What is a Highly Sensitive Person? (& How to Help Them Thrive in Times of Crisis) (HPC: E82)

Ever heard of a Highly Sensitive Person?

We’re 15-20% of the population, which means it’s just a trait difference, not a disorder — which means there’s a reason the world needs HSPs (and HSCs, Highly Sensitive Children).

But that doesn’t make it easy to be one!

Here’s your introduction to what a Highly Sensitive Person is, including:

  • How senses play into high sensitivity
  • How emotions play a role
  • Other features of HSPs
  • Negative ramifications for HSPs and HSCs
  • The awesome gift of being highly sensitive and what HSPs bring to the world
  • In a time of crisis, how can we help HSPs and HSCs in our life thrive?

This topic was planned months before “sudden homeschooling” and the coronavirus pandemic coming to the US, if you can believe it, but how appropriate. I am adding a bit at the end of what I planned to share about how to help HSPs through a time of tumult and uncertainty like we find ourselves in (not our favorite things!).

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No time to watch the whole video? Here are the notes!

Highly Sensitive Person Video Time Stamps

  • 1:08: It’s important for parents to learn how to identify their highly sensitive children. It’s also very helpful in your own life and parenting to know if you are highly sensitive.
  • 1:26: I just figured out I was an HSP last year when I went to Stress Mastery training. I thought it sounded wimpy at first and couldn’t possibly be me!

15-20% of the population is highly sensitive.

  • 2:46: Statistically it’s estimated that 15-20% of the population are highly sensitive people. Because it’s such a large population that means it’s a trait (like being introverted or extroverted) not a disorder. I personally think these numbers are low and will climb as awareness grows.
  • 3:22: It isn’t a positive or negative (it can be both) except for when it comes to how society views us. Society views HSPs as weak.

What Does it Mean to be Highly Sensitive?

  • 4:19: The term “highly sensitive” was coined by Elaine Aron. She’s written several books on the topic.
  • 4:51: Highly sensitive people perceive physical sensory input more intensely. Think about the rise in seamless and tagless clothes and ultra-soft fabrics.
  • 6:21: I have a hard time walking down the detergent aisle in the grocery store because the scents overwhelm me. A benefit is that I will be the first to know when some food is getting too old and needs to be thrown out.
  • 7:39: If someone is very sensitive to visual cues they may have a hard time with ads popping up on websites, notifications on their phone or commercials on TV.
  • 8:04: All the stimuli the world is saturated with can easily overwhelm our stress response. It’s even more important for HSPs to take time away from the noise of the world to recharge.
  • 8:33: A highly sensitive person may be more sensitive with some or all of the 5 senses. This is not the same as sensory processing disorder. SPD is characterized by extremely heightened senses and an inability to process sensory information.

Highly sensitive people are more likely to be picky eaters. -Katie Kimball

  • 9:08: HSPs are more likely to be picky eaters if they experience tastes or textures more strongly.
  • 9:15: My sister-in-law thinks that the clink of a wine glass being set down on granite is “fancy,” whereas the same sound grates on my ears and makes me nervous.
  • 9:58: High sensitivity also involves emotions. This is the kid who had one negative interaction at school which ruined the entire day. We empathize deeply with people and can take on other’s emotions.
  • 10:22: Watching the news can be difficult. Seeing others suffering and terrible things happening in the world can burden an HSP to the point of guilt and overwhelm.
  • 11:05: Routine tends to help a highly sensitive person.
  • 11:19: HSPs are more likely to be more introverts, but there are plenty of extroverts among us (including me!)
  • 11:49: Highly sensory people tend to think very deeply. They may be prone to overthinking and have a rich inner world of imaginations.
  • 13:15: Is being an HSP positive or negative? Both really. American culture doesn’t really hold HSP traits in high esteem.

Highly sensitive people are vital to humanity's survival. -Katie Kimball

Risks of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

  • 14:18: Highly sensitive people are often misunderstood.
  • 14:44: Highly sensitive kids are easy to tease. They tend to be the target because they wear their heart on their sleeve and let the teasing get to them.
  • 15:41: When routines change or plans shift it can really throw a highly sensitive person for a loop. An interruption can become a major upheaval to the day.

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

  • 16:29: I give an example from Elaine Aron about how HSPs are vital to humanity.
  • 17:28: We need some go-getters to take action, but we also need the planners and thinkers who think of the “what-ifs.”
  • 17:49: Hawaii has about 80% invasive species. I was just there and saw firsthand how a lack of foresight has led to some of this problem.

Highly sensitive people are the problem solvers. -Katie Kimball

  • 19:16: I think that highly sensitive people are more likely to live a non-toxic lifestyle. Due to a heightened sense of smell, they want to get rid of fake fragrances. They may think through the ramifications of throw-away culture and production practices that damage the environment.
  • 19:46: Because HSPs are firing a bit higher and more likely to be stressed out, we’re more likely to develop multiple chemical sensitivities and petition for safer products.
  • 20:27: HSPs are wonderful caregivers because they can empathize and understand another’s needs.
  • 21:05: Because HSPs can sit with deep thoughts they are often very creative artists, authors, and musicians.
  • 21:46: Some of the best chefs and sommeliers are likely highly sensitive people because they have such sensitive palates.
  • 22:33: I’m not saying that every HSP will have all these traits. Each of us has specific strengths and weaknesses. You may be sensitive in one sense, several or even all 5. We all have different experiences.
  •  23:41: It’s a complete coincidence that this episode of the Healthy Parenting Connector is coming out the first week that we’re all home during a pandemic with a heightened sense of anxiety and stress. We planned this topic months ago.
  • 24:05: As I mentioned, HSPs tend to like routine and now routines are being changed all over the place.

How to Support a Highly Sensitive Person in Times of Crisis

  • 24:30: Find a routine and include enough sleep. Especially if you have kids, continue treating nights as “school nights” and keep bedtime sacred. We need enough sleep for rest, regeneration and a sense of normalcy.  Have regular mealtimes and snack times.
  • 26:33: Stay away from the news as much as possible. It’s tempting to stay on top of the news, especially when it’s changing so rapidly, but it will drag you down and create anxiety. Have boundaries where you have certain times to check in with the news, limit your time and then do something positive.

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  • 27:55: For a highly sensitive child, don’t let your adult worries trickle down to them. Be open to talking to them, but be careful not to give them more than they can handle. I talk a bit about mirror neurons which is highly applicable here.
  • 29:45: Connect with other people and listen to yourself. Use facetime or call a friend to check-in.  Take intentional breaks to connect with yourself and figure out what you need to do to recharge.
  • 31:05: This is not your fault. You can’t save the world, you can only control your day to day actions. Try not to put too much pressure on each decision you make.
  • 32:00: Do what you can control: love your kids, cook healthy foods (don’t stress bake 57 dozen cookies!), take care of yourselves.

Resources I Mention For Highly Sensitive People

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