Recently, I had the opportunity and honour of co-creating the 2023 Sensitive Success Summit, where 30 Highly Sensitive individuals gathered online to share their thoughts, feelings, life experiences, and expertise.
It was an incredible cornucopia loaded with encouraging and helpful information for Highly Sensitives. I couldn’t help but summarize the speaker’s talking points in a 4-part blog post series (if you’re interested, you can find the first one here).
Afterwards, I was inspired to get curious and dive deeper into putting together the ideas, underlying themes, and patterns I noticed during the Summit because Highly Sensitive people are good at recognizing patterns.
So, I began arranging the information and found 3 Practical Life Hacks for Highly Sensitives.
But before we dive into the Life Hacks, we must look at the “why”?
Why are these practical life hacks important for Highly Sensitives, and why should we invest time or energy in them?
Weirdly, or not so weirdly, it all boils down to our emotions.
Why Our Emotions Are Important
First, we must recognize the critical role of emotions in our daily lives.
Why? Because our emotions motivate our future behaviours and influence our thoughts, “…Because emotions prepare our bodies for immediate action, influence thoughts, and can be felt, they are important motivators of future behavior.”
According to researchers, “…Emotions prepare us for behaviour. When triggered, emotions orchestrate systems such as perception, attention, inference, learning, memory, goal choice, motivational priorities, physiological reactions, motor behaviors, and behavioral decision making.” (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000; Tooby & Cosmides, 2008).
Our emotions significantly impact our daily decisions and greatly influence how much we enjoy life.
This doesn’t only apply to Highly Sensitives; it applies to human beings in general.
So, What Else Do We Need to Know About Emotions
A common theme I noticed during the 2023 Sensitive Success Summit was that most speakers related they had grown up in unsupportive environments, meaning unhealthy and/or toxic family dynamics, where they had to use their sensitivity to survive.
Now, because Highly Sensitives have a highly tuned nervous system, what they experienced in childhood could be categorized as trauma.
The word “trauma” simply means that what happened was too emotionally overwhelming at the time (because they didn’t have the tools or skills) to emotionally process it, nor the tools or skill to emotionally process it afterwards. As a result, the event caused unresolved emotions.
It’s important to note that whether we’re talking about Highly Sensitives or non-HSPs, we’re all dealing with unresolved trauma to one extent or another. Just knowing this can allow us to practise compassion for ourselves and others.
In the case of a Highly Sensitive, what occurred may have been what others would consider an actual “traumatic event(s),” or it may not have been. It doesn’t matter.
One of the speakers clearly said comparing traumatic events isn’t helpful.
The Role The Unconscious Mind Plays in Shaping Our Emotions
The vital thing to note here is that an overwhelming (or traumatic) experience(s) in childhood will affect both a person’s conscious and unconscious mind, and the unconscious mind will build a false belief system based on these experiences.
This false belief system tells them they don’t deserve better, can’t deal with or heal from the experience(s), can’t grow and thrive because of the experience(s), and can’t use their experience(s) to develop a richer, more fulfilling experience of life.
In other words, the false belief system drives the vehicle, which keeps going into the ditch. This means you can’t enjoy your life experience to the fullest.
So, how does this false belief system show up in our lives?
Unresolved emotions show up as self-sabotaging behaviour, meaning we develop coping mechanisms to deal with these buried emotions.
Examples of When the Unconscious Mind (false core belief system) is in Control
What are some examples of how a false core belief is showing up for us as self-sabotaging behaviour?
Well, the first few are some Highly Sensitives feel challenged by.
- Perfectionism (comparing yourself to others and being too self-critical),
- Being involved in co-dependent relationships (relationships based on trauma bonding),
- Trying to “fix” situations and others behaviours that aren’t your responsibility to fix,
- Any addiction (overeating, alcohol, drugs, gambling, gaming, working too much, shopping/overspending, sleeping, etc.)
- Having a cluttered home environment,
- Constant physical ailments,
- Anger outbursts.
If you don’t have or haven’t met with one of these challenges, whether you’re a Highly Sensitive Person or not, well, I’m not sure you’re a human being.
These challenges are simply ways we’re trying to meet a need we have.
Needs and How They Relate to Our Emotions
One super cool thing I learned at the Summit was that there are patterns to how our feelings work based on the premise that our emotions are connected to our needs.
So, our feelings aren’t random and chaotic. There is an elegant and logical pattern to our emotions. Of course it’d be a Highly Sensitive who discovered this pattern. Thank you, Joanne Kim!
She relates that every one of our emotions is tied to a legitimate need (so imagine a need is a tank with a water level constantly in flux), and our feelings are alarms attached (connected) to these tanks.
These alarms (or our emotions) tell us when our tanks are doing well (positive emotions) or when a tank is running low (negative emotions).
All we need to do is pay attention to an alarm (feeling) so we can neutralize it and take steps to address the need.
At this point, I hope you can see how our emotions, needs, unconscious mind, and a false core belief system are linked together and how important a role they play in shaping our future experiences and our current satisfaction with life.
