4 Ways to Self-Protect as a Highly Sensitive Person with Anxiety
Are crowds overwhelming to you?
Do you avoid scary movies?
Are you able to pick up on subtle things others don’t?
If you answered yes to these questions, you are most likely a highly sensitive person. A highly sensitive person is someone who feels things on a deeper level and emotions affect them significantly more than their non-hsp peers. It is estimated 20% of the world’s population is highly sensitive; it breaks down evenly between introverts/extroverts and women/men.
Highly Sensitive People are more prone to anxiety and depression. A news story about a missing child or abandoned dog can throw off an HSP’s day. Often, HSPs will think about the missing child or an abandoned dog all day wanting to help. We often get wrapped up in injustice, other’s struggles and the world’s problems to the point where it is damaging to our mental health. Here is an example from my life:
A former coworker of mine was telling me about their child who has epilepsy. A neurological condition that produces seizures. They were telling me about an episode in which the child had six seizures in a row that landed them in the hospital. All I could think about was this little two-year-old who was suffering. After my coworker had told me about the events in the previous days, I didn't know what to say. Once we concluded our conversation, I turned to my desk to continue to work, but couldn't concentrate as all I could think about was this two-year-old I’ve never met, and tears started to well in my eyes. Later that day, I went home and told my partner and sister about my co-worker's child, I had so much empathy for my coworker and concern about for their child.
For most of my life, or what I can remember from it, I have always been sensitive. I would cry easily, be affected by disagreements, and crowds would cause tremendous anxiety. While my anxiety is not 100% caused by my sensitive nature, it certainly can make it difficult navigating the world.
Over the years, I’ve learned ways to protect myself as a highly sensitive person with anxiety.
Learn to say no:
As a people pleaser learning how to say no has been challenging. Saying no to things you don’t want to go, or know will provoke your anxiety is a form of self-protection. After experience heightened anxiety during a few concerts, I’ve accepted I can no longer attend large concerts and opt for a smaller music experience.
Take a mental health day:
Working full-time, having a passion project, family responsibilities and socializing are all important things that help keep us balanced, but sometimes we work too hard, and our mental health suffers along the way. Often, if an HSP is in a state of heightened anxiety added stress and environmental factors can send us into a state of panic or depression. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed with everything, take a day off if you have the ability. Treat the day as a day dedicated to self-care to recharge.
Many HSPs tend to isolate when there is too much going on, it is a natural reaction to overstimulation, but it can also become easy for us to always isolate. Make plans with friends, visit your sibling, or go out to dinner with your partner. Do things that make you happy and take you out of your everyday routine.
Taking the time each day to meditate for at least 10 minutes will help you destress from an overstimulating day. Over time, it will become a helpful coping mechanism when going through an emotionally tough time.
Living with high sensitivity as an anxious person can often feel overwhelming. Self-protection will help you navigate the world and manage ongoing anxiety.
Tune into our podcast next week. We are going to have a special guest, Lauren Stewart. She developed a website and course for highly sensitive people.