Sense and Sensitivity

The ups and downs of daily life as a Highly Sensitive Person

Coping with Change

Change can be overwhelming for HSPs, but there are effective ways of coping

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HSPs feel everything intensely and it can be hard to predict when or how things will affect you. But change can often be a trigger for feeling overwhelmed. It’s not just the additional workload or the new responsibilities that can increase your stress levels, but the shift from one state to another. And it can lead HSPs to feelings of anxiety, depression and low-esteem, undermining your confidence when you feel like you’re in over your head and unable to cope. Fortunately, there are ways of surviving and thriving in a changing world, even as a highly sensitive person.

A week’s holiday or even a few days’ rest can feel incredibly restorative, especially for highly sensitive people. We need lots of down time, lots of quiet time and lots of time to ourselves to recharge our batteries and gain our strength back. Most of us spend a large portion of our lives not only rushing from one activity to the next, but also surrounded by other people, which takes a significant toll on HSPs. So time away to relax, rest, and do nothing but read or think or walk can feel like a warm bath. I know how good it feels to slow down the pace of life and enjoy the quiet, the peace and the time to just contemplate and reflect. While it can be a surprise at just how wonderful being alone and doing nothing can feel to a sensitive person who hasn’t had much experience with giving themselves this kind of down time, the shock can come when things return to their previous hectic pace or to a whole new pace that you are not used to.

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The sudden change can be startling. And it can be difficult to anticipate how you’re going to feel. Going back to work you can expect to feel busy and tired but eager to get back to it after such a long rest. Change can be overwhelming whether you are entering a major new phase in life, such as getting married, having a baby or moving to a new town, or facing small change, such as taking a new route to work or starting a new diet.

But it’s not unusual to feel shocked, overwhelmed, anxious and depressed and even fearful. Even when we know we are about to face something new, the change can be overwhelming and unpredictable. And it’s this sudden lack of control over our personal environment that can lead us to feeling anxious, while the thought that we won’t be able to handle the new situation can bring on feelings of depression. HSPs can easily lose confidence in themselves and feel their self-esteem drop, making the new challenge feel even more daunting.

HSPs are often very hard-working, diligent and conscientious people and so it can be hard for us to even to agree to take holidays and breaks. Getting back to work can make us feel that we’ve fallen behind, let someone down, and the anxiety over looming deadlines and towering workloads can set in. We do not like to let anyone down, including ourselves.

Tackling the new role or the new phase in life by breaking it down into small steps can help to make the situation feel less intimidating. HSPs can be quite demanding of themselves, so remind yourself that it’s okay to take things at your own pace, not someone else’s. Take breaks and don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. And it’s also okay to ask questions, and ask for help from people who’ve been there and know the ropes. Feeling shocked by change can be the most significant feeling in a new experience, but being aware that, as a highly sensitive person, you’re probably going to feel overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted and you’ll want to do too much to try to get past those feelings, can help you to prepare for it. And looking after yourself as a highly sensitive person is the key to maintaining peace and peace of mind in any situation.

Deborah Ward's new book, Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness, is available now.

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