The term "highly sensitive people" was first coined by Elaine Aron, Ph.D., in 1996. It affects anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the population and describes those who process information more deeply than most people do. The nervous systems of highly sensitive people are often very sensitive to subtleties in the environment and subject to becoming overstimulated or overwhelmed easily. They often need more sleep than most people, feel uneasy in new or chaotic surroundings and are easily moved by the suffering of others. They are intuitive, creative and often sought out by others for sympathy and understanding. Because of their sensitivities, highly sensitive people are more easily stressed and have to monitor themselves carefully to avoid becoming victims of an overwhelming stress load.
Practice deep breathing by learning how to breathe correctly. Many people breathe from their chests instead of from deep in their abdomens. When you encounter a stressful situation, let it become an automatic response to start deep, relaxed breathing. Watch a baby breathe this slow, rhythmical way to see how it is done. To practice, lie down and place your right hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Place your left hand on your upper chest. Close your eyes and breathe through your nose. If you are breathing correctly, your right hand will gently rise as you inhale, but your left hand will not. Your right hand will sink as you breathe out.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity is a good way to work off stress. For highly sensitive people, some of the best exercises include yoga and tai chi, which are calming, rather than more active disciplines such as running, aerobics or weight lifting. However, any activity to release stress and tension from your muscles is helpful.
Get plenty of sleep, as it will help soothe your overworked senses and help you cope with a sometimes overwhelming world. Less than 7 hours of sleep causes problems with concentration and staying on task for most people. Use earplugs or a white noise machine if you cannot control noise in your environment that causes you to lose sleep.
Eat healthy foods. If you allow yourself to get hungry, it will disrupt your mood and concentration. Satisfy your nerves by keeping your blood sugar level throughout the day with well-balanced meals and snacks. Omega-3 fish oil supplements are a good addition to the diet for several reasons -- they support you cognitively and emotionally and are good for overall health. Limiting caffeine will help your nerves to feel less jangled.
Plan time to decompress and relax. For example, if you know you will be spending time in an environment you will find challenging, plan some down time afterwards to give you the opportunity to recharge. Find a place in your home where you can retreat to listen to quiet music or take a relaxing bath. Use aromatherapy essential oils in a warm bath to further your relaxation. Surround yourself with beauty and spend time in nature. Avoid watching upsetting news on television, especially at bedtime.
Realize that being a highly sensitive person is not an illness or disorder, just a state of being that has only recently come to light. Explain to others how you operate, but do not apologize.
Some people will not understand your condition and may give you a hard time about it. Seek out others who support you.