If you aren’t familiar with the term “Highly Sensitive Person” or “HSP” it refers to about 15-20% of the population which possess a unique sensory processing trait which allows them to pick up more on subtleties in the environment, resulting in deeper processing and often being easily overwhelmed with stimuli. Most people exist on a spectrum of sensitivity, with about 1 in 5 HSPs who are considered High Sensation Seeking. Learn more about HSPs here.
Most New Year’s Eves, you won’t find me at a bar, a party, or in a crowded plaza watching fireworks. As midnight approaches, you will find me in a quiet space reflecting on the past year and setting my vision, goals, and intention for the New Year. This New Year’s Eve was no different, as I was journaling quietly when the clocked turned, contemplating the year ahead.
I don’t really dig the “traditional” resolutions. They seem to often be created out of obligation, resulting in people diving in gung-ho, only to abandon their goals mid-February. However, I do support visioning, intentions, and S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. Part of this is because I feel the energy shift of the New Year and believe in it’s momentum to spark change.
Should Highly Sensitive People Have Resolutions?
As a Highly Sensitive Person, you may spend a lot of time in your head. You process your life and emotions deeply. You analyze the subtleties of your patterns, feelings, and relationships. Consequently, it makes sense you may find yourself contemplating the past year and wondering how to make the New Year more HSP-friendly.
But what if you don’t know where to start? What if you are new to discovering your HSP trait and still wondering how you fit into the world? Or perhaps you have been aware of your HSP trait for 20+ years and need something to take your self-care to the next level?
I’ve come up with my recommended resolutions for HSPs you can explore however you like. You can pick just one to focus on the entire year, try a new one each month, or use this list to create your own HSP-specific intentions. Enjoy!
The Top Ten…
10) Carve out some down time.
Down time is essential for HSPs. Due to HSP’s nature for deep processing, you need more time than non-HSPs to digest the world around you and recover from stimulation. Additionally, down time can help with managing overwhelming and intense emotions, by giving you the space to let your emotions be seen and processed. I have some clients call their down time as ‘processing time’ or ‘download time’.
Down time can look like a weekend by yourself each month, or an hour each morning spent journaling. It can be the 15 minutes in your car when you arrive early to an appointment. It can be a month-long sabbatical. There is no wrong way to do down time. As you start to make your down time a priority and an intention, you will learn how down time looks for you.
9) Spend more time by or in water.
Most books and literature around HSPs and Empaths talk about the importance of water. Living near water, spending time near water, or being in water all have their benefits. Spending more time by or in water can mean taking cleansing showers, relaxing baths, or going to swim laps. It can be devoting time to drive to a nearby river or lake to soak in the beauty and listen to nature around it. It can mean going to a sauna, steam room, hot springs, or sensory deprivation/float tank.
8) Deepen one of your friendships.
Yes, just one friendship. Do not focus on creating a posse of people, or bringing more people into your life. This would be overwhelming and maybe not even what your soul needs.
Deepening one friendship could mean making your acquaintance into a friend. Or perhaps this means bringing a peripheral friend into your inner-most circle. Of the people in your life, who can you answer honestly when they ask “How are you?” This may be a starting point to explore a deeper connection.
Yes, this will require vulnerability. It may not work as you hope. Or it might. Trust your intuition if someone doesn’t feel right. But also challenge yourself to examine your fears of getting closer to someone.
HSPs need authentic relationships where they feel fully seen and accepted. And often, that can come from one or two close friends, not a group. Look closely at current connections to see what can be deepened.
7) Learn or enhance your communication skills to help you effectively share your emotions and needs
Given HSP’s deep and complex inner world and attention to subtleties, it may be hard to find the words to express what you are truly feeling and thinking. If you grew up in a home that was not HSP-friendly, you may not have been taught the words or skills to identify your emotions or experience. If your partner(s) or friends do not understand your trait, it’s even more essential for you to have the words to skillfully communicate what you need.
Learning or enhancing your communication skills can manifest in a variety of ways. It can include researching articles around the experience of HSP-type people, such as writers, artists, and other creatives to help give you more nuanced emotional descriptors. You may seek the support of a therapist who can help you get in tune with your body and learn to recognize when you are having emotional responses. Consider attending a support group where you have a safe space to practice. You can start with reading HSP-specific books or books around communication, such as “Nonviolent Communication”. Practice expressing yourself with a close friend who can give you honest and feedback on how you came across.
With skillful communication, comes the need for boundaries, which leads to my next resolution…
6) Learn about boundaries, identify yours, and practice boundary setting
Without boundaries, HSPs are setting themselves up for overwhelm, chronic people-pleasing, resentment, and burnout.
The topic of boundaries is too rich and broad to fully expand upon here. Yet, there is no denying they are essential for HSP well-being. Here are some good places to start to learn about boundaries:
- Here are two great articles written by HSPs for HSPs.
- Essential Boundaries for HSPs and Empaths by The Happy Sensitive
- How To Set Boundaries When You Are a Highly Sensitive Person by April Snow
- In this 5 minute video, Brené Brown talks about boundaries in her concise, no-nonsense way.