So, let’s get to the 3 practical life hacks.
Hack #1 – Use Your Natural Ability to Recognize Patterns
HSPs are good at recognizing patterns. Use that natural talent to help you notice unhealthy patterns or behaviours (based on a false core belief) in your relationship with yourself and others.
A great way to start is by using the Sensory Inputs Worksheets in Level 1 of the HSP World Mastery Program to begin developing a curious and playful attitude about how you (and your senses) experience the world.
This is a gentle way to begin gathering information about yourself.
You’ll be introduced to daily journalling (in point form) to develop the skill of reflection and mindfulness. These will also allow you to notice patterns in yourself over time.
You’ll also be guided (and maybe challenged) to develop healthy daily habits. This is to gently disrupt your false core belief system by using discipline and a compassionate attitude toward yourself.
The exercises in Level 1 will also introduce you to the habit of regular reflection.
This can be a helpful tool to learn where you need to set a healthy boundary with yourself or others (if you’re working too much, you can adjust your schedule to have more of a balanced work/play experience of life).
It’s a valuable skill that will guide you in the future.
Hack #2 – Get Into The Habit of Re-Setting Your Nervous System Often
There are also many other helpful tools we can use, and many of them are in the Somatic Therapy area.
Since HSPs have a highly tuned nervous system, it makes sense to use somatic therapy to regularly balance and re-set our nervous system. So we’re practising “self-regulation”.
What are some examples of Somatic Therapy?
Breathwork is about noticing and being aware of our breath, allowing us to see, without judgment, how we’re feeling.
When we do this, we’re learning to have moments to connect with our body and what it needs at that moment.
Breathwork that focuses only on noticing is particularly helpful for HSPs. Breathwork is also a valuable tool that helps HSPs emotionally regulate.
We can easily begin Breathwork if we’ve been practicing meditation because when we practise being still and being okay with being still, we’re more open to noticing what is happening for us, how our body parts feel, and how we feel.
I must’ve been on the right track when creating Level 1 of the HSP World Mastery Program because meditation is the first daily habit we start with.
Shaking Medicine (also known as Therapeutic Tremoring)
I first heard about this during the Summit, and I’ve been experimenting with this tool. It’s the practice of gentle shaking of the body and body parts.
I found some YouTube tutorials and learned more about the technique. Then, I began doing it spontaneously throughout the day.
It’s helping me stay in the moment, stay focused, and notice how my body is feeling (if my neck muscles are tense), allowing me to gently shake it out.
I used to feel tense neck muscles at the end of the day, but now, when I periodically practise Shaking Medicine, I don’t have tight neck muscles at the end of the day.
If you’re a music lover, you may enjoy listening to somatic music while you do chores. Here’s an example of somatic music.
Yoga and other slow, body movement activities
Yoga and other slow body movements (dance) allow us to “get out of our mind and into our body.”
There are many types of yoga, so feel free to explore.
Tai chi, Qigong, and walking are other types of slow-body movement activities you can experiment with.
Hack #3 – Getting the Right Kind of Rest
About 70% of Highly Sensitives are introverts, meaning they gain energy by spending time alone.
However, we’re spending time overthinking instead of resting and recharging. In that case, we aren’t doing what we need to do: recharge.
First, it’s essential to recognize that we need to be okay with and accept this is a gift we give ourselves, regardless of how it’s viewed by the mainstream (where “busy-ness” is given priority, but for a Highly Sensitive, this priority is not in their best interest).
We need to look at what kinds of rest there are and determine which type you can gift yourself with.
- Rest can include reflecting on what you truly need. Do you need a break for an hour or so to relax and recharge?
- Do you need to change your lifestyle to include rest more regularly? So you can sustain your vitality, sense of well-being and creative energy?
- Do you need active rest that helps you switch off your mind and come out of your head and into your body? (one of the somatic therapy solutions)
- Do you need rest that is physically still to deeply replenish your energy reserves at a deep cellular level?
- Do you need mental rest to let go of worry and stress so you can experience some simple acceptance and happiness for a time?
These are some different ways we can practise using our ability to listen to our bodies so we can honour and respect our body and mind by giving it the type of rest it needs.
It also increases our resilience, patience, and compassion for ourselves and practising mindfulness or living in flow.
When we can give our body and mind the rest it needs, we can also find that “place of quiet” and listen to our intuition because our intuition is linked to our feelings.
Our intuition is a guide, an ally, and Highly Sensitives naturally have a high level of intuition, like a natural talent or ability.
My intuition has encouraged me to continue investing time into a spiritual relationship with The Light, God, the Universe, Buddha, a higher/positive power greater than yourself, etc.
After all, it was The Light (in its quiet way) who guided me to create this place and space for Highly Sensitives, continue learning and practising helpful techniques, and share what I’m learning.
I’ve received a lot of encouragement and positive feedback from doing this, and it’s led me to trust my intuition even more.
How about you? Is your intuition guiding you to try any of the life hacks?
Image Credit to wayhomestudio on Freepik