highly sensitive person

Why Am I So Sensitive? How to Live As a Highly Sensitive Person

You ever wonder why you get overwhelmed by stuff that seems to roll off everyone else’s back? You’re not broken, and you’re not weird. You’re just sensitive—highly sensitive, actually.

And guess what? That’s not a bad thing. Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) means you process everything more deeply. Sounds intense, right?

It can be, but it also means you experience the world in a way most people don’t. So, how do you navigate life when everything hits you a little harder? Let’s break it down. This is your guide to living as a highly sensitive person without losing your mind.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) isn’t some trendy label; it’s a real, scientifically recognized trait. You process things more deeply—everything from emotions to sensory input. Imagine your brain as a sponge, soaking up every detail, every nuance.

You notice the subtle shifts in a friend’s tone, the faintest smell of coffee brewing, or the tiniest flicker of a candle. Sounds poetic, right? It can be, but it also means you can get easily overwhelmed.

You might need more downtime, crave quieter environments, or feel emotions more intensely. It’s like living life on high alert, and while it has its challenges, it also brings a unique richness to your experiences.

How Do You Know If You’re a Highly Sensitive Person?

Wondering if you fit the HSP mold? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you often feel overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, or loud noises? If crowded places or strong sensory input leave you drained or anxious, you might be more sensitive to your environment than others.
  2. Do you need more time alone to recharge after social interactions? If you find yourself craving solitude after hanging out with friends or family, it could be a sign you’re processing more than the average person.
  3. Are you deeply moved by music, art, or nature?
    If you often feel a profound emotional response to beauty or creativity, you might be experiencing the world with a heightened sensitivity.
  4. Do you notice things that others don’t seem to notice? You may be aware of subtleties around you or more conscientious than others. Also, you may be acutely aware of others’ behaviors (i.e. noticing someone is uncomfortable).
  5. Are you deeply affected by what’s happening around you or to you? An HSP is easily affected by others’ stories and moods. They often have strong emotional reactions, whether positive or negative. Even more, they can be greatly affected by their own mistakes and failures, having a hard time letting go.
  6. Do you have a rich and complex thought life? If you think a lot and need to process alone and in your head, you may be an HSP. A highly sensitive person needs more time for certain tasks and often takes longer to make decisions.
  7. Are you exceptionally empathetic and considerate of others (even if you don’t show it)? Your attention to detail may lead you to care deeply for others. It also may cause you to have more anger or resentment about situations you feel are unjust.
  8. Are you socially guarded? An HSP has a greater fear of rejection and worries more than others about what other people think. They often take things personally, and because of this are easily hurt. They may find it difficult to be themselves as they can be extremely self-conscious. Some highly sensitive people keep negative emotions inside, and others discuss their constant drama often with others.

Problems Encountered When You Are A Highly Sensitive Person

Living as a highly sensitive person isn’t all about soaking up the beauty of life with extra intensity. There are some real struggles that come with the territory.

From feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments to taking criticism a little too personally, the challenges can pile up fast. It’s like having your emotional volume turned up to eleven while everyone else is cruising at five.

These problems can make daily life feel like a never-ending obstacle course. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.

A Highly Sensitive Person…

  • can’t drink a lot of caffeine
  • has a sensitivity to bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, loud noises, hunger or pain
  • may be easily startled
  • notices subtle inner bodily sensations
  • is deeply moved by the arts such as a painting, music, or dance
  • can be overwhelmed by short deadlines
  • has difficulty multitasking
  • may have to avoid violent movies/shows or even the news
  • has an aversion to change or at least thrives on routine
  • avoids overwhelming situations
  • has a hard time performing a task while being observed.
  • may hesitate to make plans
  • reacts strongly to feedback (good or bad), even if only internally
  • may cry when inappropriate (i.e. at work) or other emotional outbursts
  • gets depressed or burned out more easily
  • may get headaches or feel extremely stressed due to a change in circumstance
  • struggles with comparison
  • has a difficult time letting go of negative thoughts/emotions

How to Live As a Highly Sensitive Person: Coping Strategies

Navigating the world as a highly sensitive person can feel like walking a tightrope without a safety net. The good news? There are plenty of strategies to help you keep your balance.

Whether it’s finding the right kind of downtime, setting boundaries, or learning to say no without guilt, there are ways to make life a little smoother. You don’t have to let the intensity of your experiences overwhelm you.

