Are you easily overwhelmed by your environment? 

Are you highly intuitive and empathic? 

Do you startle easily? 

Are you highly conscientious? 

Do you need to withdraw for long periods of time after stimulation?

You may be a highly sensitive person (HSP). Coined by Dr. Elaine Aron in 1996, an HSP is someone who has a more sensitive nervous system and as a result processes information differently than others. HSPs both notice and process more information. In addition, they are more likely to reflect on, elaborate on, and make associations about the stimuli. 

While HSPs need to use more energy to make sense of their surroundings, they are also often highly creative and intelligent. HSPs see details and subtleties that most people miss. And because they have a different view point from their peers, they are able to easily generate unique ideas. 

It is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 people are HSPs. Many HSPs feel a sense of relief after learning that there is a formal term for how they feel and process. Finally, they know why they have always felt different than their peers. 

Does this sound like you? You can take Dr. Aron’s self-test here:

Unfortunately, without the proper tools, HSPs can become chronically overstimulated, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

Here are some practical tips and tools for HSPs to manage their energy and cope with anxiety and depression. 

1. Adopt a mindfulness practice

One of the most powerful tools we have to manage our anxiety and depression is mindfulness. Why? Because anxiety is a symptom of worrying about the future and depression is a symptom of ruminating in the past. Mindfulness brings us into the present. It is the practice of bringing your attention to your mind and body and listening to what it needs.  When we stop to listen to our bodies, we usually know what to do next. This practice also helps us identify and debunk intrusive and toxic thoughts. 

2.  Protect your energy

Sometimes HSPs don’t know that they are becoming overwhelmed until it’s too late. In her book The Empath’s Survival Guide, Dr. Judith Orloff details tips for people who are prone to giving away too much of their energy including: establishing good personal boundaries, eliminating energy vampires, and ensuring you have enough personal time in a day.

3.  Consider talking to a therapist

One of the best ways to make sense of overstimulation is to talk to an unbiased and kind third party who can help you make sense of your thoughts. If you are an HSP struggling with anxiety or depression, consider talking to a therapist who specializes in your needs. 

4.  Try Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback can help people with highly sensitive nervous systems learn to feel calm and regulated in response to overwhelming stimuli.  This is probably one of the most effective ways to help people who suffer from nervous system dysregulation.  Brain training teaches people to feel safe and secure in the bodies and thereby offers a neurological platform that they can build upon in therapy.

See our website for some free mindfulness tools to help you develop a practice of self awareness.