Managing as an Introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person: Bright Lights and Clothing Tags


As coincidence would have it, the topic of HSPs, highly sensitive persons, started being discussed in one of the introvert LinkedIn groups I belong too, at the same time this guest blogger, Jenn Granneman, emailed me her post.

It’s so spot on.

Now, keep in mind, you can be either an introvert or an extrovert and be an HSP.

What do you think – are you an HSP too? Here’s Jenn’s experience:

Some days on my lunch break, I just need to be in my classroom alone, with the door shut and the lights turned down. I don’t listen to music, I don’t check my phone, and I don’t try to multi-task by answering emails at the same time. I just sit quietly, let my mind relax and go where it wants, and eat my lunch.

I’m not doing this because I’m anti-social. I enjoy the relationships I have with my colleagues, and I’m pretty active with them socially. I love my job as a 4th grade teacher, and I have fun with my students.

The truth is, not only am I an introvert, but I’m also a highly sensitive person (an HSP, for short). Sometimes I need a break from the constant noise, activity, and stimulation that come from the work day (and especially from teaching rambunctious 4th graders!). My colleagues recharge by chatting with each other, but I need quiet space alone.

A highly sensitive person is someone who processes sensory data more deeply and thoroughly. An HSP’s nervous system is actually different –it’s uncommonly sensitive. This allows HSPs to pick up on subtleties in their environments that non-HSPs might miss.

This can make HSPs highly creative, thoughtful, and attentive, but it also means they can be more easily overwhelmed in day-to-day situations. This can make HSPs feel tired and frazzled. We feel like we’re different from other people, we can’t put up with as much as others do, and we don’t enjoy the same things.

HSPs make up 15-20 percent of the population, according to Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person.  About 70 percent of HSPs are also introverts, although extroverts can be HSPs as well.

What are characteristics of HSPs?

When I was a kid, my mom had to cut the feet out of all my footed pajamas and remove the tags from my clothing. It sounds strange, I know, and it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but those things bothered me so much!

During the work day, I’m bothered by fluorescent lights and noise, and the concrete floor can be pretty rough on my feet and back. Couple that with the burnout we introverts feel from being around people, and some days, this is a powerful recipe for exhaustion.

According to Aron, HSPs may have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Sensitivity to criticism and negative feedback
  • Extreme dislike of someone watching you perform or do something
  • Sometimes prone to anxiety and depression
  • Take longer to make decisions
  • Bothered by strong smells, bright lights, clothing made of rough fabric, or sirens nearby
  • Feeling frazzled when you have to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time
  • Being bothered by violent movies or TV shows
  • Feeling emotions more deeply and having a rich, complex inner life
  • Strong appreciation of the arts and finer scents, sounds, and tastes

If you think you may be a highly sensitive person, I recommend taking a free test online to find out for sure.

How can you manage your introversion and sensitivity?

My job and everyday life can try my sensitive system, but I’m learning to manage both better. My suggestions:

1. Notice when something is bothering you. Be aware of your triggers, and if possible, remove yourself from the trigger or make a physical change to your environment. Can you turn down the lights? Wear more supportive shoes? Put on some music or noise cancelling headphones? Get away from the crowd for a bit? Not schedule too many things in your week?

2. Give yourself a break. When I worked in an office and had no door to close, I’d take a short walk by myself outside (weather permitting), or just walk around the building, seemingly on some errand. Sometimes a change in location was enough to settle down my sensitive system. I’ve even escaped to my car and sat alone in the parking lot for a few minutes.

At the end of the day, I usually need some quiet time away from others. If I’ve noticed how I’m feeling and I’ve managed my stimulation level well throughout the day, I don’t need a lot of time to recharge (it’s like my battery isn’t completely dead.) Sometimes I need as little as 15-20 minutes alone. If I haven’t been taking care of myself, or the day was particularly draining, I need more time.

3.  Remember that you owe it to yourself to take care of yourself. Above all, accept yourself and don’t feel bad about needing to give your body and emotions extra time, care, and attention. It’s not fair to you to constantly have to suffer to please others or pretend that you can do it all. Plus, when you take care of yourself, not only do you feel better, but you can be better for the people around you. Everyone loses if you have to go through life feeling tired and frazzled all the time. Think of how much more potential for good you have if you’re feeling at your best!

“I think the sensitivity that you need to create certain things sometimes would spill over into things that shouldn’t have bothered me.” ~ Jack White

“I am really a sensitive person. I think I am too sensitive sometimes.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

 What do you think – are you an HSP too?

Jenn Granneman

Jenn Granneman

About the author:

When she’s not finding missing homework or handing out Band-Aids to 9-year-olds with paper cuts, Jenn Granneman blogs honestly about introverts and INFJs (a type of introvert, based on Jung’s personality theory) at

You can follow her on Twitter at @IntrovertDear or “like” her on Facebook at Introvert, Dear.

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  1. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)

    Oh My! I’ve never heard of this! But now i think I are one…and HSP! Not that I am sensitive to all those things, but really more of them than not! Very interesting and I think I will find that on-line test! I just thought I was being eccentric!
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Where’s The Justice… Confessions of a Corporate SlutMy Profile

  2. This is really interesting. I think in this day and time we are just so overly bombarded with constant stimulation from all the technology we really have no down time, alone time, quiet time…unless we make it for ourselves. It is easy to become overwhelmed in the world we live in.

  3. I was a teacher who spent most lunch periods in my room too. If I didn’t the day just got to be too much. That 30 minutes to decompress made it possible to carry on with the rest of the day. I think most of my co-workers eventually realized that. I have no issue claiming my role as “the quiet one.”
    Jeri recently posted…#WriteTip: 10 Tips for Writing Poetic ProseMy Profile

  4. I am an extrovert and many of things that bother introvert bother me as well. I am finding as I am getting older I do not have the patience for crowds or loud noise. What I like and think is the best suggestion, be aware of your triggers, and if possible, remove yourself from the trigger or make a physical change to your environment. Boy I wish I could do this with a lot of people and remove myself from them as they are triggers.
    Arleen recently posted…The Importance of PackagingMy Profile

  5. I’m not a HSP, in fact I had never heard of this until now. Given all the things that are coming at us on any given day I imagine that at times it must be excruciating. I read through the tips for managing with HSP the advice struck me as being sound for just about anyone. We all benefit from some quiet time to reflect.
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Wanted: Communications GoddessMy Profile

  6. Honestly had never heard of HSP before. Looking at the characteristics some of them may apply to me to some degree.

    Somehow this makes me feel like we all did way back at school and studied mental illnesses. We could all imagine we had almost all of them:-)
    Catarina recently posted…Do you drive leadership through ambidexterity?My Profile

  7. Jeannette Paladino

    I wasn’t aware of HSP, either. I think I’m an HSP sometimes but not on the high end of the spectrum. I definitely need “alone time” to recharge my batteries. That’s usually at the end of a hectic day, late in the evening, when I can sit an read a mystery for a while. Also, it’s come to the point where The first requirement when eating in a restaurant is whether it’s quiet, next the quality of the food. I’ve come to hate noisy restaurants!
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Does Content Marketing Get Results for B2B Companies?My Profile

  8. Cheryl Therrien

    Yup. That fits me perfectly. I am an introvert and highly sensitive. I sometimes give the wrong impression to people when what I need is quiet or alone time or just less noise time. They think I am in a bad mood or had a bad day or some such thing. Believe it or not after all these years my husband still makes these mistakes with me.
    Cheryl Therrien recently posted…#Garden Site 2014My Profile

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