Updated: May 22, 2021
As the world continues to learn more and more about what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person (not sure what HSP means? read more here), new realizations are surfacing. Some of this information is in regard to the ways high sensitivity may influence day to day levels of comfort. One of the easiest ways to explain high sensitivity is to refer to the original name, Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS). This was named by Elaine Aron in the early 1990s. It's all in the name. The senses process in a more sensitive way compared to the average person. In short, the senses are heightened. Due to this sensitivity surrounding senses, some ponder the similarities between high sensitivity and autism. For further discussion on this, skip to the end of this article.
Sight. Smell. Taste. Touch. Sound.
When working with HSP clients, I often walk through each of the senses that occur in their daily life. We discuss ways they can tune in to see which of the senses they are most sensitive to, and how we can work together to make adjustments or find the language to help them set boundaries that they need to feel more calm and relaxed.
For those of you who are starting to relate more and more to the description of being a Highly Sensitive Person, I have put together a list of some of my favorite items.
1. Weighted Blanket
A weighted blanket can provide comfort, improved sleep, calmness, and can be a tool to ease anxiety. I encourage you to start with a lower weight so as not to feel overwhelmed by the pressure. A 12lb blanket like this one is a good starting point.
2. Essential Oils and Diffuser
Essential oils are wonderful for those who feel comfort from scent. There are plenty of
resources on the strengths of different scents. For example, lavender is wonderful for relaxation and peppermint is helpful for headaches. You can find a budget-friendly diffuser easily these days. When it comes to essential oils, I encourage doing your own research on some quality oils. One of my favorite brands for a diffuser and essential oils is Plant Therapy.
3. Noise-Cancelling Headphones & Earplugs
If sound is often disruptive to you, noise-cancelling headphones may be your new best friend. There are a lot of options on the market, so it's important to research what is
important for you before choosing. You may be able to try on different pairs at the store as well. Some people don't like how over-the-ear headphones feel, and others don't enjoy how ear-pods feel. Here is a pair of budget-friendly noise-cancelling headphones I enjoy.
Keeping some disposable ear plugs nearby can help when you go to concerts or are in environments where the volume may be disruptive.
4. White Noise Machine
A white noise machine is also a wonderful suggestion for the HSP. I sleep with mine every night to help drown out outside noises. A noise machine may also come in handy when trying to work from home and focus. If you prefer sounds other than white noise, here is an example of a white noise machine that also has options for other noises (examples: ocean, thunderstorm, or rain).
Being mindful of what you put on your skin may cause more of an improvement in your life than you realize. It can also bring great comfort to carry skincare products with you throughout your day (hand lotion, lip care, refreshing spray). I only use non-toxic skincare products. I also make sure to choose products that are either unscented, or have a scent that brings me comfort. One of my sensitivities is with feeling moisturized. My lips tend to get dry in the winter and overnight. One of my favorite products for lips is this Bite Beauty agave lip mask. It keeps my lips moisturized overnight and into the morning.I use it year-round, and one tube lasts a very long time.
Another favorite for a quick refresh or vitamin enhancement is this Hydrating Accelerator by Josh Rosebrook. They also make a small size that you can carry with you.
A favorite website for exploring non-toxic beauty products is www.thedetoxmarket.com
When a highly sensitive person gets too hot or too cold, it can cause more disruption than the average person. If you tend to run hot like I do, carrying a handheld fan (like this) or cooling neck towel (like this) may be a great idea. I struggle with feeling irritable when overheating, so I make sure to have these on me while traveling, or when I know I'm going into a crowded environment.
7. Grounding Items
Carrying a smooth stone, some slime or putty, a fidget toy, or another item that brings you comfort can be very helpful for moments of overwhelm. Some clients enjoy bringing a comfort item along with them for moments of stress at school or work. Others prefer to keep these items at home along with other comfort items. Another great idea for a soothing grounding item is a sequin pillow.
8. Meditation App
Getting started with meditation can seem intimidating and foreign to those who are unfamiliar. A meditation app like Insight Timer can provide you with guided meditations to help you get used to taking time for stillness. Meditations can be short (1 minute), and you get to choose the time length. The app also has some wonderful music and sounds if you simply need a moment to relax.
9. Comfy Clothes
Soft, light, breathable clothing is one of my biggest needs as an HSP. I have a difficult time wearing stiff, tight, or scratchy clothes. Textures are important to me in that I need to feel I can feel a breeze through the clothing, move freely, and not feel restricted. I prefer shopping in person so I can feel the fabric before buying. I'm always looking for the best clothing brands for these types of clothes, so please let me know if you have suggestions!
10. Home Items and Organization
Not only is it nice for the HSP to wear clothing that feels good, but other textures throughout the home can help create a sense of ease. Some ideas for textures: soft bathmats, area rugs, pillows, blankets, and slippers. Some ideas for decor: plants (HSPs love nature), organized storage (HSPs tend to struggle to relax with clutter or chaos at home), earthy tones, natural light from windows, soothing lamps, soft colored curtains, and more. A torch lamp like this one is a great for creating brightness in a room that doesn't have much natural light. The light is dimmable, and also points upward so there isn't an annoying light in your eyes.
As mentioned in the introduction, you may be thinking, hmmm....this sounds similar to Autism. Is it?
Often when I go through the five senses and note the different ways HSPs may be affected, clients question parallels to autism. Andre Solo wrote about a research study conducted by Dr. Bianca Acevedo of the Neuroscience Research Institute of the University of California, exploring the vast differences between autism and high sensitivity. (You can read the full article here). Solo notes the main difference between autism and high sensitivity is that those with autism have "social deficits" when high sensitivity does not.
I plan to write more about the differences between high sensitivity, as a normal and healthy personality trait, and it's comparison to psychological disorders in future posts.
I'm hopeful that this article helped give you some ideas for ways to cater to your highly sensitive needs. You may think of other suggestions or ideas that serve you better than mine. I'd love to hear them!