Have you ever felt like your heart is riding a rollercoaster, except you’re not strapped in, and every sharp turn or steep drop is a comment, a glance, or a headline hitting you right in the feels?
Well, you’re not alone. In fact, Dr. Elaine Aron’s research suggests that about 20% of the population are Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), which means their nervous systems are more attuned to the subtleties of the environment, leading to deeper cognitive processing and higher emotional reactivity. That’s like one in every five people!
Now, let’s get real for a moment. Sensitivity is a superpower—yes, a superpower—that allows you to experience the world in vivid color, to feel with intensity, and to connect with others on a profound level.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you might wish there was a volume knob for that superpower, especially when it feels like it’s cranked up to eleven and there’s no off switch in sight.
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could dial down the sensitivity just a tad, so you can navigate this noisy, hustling, bustling world without feeling like you’re walking through an emotional minefield, then it’s time to build a toolkit to stop being sensitive. As the brilliant Maya Angelou once said, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
Developing habits that promote emotional intelligence, such as mindfulness and self-compassion, can create a buffer against the tidal waves of feeling too much. It’s about learning the art of balance—honoring your sensitivity while learning to be assertive and not letting it derail your day-to-day life.
- Sensitivity management involves improving emotional regulation.
- Setting boundaries and assertiveness are key to emotional resilience.
- Professional guidance can support personal coping strategies.
How to Stop Being Sensitive
While you may want to avoid situations that cause uneasy feelings that leave you feeling sensitive, you can’t. Avoiding situations isn’t natural and comes at a cost.
Turning down opportunities can hurt you socially and professionally. You need to live life. So, here are a few ways to be less sensitive:
1. Learn to Control Your Emotions
Building emotional resilience involves strategies and practices that enable you to handle stress and adversity more effectively. The goal is to strengthen how you respond to challenges, reducing the impact of emotional sensitivity.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged with whatever you’re doing at the moment—free from distraction or judgment and aware of your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.
- Start with Breathing: Begin by concentrating on your breath, noticing when your mind wanders, and gently bringing your attention back to your breath.
- Daily Meditation: Set aside time each day for meditation, even just five minutes to start, where you focus inward and observe your mind.
Engage in activities that promote mindfulness, such as yoga or walking in nature, to help ground you in the present moment.
3. Develop Coping Strategies
Effective coping strategies allow you to deal with stress in a healthier way and protect your emotional well-being.
- Physical Activity: Regular exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety, improving your mood and resilience.
- Assertive Communication: Clearly express your needs and feelings to others without being passive or aggressive.
Compile a list of activities that you enjoy, and that can serve as a positive distraction during times of stress, for example:
- Reading a book
- Listening to music
- Engaging in a hobby
Remember, resilience is like a muscle that gets stronger with practice. Implement these practices into your daily routine to become more resistant to stress.
4. Journal About Your Experiences
Writing helps to organize thoughts and feelings, reducing the intensity of emotional reactions and promoting a sense of calm and clarity.
Journaling about your experiences can be a therapeutic tool that provides a private outlet for processing emotions and reflecting on experiences. It can help HSPs identify patterns in their sensitivities, enabling them to better anticipate and manage potential overstimulation in the future.
5. Don’t Take Things Personally
Becoming more assertive can reduce sensitivity by helping you communicate more effectively and establish better control over your interactions. This results in less stress and misunderstanding.
6. Improve Your Relationships
Improving relationships can be crucial in managing sensitivity by fostering a supportive network that understands and respects individual needs.
By communicating openly about your sensitivity, setting clear boundaries, and seeking out empathetic connections, you can create a nurturing environment that cushions overstimulation’s impact.
Strong, empathetic relationships also provide a reliable source of comfort and reassurance, which can help dampen the intensity of the emotional responses that often accompany high sensitivity.
7. Communicate Boundaries
To communicate your boundaries effectively, start by understanding your own limits. Identify what you are comfortable with and what you are not. Once you are clear on these, convey them to others with confidence and clarity. Your tone should be firm but respectful. For example:
- “I’m not comfortable discussing this topic at work. Let’s focus on the project at hand.”
- “I value my personal time, so please check my availability before expecting a commitment.”
