Tips for Living (Calmly) with Hypersensitivity

calmClanging trolleys, banging drums, flashing lights and blaring sirens are usually enough to give most anyone a headache, but they can wreak even more havoc if you happen to be highly sensitive. The genetic predisposition of high sensitivity, aka hypersensitivity, is certainly not uncommon. Nor does it have to be a curse that cripples your life, at least not if you take measures that can make your life more comfortable.

We discussed How Hypersensitivity Affects Your Paruresis (and Your Life) in a previous post, and now we’re offering up some tips to help you more effectively deal with it. 

When You’re Screeching for Relief from Daily Life

Lifestyle adjustments can make a huge difference for quelling or even quashing daily doses of high sensitivity. Thanks to flashing billboards, mobile gadgets and electronic everything, our world is a veritable fireworks display of over-stimulation. Turn it down a notch with these tips. The tips come from Psychology Today blogger Susan Biali, M.D., and author Ted Zeff, as collected and posted by PsychCentral’s Margarita Tartakovsky.

The Outside World 

Triggers are specific things that send your high sensitivity into high gear. While you may not be able to change the existence of your triggers, you can change how frequently or intimately you are forced to encounter them. The first step in this tip is to identify what those triggers are and then plan ahead by preparing to encounter them or avoid them altogether.

If the cliché bright lights and big city makes you scream, for instance, you may want to avoid living in places like New York City. If violent movies are your bane, bring on the rom-coms. You can also plan your schedule to avoid big crowds, loads of noise and other disturbances by planning activities on off-times instead of peak hours.

When you simply can’t avoid your triggers, work with them instead of against them. Let’s say the screeching subway train or driving in packed highway traffic sends you into a tailspin but you need to take the subway or drive during rush hour to get to work each morning. Soothing music, deep breathing exercises and other calming practices can help you get through the trigger-littered zone and into a more serene one.

Noise-reducing headphones can be your best friend on the subway, in crowded malls or during airplane travel. Just don’t wear them when you need to hear while driving.

Being on the lookout for other solutions can also help. Perhaps you can ask your boss if you can arrive before or after rush hour and adjust your hours accordingly. Or maybe he or she will let you work from the calm environment of your home a few days each week. Heck, you may be in the wrong professional altogether, in which case you can explore other options that don’t leave you feeling like burnt French fry at the end of every day. 

Your Inside World 

Adequate sleep and nutrition are the foundation of overall good health, and that counts triple for highly sensitive people. Taking care of these two items can go a long way to keeping triggers and other annoyances from sending you into overload. Cutting down on caffeine may also cut down your jumpiness, leading to even more relief.

A bedtime ritual and morning routine can help you get that adequate sleep as well as start off your day on a calm and balanced note. We offer tips for achieving quality sleep in our post Sleep, Your Anxiety and How to Make it Better by Tonight.

Our series on Fixing Your Anxiety Potholes offers info on the importance of and tips on creating a morning routine in the fifth entry entitled Your Power Hour.

Exercise can play a huge role in both physical and mental health. Exercise in general can alleviate stress, which means alleviating high sensitivity and even reducing symptoms of your paruresis. You can double the calm by opting for an exercise known for its soothing nature, such as yoga or tai chi. Schedule your exercise time when the gym is least crowded or in the comfort of your home with a DVD. 

Make sure your home is indeed comfortable, or has at least one quiet room where you can plan on daily decompression time. You may want to schedule an extra dose of decompression if you have to attend a noisy or stressful event. Taking mini retreats can help you empty out and reboot. They can be as maxi as a weekend alone in nature or as mini as a daily walk in the park or weekly massage.

It’s OK if you have to lock yourself in a candlelit bathroom to escape if you happen to live with other people and don’t have a room to yourself. Just make sure they all took their bathroom breaks before you retreat!

A realistic schedule is another item on Susan Biali’s list of helpful hints. An over-packed schedule can send anyone into overload, and highly sensitive people will do best if they give themselves breathing room to get everything done. Don’t forget to schedule in the decompression time, as that’s just as important, if not moreso, than the other items on your to-do list.

Speaking out about your high sensitivity can help people understand and even work to make things more comfortable. You don’t have to go shouting from the rooftops that you suffer from hypersensitivity, but you can mention to your pal that her constantly blasting television set is the main reason you never visit. 

One more way to benefit your mental state is by focusing on the gifts high sensitivity may bring, instead of focusing on what a pain in the neck it can be. While you may be prone to annoyances from, well, just about anything, author Ted Zeff says highly sensitive people are also prone to:

  • Creativity
  • Loyalty
  • Conscientiousness
  • Deep appreciation of the arts
  • Acute awareness that can result in the gift of mindfulness 

Transforming high sensitivity from a curse to a blessing can indeed happen, provided you turn your acute attention to the way you’re living your life.


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