Helping highly sensitive people
ON THE COUCH with Sarah Bergman
ARE you a highly sensitive person?
You may not want to answer this question given that Western society appears to look at sensitive people unfavourably, constantly suggesting you grow a thicker skin.
However, being highly sensitive is an innate temperament trait - it is part of who you are, you were born that way and you are not alone.
In 1997, Elaine Aaron, a psychologist and university professor, recognised not a disorder or condition but an innate temperament trait of high sensitivity. From her research Prof Aaron went on to write a book called The Highly Sensitive Person and attests to being one herself.
So what is a highly sensitive person?
A highly sensitive person can be introverted or extroverted, male or female and are about 20 per cent of the population.
Often they feel misunderstood or perceived by others as being difficult, shy or overly emotional when in fact they are just easily overwhelmed due to their highly sensitive nervous system.
In essence, the highly sensitive person or HSPs are deeply moved by the arts, music and nature, get easily overwhelmed, readily notice sensory changes, process what is happening around them more deeply and possess strong emotions and empathy.
Biological reasons have been found for the components of this trait and it is known that HSPs' brains are wired differently and their nervous systems are highly sensitive.
This hyper-excitability contributes to increased emotional activity with a lower threshold for action.
If you are a HSP, it is important, as it is for everyone, to know yourself in order to take care of yourself.
Some things you can do to keep you from stress, anxiety and eventual burnout are as follows: reduce the number of intense stimuli in your environment; limit the number of tasks when multi-tasking; notice early warning signs of burnout, such as feeling anxious; journal your thoughts and deep emotions to decrease rumination; meditate, be creative and allow yourself guilt-free space and time to relax and unwind.
While being a HSP has its downside in that being a highly sensitive person can increase your risk of depression and anxiety, being sensitive isn't all bad. Often HSP's are more conscientious, are better at paying attention to detail and are incredibly creative. You don't need to grow a thicker skin, you just need to Ensure you take care of your specific needs and use your sensitivity to shine bright in the world.
- Sarah Bergman provides counselling through the practice of Gestalt Psychotherapy for individuals, families and couples. Sarah is an accredited member of (PACFA) and her private practice is situated in Tweed Heads. Visit www.counsellingonthecoast.com.au