Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person

Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person
by Jacquelyn Strickland, LPC, HSP

Besides thoroughly educating yourself about the acronymn D.O.E.S. created by Dr. Elaine Aron, I highly encourage to consider the the following 11 suggestions for thriving as an HSP.  

1. Search for ways to live a balanced life, including spiritual, occupational, social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and creative.

2. Finding a creative outlet to express our deep perceptions of the world around us is crucial in supporting our unique HSP selves.

3. Examine all your environments – work, home, social, friends, and become aware of those which are supportive of your HSP trait, and those which are not. Protect yourself by setting firm boundaries in environments which tend to drain you. You can do this unobtrusively by simply removing yourself quietly from unsupportive environments, and by simply saying “No thanks” I think I’ll be heading home now ~ no further explanation needed.

4. Seek employment which values not only who you are as a person, but your unique set of skills as well. This may mean taking a “craft” job which pays the rent and honors your self-care plan, while also honoring and allowing time for your authentic and passionate self outside of work. Refer to Dr. Barrie Jaeger’s concepts of drudgery, craft and calling in Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person.

5. Become familiar with personality and value assessments such the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory, the Enneagram and a general values inventory, including the Strengths Inventory. Having a strong sense of self, and knowing what is most important to you can help make adjustments to your own (or other’s expectations) of you, whether that be in the amount of money you make, the number of hours you spend working, or simply how you spend time in your daily life.

6. Become aware of your unique needs ~ whether this be sleep, dietary, emotional, spiritual, physical or psychological needs …Adopt the motto from the HSP Gathering Retreats™ “Focus on Needs, Not Approval”  and ask your loved ones to do the same. It is an amazingly freeing concept that has worked amazingly well in my family. Identifying your needs serves as a guideline for setting healthy boundaries – an absolute must for we HSPs!

Jacquelyn, Lydia Puhak - WomenOutdoors!7. Seek out like minded friends or community to be with. Isolation, or being invisible, is the bane of an HSP’s existence. Find someone with whom you can share your keen observations and depth of perception with – preferably another HSP. This works well because our depth can sometimes unduly burden our non-HSP friends to “get” us. The many on-line HSP message boards can sometimes serve this need.

8. Find your optimal level of arousal – being under stimulated leaves us bored and lethargic – being over stimulated increases the cortisol in our systems, and can lead to illness if not checked. Being outdoors in nature seems to be the optimal state of arousal for me – and it is also the place where I can find solace, wisdom and clarity.

9. Become intimately familiar with your current and/or past traumas – whether they be traumas with a capital “T” or traumas with a smaller ‘t’. Remember for HSPs any trauma can be deeply felt.  Seeking professional help may be necessary to assimilate this trauma and to heal fully.

10. Try to spend at least 10-15 minutes outside in the sunshine. This not only increases natural Vitamin D in our systems, but can also help increase our serotonin levels.

11. Find, cultivate and nurture your own unique spiritual life and practice. This could include yoga, meditation, prayer, gratitude walks in nature, or being part of a local church community your choosing.  Try to seek comfort, solace and quiet in your spiritual place at least once each day, even if briefly.

Doing all of the above will eventually lead you on your own unique path of HSP self-care and thriving.   It may look different for all of us, but self-care is of primary importance in thriving as a HSP.

I like to call this plan “My HSP Owner’s Manual.”

Picture of Jacquelyn Strickland

Jacquelyn Strickland

Jacquelyn became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 1993, and began working exclusively with highly sensitive people in 2001, shortly after the first HSP Gathering Retreat in May of 2001. Her private psychotherapy practice has now transitioned to mentoring and coaching, which is not therapy, yet definitely therapeutic for most clients. She also offers consultations and accepts speaking engagements about the trait of Sensory Processing Sensitivity. She is a member of ICHS – International Consultants High Sensitivity, a professional, national, and international group of HSPs who were trained by Elaine Aron in March of 2018. She makes a cameo appearance in the 2015 documentary film: Sensitive: The Untold Story, available at sensitivethemovie.com.

Although not always able to accept new clients, please do inquire here about how and if we might best work together.

Depth of Processing

Depth of processing is the most basic aspect of our SPS trait, and results in the deep, rich inner life most HSPs experience. Research has shown more brain activation in the prefrontal cortex and in a part of the brain called the insula which has sometimes been referred to as the ‘seat of consciousness.’ This creates the tendency to reflect more than others about the “way the world is going or “the meaning of life.” By integrating information and experiences, from both past and present, the HSP’s unique depth of processing can enable a sense and understanding of longer term consequences and may be able to influence future decisions with more creative and expansive thought.