If you are a highly sensitive person (HSP) life probably looks a little different though your eyes than it does through the eyes of the non-highly sensitive people in your life.
Up to 20% of the world population is a HSP. It’s a lot, but not enough to ensure that everyone else knows what being highly sensitive is all about. If you are one of the significant minority then you can probably relate to these 7 problems that HSPs face.
1. Overwhelm Comes Easy
The nervous system of a HSP is finely tuned to their environment. It means that sounds seem louder, details and subtleties are noticed and dealt with. This translates into a surplus of information that needs to be processed.
Busy, noisy, active environments quickly become overwhelming for a highly sensitive.
But it’s not just the external world that causes overwhelm; your rich inner world, the constant deep thinking, causes overwhelm too.
Tip: Plan bucket time into a busy schedule – plan quiet moments that give you time to recuperate so that your bucket doesn’t spill over.
2. You Quickly and Easily Absorb the Emotions of Others
When a loved one is feeling upset, angry or stressed, a highly sensitive takes these emotions on board. It’s not just about empathy; a HSP actually feels the emotion.
Being highly sensitive is like being an emotional sponge. And that’s exhausting.
Tip: Take a step back from a situation and consciously determine what is your problem to solve, and what is someone else’s issue. Showing someone empathy is enough; remind yourself that you don’t have to take on the world’s problems for yourself.
3. For You Nothing is ‘Just a Joke’
A flippant remark or comment is taken seriously and emotionally bruises a highly sensitive. It’s why teasing in a family is a no-no when there are highly sensitives involved. Even off the cuff remarks made by siblings, interactions that are dismissed in other families, are taken to heart by a highly sensitive child (HSC).
Nothing is ‘just a joke’ applies to jokes that involve violence, or racism or any other topic that a HSP feels is unjust. It just doesn’t translate as funny for a HSP.
4. Adapting to Change is Hard
Any kind of change has a disproportionate effect on a HSP. Even positive change that is entered into willingly will have a huge impact on a HSP.
A highly sensitive likes routine. A HSP or HSC likes to know what is coming up, what will happen, what things will look like. This is the path of least stimulation!
Change is like a bowling ball hitting skittles – you just have no idea where those skittles will be once the ball is released. And that causes a highly sensitive stress.
Tip: A HSP needs time to adjust to change, so make sure you give yourself that. Explain to others that you just need time.
5. Your Work Needs to Have Meaning
Your day job will eventually feel unsatisfying if you feel it doesn’t contribute in any way to the bigger picture. Repetitive tasks that seem pointless in the scheme of things will eventually wear you down and make you incredibly unhappy at work.
For a HSP it’s not just about the salary. That’s a necessity of course, but there has to be some kind of meaning to the work otherwise there is a high risk of burnout. Mundane tasks can feel different if you believe in what the company you work for does.
Tip: If you can match your passion with how you earn a living that’s an alignment that make HSPs happy. If it’s not possible, look at ways outside of your job where you can achieve a sense that you are contributing to something more than a company’s profit margin.
6. You are Seen as Unsociable
One thing that HSPs need is downtime. Alone time. Time to recharge. Going straight to a social event after work with colleagues? Nightmare scenario.
A day at work is mentally overwhelming and the prospect of having to continue interacting without any time alone is not on many a HSP’s wish list.
If a HSP is sat with you being during a social event being ever so quiet, possibly even seeming irritated, then it’s likely that their bucket is full and they quite literally cannot take any more stimuli.
Even extrovert HSPs need down time before being subject to more stimuli at the end of a day.
If you are a HSP in tune with your needs you will tend to decline a fair share of social invitations. Which in turn makes you seem unsociable.
Tip: Explain to friends and colleagues that you need time to recharge, and that whilst you won’t go out straight from work for example, you will catch up with them later.
7. You Feel There is Something Wrong With You
I have saved the problem with the biggest impact for last. Living life with the feeling that there is something wrong with you is unhealthy. It’s a recipe for mental health issues.
If you haven’t been lucky enough to learn that you are simply highly sensitive you do go through life wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me?”
You see that your friends don’t have an issue with the lack of volume control on the world.
You see family members cramming their schedules full with activities with no adverse consequences.
You don’t understand why you don’t want to socialise with your friends every night whilst you are in college.
You see that missing sleep impacts you greatly but not your friends.
You don’t get how others can see violent images on TV, or devastating news reports and barely register them, whilst you are rocked to your core by that you see.
You don’t understand why you well up at the slightest thing.
Why does it take you so much time and effort to make a seemingly simple decision?
Why does small talk bore you but world issues bring you to life like nothing else?
Why does criticism cut so deep?
The questions go on. The feeling that there is something wrong with you lives with you until you truly understand what it is to be highly sensitive.
And then you realise there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.
You are simply wired differently.
Tip: Be conscious of your reactions to situations and understand why you react as you do. Notice when you get ‘hangry’, irritable in a group, have difficulty sleeping, feel anxious about a situation. Work to maintain balance in your daily routine; busy and quiet, company and alone, thinking time and talking time. This way you are not constantly in a state of mental and emotional depletion. Learn what you need and grant those needs a place in your daily routine. Learn to look after yourself.