One day, I was feeling very overwhelmed in parenting my oldest, and Google searched something to the effect of “How to parent a highly emotional child.” The discovery I made that day has changed everything about the way I view the world. I discovered not just something about my son, but about myself.
We are highly sensitive people. Okay, this made me laugh at first because growing in sensitivity toward others has been (and no doubt will be) a lifelong journey for me. I’m the one who made my little sister cry…and then she came to apologize to me for making me mad…and then I yelled at her again.
The basic definition of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is one who “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment” (Source). It’s not a diagnosis. It’s just a physical trait that about 15-20% of the population has.
It makes a person much more in tune with their senses, which lends itself beautifully to creativity and observation and understanding emotions. However, it comes with a lot of challenges that can be summed up in one basic word: overwhelm. I’ve heard it described this way: everyone has a bucket that gets filled up by the stimulation of the world around them. Average people can filter out what goes into that bucket and it doesn’t get full quite so quickly. Highly Sensitive People experience that sensory stimulation at a much higher level and so have a much more challenging time filtering what goes into that bucket, making it easily overflow.
Knowing this about myself and my family (I believe all 5 of us have this trait) has changed how I pay attention to our needs. It’s led me to start creating pockets of space to unwind. I began taking two hours a week on my husband’s day off just to go be alone and unwind my senses. Every person needs to figure out exactly what they need to do for this.
I am including this as one of the 31 Tools because it’s changed my life and if it can help others care for themselves or their children more compassionately, it’s worth devoting a blog entry to.
List of highly sensitive traits (Website)
Find out if you are a HSP here. (Self Test and Children’s Test)
Parenting as a Highly Sensitive Person (Blog)
Raising Highly Sensitive children (Blog)
10 Things You Should Know About Being Highly Sensitive When You Are Not Highly Sensitive (Article)
Survival Tips for HSPs (Article)
Spiritual Growth as a Highly Sensitive Woman (Blog)