I received a letter on SLOWLY last night from a lady who, like me, considers herself to have an empathic/highly sensitive nature. While she was in a bit of a slump, I realised that it’s not only her nor me that experience these lows. Unfortunately, all empaths and Highly Sensitive People are predisposed to extreme highs and lows that perhaps go with feeling more intensely than most people do.
In my relationship, it’s not only me that is an empath/HSP. My husband also has a highly sensitive nature and perhaps that’s what allows us to be able to have a beautiful, vibrant relationship full of adventures and new experiences. Unfortunately, with his ability to appreciate the finer things in life, he is also prone to anxiety, depression and feelings of overwhelm.
So with that in mind, here are 18 tips that have really helped me cope with being a HSP:
I was advised to keep a journal as part of my therapy, but you know what? Writing is just something I do now. My dearly beloved calls me “Jane Austen” because I write, and I write, and I write a bit more! I love writing! And as an empath, you might, too. Buy a diary to keep your thoughts in, or try an online encrypted journal like Penzu.
2. Listen to music
This is one of my favourites and I find it best works if you really ‘feel’ the song. My current favourites include “Big Spender” by Kiana Lede, which is really upbeat and talks about having enough money not to be impressed by a guy’s wealth) and Sia’s “Unstoppable”, which talks about having to put on a brave face and not be seen as weak.
This was a piece of advice my mother always gave me, just take a deep breathe in, hold it, release slowly. and repeat It’s simple, but surprisingly powerful.
4. Get out in nature
The practice of Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) has been a huge game-changer for me, and even just 30 minutes of walking through the woods can really help, I know when the weather is bad because I don’t go for my walks, and when I don’t go for my walks, I feel more anxious and restless as a result.
5. Get plenty of rest
Rest, even if not sleep, is so important to empaths and HSPs. We get exhausted easily, and exhaustion means our patience and good mood decreases. I personally sleep about 6 hours at night, with a half hour nap in the afternoon (bi-phasic sleeper). Although I don’t get my full eight hours, I usually find that I don’t need it. Most people need 7-9 hours sleep, so find what works for you.
6. Laugh often
This is so important because I find laughter really helps to relieve the overwhelming feelings that come with life’s problems. Not only does laughter help resolve stress, but it’s also proven to help combat anxiety and depression and decrease blood pressure. So laugh, and laugh often.
7. Eat well
It’s easy to live on all that’s not good for us, but if you’re diet is a steady flow of pizza, friend chicken and soda, you won’t be feeling great. Sugar, fats, salts and additives can wreak havoc on your nervous system, so do be sure to have the bad stuff only in balance and in moderation. Skinless chicken, eggs, green steamed veggies, tomatoes and peppers are all great, tasty things to be eating, too.
8. Limit stimulants
Caffeine, nicotine and drugs are all stimulants for a reason, they stimulate you. Your nervous system is frazzled as it is, and still you frazzle it with even more stimulation? Take a break and your body will thank you.
9. Drink the right stuff
Water! Lots and lots of water! We all know how this works, but if not, water helps to flush the bad stuff out of your body which leads to a calmer you. My favourite ways include fruit cordials (“squash”, here in the UK) and herbal teas. Twinings SuperBlend Calm is my current favourite and it’s completely caffeine-free.
10. Talk & share
Poor Matt. Poor, poor Matt. Talking and sharing can be great for empaths and you can often gain valuable insights from speaking to other people. Unfortunately for Matt, he usually has to listen to me whittle on for hours. Regardless, a problem shared is a problem halved, so you should always make time to talk.
11. Keep warm/cool
I am extremely sensitive to temperature changes and too much heat will make me feel panicky, while too much cold will make me feel tired and depressed. If you’re like I am, make sure you wrap up warm in colder months and flake off in the summer heat. A nice cooling fan and water mist can really help cool down an overheated nervous system.
12. Make time to unwind
Whether it be in a hot bath or with a good book, make some time for you. My treat is always a nice long, hot shower. It’s sort of a meditative practice, I imagine letting all of my troubles just roll off of me and down the drain. Whatever works to help you unwind, do it. Frequently.
13. Try natural healing
Massage, aromatherapy, relaxation tapes.. For me, I love ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. If you’re hightly sensitive, you may experience “the tingles”, too. They’re a great thing to explore if you’re looking for ways to feel calm.
14. Cut out toxic people (and triggers)
I’ve written a post before about ghosting and toxic people, but if someone is only adding negativity to your life, wave them cheerio. If they don’t add to your life, why should you be adding to theirs? Your time is far too important to be wasting on people who aren’t worthy.
In a similar vein, a therapist once told me “if you don’t want to do it and don’t need to do it, don’t”. I don’t like horror movies or action movies, so I just.. don’t watch them. If something bothers you and you don’t need to do it, don’t do it!
15. Make time for your hobbies
What’s that one thing you like to do, but just don’t seem to get time for? Well, now you can make time for it. If everybody else is entitled to time to bake, sew and play computer games, so are you!
16. Learn to say no
As an empath, learning to say no can be extremely difficult and yet it so important to do. We can get so bogged down in the wants and needs of other people and then end up wondering why we have no time for ourselves. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means that you recognise your own limitations. There is nothing wrong with that!
17. Consider therapy
I make no bones about the fact that I have been through therapy, several times, in fact. If you need it, therapy is a great tool to have available. You won’t lie on a couch why a therapist ponders over your symptoms and they won’t ask “how does that make you feel?” to every thought or memory you have. Therapists aren’t trying to help you unearth childhood traumas that might be behind an annoying habit, they are there to help you look differently at the thoughts you have been having, and to look at ways of changing your relationship with them. If you suffer with anxiety or depression, I’d highly recommend therapy over medication, any day.
18. Above all else, learn to love yourself
Your empathic, highly sensitive nature is a gift and a burden. Being sensitive means you’re more likely to cry and soppy movies, but you’ll also find extensive beauty where others don’t see it, and that’s a great thing! Instead of kicking yourself and wondering why you’re so damn sensitive, remember, you have a gift to connect with others and and an ability to see beauty in all kinds of situations, and that’s a trait that not everyone possesses.
Stay well and keep smiling, folks.