Are you a highly sensitive person?

You may not want to answer this question given that Western society appears to look at sensitive people unfavourably, constantly suggesting you grow a thicker skin. However, being a highly sensitive person is an innate temperament trait, it is a part of who you are, you were born that way and you are not alone. In 1997 Elaine Aaron a research psychologist and University professor recognised not a disorder or condition but an innate temperament trait of high sensitivity. From her research Elaine Aaron went on to write a book called The Highly Sensitive Person and attests to being one herself.

So what is a highly sensitive person?

A highly sensitive person can be introverted or extroverted, male or female and are about 20% of the population. Often they feel misunderstood or misperceived by others as being difficult, shy or overly emotional when in fact they are just easily overwhelmed due to their highly sensitive nervous system. In essence the highly sensitive person or HSP’s are deeply moved by the arts, music and nature, get easily overwhelmed, readily notice sensory changes, process what is happening around them more deeply and possess strong emotions and empathy. Biological reasons have been found for all the components of this trait and it is known that HSP’s brains are wired differently and their nervous systems are highly sensitive. This hyper-excitability contributes to increased emotional activity with a lower threshold for action.

If you are a HSP it is important (like all of us) to know yourself in order to take care of yourself. Some things you can do to keep you from overwhelm, stress, anxiety and eventual burnout are as follows. Reduce the number of intense stimuli in your environment; limit the number of tasks when multi-tasking; notice early warning signs of burnout, such as feeling anxious; journal your thoughts and deep emotions to decrease rumination; meditate, be creative and allow yourself guilt free space and time to relax and unwind.

While being a HSP has its downside in that being a highly sensitive person can increase your risk of depression and anxiety, being sensitive isn’t all bad. Often HSP’s are more conscientious, are better at paying attention to detail and are incredibly creative. You don’t need to grow thicker skin, you just need to ensure you take care of your specific needs and use your high sensitivity to SHINE bright in the world.

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