Overwhelmed HSP? Do This One Thing to Help Yourself Feel Better

Frustrated woman holding file folders.
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Do you feel like clamping your hands over your ears, hiding under your desk, and screaming at everyone to leave you alone? While people might assume you’ve got a mental health emergency, others know better. If you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP) this might be the norm.

If you’ve ever wondered:

  • “Why can’t I handle stuff like everyone else?”
  • “Why do I have to be such a baby?”
  • “No one else is bothered by this…why am I?”
  • “Is this all in my head?”

…you‘re probably a highly-sensitive person. While other kids shouted with glee at the explosion of fireworks, we ran for cover. While our friends rocked out to the deafening bass at the nightclub, we hid in the bathroom. And when a coworker burns another batch of microwave popcorn other people tease him while we fend off nausea.

Overwhelmed HSP? Do This

When you’re an HSP, everything in life feels a little more challenging, particularly if you live in a culture like the U.S. Here, extroversion is the norm and everyone seems to like things bigger, louder, and faster than in many other places.

So, how can you protect yourself and respect your HSP side while also functioning as a “regular” adult? How can you explain this part of yourself to people you love without it sounding like you need special treatment? And are there ways to handle some of the biggest challenges in life as an HSP gracefully?

The answer to all of those lies in a single, simple concept: simplifying.

Close up photo of flowers
Image provided by the author

HSPs at Home: Controlling Your Oasis

Let’s start with your personal life since that’s where you have the most control. Begin by making a list of what stresses you out the most at home. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Other people’s loud music
  • The TV
  • Wrong climate (too hot/cold/damp/dry)
  • Smells — including highly-scented candles, perfume-y dryer sheets, etc.
  • Messy, cluttered
  • Crusty dishes in the sink
  • Chaotic toys, books, school supplies, hobby supplies everywhere

Now, give everything on your list a number from 1–10 with 10 being the highest aggravator. Star all of these. They’ll be your starting point.

Choose one of your highest stressors and start a new list of all the potential solutions to this problem. For example, if “smells” was a 10, look at some ways you can solve that problem.

Maybe you can ask your roommate or partner to contain their smelly candles or incense in their room. Could you open the windows more often to air out the house or apartment? When they aren’t home, maybe you could stow your partner or roomies candles. See how long it takes them to notice their missing. When they ask you about it, say that you were trying to clear the surfaces and ask if it doesn’t feel better without the candles/incense/oil burner in the room.

You get the point.

The trick is to choose ONE stimulus and ONE solution to start. Once that’s in place and effective, move on to the second and so forth.

“The height of sophistication is simplicity.” ~Albert Einstein

HSPs at Work: How to Control Your Environment When You Don’t Have Any Control

Dealing with overwhelm as an HSP at work is a little trickier. You have little control over what other people do or the environment you’re stuck in for hours on end.

But there are some simple things you can do to help yourself as an HSP. Here are some that got me through my 9–5 when I worked full-time.

  • Question everything. Ask your supervisor or boss: “Do we need to run that fan all the time? Is there any way we can turn down the air conditioning? Wouldn't it save money if we didn’t have the heat so high? I noticed our clients reacted to that air freshener when they visited — could we toss it?”
  • Create an oasis at work. This might not be possible at your desk if you work in a cubby. But what about your car? I’d sometimes go and sit in my car during breaks, just to have SILENCE. If that’s not possible, consider a walk around the property. Maybe there’s a little nook or cranny you could take refuge in when you need it.
  • Make an SOS kit. Keep a kit full of emergency supplies to help keep you calm while at work. Stock it with things like lavender essential oil (sniff or put on a tissue in your top desk drawer), earbuds, postcards of special places that relax you, art cards with your favorite quotes, relaxation playlist ideas, a list of your favorite things in the world, etc.
  • Post a sign. If you have your own office or cubby, post a sign on it when you need a break that says, “Focused work — please do not disturb”. It might take a couple of days for people to understand you mean it, but keep it up anyway.

Remember: to keep things simple and doable, choose ONE of these suggestions to try this week, or create one of your own. Start very small so you don’t feel more overwhelmed with the thing you’re trying to implement to make you feel less overwhelmed.

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Image provided by the author

Other Simple & Useful Tools for Overwhelmed HSPs

As an HSP, there is no end to my love of digging for helpful resources and tools that help us cope with the loud, chaotic world we live in. Here are a few of my favorites — hope you’ll find them useful.

An excellent book for HSPs is the classic, The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron. You may also enjoy the movie Sensitive and in Love, a story about how this “weakness” is actually a huge strength.

The blog, the Highly Sensitive Person is also really helpful for both education and feeling more connected. Sensitive is a film featuring my favorite singer of all-time, Alanis Morrisette, and something else that will resonate with HSPs.

On a more practical level, I’ve found essential oils to be particularly helpful when I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Lavender is my go-to and has been proven to help both anxiety and depression. If you don’t like to wear the scent, just add a couple of drops to a tissue and tuck it into a desk drawer. Inhale throughout the day — it really is helpful.

Another thing that helps a lot is being active. You don’t have to trek to the gym or hike a mountain to see results, either. Getting outside if at all possible is ideal. Walking, a gentle bike ride or yoga will all help you calm down. Being outdoors has proven benefits for our mental health. Even five minutes a day spent outside makes a big difference. If you need a little challenge, check out Humans Outside.

Journaling has been very helpful for me over the years. Don’t buy a pretty or beautiful book though. Just use a spiral-bound notebook or even scrap paper you have on hand. Use it to dump out everything that’s on your mind. You can always burn/trash it afterward.

While I like to write for 15 minutes or so first thing in the morning, you can do it whenever you need to throughout the day. It’s especially helpful at work where everyone assumes you are busy and leaves you alone. Double win!

I hope you’ve found some ideas here which will help you feel less stressed and overwhelmed as an HSP. What things have you found most helpful that I didn’t mention? Please let share with us in the comments.

Joy Choquette has been a full-time writer since 2008 and has written articles, blog posts, and website content for clients on four continents. She writes suspense novels that “turn pages, not stomachs” in her free time and loves being with her family out in nature. Find out more about her at www.joychoquette.com

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Ghostwriter by day, suspense novelist by night. I write about health and wellness, self-improvement, professional development, and of course, writing.

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Joy Choquette

Joy Choquette

Ghostwriter by day, suspense novelist by night. I write about health and wellness, self-improvement, professional development, and of course, writing.

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