Living as a Highly Sensitive Person: Traits & Coping Strategies

Learning how to live as a highly sensitive person is essential if you want to make the most of life. Learn about the common traits and coping strategies.

I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. I struggle with loud noises, crowds, and loads of sensory things. I used to think I wasn’t meant for this world, but I’ve met a few other HSPs who felt the same way. If you suspect you might be an HSP, know that you aren’t alone.

You might even wonder to yourself, “Why am I so emotionally sensitive?”. Sometimes, it might feel like a bad thing, but it’s not. There are loads of advantages to being an HSP. It is a unique and valuable trait that can bring depth and richness to your life and the lives of those around you.

But if you don’t know how to navigate your sensory sensitivity, life can be seemingly impossible. The best way to handle it is through sensory regulation strategies, coping techniques, and seeking support when needed.

What is an HSP?

what is an HSP

HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person. It is a term used to describe individuals who have a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli. This includes sensory, emotional, and social stimuli.

HSPs tend to process information and experiences more deeply and intensely than others, which can lead to unique challenges and strengths.

It’s important to note that being an HSP is not a disorder or a condition. It’s simply a personality trait. However, it is pretty common with people who have anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.

If you’d like to learn more about the research behind Highly Sensitive Persons, Dr. Elaine Aron is a psychologist who has done extensive research on the subject. She’s even written a book titled, “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.

Do I Need a Formal Diagnosis?

There isn’t a formal medical diagnosis for being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in the same way there is for a medical condition or mental disorder. HSP is more of a personality trait or temperament rather than a clinical diagnosis (you won’t find it in the DSM-V).

If you think you might be an HSP, there are a couple of self-assessment tools and questionnaires available, often based on the work of Dr. Elaine Aron. These assessments are useful in helping you determine whether you exhibit characteristics of high sensitivity. While these assessments can be helpful for self-awareness, they should not be considered as formal diagnoses.

When I first heard about the research in HSPs, I did a couple of these online tests to confirm my suspicions.

Qualities of a Highly Sensitive Person

Being an HSP comes with some beautiful qualities, but there are also some things that aren’t so great. Life is about navigating both the good and the bad.

Here are some of the signs that you might be a Highly Sensitive Person:

Heightened Sensory Awareness:

HSP traits

HSPs may be more sensitive to sounds, lights, smells, tastes, and textures. They may become easily overwhelmed in environments with excessive sensory input. Usually, they don’t like being in large crowds.

HSP’s are typically observant and intuitive. As such, they are deeply aware of subtleties.

Intense Emotional Responses:

Qualities of a Highly Sensitive Person

HSPs often experience emotions more intensely and feel things far more deeply. They may feel empathy deeply and may be more affected by the emotions of others and their moods. This means they might feel other people’s discomfort.

Because of how emotional they are, these people often hurt easily and are sensitive to pain. They also react strongly to criticism and are easily offended by harsh words.


highly sensitive people

HSPs can become overstimulated by excessive noise, bright lights, strong smells, or chaotic environments. They may need more downtime to recover from such experiences. Additionally, they may also be more sensitive to textures and tastes. It’s not uncommon for HSP’s to go into sensory overload or hyperarousal.

Empathy and Compassion:

HSPs tend to be highly empathetic and compassionate. They often have a strong desire to help others and make a positive difference in the world. HSP’s have huge hearts, are great listeners and are often viewed as nurturers. They often give free therapy to their close friends and family members.

Deep Thinking and Reflection:

deep thinking and reflection

HSPs frequently engage in deep thinking and introspection. They may be more inclined to ponder the meaning of life, their own emotions, and the world around them. As such, they are both soulful and spiritual.

Additionally, you’ll often find HSPs have a rich inner life and imagination.


creativity HSP

Many HSPs have strong creative tendencies and are deeply moved by the arts. They may excel in artistic pursuits, writing, or other creative endeavors. They’re highly creative people and often create magical things. This creative spirit is something that needs to be nurtured.

Additional Highly Sensitive Person Signs

  • Not so great under pressure
  • Reads between the lines
  • Labeled as a shy or timid child
  • Needs time alone (often)
  • Feels a special connection to animals
  • Conscientious and incredibly detail-oriented
  • People pleaser
  • Works better alone but collaborates well.
  • Craves peace
  • Romanticizes
  • Strong and resilient
  • Feels let down frequently.
  • Has a hard time making decisions
  • React strongly to perceived wrongs
  • Had unexplainable physical illnesses
  • Strongly affected by various stimulants
  • Sensitivity to caffeine and medications
  • Feelings of overwhelm in crowded places
  • Feeling more drained than others after spending time with people
  • Affected by the energy and moods of the people around them
  • Startle easily
  • Difficulty with transitions and change
  • Avoid violence in television and movies

Highly Sensitive Person Coping Strategies

coping HSP

Our modern world isn’t made for the Highly Sensitive Person. So we have to learn how to cope.

