sakurablossom: a ginger girl sitting on a dirt road, staring at the horizon (stress)
[personal profile] sakurablossom posting in [community profile] sensitive
Coping As an HSP

If you're told that you are too sensitive, it's good to have a prepared rebuttal available. You could tell the non-HSP, "According to research by Dr. Elaine Aron, HSPs are thought to be found in approximately 20 percent of the population (equally divided between male and female). This population has a more finely tuned central nervous system, so we are more susceptible to environmental stimuli, both positive and negative. The stimuli could be noise, fragrance, bright lights, beauty, time pressure, or pain. We tend to process sensory stimuli more deeply than most people. It can be an enjoyable and challenging trait to have." One note of caution is that it's important to use your discrimination when telling others about your sensitivity. If you think the other person would ridicule or discount your sensitivity, it's best not to share the information. I've had some HSP students tell me that their family or coworkers disregarded their explanations about their sensitivity, making them feel worse.

Since you are living in a majority non-HSP culture, it's important to learn the art of compromise and not expect people to always make major lifestyle changes to accommodate you. One HSP reported that she had some neighbors in her urban apartment building playing their music loudly every evening. She told me that she negotiated a compromise with them so that the music would be low during the week, but on Friday and Saturday nights they could play the music louder during certain hours.

It's important for you to be polite when asking people to make changes when you feel overwhelmed and not to blame anyone who enjoys excessive stimuli. It's also beneficial to have a prepared statement when asking for what you need from others. For example, if you're asking someone to be quieter, try to develop a positive relationship with the person before asking or writing them with your request to make less noise. After explaining to the other person that you have a noise sensitivity, tell the person that you want to make sure that they are comfortable and not inconvenienced by your request. Tell the individual how much you would appreciate it if they could be quiet at certain times. Then ask the person to let you know if there is anything you could do to help make their life easier. Finally, you may want to apologize for any inconvenience the request may have on the person's life and thank them for being so kind and considerate.

It's essential for you to accept your sensitivity and not emulate non-HSP behavior. I remember flying from California to St. Louis for a family reunion and feeling exhausted from the stimulating trip. When we arrived at my sister's home, my non-HSP son, David, joined the other non-HSP relatives in going out for a late night movie, while I needed to immediately withdraw into a quiet, dark room to rest. By not going out with my non-HSP relatives, I was able to recuperate from the stimulating journey.

HSPs feel pain more deeply then non-HSPs and many have reported that when they experience physical pain, they immediately investigate what is causing the problem and attempt to alleviate the discomfort. Non-HSPs can generally tolerate more pain. A non-HSP friend told me that he had broken his foot, but was able to ignore the pain for over a month, even as he worked as a carpenter. Stoicism doesn't work for HSPs.

You need to find a balance between creating too much stimulation, which causes anxiety, and too little stimulation, which results in boredom. For example, if you find the stimulation of crowds in movie theaters too overwhelming, you can choose to see a movie during non-peak hours (such as matinees on weekdays). You can always rent a video, although some HSPs have reported that trying to select a nonviolent video in the often-hectic environment of most video stores quite challenging. You can also go to restaurants before the dinner rush. Many restaurants have an early bird special that will allow you to have both a calmer and a cheaper dining experience.

You need to use discrimination about when to push yourself to deal with stimulation and when to avoid being overwhelmed. Sometimes you need to push yourself to go on a hike or visit a museum (during non-peak hours) rather than constantly escaping to the quiet and sanctity of your home. George, an HSP in his forties, went to an amusement park with his son, Julian. George told me that Julian begged him to join him in a go-cart race. He told his son that he couldn't deal with the stimulation of circumambulating a track in a dangerous racecar. However, since Julian was quite persistent, George finally agreeed to try driving the racecar. He cautiously got the feel of the car and track, pausing to check out all the potential dangers. As George began to feel more secure, he actually started driving faster and felt exhilerated after the race.

When I lived in a rural environment I had the opportunity to learn how to drive a tractor. Although I was initially hesitant to try operating such a dangerous piece of equipment, I felt a sense of satisfaction after mastering this skill. However, I don't think there is an HSP heavy equipment operator union that I could join.

It's okay to say no to participating in stimulating activities if you would rather pursue a relaxing hobby such as drawing, writing, or reading. Some people in our culture pursue a constant craving for intense outer-stimulation to avoid going inward to explore their inner-self. It's beneficial for HSPs to spend some time every day meditating or pursuing quiet activities to balance life in our overstimulating world.

Sometimes you may be more overwhelmed by stimulation when you feel powerless. I have noticed that when HSPs are in control of how much stimulation they are exposed to, it doesn't bother them as much. Robert is a middle-aged HSP who simply can't tolerate any noise in his environment. He lives in a remote country setting and rarely leaves his home. Robert has created an ideal situation to reduce stimulation by working out of his home office in a serene rural environment. I recently visited Robert and his wife while construction workers were remodeling their home. I found the noise from the constant hammering and use of power tools extremely disconcerting and was surprised that Robert wasn't bothered by the excessive noise. He told me that it didn't bother him becuase he knew that whenever he wanted the carpenters to be quiet, he could tell them to stop working.

Similarly, it drives me crazy to hear a barking dog, yet when my dog would bark, it never bothered me since I knew that I could stop the noise at any time. Perhaps when you are in an overstimulating situation a good question to ask yourself would be how you can feel more in control of circumstances rather than being a victim of the stimuli. Anger is based on feeling powerless and as soon as you empower yourself, the anger generally dissipates.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 11-14)
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May 2012

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How to thrive when the world overwhelms you