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5 Holiday Survival Guide Tips for Highly Sensitive People

Do you feel the need to steel yourself for the remaining weeks of 2020? Does just thinking about holiday planning, coordinating visits and managing expectations leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed?

You are not alone. Yes, the holidays can bring warm feelings with treasured memories, connection with loved ones, and meaningful traditions. However, some feel, particularly this year, that these benefits are outweighed or even submerged by feelings of anxiety and stress.

You may notice sadness or grief appear in the stark contrast between the inner longing for your holiday dreams, ideals and reality. The contrast is likely even stronger this year as we continue to live and adjust to life with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There may also be anger at having to navigate differing stances on safety or guilt at breaking from traditional plans. All this on top of burnout from navigating social distancing, virtual work and school, and fear about health and safety.

These feelings may impact anyone, but for individuals who are empaths or a highly sensitive person (HSP), the challenge can feel insurmountable. In both cases, there are incredible gifts that come with these traits, along with challenges. Therapy, self-awareness and learned coping skills can be of enormous help to the highly sensitive and the empath.

Tips for the Holidays & Every Day

1. Acknowledge and accept.

Are you highly sensitive? You may know this intuitively or you may want to do more research. Check out some of the resources listed at the bottom of this article. You may find strength in knowing that your sensitivity is not something you are doing wrong, but an innate trait you were born with. Like most things in life, it has its downsides but also powerful gifts. Knowing you are sensitive allows you to move into acceptance of yourself.

2. Prepare.

As an empath and/or HSP, you are built to absorb more information from your environment and from other people. One metaphor is to picture your empath body as porous, taking in energy and emotion from the outside world. Knowing this, there are ways to prepare with setting healthy boundaries and grounding.

Consider upcoming or expected activities and events this holiday season. How does your body react in imagining the holidays? As you watch anxious thoughts arise or your body react, respond with compassion and kindness.

As a practical measure, consider which of these obligations or “musts” are really necessary. Is there a way to share the burden with a partner or ask for help? How can you manage the expectations of yourself and others ahead of time? If the reaction of others is a concern, boundary work may be needed to both value your own wellness and realize what is outside of your scope of control (e.g., other people’s emotions). If you know that you are depleted after a day of being with others or simply being out of your routine, consider building in a recovery day or time to allow yourself to recharge and reconnect with yourself. When longer breaks are not feasible, take 5 or 10-minute mini-breaks for meditation, deep breathing and grounding.

3. Grounding.

Grounding is a skill for reducing stimulation and coming back into calm. This may look like taking a slow walk outside and noticing with deep interest the interaction of your senses with the environment — the wind on your skin, the sounds in the air, the feeling of your feet with each step. It may mean taking time for yourself in a quiet room, phone off and starting with slow, deep breathing.

4. Shield.

Shielding also reconnects you with your inner strength and restores the energetic barrier between you and absorbing other people’s emotions and distress. Imagine a soft, warm light of energy traveling from your mind to your core, reconnecting to your source of power and authenticity. Imagine this light growing to envelop you in a light of protection. Breathe slowly as you feel the power of your inner peace. Picture a strong, wide and beautiful tree — you — rooted deeply in the ground and reaching high above, connected with the universe.

5. Monitor.

As you grow into your knowledge of yourself and situations that are most taxing for your system, you will be better able to take action before overarousal occurs. Sometimes the thoughts may be the first thing you notice, the what-ifs and shoulds. Or you may feel the change in your body — tension or shallow breathing. When you notice these red flags arise, this is your body’s warning system that overarousal is coming soon. Return to your grounding exercises. Consider, “Does this feeling belong to me or someone else?”

As an empath and/or HSP, you are built to absorb more information from your environment and from other people. One metaphor is to picture your empath body as porous, taking in energy and emotion from the outside world. Knowing this, there are ways to prepare with setting healthy boundaries and grounding.

RESOURCES

Aron, E. (2013). The Highly Sensitive Person. Citadel Press.
Movie:
Sensitive: The Untold Story
Orloff, J. (2018) The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Sounds True.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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