Here are some tips for navigating life as a Highly Sensitive Person.

Focus on Self Acceptance

Firstly, you’ll need to acknowledge your sensitivity. Spend some time understanding that being an HSP is not a weakness; it’s a natural trait. Accepting this about yourself is the first step towards coping effectively.

Secondly, focus on embracing your strengths. Recognize the positive aspects of your sensitivity, such as heightened empathy, creativity, and deep thinking.

Emotional Regulation

One of the biggest challenges when you feel so deeply is regulating your emotions. When it comes to feeling your feelings, there is a lot of power in labeling your emotions. Dedicate time to learning to identify your emotions, Through this, you can understand and manage them more effectively. Try journaling about your feelings.

If you’re struggling, it’s worth seeking support. Reach out to a therapist or counselor who can help you talk through things and work things out. They can also help provide strategies for managing intense emotions and offer a safe space to explore your feelings.

It’s important to give yourself permission to feel things strongly and allow yourself extra time to process and reflect on your feelings.

time for self care

Make Time For Self Care

There’s nothing more important than taking care of yourself. Explore the different types of self care and try to make space for each of them in your life. It’s worth creating a safe space and making your home feel nice and cozy so you have somewhere to retreat to.

It’s extremely important to prioritize rest. HSP’s often need more downtime to recharge. Ensure you get enough rest, quality sleep, and relaxation.

When you’re a sensitive person, setting boundaries is non-negotiable. One of the most powerful words in the English language is ‘No”. Learn to say no when necessary and establish boundaries to protect your emotional well-being.

Mindful practices are also really powerful. Try to engage in mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to help regulate your emotions and reduce stress. If the concept of meditation is overwhelming, you can even try informal mindfulness practices.

Build a Support System

Having a support system is one of the most vital elements of coping with high sensitivity. Reach out and connect with fellow HSPs (you’ll be surprised at how many of us there are). Seek out support groups or communities for HSPs where you can share experiences and coping strategies.

It’s also worth cultivating an environment of open communication. Talk to your loved ones about your sensitivity and let them know how they can support you.

Focus on Stress Management

Identify your triggers and develop a deep awareness of situations, environments, or people that trigger stress, negative feelings or overstimulation. Then, take steps to minimize exposure when possible.

You can also practice healthy stress reduction techniques like journaling, art, or spending time in nature to help manage and understand overwhelming emotions. Try to eliminate as many stressors as you can (and keep an eye on your stress bucket).

hsp stress management

Manage Overstimulation

Try to manage overstimulation where you can. This can take the form of limiting exposure by controlling the amount of sensory input you receive and learning sensory regulation strategies. You can do this by reducing screen time or noise in your surroundings.

You can also try to avoid people who leave you feeling drained, although often, this is far easier said than done.

Additionally, plan moments of downtime in your day. When in overstimulating environments, schedule breaks to step away and regain your composure.

Embrace Your Passions

Spend time doing this you enjoy. Pursue creative activities and hobbies that allow you to express yourself, whether it’s through art, writing, or music.

Create a Healthy Lifestyle

Nourishing your body and your mind can make a huge difference in managing as a highly sensitive person. Try to eat a balanced, nutritious diet that’s designed to support your physical and emotional well-being. If you can, avoid excessive caffeine or sugar.

Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to reduce stress and boost your mood.

Try to avoid mindless habits that cause anxiety

Seek Professional Help

If your sensitivity is causing significant distress or interfering with your daily life, consider seeking guidance from a mental health professional who specializes in working with HSPs. They can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs and help you develop coping strategies to manage your sensitivity effectively.

How to Cope with Being a Highly Sensitive Person

emotional sensitivity
being a highly sensitive person
highly sensitive person coping strategies

HSPs have both strengths and challenges associated with their heightened sensitivity. As a result, they may benefit from strategies that help them manage overstimulation and prioritize self-care.

Honestly, coping with being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) isn’t easy. It involves embracing your sensitivity as a unique trait and learning to manage it in a way that allows you to thrive.

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