Highly Sensitive Refuge
An HSP parent with their child

How HSP Parents Can Get Alone Time Without Feeling Lousy About It

You love your child with every ounce of your being. You put your child first, because that’s how our society says parents should be. But you’re starting to feel like your true self is slipping away.

What about your dreams, passions, goals? You’re craving some time for yourself, to relax, to hear yourself think, to have some peace and quiet. Then the guilt washes over you, mixing with resentment, and you feel like a crappy parent. You cry, you yell, and the cycle repeats itself.

Nothing is wrong with you. You’re a highly sensitive parent.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), you have a unique trait, not a disorder. Scientifically called Sensory Processing Sensitivity, it means you process things deeply, are easily overstimulated, are very empathetic, and you can sense subtleties with amazing precision. These are great characteristics, but it’s daunting when your toddler or teenager is being difficult. Just another day in the life of a highly sensitive parent.

For HSPs, Alone Time Is Crucial

The truth is that carving out time for yourself is like oxygen to you. It’s not a luxury. Your psyche needs the time and space to figure out the daily jigsaw puzzle of your thoughts and emotions.

Most of your friends and family may not be like you. After all, HSPs make up only 15 to 20 percent of the population. Sure, every parent would benefit from having breaks. But you just might morph into the Incredible Hulk if you don’t nurture your soul.

Sometimes you will have to advocate for your alone time. Your spouse might not really get it.

You have to inform the people in your life about this HSP trait. If you can’t accept this as part of your body chemistry, how will they?

Acceptance may arrive in waves. Sometimes it’s easy and full of grace, other times you may wish you were like everyone else. Remember all the positive things about being highly sensitive. You are empathetic, conscientious, intuitive, perceptive, detail-oriented, polite, spiritual, and appreciate the arts.

And you are a damn good parent.

4 Ways to Combat Guilt

You may logically understand that alone time is crucial, however, something is holding you back. Guilt is your enemy. It’s reminding you of all the chores you have to do. All the busywork of being a parent. Laundry, cleaning, scheduling dentist appointments… the list goes on and on. If you relax now, you’ll still have to do it all later. Not to mention that relaxing is tough when all of this is on your mind. And your child is growing up before your eyes; you honestly don’t want to miss any milestones or important moments.

It’s understandable that many HSP parents put themselves last. And it’s no wonder that burnout becomes a problem.

HSP parents need to fight back against the guilt. Self-care is not a luxury or indulgence. It’s a necessity for being a better parent. Think of it as “recharge my parent batteries” time. You recharge your electronics every day. You need to recharge yourself, too. You will break down if you don’t. The resentment and anger of running on empty can easily morph into depression and anxiety. Your child deserves a healthy parent who takes care of his or her own needs.

Here are four practical steps to combat guilt:

  1. Write about your guilt. Explore its origins. Just the act of writing can be freeing. Get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and into paper. Some people feel catharsis by shredding or ripping up the papers afterwards.
  2. Talk to a friend, family member, or therapist about it. We think we’re alone and different, when in reality everyone has secrets. Nobody is perfect, and nobody has to be. Being open and vulnerable with someone you trust will lead to connection. Connection kills guilt.
  3. Process and release your emotions through physical movement and exercise. Emotions can get stuck in our bodies, and it’s amazing how moving really helps. Go for a walk and clear the cobwebs from your mind. Research shows that exercise improves your mood. Let go of your guilt, step by step.
  4. Practice self-compassion. HSPs have so much compassion for others but often struggle with turning their light inward. Sometimes imagining yourself as a child helps. If you believe in a higher power, that can help internalize compassion, too.

7 Ways to Recharge With Young Children at Home

Here are seven ways to recharge your parent batteries (even with young children at home):

  1. If your child naps, use this time for self-care and solitude, not chores. Rest is so important when you’re taking care of demanding (yet lovable) babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. You’re probably stuck at home a lot. Listen to a guided meditation app on your phone. Sleep if you can.
  2. With older children who don’t nap anymore, make “relaxation time” mandatory. Let your child know that he must stay in his room for at least an hour, looking at books or quietly playing.
  3. Keep external stimuli to a minimum. Sure, mindless TV or social media is easy. There’s nothing wrong with that in small doses, but too much may make you numb to yourself. It’s fast food, when our souls crave something more substantial.
  4. Meditate, exercise, read, journal, listen to music. Whatever feels right for you that day. Experiment and figure out which modalities are most soothing and meaningful.
  5. If possible, take a class in something that interests you. Remember your hobbies and interests before you had kids? You’re still that person.
  6. Ask for help. Be open to family members or friends babysitting, if possible. Or pay someone. Maybe it’s just once a month, but it will be worth it.
  7. If insomnia is an issue, have a bedtime routine. Drink herbal tea, journal and/or meditate. Allow your nervous system time to slow down.

Picture your child. Now imagine her as a grown-up. You’d want her to do whatever it takes to be happy, right? Of course. She deserves solitude, too, especially if she’s an HSP. Treat yourself with the same love and respect that you show your kids. You — and your kids — will be grateful.

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