Even though highly sensitive people are experts at taking care of others, they need to make time for themselves, too, by practicing self-care.
Like a lot of highly sensitive people (HSPs) out there, I grew up feeling misunderstood. Because I felt everything so deeply and became overstimulated easily, instead of people seeing a sensitive person, they saw an anxious one. Plus, males are supposed to be “tough” and “strong,” not tear up at beautiful things or show their emotions.
As an HSP male trying to find my purpose in this world, I even decided to study counseling psychology. In the process, I’m learning more and more about the high sensitivity trait and it’s given me a new appreciation for being a sensitive soul.
With the world needing our sensitivity now more than ever before, I think we should all don our HSP superhero capes and let the world see — and benefit from — our sensitivity. But at the same time, we still need to take care of ourselves, too. Here are some of the ways I practice self-care as a young highly sensitive male — although the tips can apply to anyone. Perhaps you’ll relate or start doing some of these yourself.
7 Ways to Practice Self-Care as an HSP Male
1. Set healthy boundaries — which can be challenging for HSPs to do.
This seems so obvious, but it’s an important aspect in the growth of an HSP, especially since we sometimes encounter “energy vampires” — people who zap all our energy. But they know how empathic we are, so we’re often too polite to leave the conversation. So we keep listening… and listening… until we have no morsel of energy left. And this is where boundaries come in. If you know you’re going to see someone who drains you, set a time limit or even replace an in-person conversation with a phone call. Or make sure other people are there, too — they can help mediate the conversation and also help you leave after a while.
Even though we enjoy listening to others and naturally absorb their feelings as though they’re our own, we have to keep in mind the mental toll this takes on us. We HSPs are not doormats to be stepped on. I personally have a notebook where I write down my list of boundaries, which I highly recommend; I consider them practical, specific, and empowering. If you write them down, you’re more likely to adhere to them.
2. Make a playlist full of relaxing songs.
Music is therapeutic to the soul. Since most HSPs are also empaths, calming music helps relax the nervous system and boost our moods by releasing dopamine. In turn, this gives us a better understanding of our own, and others’, emotions.
For me, after a long day, listening to music restores me, as well as activates my imagination. Ambient, chill, or African traditional songs and instrumentals are among the genres I listen to. Even while I’m writing, I tend to use a portable speaker or earphones (the wired ones, so I can listen as long as I’d like without needing to look for a charger midway through).
3. Intentionally take alone time.
I let no one make me feel guilty for having alone time to process things — it is as necessary as breathing, for it is my mind taking a breather. Be it half an hour or an entire hour, I will take it. To make it more effective, I usually use the time to expand my creativity by writing, reading, or meditating on God’s word while watching the sunset. It’s a time to reflect and appreciate the simple things in life — especially since we HSPs deal with so much overstimulation every day.
But no matter what you do during your solo time, you can’t go wrong since you’re carving out rest-and-reset time for yourself. And then you’ll be ready to face the (hectic and overwhelming) world once again.
4. Meditate — in whatever form that takes for you.
Meditation means different things for different people. While some people like to listen to guided meditations, others like to read something inspirational, then reflect on it. What I consider meditation is spending some time in the morning reading a devotional book with a Bible verse, which feeds my spirit before I begin the day. At night before bed, I study a few Bible chapters and reflect on the important aspects of life, like what it means to be a man and a highly sensitive person in a world where society doesn’t quite understand what sensitivity means.
Taking time to meditate will still your overthinking mind and help you relax, which is so important for HSPs.
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5. Spend time with animals — your own or someone else’s.
We can’t ignore the special bond animals have with HSPs — and vice-versa. We seem to understand what they need, even though we do not speak “dog” or “cat” or whatever other pet we happen to spend time with. I have a two-year-old terrier and she has brought me a lot of joy. I’ve learned that even though I am taking care of her, she also takes care of me: She helps me grow emotionally. (I know pet owners who are HSPs likely understand this!)
If you don’t have a pet of your own, you can always offer to walk a friend’s dog or go spend time with their cat. Or you can volunteer at an animal shelter to get a dose of the HSP-animal connection and all the feel-good emotions that come with it.
6. Celebrate — when you achieve something, reward yourself.
HSPs often put others before themselves, which can lead to people-pleasing, which is not necessarily a fun place to be. I mean, we enjoy being there for others, but must not let it overshadow us taking care of our own needs, too.
One way to not neglect yourself is by not just setting goals, but rewarding yourself when you achieve them — whether you finish reading a book or a challenging work project. You can buy yourself something you like (such as your favorite chocolate, which I do) and you’ll have the reward to look forward to as you work on the goal.
7. Take a break from social media.
Social media can easily become addictive because the brain craves the dopamine hits. Although it can have its perks — like a good way to catch up with friends and see what they’re up to — it’s also detrimental, especially to highly sensitive people. Soon, we start seeing negative news posts or find we’re comparing ourselves to others, and what was supposed to be a quick break to check social media turns into hours of scrolling… And then our sense of overwhelm and anxiety goes up even more.
So I recommend taking a break from social media, whether it’s an afternoon, a day, a week; the longer, the better. Once you see how much better you’ll feel, you’ll probably start to do these breaks more often.
My fellow highly sensitive souls, how do you practice self-care? I’d love to know in the comments below!
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