Self-care

Self-Care for the Highly Sensitive Person

Orchid flowers.jpg

I recently wrote a post about Elaine Aron's wonderful book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. I also admitted that it was a particular eye-opener for me because I realised she is writing about me – I am a highly sensitive person and proud of it. And probably at least 50% of my clients are HSPs too, so this concept has helped me immensely, both personally and professionally.

As a follow-up, here are three of the things I have realised about how we highly sensitive folk need to take care of ourselves day to day:

  • We need time to process. Sometimes, in my downtime between seeing clients, writing up session notes, and all the many other things I do as part of my (wonderful) job as a therapist, I notice that I am compulsively surfing the Web. Having recently given up social media (here's another post about that), I realised that looking at The Guardian's website and depressing myself with the latest scary thing happening in the world, or just reading football-related nonsense, was my new digital addiction. I also realised that it made me feel, well, just bad. HSPs need time to process stuff, because we are so attuned to every detail of what is happening that it's easy to get flooded (what Aron calls being over-aroused). So more mindfulness for me, less scary news and screen time.

  • Slow is (generally) good. Linked to the first point, because being an HSP means that our central nervous system is unusually sensitive (which is neither good nor bad, just a largely genetic trait), we get easily overwhelmed by things. Bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, traffic, too much information, too many strong emotions, big crowds, strangers, public speaking, aggressive or loud people... the list is a long one but will be unique to you – some of these may be triggers for you, some not, but you will definitely have your triggers. Personally, I like to talk and think about things slowly. I am more into deep thinking and powerful, one-to-one conversations than social chit-chat. Slow is good for me, even if I don't always remember that.

  • Alone time helps us recharge. As Elaine Aron points out, not all HSPs are introverts. You can be a highly sensitive extrovert, but common sense says that most HSPs will prefer small groups, close friends or time alone. I am certainly one of those – although I love seeing clients all day, or even teaching large groups, I do find some alone time in the day invaluable. It helps me rest and recharge, as well as giving time for processing everything I have thought, seen and experienced that day (see point one). As with all of these points, it's important to remember that none of this is good or bad, it's just how I and probably most people reading this are wired. Learning to love and accept yourself as you are is a crucial component of schema therapy, so recognise your need to be alone sometimes and carve out that time for yourself.

And if you would like some help, call me on 07766 704210, email dan@danroberts.com or use the Contact form to get in touch.

Warm wishes,

Dan 

 

Feeling stressed or depressed? Go easy on the news

The media has always portrayed the world through a distorted lens, focusing on and exaggerating bad news, while ignoring or discounting the good. But before 24/7 rolling news and the rise of digital media, it used to be much easier to filter out all the scary, upsetting things happening around the world. Now, they are very hard to avoid – look at any news website, watch TV or check your Facebook feed and you are bombarded with stories that can make the world feel like a scary, dangerous place. It's easy to feel that we are under threat too, which is not helpful if you are prone to anxiety, as you probably over-perceive threats to your safety or wellbeing already.

Although we do face some really unpleasant and frightening threats right now, it's important to remember a few things:

1. We are living through the safest, least violent period in human history. Despite what the media might tell you, crime rates in the West have plummeted over the last 50 years. If we are lucky enough to live in a stable, Western democracy, we are actually extremely safe.

2. Although there have been a spate of truly awful terror attacks throughout Europe, this is not a new phenomenon. I grew up in London, which faced constant threats of attack and regular bombings by the IRA; other terror groups were active throughout Europe, so without downplaying how shocking and horrible the recent attacks have been, we have lived through similar problems before. And the probability of you being involved in a terror attack now is still extremely low.

3. Fear sells. The media have long known this and, sadly, some sections of the media – especially tabloid newspapers – have lost any semblance of caring about their readers' wellbeing, printing lies, mistruths and highly distorted versions of reality that make everything seem frightening and bleak. Just take their treatment of the refugee crisis as an example, or the blatant lies and fearmongering that persuaded so many people to vote for Brexit. 'Never let facts get in the way of a good story,' as the old journalists' joke goes. 

4. If you are struggling with any kind of mental health problem – like stress, anxiety or depression – it might be good to take a news break for a couple of weeks. Reading upsetting stories, or watching violent movies/programmes is not good for your brain, as it will ramp up your feelings of insecurity, fearfulness and being under threat. Be kind to yourself and take a break – remember that just a couple of hundred years ago humans would mostly only get news about their extended family and local community, by word of mouth; no lurid headlines or minute-by-minute coverage of shocking events across the globe. Our brains are not designed for this media bombardment, and countless studies show the negative impact it has on our psychological health.  

So, if you are having a hard time right now, treat yourself with care and either limit or give up your news intake completely for a while. And if you would like help with any kind of psychological problem, email dan@danroberts.com

Warm wishes,

Dan