8. Express Your Needs Clearly
It’s essential to express your needs clearly to avoid miscommunication and resentment. Use “I” statements to take ownership of your needs without blaming others. By stating your needs directly and specifically, you invite a straightforward response and make it easier for others to understand and respect your requests. Here’s how you can articulate your needs:
- “I need some time to consider this before making a decision. I’ll get back to you by tomorrow.”
- “I would appreciate it if we could start the meeting on time, as my schedule is tight.”
9. Set Personal Boundaries
Establish personal boundaries and recognize what you can tolerate and accept in various interactions. Understand which scenarios make you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Consider these factors:
- Emotional Triggers: Pinpoint scenarios that elicit strong emotional responses.
- Physical Space: Acknowledge your comfort zone regarding personal space.
- Time Commitment: Be aware of your limits on how much time you can dedicate to others without feeling drained.
10. Learn to Say No
Once your limits are clear, practice the skill of saying now. Communicate your refusal (or decline) in a straightforward manner without over-explaining. Be sure to stay firm and stand your ground respectfully. Expect people to pressure you to reconsider.
Learning to say no enables you to protect your energy and prevent overwhelm. Set healthy boundaries and decline excessive demands or overstimulating situations.
11. Cultivate Self-Compassion
Cultivating self-compassion is an essential step in becoming less sensitive to external criticism and internal self-doubt. Self-kindness can reduce self-criticism and shame that often accompany their heightened responses.
Embrace loving yourself to encourage a nurturing attitude towards yourself during moments of overstimulation. And treat yourself with kindness during challenging times and recognize that mistakes do not define your worth.
12. Practice Self-Care
Regular self-care activities, such as engaging in relaxation techniques, pursuing hobbies, and ensuring adequate rest, provide opportunities to recharge and build resilience against the potentially overwhelming nature of your environment.
This intentional approach to well-being can help maintain a more sustainable level of sensitivity in your daily life.
- Physical Care: Ensure you get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, and engage in physical activity. Treat your body with respect as a foundation for mental well-being.
- Mental Care: Allocate time for relaxation and hobbies that bring you joy. Protecting your mental space is as crucial as physical health.
13. Engage in Positive Self-Talk
By replacing critical or anxious internal dialogue with affirming and encouraging statements, you can bolster your self-esteem and navigate sensitive situations with greater confidence and composure. This shift towards a more supportive inner narrative can significantly diminish high-sensitivity stress and emotional turbulence.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts: Replace critical thoughts with constructive feedback.
- Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to foster self-compassion. Statements like “I am capable” or “I am worthy of respect” can help rewire thought patterns.
14. Seek Professional Support
When personal efforts to manage sensitivity do not yield the desired comfort, seek professional support that offers tailored strategies and/or the benefit of shared experiences in a structured environment.
- Individual Therapy: You have access to various therapeutic approaches. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be particularly beneficial, focusing on altering thought patterns to manage emotional responses better. Another option is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which emphasizes balancing acceptance and change in your emotional regulation.
- Couples or Family Therapy: Consider these therapies if your sensitivity heavily impacts relationships. They can assist in improving communication and understanding between you and your loved ones.
- Local Support Groups: Engaging with support groups in your area allows you to meet others facing similar challenges. It’s a chance for mutual support and exchanging coping strategies.
- Online Communities: If geographical or time constraints limit you, explore online support groups. They offer a platform for connecting with peers globally and can be accessed from your own home at any time.
15. Engage in a Healthy Lifestyle
Leading a healthy lifestyle is more than just a boon for your physical well-being; it’s a cornerstone for managing sensitivity. When your body feels strong and nourished, your ability to handle emotional stimuli improves, creating a stable foundation for your mental and emotional health.
- Exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins, which act as natural mood lifters, helping to alleviate stress and promote emotional balance. Engage in brisk walking, swimming, or yoga activities for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week.
- Balanced Diet: Consume various nutritious foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Give your brain the right fuel to regulate emotions and stress responses effectively.
- Hydration: Stay hydrated and drink at least 8 glasses of water or two liters to maintain optimal brain function and emotional regulation.
- Adequate Sleep: Prioritize sleep to reset your brain, reduce irritability, and improve your capacity to deal with sensitive situations. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Mindfulness Meditation: Practice mindfulness to increase awareness and control over your reactions, leading to a calmer state of mind.
