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?
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 introvertdear.com.