Highly sensitive people (HSP) make up around 15-20% of the population.
But what exactly does it mean to be a highly sensitive person?
To put it simply, it means to think and feel very intensely- to be very observant of your surroundings and be affected by any type of stimulation on a very deep level.
Whether you’re highly sensitive or not is determined at birth and happens due to a biological difference in the nervous system.
Because HSPs are affected so deeply by their environments and surroundings, they are usually more empathetic and insightful. But this trait can also cause them to become stressed or overwhelmed more easily.
Think this sounds like you? Read the signs below to find out if you might be a highly sensitive person.
1. Loud Noises Scare You
As a highly sensitive person myself, loud noises are one of my biggest stressors.
Especially loud noises that come suddenly, such as car horns. I literally jump out of my skin every time.
Does the sound of doors banging, people shouting close to you, babies screaming or loud music startle you or stress you out?
These might be some of your triggers if you’re a highly sensitive person.
2. You’re Sensitive to Strong Smells
HSP often have a heightened sense of smell.
If that’s you, some scents (even faint ones) may cause you to become uncomfortable or even ill. For me personally, the smell of cooked eggs makes me feel physically sick.
Other common smell triggers may include perfumes, cleaning products, and cigarette smoke.
But having an acute sense of smell isn’t always a bad thing! Sometimes smells can bring comfort and calmness too. That newborn baby smell, anyone?
3. You Can’t Handle Criticism
If you’re an HSP, it’s likely that you don’t do well with criticism.
I remember as a child; I used to have to hold back my tears whenever a teacher told me I’d made a mistake in my work.
No matter how nicely they worded it, I always took it as a personal attack. I felt super sad about it and would think about it for a really long time.
And to be honest, I’m still like that as an adult.
As highly sensitive people, even when our logical brain can rationalize that the criticism is not a personal attack, we still have to process the feelings that immediately arise. This can be very difficult and intense, and also very emotional as a result.
4. You’re Highly Empathetic
If you’re an HSP, you’re also probably very in tune with the thoughts and feelings of others.
You’ll notice things in social situations that others may not, such as someone being left out of a conversation, or noticing the pain behind someone’s words when they say they’re “fine”.
Ever notice a drop in your mood if someone close to you is sad, even though the situation doesn’t affect you in any way?
Or has your head ever started hurting after someone else complained that they had a headache? If so, that’s your empathy at play.
It’s easy for HSP to absorb other people’s emotions. For that reason, we can become quickly drained if we’re around people for too long at one time.
5. You Need to Withdraw After Social Events
As I mentioned above, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the energy and emotions of those around us.
After a long day of shopping, a big dinner or a party, it’s likely that you’ll need to withdraw and be on your own in a comfortable environment to relax and calm your senses.
For me, that’s sitting in my pajamas alone with some candles on and a cup of tea. No matter how much I enjoyed the social event, I still feel the need to be alone for a while afterward.
6. You Feel Misunderstood
While there are too many HSP on the planet for it to be considered a disorder, we’re still quite a small percentage. For this reason, many HSP are misunderstood.
When I was growing up, people would often tell me (once they got to know me) that they used to think I was stuck up.
But the truth is, I’m just very introverted and get easily overwhelmed in social situations. And while most HSPs do tend to be more on the introverted side, about 30% are actually extroverts.
The result? Being wrongly being labeled as shy, rude or even antisocial.
7. You’re Strongly Opposed to Violence
Other people’s love of horror movies is not something you can relate to. Gore, blood, violence and paranormal activity affects you very negatively.
As a teen, I watched the movie “The Ring” and I kid you not, for 3 months I wouldn’t go upstairs alone or sleep without the light on because the movie scared me so much.
If you’re anything like me, the news will also deeply affect you. Hearing about terrorist attacks, murders or crime will probably leave you feeling helpless and depressed for the rest of the day.
8. You Can’t Stand Being Under Pressure
Reading “enjoys working in a fast-paced environment” on a job description instantly turns you off and being rushed to leave the house stresses you out big time.
As highly sensitive people, we tend to have a lower threshold for stress than the average person. This means that even something as simple as being late for work once in a while can ruin your whole day.
How to Deal with Being Highly Sensitive in Today’s World
In a world that’s becoming more and more intense in terms of stimulation- more bright lights, more loud noises, and cities becoming overpopulated, it can be extremely difficult to simply exist as an HSP.
Here are six ways to help you find your Zen in the modern world:
Avoid Strong Triggers
If you know that going to the club and drinking alcohol will overstimulate you, why not invite your friends to a quiet dinner instead?
Or if rush hour traffic on the way to work leaves you feeling frazzled, try leaving the house a little earlier while the roads are still quiet. You’ll even have time to grab a coffee to reward yourself for being early!
Stay Away from Energy Vampires
If there are any overly negative people in your life or people who make you feel bad when you’re around them, try to limit the time you spend together.
You’ll not only feel better about yourself and life in general, you’ll also have more energy to put into the people who make you feel good.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, grab a pen and notebook and write it out! It doesn’t need to make perfect sense, just getting all of your thoughts and feelings onto paper can help you immensely.
Journaling is also a great tool for reflecting. After a while, you’ll be able to better identify the people, places or events that trigger your hypersensitivity, and know what or who to stay clear of!
Meditation is an excellent way to take time for yourself at the end of a stressful day. It will help to ground you and allow you to practice self-acceptance. There are even meditations on YouTube specifically for highly sensitive people.
Take Care of Yourself
Eating a healthy diet, getting into a good sleep schedule and exercising regularly will help to strengthen your body and mind.
This will make you more resilient and you’ll find it easier to cope when a stressful situation arises.
Find A Place You Can Relax
Having a safe space that you can retreat to whenever you’re overstimulated will help you to cope better with day-to-day life.
Your haven could be your bedroom, a yoga class or the lake down the road. Wherever you feel most a peace!