- Time in Nature: Spend time outdoors to lower stress levels and improve your mood, providing a natural setting to recharge.
- Social Connections: Build and maintain positive relationships to contribute to emotional support and reduce feelings of sensitivity.
- Limiting Stimulants: Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol to help stabilize your mood and prevent overstimulation.
- Schedule Downtime: Prioritize relaxation. Incorporate mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation daily.
16. Do What You Love
Pursue activities you love to buffer against the intensity of sensitivity. This immersion in positive experiences provides a protective layer.
Engage in passions that resonate with your heart and fill you with joy. Let that fulfillment experience overshadow everything else.
17. Embrace Minimalism
Simplifying your environment and belongings allows you to focus on what truly matters by reducing the external stimuli that can overwhelm you. This intentional approach to living and decluttering can offer you peace and clarity, making it easier to manage your sensitive nature.
Overview–What Is a Highly Sensitive Person?
A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is an individual who possesses an innate trait of sensory processing sensitivity, which is characterized by deeper cognitive processing of physical, social, and emotional stimuli. The term was popularized by Dr. Elaine N. Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person in the early 1990s.
Highly sensitive people tend to process information more deeply and thoroughly than others. They often reflect on their experiences more than the average person. Here are a few characteristics of an emotionally sensitive person:
- Overstimulation: Due to their heightened awareness, HSPs can become easily overwhelmed by busy environments, loud noises, strong smells, or intense stimuli.
- Emotional Intensity: HSPs often experience strong emotional reactions to both positive and negative events and may be moved deeply by arts, music, and personal relationships.
- Empathy: They typically have a high level of empathy and can be particularly attuned to the emotions and needs of others.
- Sensitivity to Subtleties: HSPs are often aware of subtleties in their environment that others might not notice, such as slight changes in lighting, temperature, or others’ body language.
- Need for Downtime: Because of their tendency to become overstimulated, HSPs often require periods of quiet and solitude to recharge.
- Avoidance of Violent Imagery: Many HSPs are more affected by violence, cruelty, or horror depicted in movies or books and may avoid such content.
- Rich Inner Life: HSPs often have a rich and complex inner life, with a vivid imagination and deep thoughts.
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
It is important to note that high sensitivity is not a disorder or a condition that needs to be treated; it is a normal, natural trait that brings challenges and advantages. HSPs may find that they are more prone to stress, anxiety, and fatigue, but they also tend to have strong creativity, intuition, and a capacity for deep appreciation of beauty and emotion.
Understanding and accepting this trait can help HSPs create lifestyles that honor their sensitivity and allow them to thrive. Here are some questions to reflect on:
1. Are you easily overwhelmed?
Maybe you are overwhelmed with clutter around you or too much on your plate like I am. Or, you may find that you need to withdraw often to be alone or relieve yourself of overstimulation.
It makes sense that an HSP is easily overwhelmed since they are taking in so much more than the average person. I love the way Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. puts it:
“Noticing so much, feeling so much, and thinking about everything so much naturally means that they also get more easily overwhelmed.”
2. 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).
3. 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.
4. Do certain sensory stimuli seem to bother you more than others?
An HSP can be sensitive to anything that seems to assault their senses. They may be sensitive to pain, certain smells, lighting, sounds, or any number of these.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Here are some additional behaviors of highly sensitive people:
- Can’t drink a lot of caffeine
- Sensitive to bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, loud noises, hunger or pain
- Easily startled
- Notices subtle inner bodily sensations
- Tends to be deeply moved by the arts such as painting, music, or dance
- May be overwhelmed by short deadlines
- Encounters difficulty multitasking
- May avoid violent movies/shows or even the news
- 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
- May struggles with comparison to other people
- Has a difficult time letting go of negative thoughts/emotions
Check out this test to find out if you’re a highly sensitive person.
Recognize Emotional Triggers
Emotional triggers are specific events or behaviors that consistently evoke an intense emotional response in you. Recognizing these can help manage sensitivity.