With the right coping strategies, you can turn your sensitivity into a strength and live a more balanced, fulfilling life. Let’s explore how to manage the ups and downs of being an HSP.

1. Take good care of your body.

Everyone, HSP’s included, need to prioritize taking good care of their physical bodies. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and eating healthy food every day. Try to get moving as often as you can throughout the day.

2. Identify your triggers.

The triggers that cause a highly sensitive person to feel overwhelmed or overstimulated differ from person to person. Figure out what bothers you or triggers an emotional response. 

3. Reduce intense stimuli around you.

Once you know your triggers, make some adjustments to your environment.

Change the lighting and get darker sunglasses. Avoid loud situations when you can or dull the noise with headphones. Do your shopping at less busy times to avoid the crowds. If you are greatly affected by what you put in your body, limit caffeine and alcohol. 

Additionally, give yourself more time to process and get things done. Limit the number of tasks you do at once, or better yet, stop multitasking all together!

4. Schedule downtime.

It’s important for a highly sensitive person to schedule downtime into each and every day. You need this time to recharge, gather your thoughts and decompress.

Have a place where you can go to decompress, whether at work or at home. At work, find a quiet corner of the office or a room that’s not always being used. At home, create a space or nook where you can be alone and comfortable.

5. Accept your thoughts and emotions.

There is nothing to be ashamed of as a highly sensitive person. There is nothing wrong with you. You are simply different, but you are not alone. It’s estimated that 20% of the population is highly sensitive.

Accept that you are sensitive and all that it means for your life (the good and the bad). Allow yourself to fully experience your emotions in a healthy way. 

You can try journaling your thoughts and emotions. Even if you don’t choose to write them down, begin to take notice of your feelings of overwhelm or anxiety.

Try adopting a mindfulness practice so that you can become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and eventually redirect them when needed.

It’s only when you become more aware of them that you can begin making any necessary changes and prevent burnout.

6. Improve your relationships.

Once you know your triggers and have put some coping strategies in place, use this knowledge to improve your relationships as well. (If a person is one of your triggers, make sure to set healthy boundaries with them.)

First, be honest with others about both your struggles and strengths. Opening up to people you care about will only help you and grow your relationship. Make sure to stay connected to people who know and get you.

Second, practice handling feedback and criticism from others by asking for it often. It can be really hard to hear negative feedback, and even harder to not internalize it. Remember, what you do is not who you are; learn from the feedback you receive from others and move on.

Third, put your gift of empathy to good use. As a highly sensitive person, you are incredibly considerate of others. Show your empathetic side to care well for others and strengthen relationships. The world needs you!

7. Do what you love.

Surround yourself with beauty, whether it be nature, art, music, dance….whatever. As a highly sensitive person, you are deeply moved by many beautiful things, and it’s more than okay to seek them out!

The last component of learning how to live as a highly sensitive person is to just be you. Do what you love as often as you can. Be creative and use your unique giftings so you can enjoy life and better the world.

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Sure, being highly sensitive comes with its challenges, but it’s not all about feeling overwhelmed and needing extra downtime. There are some incredible perks to having this trait.

As an HSP, you experience the world in vivid detail, picking up on subtleties that others might miss. Your heightened empathy allows you to connect deeply with others, making you a compassionate friend and a great listener. Creativity often flows naturally, as you’re more attuned to the nuances of art and beauty.

Let’s hit on a few of the benefits of being a highly sensitive person:

  • considerate, empathetic, and conscientious
  • uniquely creative and gifted
  • detail-oriented and observative
  • able to appreciate beauty (nature, art, music, other people)
  • a hard worker who works well with a team
  • a deep thinker and dreamer
  • able to see from different perspectives
  • self-aware with the ability to improve
  • authentic and emotionally brave

Embracing Your Sensitivity

Being a highly sensitive person isn’t about changing who you are. It’s about understanding and embracing your unique traits.

Yes, there are challenges, but with the right coping strategies and a focus on the benefits, you can navigate life with more ease and confidence.

Your sensitivity allows you to experience the world in a way that’s rich, deep, and profoundly meaningful. So, give yourself the grace to feel deeply, take the time you need to recharge and know that your sensitivity is a gift.

Embrace it, nurture it, and let it guide you toward a more fulfilling life.

Theresa Bedford is a nationally syndicated writer. Her work has been seen on the Associated Press Wire, Blox Digital, and MSN. She writes about productivity, money, and simple living to help people focus on what really matters in life.