5) Plan a retreat or solo trip – either at home or out in the world
Even the most extroverted and sensation-seeking HSPs need solitude. Consider planning a “stay-cation”, where you spend a weekend or an evening focusing on being at home, relaxing, and engaging in your favorite indoor hobbies. What about going traveling or camping by yourself or taking a road trip to some local hot springs? (Remember the earlier resolution around being in water? Wink wink.)
One of the most transformative experiences I had was taking a solo road trip to camp across South East Utah. I thought I would be lonely, but that never happened. I worried I would be bored, but all I felt was wonder. I enjoyed being able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and to go wherever I wanted. Pure HSP heaven.
Solo trips are especially important for High Sensation-Seeking HSPs. It allows you the novelty and thrill of new experiences, but the opportunity for solitude to recharge. Try it!
4) For High Sensation Seeking HSPs: Ensure you have fun activities planned regularly
High Sensation Seeking(HSS) HSPs have the never-ending quandary of being either bored or overwhelmed, resulting in a sense of restlessness or both ‘wired and tired’. They are described as having ‘one foot on the gas, one foot on the brake’. What I have heard from countless HSS HSPs is the need for having something fun to look forward to, so the sensation-seeking side has some excitement while the sensitive side has some stability and routine.
Many non-sensation seeking HSPs don’t crave novelty the same way. Instead of planning fun, they may instead need to know there is some downtime and familiarity ahead of them. This is where HSS HSPs can feel perplexed about how to take care of themselves, because they know they need downtime, but they also have a high need for novelty, stimulation, and excitement.
3) Explore different HSP & Empath communities
Given only 15-20% of the population are HSPs, finding other HSPs in your area can be difficult. Part of this is because HSPs tend to be very particular about where they spend time in public or when out in public, they may not ‘appear’ to be HSPs. But it’s essential to connect with other sensitive people to have a space where people truly ‘get you’ and welcome your HSP trait as a gift, not an anomaly.
Community doesn’t have to mean a huge group of friends. It can mean 2-3 fellow HSPs who meet once a month at a quiet coffee shop or library. It can mean attending meet-up groups specifically for HSP and Empaths. You can join or create an online community, such as a closed or private facebook group for HSPs. There are also therapy groups specifically for HSPs as well. (You can learn about the one I offer seasonally here.) If your city or town doesn’t have what you seek, create it!
2) Amp up your coping skills to help manage overwhelm
Overwhelm is inevitable – and essential. It means you’re living life! Here are some articles I wrote specific to this topic to start your process of beefing up your skills to manage, and embrace, the overwhelm. My blog offers many HSP-specific articles, here are some that pertain specifically to coping with overwhelm in various settings:
- Travel Tips for Highly Sensitive People
- Five Types of Overwhelm You May Experience as a Highly Sensitive Person
- How To Handle 5 Types of Overwhelm as a Highly Sensitive Person
- 7 Tips To Survive Moving as a Highly Sensitive Person
A support/therapy group, meet-up, or HSP-knowledgable therapist can also help you amp up your skills for managing overwhelm and help you embrace your sensitivity.
And The Top Resolution for Highly Sensitive People is…
1) Identify one of your HSP strengths and cultivate it
Being an HSP isn’t all about being overwhelmed (although it can feel that way). HSPs possess tremendous gifts that are essential for this world. One of the first activities we do in the HSP therapy group is to create a list of HSPs strengths. Usually this list ends up filling a huge easel and taking up over an hour!
When I worked at a domestic violence shelter, my nickname became “Worst-Case-Scenario Ari”. Due to my HSP strength of attention to detail and picking up on subtleties, I was skilled (and perhaps a bit too enthusiastic) about thinking through every possible outcome of a situation or shelter policy. This was especially helpful in a setting where poorly planned emergency procedure or policy could threaten the life of staff or survivors. This strength was utilized in a way my trait was a benefit, not a burden.
So what is your HSP strength? What about your sensitive nature brings benefit to you or those around you? Ask your friends or partner(s) what they see as your strengths. Read through the examples of how your strengths could be cultivated and embraced. Does anything resonate with you?
- Do friends compliment you on how ‘cozy’ your home is? Is this due to your HSP ability to intuitively notice what a room needs to feel safe and comfortable? One way to cultivate and amplify this strength could be helping your friends make their home feel more comfortable. Even better…what about starting a small side-business?
- Is it your attention to details? Your ability to empathize with others? Consider taking on a role at work or your household which engages this side of you, much like I mentioned earlier with writing policy and procedure.
- Perhaps your strength is your ability to ingest complex information, synthesize it, and then explain in a way that makes sense to others. Can you start a blog in order to share your voice? Maybe take up more of a teaching or training role in your profession?
- Perhaps your conscientious nature allows you to deeply understand the experience of others. You could volunteer for a crisis hotline or become part of an activist group for a cause you believe in.
- Does your rich, inner world lend itself to creative endeavors? Embrace this side of you by taking an art class, setting aside time to take photographs, journal, or join a writing group.
Wherever you lie on the sensitivity spectrum or on your journey as an HSP, I hope this article serves as a potential guide to structure your coming year as something positive, meaningful, and full of possibility.
What are your favorite HSP-specific New Year’s Resolutions? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Want an HSP-savvy therapist to support you in the New Year? Schedule your free consultation now to see if we could be a good fit.