- Personal criticism
- Rejection or perceived exclusion
- High-pressure situations
- Loud noises or chaotic environments
- Low self-esteem
- Mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression
- History of trauma
Avoid Techniques That Don’t Work
In this wild journey of life, a few things do not cut the mustard when it comes to dialing down our sensitivity. Trying to numb those feelings or pretending you’re just “fine” can actually crank up the volume on your sensitivity…not lower it. So, keep it real and steer clear of these no-gos:
- Bottling up emotions: Keeping it all inside just turns you into a pressure cooker on the brink.
- Being indifferent: Not caring
- Shutting people out: Not engaging with people that matter
- Overcommitting: Saying “yes” to everything is a one-way ticket to Burnout City, population: you.
- Ignoring self-care: Skipping that ‘me time’ isn’t selfless, it’s a surefire way to end up running on empty.
- Pretending to be someone you’re not
Morning Affirmations to Stop Being Sensitive
Start your day with morning affirmations to strengthen your emotional armor. You will cultivate a sense of inner peace and self-assurance as you affirm your resilience and capacity to face life’s ups and downs. And this daily ritual will equip you to handle whatever comes your way with grace and confidence:
- “I embrace my sensitivity as a gift and use it to navigate my day with insight and grace.”
- “I am equipped with the strength to face any challenges today with calmness and clarity.”
- “I allow myself to experience my emotions without letting them control my actions or peace of mind.”
- “I set healthy boundaries that honor my well-being and contribute to my emotional resilience.”
- “Each day, I grow more confident in my ability to respond to life’s moments with thoughtfulness and composure.”
Short Exercise to Center Yourself When Overwhelmed
It’s normal to have good and bad days. Learn skills to help you cope as needed and build healthy relationships. Take care of your mental health with this quick 60-second mindfulness exercise to help you center yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed:
- Find a Comfortable Position: Sit or stand in a place where you feel comfortable and safe. Gently close your eyes if it feels right for you.
- Focus on Your Breath: Take a deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs completely, and hold it for a moment. Now, exhale slowly through your mouth, letting go of any tension.
- Be Present: Continue to breathe deeply and with each exhale, imagine releasing any overwhelming emotions or thoughts. With every inhale, visualize drawing in calm and peace.
- Acknowledge and Accept: If you notice any sensitive thoughts or feelings arising, acknowledge them without judgment and imagine them floating away with each out-breath.
- Ground Yourself: Pay attention to the physical sensations of your body — the weight of your body on the chair or your feet on the ground. Feel the air on your skin, the rise and fall of your chest, and the life within you.
- Return Gently: As you finish, take one more deep, intentional breath. Gently open your eyes when you’re ready, and take a moment to notice the calmness within you before moving on with your day.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, you’ll find targeted strategies and practical steps to help address common concerns about managing sensitivity and building resilience.
What Are the Effective Strategies to Manage Sensitivity in the Workplace?
To manage sensitivity at work, establish clear personal boundaries and communicate them respectfully. Prioritize tasks to reduce overwhelm and seek support from a mentor or colleague who understands your sensitivity.
How Can I Develop a Thicker Skin Towards Negative Comments and Insults?
Counter negative comments by reinforcing your self-esteem and remembering your strengths. Practice objective observation where you recognize insults without internalizing them. Remind yourself that the opinions of others do not define your worth.
What Steps Can Men Take To Become Less Emotionally Sensitive?
Men can work on managing emotional sensitivity by engaging in self-reflection to understand their emotional triggers and learning emotion regulation techniques. Participating in support groups with other men who share similar experiences can also be beneficial.
In What Ways Can One Become More Resilient to Criticism?
Build resilience to constructive criticism by viewing it as an opportunity for growth. Reflect on the feedback objectively and determine actionable steps you can take to improve. Remember to maintain a growth mindset and embrace challenges as part of your personal development.
Are There Methods to Reduce Emotional Sensitivity and Their Effectiveness?
Emotional sensitivity can be reduced by practicing mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral techniques to regulate emotional responses. The effectiveness of these methods varies from person to person, but with consistent practice, many find significant improvements.
How Can Highly Sensitive Individuals Cope With Overwhelming Emotions?
Coping with overwhelming emotions involves practicing self-soothing techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or engaging in calming activities. Establish a supportive network of friends or professionals who can offer validation and guidance when emotions become intense.