Let’s be honest here, while there are tons of gifts that come with being a highly sensitive person in this world, there are times when it can feel really quite challenging.
All that sensory information coming at us all the time.
All those feelings. So many feelings. Our own. Those of our children. Our partner. Our coworkers.
And all that thinking about all the things all the time.
The brain of a highly sensitive person is often working over time. And for that reason, we need to be more mindful than most about the world we’re building around us.
If you’re seeking some reprieve, congrats. You’ve come to the right place.
Here are my top five most important things to keep in mind if we want our highly sensitive family to thrive
Nervous System Regulation
All Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), adults and babies alike, have a tendency to get more overstimulated, overwhelmed and dysregulated throughout the day. Which is why it’s so important that we make an extra effort to build regulating activties into our day.
Things like mindful breathing, physical movement, play, and getting enough sleep are a few things that will physically help our bodies come back to feeling of grounded. Spending time in nature, listening to calming or uplifting music depending on how we’re feeling, and being intentional about who we spend our time with (and whose energy we’re unintentionally absorbing) can have an incredibly positive impact on our nervous systems.
It also helps to be conscious of what we consume, both in regards to our food choices (for example, I have to be extremely cognizant of my blood sugar levels – if I have a glucose spike and crash, nobody wants to be around me. Not even the dog.), but also things like social media or movies and television. I find if I’m following accounts on social media that make me feel less-than or put me in a scarcity mindset, my negative self-talk increases significantly which leads me to be dysregulated much more easily. It’s always a good idea, in a quiet moment, to simply take stock of our physical environments and see how things around us and what we interact with makes us feel, and then make changes as necessary.
Highly sensitive people have brains and nervous systems that are wired differently than the average person. So we need to adjust our expectations accordingly. Our kids will be on their own timelines, with sleep, with separation, and so many milestones along the way. It’s our job to honour that as best we can. While also honouring our own needs as highly sensitive parents, reminding ourselves that we can’t do it all and breaks are absolutely necessary.
Highly sensitive people have to approach the world a little bit differently than others if we want to grow and thrive. And that’s okay. It’s so common for highly sensitive people to feel tons of shame and guilt, feeling like they can’t keep up with social gatherings and parenting tasks, like others seem to be able to.
And as a result, we can often develop this narrative that we’re lazy or not capable. When the truth is, our nervous systems were just at their limit so much of the time. So if you find it challenging to do things that seem to come so naturally to others, or your kids are taking so much longer than your friend’s kids to sleep on their own, it’s for good reason. Honour your needs and theirs as best you can, whatever they might be. It will make all the difference in the long run.
HSPs will generally have at least one sensory system that notably overwhelms them. There are eight of these sensory systems we should know about – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, proprioception (deep pressure and joint movements), vestibular (balance and orientation in space), and interoception (sensations arising from inside our body). Knowing which of these our child, or ourselves, are sensitive to can go a long way to helping us prevent overwhelming our nervous systems.
Modify the Environment
When it comes to helping HSPs, there is so much focus placed on changing ourselves, but being mindful of our environment is just as important (and effective, in my experience). So get to know you and your child’s sensory needs better and build that into your home, your child’s daycare or classroom, or any space you spend time in.
Things like dim lighting before bed, noise cancelling headphones for your child for public washrooms or loud spaces, earbuds or noise cancelling headphones for yourself, regular purging of toys to keep the house tidy & prevent overwhelm, scheduled breaks in quiet spaces at birthday parties, sensory/regulating tools in the classroom. The options are endless, so start getting creative!
Communicate & Co-Regulate
Highly sensitive people tend to feel the emotions of others as deeply as their own. This is why our highly sensitive children will cry when they see others crying. But it’s also why our partner being in a bad mood can be so hard for us to tolerate. It can actually feel painful for us to witness those emotions in others. In a houschold of HSPs we all need to be mindful of playing off each other’s emotions, communicating often and co-regulating with our children & partners as needed.
As Highly Sensitive People, it is vital to find tips and tricks to keep in our tool box. We’re all trying our best to live in a world that’s not built for our nervous systems. The go go go of modern society is difficult to keep up with on the best of days, so hopefully these suggestions will be a helpful starting off point to alleviate some of that over-stimulation and add some more peace and calm to your homes and lives.
Any other tried and tested rituals you use to help yourself and Highly Sensitive family? What’s the best advice you’ve received since figuring out you’re an HSP? Let us know in the comments below.
Until next time,