I would like to dive right into a theme I have been wanting to write about for a while: high sensitivity and how to navigate this in this world. I classify myself as a highly sensitive person (HSP), and a lot of my clients – and I imagine people reading this – fall into that same category.
It has taken me a lot of time time learning to navigate my sensitivity. To not be constantly overwhelmed, checked out or sheer dissociated. I know how overwhelming it can be not to be gotten, not to get yourself or simply not know what is going on and perceive the world, and people, as scary.
It has taken many ups and downs, trying out new things and a lot of self love, to be at the place I am at now. In a good place with myself, with a solid set of tools and with a good sense of the world.
And I would love to share some of the ways that have helped me navigate my sensitivity, slowly come back to a more whole sense of self ánd come back home in myself.
1. Accept your high sensitivity, fully.
According to Psychologie Magazine 20% of the general public is highly sensitive (if you want to test if you fit that category, you can find their test here – in Dutch). So that means that 1 in 5 people is HSP. That is a lot. And yet, at least in my life I have often heard, “do not be so sensitive”, “you are always so sensitive”, in Dutch “stel je niet zo aan”. Often from people that did not understand my sensitivity. But most of all, I did not understand my sensitivity. I did not honour my needs, got overwhelmed and acted out. So step one, before you do anything else, is to fully accept your levels of sensitivity. Look at the internalised beliefs you have around being sensitive. Are you really okay with this, and can you accept yourself for who you are? Remember, being sensitive is a gift: you can simply feel more than most other people. And when honoured in yourself, you have an amazing capacity to guide other people more towards their hearts and what they are feeling.
2. Honour your needs.
When you fully accept yourself and the sensitivity of your nervous system, you can start taking care of yourself. What do you need in any given moment? And can you give that to yourself? It is likely, if you have not been taking care of your needs, that you are overwhelmed and your nervous system is overtaxed. So one of the things you can start doing right now, is to start listening. What is it you need? If you are like me, you will need more downtime, less people time, less screen time (!), more nature time and simply more quiet and low input moments and places. For me that is the forest. Taking time in the morning to wake up and do my practices, and taking time at night to wind down from the day. But also simply being in my home without anybody else. Because even if my loved ones are there, I still never fully relax.
Find out what your needs are. And start honouring them. One by one. It might be that you find you need a lot of things, because you have a backlog. That is okay. You will find that the more in-the-moment you will respond, the less back log you will create and slowly but steadily you will create more space in your nervous system and you will also create more capacity to respond to stressful or intense situations.
3. Really honour your boundaries.
This is important for everybody, but as a highly sensitive person this is literally vital. You likely perceive information on many levels, including emotionally & energetically. Its is essential you learn how to shield yourself and not just soak everything up without discriminating. Otherwise you become the cauldron where everything is just mixed together and then you get.. overwhelmed. Burnt out. Or sick. Do what you need to do to learn this in an embodied way, not just mentally or verbally. For me it is martial arts. And body work. And learning to feel when I was taking things on from other people: how my inner state would get ‘fuzzy’ and how I could release that energy. One of the things I do is simply saying: “I release all energy and emotion that is not mine”. Try it. It works. I instantly feel more here when I do it.
4. Do not “muscle through”
If you are overwhelmed and your nervous system is already activated, there is no point in muscling through. I will repeat that: there is no point in muscling through. If anything: it will work against you and will become even more stressed. When there is overload: take a break. Do what you must to calm and empty your system. And then come back to whatever you were doing. The more you become attuned to this cycle, the easier this becomes, and the quicker you can catch yourself, be kind to yourselfand give yourself what you need.
5. Celebrate your sensitivity!
It is a gift to be so connected to the world. It is beauty in a world that is often hard, cynical and self-protective. Celebrate that beauty and see it as a strength, not a weakness. Enjoy your senses and share your heart. And, make sure to apply that gift where it is honoured, seen and recognised. You do not put delicate flowers (with strong roots!) next to a chopping machine. Be smart, be wise. Honour yourself and find those places that fit you and those people that get you.
Love, from a sensitive heart,