Highly Sensitive Refuge
A highly sensitive person finds balance in their life

How to Restore Balance as a Highly Sensitive Person

Highly sensitive people may feel like they’re on an emotional seesaw — overstimulated, less stimulated, repeat — which is why it’s important to restore balance.

The world is getting busier, more crowded, and noisier. And, as a highly sensitive person (HSP), life can sometimes feel cruel and overwhelming, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it felt like the earth was falling apart in front of our eyes. Seeing friends lose family members — or their whole existence — came with a lot of pain. And that quickly became unbearable, as it often left me feeling helpless.

Actively distancing myself from other people’s pain — and, therefore, restoring balance for myself — has become more important than ever to me. Instead of worrying about all the things I could not control, I had to learn to focus on the things I can control.

Over the last several months, I had to dig deeper to figure out how I could reestablish balance in my everyday life. Here, I share seven methods that have helped me.

7 Ways to Restore Balance as a Highly Sensitive Person

1. Learn to stand up for yourself and communicate your needs.

Just thinking about big family gatherings with distant relatives I feel zero connection with can make me shiver. As a highly sensitive person, I am not a fan of small talk; it is draining, and the thought of engaging in it just so a relative will forget about what we’ve talked about in another year or so is something I’ve learned to distance myself from.

I know this may sound rude, but I learned to be perfectly fine with letting people know I’m not interested in shallow encounters; life is too short for superficial discussions. I much prefer deep, meaningful connections. Just because someone is part of your family is not a must for having a relationship with them if it does not feel right to you.

2. Declutter: It’ll free up physical space, but also mental space.

Decluttering is freeing in so many ways. I used to be a bargain hunter in my 20s and accumulated all kinds of clothes. Some of them stayed forever in the back of my closet with tags still on them, and I ended up never wearing them; what a shame! 

When I moved from Switzerland to Estonia, all I emigrated with was my violin, one suitcase, my cat, and one carry-on bag.

I never thought I would be able to let go of all my stuff until I just did it! It felt incredibly liberating to just let go, not to mention how happy it made me gifting items to friends who could use them. And it completely freed my mind, like it’s more accessible. Now, I can refill it with energizing thoughts.

3. Reconnect with your inner child and take up an old hobby.

I grew up in a very creative household: My mom’s a professional photographer who worked all over the world, so I was influenced by her artwork my whole life. We’d spend the weekends doing craft projects, climbing trees, or taking lots of pictures during our travels across the globe.  

The last few years, I thought about starting watercolor painting again — something I’d done when I was younger — and finally did just a couple months ago. I wondered why it took me so long to start again, and I realized I was intimidated. I worried that I’d forgotten how it’s done. Yep, it was a classical situation where perfectionism (or the idea of it) can lead to procrastination. But I discovered that it’s not about painting “perfectly” — but about reconnecting with my inner child’s play ethic.

4. Do a social media detox and see how you feel.

We read about how bad sugar or preservatives can be for our bodies, but social media can be just as toxic. And research has found that social media can contribute to people’s anxiety and depression levels, too.

Similarly, British psychotherapist Hilda Burke, author of The Phone Addiction Workbook, believes that the expectations and demands people place on themselves are becoming higher and higher. This is because it has become easier to measure and share their performance with a wider audience through social media apps. Showing off every single achievement on these apps can create unnecessary pressure, and it can lead to wasting energy that could be used to nurture yourself (like my taking up watercolor painting again).

As a millennial, I get the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) that can come with a digital detox, but you don’t have to start with a whole week. Maybe start with one day and then see how it makes you feel. (I’m betting that your highly sensitive soul will feel a lot less overstimulated!)

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5. Find your own way to relax.

Maybe going for a massage or facial aren’t for you, and you keep wondering why everyone else seems to love them as ways to “relax”? I was there, too, and gave up on trying to like them when I simply didn’t at all. Being in an often-tiny room with a stranger is much more of a stressful experience for me than a relaxing one.

Instead, I thought back to what used to comfort me as a child: the sound of a blow dryer; more generally, white noise. Having the blow dryer on for hours isn’t very environmentally-friendly, so I turned my attention to YouTube… and I discovered that I am not the only one who likes that as a form of relaxation. In fact, listening to the soothing sound of a blow dryer is a form of ASMR — also known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response — which HSPs tend to like. (Again, thank you, YouTube.) If listening to a blow dryer is not your thing, there are many other sounds under the ASMR umbrella, from listening to someone whisper to listening to them brush their hair. Regardless, the end result is still the same: feeling extremely relaxed. 

6. Try restorative yoga (or another type of low-impact exercise).

As a runner, one of my New Year’s goals was to incorporate more low-impact exercises into my life, ones that focus on the mind-body connection rather than just sprinting and running.

Doing low-impact exercise didn’t seem very exciting to me at first, and I was initially a bit skeptical toward trying yoga. Still, for the days when I’m sore after running — or whenever I feel an inner imbalance (sometimes caused by overthinking) — I do a quick 10-minute restorative yoga session. I do this in the morning and feel all my tension release. This enables me to start the day focused, energized, and determined.

Dr. Frank Lipman — who specializes in integrative and functional medicine — talks about the four types of active recreation in one of my favorite books, How to Be Well. In it, he lists restorative yoga as part of the physical recovery process. (And I agree.) 

7. Create a “well-done” list instead of a “to-do” one.

One of the best tools I’ve discovered is making a “well-done” list instead of a “to-do” one; it’s a form of gratitude exercise. In a noisy world, we often focus too much on our next big achievement instead of paying attention to what we already did succeed in. The small steps do count, and we should be proud of ourselves.

And seeing all my achievements on paper makes them more real to me. I became kinder to myself by realizing that all the small steps are leading to the bigger picture I have in mind for my life.

On my list, for example, is that I was able to write this article, then get it published. For the longest time, I was too intimidated to even try, as English isn’t my first language. But I finally felt brave enough to start submitting articles and have now had several published.

I also started to write down all the positive feedback I get from my clients. I know that HSPs like me are prone to perfectionism, and I often feel like “I could have done better.” But, this is just self-imposed pressure, and seeing clients’ positive feedback is very rewarding.

After many attempts and failures, my newest addition to my “well-done” list is that I could finally create gluten-free cinnamon buns that do not fall apart — and even taste delicious (at least according to my neighbor).

My fellow HSPs, how do you restore balance in your life? Feel free to share in the comments below!

I help highly sensitive introverts rebuild their lives after a major life change, like a loss, breakup, or emigration. Let’s talk: KimBenker.com.

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