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  • Janis E. McKinstry

Highly Sensitive Person Traits & Support

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

We're called too sensitive, cry baby, too touchy, too much, & more because we feel everything deeply and react to it. This depth and overstimulation can lead to feeling agitated, stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted and depleted.

It's said we're about 20% of the population, and I imagine there's more of us than that. It's common that HSPs have CPTSD, complex post traumatic stress disorder, caused in their childhood and if not treated can become autoimmune disease. (I personally was diagnosed with over 7 autoimmune diseases and am a cancer survivor - all in remission.)

Elaine Aron says there are four common traits that the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has and she uses the acronym DOES to explain them.

D: Depth of Processing

O: Over Stimulation

E: Emotional Reactivity & Empathy

S: Sensing the Subtle

Having kind and nurturing parents, without being too protective, are very helpful for the HSP child.

Here are some more ways we're different and how we can support our sensitivity. It's common for HSPs to have suffered traumas in their childhood which have programed them to react to overstimulation. Not only are HSPs constantly processing what they're taking in, but they're often hyper-vigilant and on heightened alert. So, we need more sleep & lots of alone time, we do well to avoid crowds and loud noises, we can't abide with violence of any kind, we have a hard time letting go of what is important to us, we become emotionally exhausted with conflict, being in the spotlight or being ignored, or being exposed to insensitivity. Criticism is painful, unkind words are crushing, we're often misunderstood, we're very hard on ourselves and often punish ourselves with harsh self talk.

So, get that rest, create your environment to be nurturing, eat healthy meals, find peaceful places to go with your close gentle friends, ask for clarity when you're unsure, be kind and generous with yourself and shift self blame and dismissive self talk to affirmations and compassion. If you're the parent of an HSP child be aware of their sensitivity and respect their need for space and kindness. Ensure they get the nutrition they need, make sure they get plenty of rest and sleep, create calm environments and listen carefully to them so they feel heard and respected. Be aware of some of the challenging and overstimulating activities that are best to avoid.

HSPs do well to avoid team sports and participate with a few people, or solitary activities instead to avoid overstimulation. A bike ride, tumbling, or swimming may be better than volleyball or soccer. Being embodied and learning our physical boundaries and abilities are important, give us a sense to achieve strength and grace and are empowering and move stress out of the body. Horror movies or amusement park rides may be anything but amusing for us, so it's best to avoid them choosing something calming instead of over stimulating. A day at the beach wins over a day at an amusement park. Give each person, especially children, the choice to decide what they are ready to engage in and don't pressure them.

HSP folks take our time to make decisions as we process so deeply, and are valuable problem solvers and collaborative members of cohesive groups because of our empathy, intuition, and ability to analyze. We're constantly processing and analyzing the social barometer so we can read the crowd and analyze social situations well. Because of this constant processing we may suffer with anxiety or depression, are prone to addiction, and may fall into a slump over change that is difficult for us so it's important to find support and get the help needed from qualified counselors and other helping people.

HSP folks are very insightful, open minded and open hearted, kind, and empathetic. We're intuitive and are able to see a problem clearly to solve it with a fair and just solution. But, it can be difficult to live in a world that doesn't recognize us as valuable. If we drive ourselves too hard to meet unrealistic expectations we risk adrenal fatigue & autoimmune dis-ease.

So, if you or someone you care about is a HSP, please share some of these supportive ideas:

Art: Create art in whatever form you enjoy

Write: Stream of consciousness writing, and journaling

Nature: Spend time in nature, tend houseplants, garden, hike, stroll, camp...

Boundaries: Create strong, clear, self respecting boundaries and communicate them

Pets: Consider adopting a pet to care for and share love and companionship

Exercise: Gentle exercise such as Yoga, Tai Chi, dance, Chi Gong...

Nurture: Create a calm and soothing sanctuary for yourself as home

Electronics: Turn off electronics at least 2 hours before bedtime

Media: Be very discerning about what media you ingest

Sleep: Make sleep a priority and create a restful bedroom

Fresh Air: Open windows, go for walks, be outdoors

Me time: Breathe, meditate, pray, sing

Friends: Find HSP friends, have deep meaningful conversations, make soulful connections

Food: Nourish yourself with healthy delicious food

Chocolate: High quality chocolate

Relax: Epsom salts bath, massage, sunbathe...

Grounding: Bare foot on the soil

Joy: Find joy

Please contact me if you'd like to explore how I can help you find your gifts as a HSP. It's my greatest honor to guide your healing process and witness your awakening into your authentically empowered self.

Warmly, Janis E. McKinstry, MA


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