"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." 1 Peter 3:8
When you hear the word "sensitive", what is the first thing that comes to mind?
For many of you, it likely invokes a negative feeling or association- someone who takes things personally or cries often. In fact, sensitivity refers not just to our emotional response to people and conflict, it also refers to our ability to empathize, process the world around us, and be in touch with our intuition. Our society so values "traditional" strength, and dishes out judgement on those who express their emotions out loud. This can be really challenging when you are a Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP for short. This is a personality trait, not a disorder, where the individual feels things more deeply than the average person, and is easily overwhelmed by big crowds, hectic spaces, loud noises and other demanding environments. Not to be confused with "empath" or introvert, HSPs are often misunderstood and criticized for the way they process their surroundings.
Being a HSP in our hectic world is so draining- especially when you aren't given a space and ability to recharge and process. HSPs often experience burnout and exhaustion as result of this. I wanted to share my experience with this and what my life looks like because of it, so that anyone reading can learn more of how to care for and respect the highly sensitive people in their life, especially in such an overwhelming season of life.
Some situations are predictably overwhelming for me, like concerts. I have also become much more aware of how other environments can unexpectedly trigger burnout and sensory overload for me- sorority bid day, malls, crowded restaurants, waiting in long lines, even conversations where I find myself processing and reprocessing and considering every word that's said. To deal with these feelings, I have found some habits to be helpful. If you are a highly sensitive person, or have the good fortune of knowing one, I hope these can be helpful.
Invest in a good journal. I have filled dozens and dozens of journals with my thoughts, and it can really help you decompress from being overwhelmed.
Set boundaries with others and with your time. HSPs are often the "therapist" friend (nothing wrong with that!) but carrying around everyone else's burdens takes a toll. It's important to step away from exhausting relationships and environments, too.
Your friends and family are the core of your support. I can't stress enough the difference it makes in my mental and physical well-being to have the people closest to me allow me the space to process, and to not pass judgement when I express my sensitivity.
These things are just a few of many practices that are important as a highly sensitive person. All of that being said, I have found the benefits of being an HSP to add so much depth to my life. I pick up on small subtleties more often than most- a change in someones tone, smells, faint sounds. My intuition is also strong and I tend to feel almost everything deeply. This is part of the reason why I am going into the field of social work, a field where empathy and compassion for others is so necessary.
Having learned what boundaries to set, and situations to avoid, I have learned how to be a highly sensitive person in a world where "sensitive" is so often an insult. I hope this blog post shed some light onto my life as a HSP, and in turn, I hope you can learn to embrace sensitivity as a superpower, too.