As a Vancouver counsellor at Constellations Counselling, I have seen many clients who identify as highly sensitive people. While being highly sensitive can sometimes present challenges, it is important to recognize that it can also be a strength. Let’s take some time and explore the unique qualities of highly sensitive people and how they can be leveraged to navigate the world with greater empathy, insight, and resilience.
First, let’s define what it means to be a highly sensitive person. Highly sensitive people, or HSPs, have a heightened sensitivity to stimuli in their environment. This can include things like loud noises, bright lights, and even strong emotions in others. HSPs may also process information more deeply and reflect on their experiences more than non-HSPs.
While this heightened sensitivity can sometimes be overwhelming, it can also be a strength. HSPs are often more attuned to the needs of others and can be great listeners and empathizers. They may also have a strong sense of intuition and be able to pick up on subtle cues that others may miss.
One metaphor that can be helpful in understanding the unique qualities of HSPs is that of a sponge. HSPs may soak up more information from their environment than non-HSPs, but this can also mean that they have a greater capacity for empathy and understanding.
So, how can HSPs leverage their sensitivity as a strength? Here are a few ways:
Empathy: HSPs tend to have a heightened sense of empathy. This means that they are often able to pick up on the emotions of others, even if they are not explicitly expressed. This ability can be incredibly valuable in personal and professional relationships, as it allows them to tune into the needs of others and respond in a compassionate and empathetic way. For example, a highly sensitive person may be able to sense when a friend or family member is going through a difficult time and offer support and comfort before the person even asks for help.
Insight: Because HSPs process information deeply, they may have a greater understanding of their own emotions and motivations. HSPs tend to be introspective and analytical, which allows them to gain greater insight into themselves and the world around them. This can lead to a greater sense of self-awareness and a deeper understanding of their own needs and desires. This self-awareness can help them navigate challenges in life and make decisions that align with their values and goals.
Resilience: While being highly sensitive can sometimes be challenging, HSPs also have a great capacity for resilience. They may be more likely to seek out support when they need it and may have a greater appreciation for self-care practices like meditation and yoga. This resilience can help HSPs navigate difficult experiences and come out stronger on the other side.
Creativity: Highly sensitive people are often very creative and imaginative. They tend to have a rich inner world, which can be a source of inspiration and innovation. Many artists, writers, and musicians are highly sensitive people who have used their sensitivity to create works of art that speak to the human experience in a profound way.
It’s important to note that being highly sensitive is not a disorder or a weakness. Rather, it is a unique way of experiencing the world that can be leveraged as a strength. If you identify as an HSP, here are some tips for embracing your sensitivity:
Practice self-care: Because HSPs may be more prone to feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s important to prioritize self-care. This could include things like taking time for relaxation, engaging in creative activities, or spending time in nature.
Create a safe and nurturing environment: HSPs tend to thrive in environments that are calm, quiet, and low-stimulus. If possible, try to create a space in your home or workplace that is free from distractions and sensory overload. This can help you feel more relaxed and focused.
Set boundaries: Learning to set clear boundaries with others is an important skill for highly sensitive people. HSPs are more prone to taking on others’ emotions or needs, so it’s important to set clear boundaries and say no when necessary. This can help prevent overwhelm and preserve your energy for the things that matter most to you. Practice saying no when you need to and communicate your needs and limitations clearly to others.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing can help HSPs tune into their bodies and emotions and respond in a more balanced way. This can help prevent feelings of overwhelm or anxiety. By learning to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can learn to mindfully respond to them instead of reacting to them.
Seek therapy: If you’re struggling with your sensitivity, consider working with a clinical counsellor who understands the unique challenges of being an HSP. A counsellor can help you explore your sensitivity, develop coping strategies, build resilience, and help you learn to embrace your sensitivity as a strength.
Despite the many strengths of highly sensitive people, they can still face challenges in a world that is not always sensitive to their needs. For example, they may be more easily overwhelmed by bright lights, loud noises, or crowded environments. They may also be more sensitive to criticism or conflict, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. However, with the right tools and support, highly sensitive people can learn to navigate these challenges and thrive in their personal and professional lives.
In conclusion, being a highly sensitive person is a strength that can help us navigate the world with greater empathy, insight, and resilience. While highly sensitive people may face unique challenges, they also have many strengths and gifts to offer the world. By learning to embrace their sensitivity and develop strategies for managing the challenges it can bring, highly sensitive people can live full and meaningful lives. Our clinical counsellors at Constellations Counselling have worked with many highly sensitive people and are passionate about helping them embrace their sensitivity.