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Be Aware of Where you May be “Too in” or “Too out”: 

For each of us it is important to find the balance between time for retreat and quiet reflection and down time from the world and for time to put ourselves out in the world, for connecting, doing and interacting. The ideal balance will depend on if we tend towards more introversion or extraversion and if we identify as Highly Sensitive or not. Our culture tends to push us towards the idealizing the more natural tendencies of non-sensitive extraverts but this may not be ideal for us personally. 

Look for What you can Control: 

In over-stimulating environments look for what you can control and make the necessary adjustments. Can you turn off the harsh fluorescent lighting and bring in softer lamps in your workspace? In open concept office plans it can be helpful to talk to your supervisor about having a more private space to retreat to, seeing if a felt schedule is an option when the office is less busy or using headphones to block out background noise and increase focus. 

Learn How and When to Say ‘No’:

Setting personal boundaries for our time and energy is essential. We can’t do everything well all at once. Highly Sensitive People tend to sense all too well the feels, needs, desires and disappointments of others and we can be too eager to please. We may often struggle with our own fears of being criticized or failing to not do what others would want or expect of us. It is important to be able to say ‘no’ in firm and loving ways. 

Develop Methods for Self Soothing:

Finding your own methods for self soothing and calming feelings of overwhelm is an important tool. There are many techniques out there, it is important to find whatever works for you. It may be a breathing practice, affirmation, safe space or transitional object. The key is that it helps to calm you down when you need soothing. 

Meditation:

A regular meditation practice, even 5-10 minutes practiced daily as often as possible helps to support an automatic physiological relaxation response. There are many techniques and schools of practice to choose from, finding the right fit is what is most important. 

Focus on Being Rested and Healthy:

Being in a highly stimulating environment takes energy. It is important to be rested and healthy. Sleep, physical exercise and proper nutrition are all foundational in supporting optimal levels of functioning. 

Encourage Being Fully Prepared:

In preparing for important projects or presentations in order to decrease arousal and for performance to become automatic it is even more important for Highly Sensitive People to be as prepared as possible (within reason of course). Additionally, it can be helpful to expect at least 2 (or more) things to go wrong to prepare for non-perfection so we can roll with the unexpected. 

Make Success Likely:

Wait and make sure you are ready. Highly Sensitive People tend to need to process multiple possible outcomes and can take longer to come to a decision, yet when we have the time we need to get clear on the best decision for us we tend to be more satisfied with the decision. If you are unsure or don’t feel ready give yourself the gift of time to process and prepare (within reason of course), aim to be ready enough but not 100%. 

Focus on the Familiar:

New situations can increase feelings of overwhelm. If we can find ways to reduce novelty ahead of time this can help to reduce overwhelm. Strategies include becoming familiar with behaviours others will use or in others who will be present in important situations. It can be doing a practice run to familiarize yourself with the route and location of an important interview or meeting ahead of time to reduce feelings of overwhelm on the big day. 

“Pace Yourself”:

When you notice your stress levels increasing be sure to take breaks before reaching the state of over arousal. In longer tasks the ideal is at least 20 minutes (to help the nervous system return to lower levels of stress hormones) but if this not possible even a quick break for a few breaths can be beneficial. 

Encourage Nature Breaks:

Highly Sensitive People tend to benefit from spending time in nature (as do all humans really). Schedule time to take breaks outdoors, exercise outside, choose exercises that involve rhyme motions over competition to help recover from overstimulation. Time with pets can be another form of connecting with nature. 

Focus on Social Support:

In times of overwhelm our nervous systems tends to kick into the survival gears of ‘fight, flight or freeze.’ Another possible response is that of ‘tend and befriend’. It is helpful to develop and connect with a social support network to help reduce feelings of overwhelm. Many HSPs find it helpful to also connect with other HSPs. 

Eliminating Extraneous Stimulation:

When possible eliminate additional unneeded and unhelpful stimulation. This may mean turning off background noise or using noise cancelation headphones when focusing on a task or having a conversation.   

Planning for Rest and Recovery Time:

Highly Sensitive People can perform well under stress and pressure, yet it is important that we plan for rest and recovery time between projects in order to avoid burn out. This also applies to planning a day for rest and recovery when returning from a trip instead of jumping right back into a busy routine or going right back to work. 

If you would like more tips on Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person you can claim your free Guidebook over here. 

References:

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Dr. Elaine Aron

The Highly Sensitive Person