How to Survive with High Sensitivity


David Silverman, M.A., LMFT

How to Survive with High Sensitivity

Highly Sensitive Persons (or HSPs) are people that tend to be very empathic, intuitive, and hypersensitive to external sensory stimuli, and have a highly emotional reactivity. If you have this kind of sensitivity, you are probably very good at accessing your own emotions and the emotions of others. This kind of connectivity can be an asset if you work with people. However, because you are so in tune with your environment, and other people, when life moves quickly, it can wear you out. You might catch yourself over-analyzing situations because you feel deeply about the outcomes. You’re probably very hard-working and well-organized. Highly sensitive people tend to do well in their careers, especially when people and leadership skills, or where insight and creativity are involved.

You’ll need to find time to decompress.

Noisy, busy environments, like crowded shopping malls can wreak havoc on your nervous system. Packed schedules and high-pressure situations, like interviews, presentations, or sales calls will also take their toll. If you know you’re going to encounter a string of difficult situations, you will want to plan to decompress afterwards. Relax alone or with a friend.

Create meaningful relationships

You’re at your best when you’re deeply involved with another person who is able to relate to you at a deeper level. Lots of “lighter” relationships might not work. But a few meaningful relationships will be important. You’re good at understanding what works for other people because of your empathy and intuitive abilities. You tend to feel happy when you’re helping others feel happy.

Develop healthy ways to manage conflict.

You might find yourself feeling extra anxious when you have to deal with conflicts. You’re going to look at every question from both sides, because you’re of your high level of empathy. You’ll feel an internal struggle between getting what you think is right and trying not to provoke an angry response. In case the person you’re talking with isn’t all that empathic, be prepared to negotiate the best you can. You can set yourself up for a “lose-lose” scenario. Be careful.

Give yourself time to get things done.

Be careful not to rush through too many activities. Stay aware of the pace you’re keeping and slow it down if you feel it might overwhelm you. Highly sensitive people will often have trouble in the mornings getting up, making coffee, breakfast, showering and getting out the door. Wake up early enough so you’ll have time to get to work–even if something goes wrong. On the weekends, take full advantage of the days when you can sleep later and move at your own pace. Ask to work from home if you can. You need to take care of yourself.

Get plenty of sleep.

If you have a high sensitivity, try to get at least seven hours of sleep at night. You’ll need to sleep deeply in order to get what’s called REM sleep. REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the dream state, during which you process what happens during the day. You’ll want to give yourself a couple of hours to unwind before you go to sleep. Don’t try to work right up to your bedtime. Don’t try exercise right up to your bedtime, either. Sensitive people need to find a relaxing activity before bedtime like reading, listening to music, or watching TV. Without plenty of sleep, every little stressor will feel ten times worse.

Create your own private workspace.

As a highly sensitive person your mood will vary depending on your environment. Generally highly sensitive people like a fairly quiet space where they won’t be too distracted. You’ll probably want a workspace that is clean, organized, and uncluttered. Most likely you won’t want bright flickering lights overhead. You’ll want to be able to draw the blinds and turn on some desk lamps. You might design the space so it overlooks a soothing environment. If you can’t do that, think about hanging up calming photos or paintings. You need to feel centered while working at home.

Remember to be compassionate to yourself

Don’t beat yourself up because you missed a meeting, got a rejection, or didn’t place in a competition. Find a way to manage your expectations, slow your pace, and avoid overwhelming scenarios. Go easy on yourself and challenge critical self-talk. I also recommend you schedule events and activities you know you’ll enjoy. Go to concerts, go out to movies with friends, go to the gym, swim in the ocean, go surfing, read books, watch TV, or have sex. Put some of these fun activities on your calendar where you’ll see them. Always have something to look forward to.

This article originally appeared on Psych Central and was reprinted with permission: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hollywood-therapy/2017/07/how-writers-survive-with-high-sensitivity/

David Silverman, M.A., LMFT, treats creative and highly sensitive individuals in private practice in LA. He received training at Stanford University and Antioch University. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism and career reversals over a twenty-five year career as a writer in Film/TV, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, addiction or depression. David can be reached at silverman.email@gmail.com or 310.850.4707.

Credit: Image credit: Creative Commons, The woman in the window (Greystones), 2016 by markheybo, is licensed under CC By 2.