Your second year will be so much easier.
Annemarie and I are texting back and forth about her new job. She absolutely loves her work and is giving it all she’s got.
As I listen to her wish that she were better at this, faster at that, I recall my own first year on the job.
It was the best of years and the worst of years.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I’d never want to do it again.
There was way too much new.
Too Much New
“Why are we leaving home? How soon will we come back?”
My dad loves reminding me of the questions I used to ask when I was little whenever we embarked on a family trip.
Although I love visiting new places and meeting new people, I’ve always hated travel. As I shared in “Wake up Better HSP: One Simple Morning Strategy for You,” one major issue is too much input.
But while texting with Annemarie, I recognized another issue that applies to travel and many other areas of an HSPs life:
New is hard on HSPs.
Because Highly Sensitive People are so perceptive and responsive, and new situations bombard us with so much new stimuli to process, we can become quickly overwhelmed.
I used to consider this a personal defect. Evidence that I was weak, wimpy: a wuss.
I wished that I could just “roll with it” like everyone else.
But according to recent scientific research, HSPs are simply wired this way.
Some people are genetically primed to be more sensitive to what’s going on around them in their environment. … When something stressful happens, they may be less able to recover quickly.
For me, this is a huge relief.
No more throwing all my efforts into one useless goal:
I’m not going to let myself get overwhelmed this time.
Now I have an entirely new goal for new situations:
I’m going to take good care of me.
An HSP Plan for Dealing With New
My mother planned ahead for every family trip. Along with all our necessities, she packed a special bag of goodies that she’d dole out to my brother and me about once an hour during the drive.
They weren’t bribes—I don’t ever recall her threatening to withhold the next one if we were “bad.”
They were just little things to look forward to, simple things to help us make it through the trip, like a roll of Lifesavers, a tablet of Mad Libs, a new book.
For an HSP, planning ahead — necessities and goodies — can make a new situation far less overwhelming. If you’re an HSP, or love someone who is, here are ten things to do before, during, and after new:
1. Dress for any occasion.
HSPs can be very temperature sensitive. Layering is your friend. So are extra socks and gloves in your purse, ear muffs in the glove compartment, and blankets in the trunk.
“Only take what you know you’ll need” is terrible advice for HSPs. It’s far better to take extra clothes and not need them than to need them and not have them.
2. Care for the skin you’re in.
For some HSPs, nothing drives us crazy as quickly as chapped lips. Or dry hands. Or itchy eyelids. Notice your unique skin needs, find products that meet them, and keep them with you at all times. (My top 3: lip balm, hand lotion, and a sealed Ocu-soft Eye Scrub pad.)
3. Pack earplugs.
Toss a handful of Jack-hammer strength earplugs in a Ziplock and keep them at the bottom of your purse. Think of them as lightweight little life preservers! Not only can they help you get some much-needed sleep at night, but during the day, you can use them to give yourself the gift of instant peace and quiet, regardless of what’s happening around you.
4. Create HSP playlists.
Never underestimate what a few minutes of the right music can do when you’re dealing with new. Music can have a powerful influence on your mind and mood. Have different playlists ready to use when you need them: Calming, Upbeat, Redemptive, etc. Also keep your mp3 player charged and carry a back-up set of earbuds.
5. Keep food handy.
If you’re an HSP who can feel fine one minute and ravenously hungry the next, be intentional about preventing unnecessary irritability and shakiness. Buy a box of protein bars you can tolerate and pack them everywhere: your purse, computer bag, glove compartment. (So what if they get smashed; a flat Power Bar will still save you from starving!)
6. Stay hydrated.
A dehydrated HSP is an extra-vulnerable HSP. Have a water bottle with you at all times, and keep refilling it. Store a six-pack of water bottles in your trunk. When you pass by drinking fountains, stop and drink. (Yes, I know this means more trips to the bathroom. This, however annoying, is a good sign!)
7. Plan “goodies.”
Make your own list of little things to look forward to, simple things to help you make it through. A special meal. A pedicure. A walk in nature. A call with a friend. An hour with your Bible and journal. A comedy video. Whatever works for you, be sure to do.
Avoid the urge to sacrifice these “for the good of others.” The HSP who is taking care of her own needs can be an immense blessing to others. The HSP who neglects her own needs and ends up totally overwhelmed, on the other hand, is often a huge drain on others.
8. Prepare what you can.
Learn as many details as possible ahead of time. If you’re traveling somewhere new, don’t rely on GPS: print directions. If you’re staying somplace new, download a map so you can see where to park and enter. Done without anxiety, this isn’t hyper-vigilance; it’s preparation. When I speak, I learn all I can about the stage: where it’s located, how high it is, whether the podium can be removed, where the entrances and exits are, etc.
9. Pause to pray-cess during.
Changes can knock the knees out from under an HSP. We have to actively remember that not everything will go as planned. And we’ll still be okay.
Right before one women’s retreat, I watched videos from the prior year to learn all about the stage. I arrived, feeling fully prepared, only to learn that the building had been crushed by a falling tree. Instead of speaking on the stage I’d been envisioning, I’d be speaking in a tent.
Before I knew I was an HSP, this kind of change threw me for a loop. I’d start thinking things like I don’t belong. I shouldn’t be here. I need to leave. They don’t want me.
Now that I know that this is simply my automatic overwhelmed response to feeling blindside, I pause and spend some time pray-cessing the unexpected changes. As I remember that God is still with me, no matter what happens (or doesn’t happen!), I feel far less overwhelmed and flex with the immediate needs.
10. Schedule time to decompress after.
Back when my goal was to force myself not to become overwhelmed by new situations, I ended up feeling defeated after every single one. I punished myself for my failures by demanding extra productivity from myself in the days following.
Now that I know it’s normal for me to feel depleted after dealing with something new, I intentionally block out space on my calendar so I can recharge.
Downtime is not a luxury for HSPs; it’s a necessity. It’s not being lazy; it’s being responsible.
If you’re an HSP, you’re surrounded by people who not only tolerate new situations, they actually thrive in them. Can’t wait for them. Seek them out, even!
It can be so easy to look at these 10 tips and wonder,
Why me? Why do I have to be an HSP?
Instead, remind yourself of this truth about being an HSP:
When I quit trying to be who I’m not, I start to care for who actually am.
What else would you add to this list of Things to Do When New is Hard on You?