it helped that it seemed the world was healing with me, as if we were on this healing journey together. I found myself able to appreciate the small bursts of victory and triumph amidst all the bad things going on, and all without having to dismiss the reality of the world’s circumstances.
By the final third of 2021, I felt mentally stronger. And the best part of it was that I didn’t have to sacrifice my high sensitivity at all. I just found healthy ways of navigating and managing my emotions, and became better at carrying their weight.
Things Are Changing… Again
There’s been a shift in 2022, and I feel myself wanting to move — and keep up — with the rest of the world.
Lately, I’ve felt more and more like things are “going back to how they used to be.” More companies are welcoming back onsite employees, more restaurants and cafés are increasing their seating capacities, and more countries (and even cities) are opening up to tourists.
As someone who allowed myself to pause with the world during the lockdown, I half-expected to be overwhelmed. And I guess, to an extent, I still am. But in a more positive way.
Looking back on 2020 and 2021, as I’m preparing to move forward in 2022, I’ve come to realize that maybe I could share my story with fellow HSPs. Maybe it could help them through this oncoming shift in the world. And maybe it could help them shift, as well.
So, without further ado, here are some lessons I learned the past couple of years — and how I’m going to master being an HSP from this point forward.
5 Ways to Master Being an HSP in 2022
1. It’s okay to focus on yourself.
As an HSP, it’s important to take — and make — time for yourself, especially since we get more overstimulated than most. I realize that this may sound selfish, and for a long time, I felt selfish.
But when I let the onset of anxiety (not just my own, but everyone else’s) weigh me down, and let it shut me down, it wasn’t good for anyone.
I needed to find a balance, but I couldn’t do that if I neglected my well-being. So I had to allow myself to detach, even for just a few minutes each day. I had to ground myself and make sure I wasn’t burning out just from carrying everyone’s hurt — something common among both HSPs and empaths. Plus, HSPs greatly benefit from alone time to decompress, regroup, and gather our thoughts (or not think at all, quite frankly).
I learned to slow down, if only to catch my breath.
And I’ve found it’s better this way. Because if I can carry this weight, without letting it bury me, then I can be so much more helpful when I’m needed. (And as a fellow HSP, you probably know we’re needed by others a lot).
2. Reaching out to others is much better than keeping to yourself.
One of the things that really destroyed me in 2020 was believing that I had to carry everything on my own.
Breaking the silence with my old friends, and reconnecting with them, not only showed me that I wasn’t alone, but also taught me that loneliness isn’t something you can cure on your own. To a certain extent, you can keep yourself company — and is healthy — but letting yourself lean on others is good, too.
No matter how strong you are, you’ll have to unload and let others help you carry whatever is weighing you down. And it doesn’t even need to be an immediate and full dumping. I’ve learned to feel when something is starting to get too heavy for me to bear alone, and then I unload it a little at a time. (Plus, I think we HSPs are so used to being there for others, we’re not used to reaching out and being on the receiving end of such help.)
In essence, I’ve learned to not let things pile up too much — and this is all because I’ve allowed myself to ask for support.
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3. Having routines in place is beneficial — and important — but you need to stay flexible.
I fell into a habit of planning my month ahead. I’d note down consistent things I needed to do, like my morning walks and journaling. And then I’d try to pencil in errands, dates, and what have you.
I started doing it because I wanted to avoid being mentally unoccupied, and spiraling into a dark place in my mind. And, for the most part, it helped. Plus, routines help keep HSPs calm since we’re often so overwhelmed and overstimulated — they give us a sense of structure.
But I learned that I couldn’t be too strict about following what I had planned ahead of time. Sometimes unexpected things happen, and I needed to be able to adapt to such circumstances. Even though I still get disappointed when my plans are disrupted, I’m getting better at adjusting and going with the flow.
4. Sometimes, rest is the only thing you can do — and that’s okay.
There were days when I woke up feeling worn down already. I mostly chalked them up to “the universe is sad today” — and, in some of those days, I’d later hear some piece of news that proved it. Some of those days, I was simply having an off-day, because I am human. (And so are you.)
It took me a while to be okay with mornings like those. I had to be okay with canceling whatever I had penciled in for that day, and opting to just laze around. Plus, HSPs need more sleep than non-HSPs, so any moments we get to rest, we need to take advantage of.
Even though I still feel guilty for “taking it easy,” I’ve gotten better at forgiving myself for “lazy days” and accepting them for what they are — I’m not being “lazy,” but implementing “me-time” and self-care, essential things for everyone, but especially for HSPs.
Some days, I just need to sit with my feelings and let them very slowly dissipate, and then I can be functional again the next day. (The “HSP hangover” is real!)
5. You must not pressure yourself into stepping in time with everyone else.
While it’s true that work places and companies adapted to “the new normal,” I’ve felt that same level of pressure to just keep working and working… and working. And I know that the pandemic didn’t come into the scene to be some form of divine intervention — it didn’t come in to be some wake-up call and teach us a lesson about how there’s more important things in life. But I sure wish it had.
As people tried to frantically fit the hustle, rush-rush-rush culture into a time when the world seemed to demand the complete opposite, I had to push back by just staying still for a while.
For some people, I “wasted” these past two years (and, now, I realize I’m far from the only one). But I feel mentally ready to move forward now. And I’m grateful I took the time to really focus on bettering myself and my mental health, for that is everything.
Navigating the past two years as an HSP hasn’t been the best time. But it’s certainly been the most enlightening, at least to me. I embrace the sentiment of high sensitivity being “both a blessing and a curse” — and now I’m able to find some balance. And I hope you can, too.