The HSP World Podcast Ep. 39: Emotional Self-Care Strategies for Highly Sensitives

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Hi and welcome to the HSP World podcast, a place and space for Highly Sensitives.

With each episode we have a conversation about an interesting HSP-related topic. We’re holding space with you because HSPs only make up 15 to 20% of the population, so most of the time HSPs are surrounded by non-HSPs and HSP-only convos are a little bit different than non-HSP convos. We feel it’s important for HSPs to hear this difference.

We’re not coaches or therapists. We’re HSPs holding space with you.

I’m one of your co-hosts Rayne. And our other wonderful co-hosts are Tonya and Britta. Hey, Tonya.

Tonya: Hi, Rayne. Nice to see you today.

Rayne: Nice to see you too. Hey, Britta.

Britta: Hi, it’s so good to be here with you guys, ladies.

Rayne: Awesome. And we’re starting a mini Highly Sensitive Self-Care series. So the next six podcasts will be on aspects of self-care we want to explore with you.

The first in our series is emotional self-care for Highly Sensitives. So, and we’re just using like a rough baseline for what emotional self-care looks like. So it’s activities that help you connect, process, and reflect on a full range of emotions. And there’s a couple of examples. So seeing a therapist, writing in a journal, creating art, playing music. So that’s, that’s what it is, and a couple of examples.

But Britta well, how do you practice emotional self-care? Do you have you know, what do you… what are your thoughts and feelings on on this topic?

Britta: Um, well, I think I, over the years, I tried a couple of different things. I did see a therapist for a long time, when I was struggling with anxiety, to, to work around or to work, work through those experiences, and where they came from, and how to handle them, I suppose.

And then one of the main things I’ve learned over the years is not holding emotions in, you know? I’m a crier, I cry very easily. I can cry for lots of different reasons. It can be for because I feel happy. But it can also be because I’m sad, or I’m angry.

But as I grew up as a child, I was often told that I couldn’t cry, or there wasn’t a reason to cry, you know, so there was always something or someone telling me like, “don’t cry”, suppress the tears, you know, and that’s what I did for a very long time.

And I always felt this, this, like this almost choked up throat, whenever you hold back those tears, and it’s actually making it worse.

But I don’t, I don’t do that anymore. I just, I just let those tears come and, and it’s, it actually feels so much better if you can just let it go. And let those tears come out when, when, when it feels that way.

It’s liberating in a way.

Rayne: So you, you gave yourself permission basically, right?

Britta: Yeah. And it’s not so much thinking about, you know, what, what would, what will other people think when they see me crying? Or how will people respond? Or, yeah, what will, what kind of impression will I make on other people when I cry in public?

You know, I know, especially for my grandparents they had, like, that generation almost feels like it was not okay to show any emotion or too much emotion for that matter.

So I was, I was, yeah, suppressing a lot of my emotions.

Rayne: Actually you know it’s interesting that you’re saying that because I think cultural, cultural aspects of how we’re raised can have a big impact too, on us feeling okay expressing our emotions.

Britta: Yes.

Rayne: Right? Like, like, it’s, you know, it’s not only within a family, you know, a family hereditary line, it’s cultural, it can, you know, it can extend beyond that into cultural. And so it’s, it’s a really big deal when… I want to say kudos, huge kudos Britta, for that because it’s a really big deal when you can break through that fear of you know, not being accepted.

Because that’s a primary need, humans have-to be accepted. Right? And, and, you know, and instead attend to your own needs, because that’s what you need to do to be healthy and to feel healthy. And you know how other people can or cannot handle that is, is up to them. That’s that’s their, that’s, that’s up to them. Right?

So I think it’s awesome that you that you came to that point, Britta.

Britta: Thank you. Yeah, it didn’t happen overnight, it’s taken me a long time. But it’s, it’s all part of the, the journey of being a Highly Sensitive person and discovering more and more about yourself, and what it means to be a Highly Sensitive person. It also means that you have huge emotions, and a very intense emotional experience.

And by, by pushing it away, you’re, you’re not accepting yourself as you are. And that’s, that’s a big part of what I felt for most of my life, like, okay, it’s not okay to be the way that I am.

And, and that’s just not true. So, releasing those emotions and showing them, even if people don’t understand is just, it’s just a part of me. It’s just a part of my personality and how I respond to the things that go on in my life.

And I just, I just feel like, okay, people may not understand, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to show my true self. So. And it just, it just feels so much better.

Tonya: And there’s actual scientific studies that say crying is a stress reliever.

Britta: Yes.

Tonya: Like it’s physically a stress reliever, right? And so if anybody listening is struggling with that, I would say, Google it. And if anybody gives you, you know, kind of a hard time about it, say, “Look, I’m just relieving stress, it’s physically a process that the human body goes through.” So.

Rayne: It’s completely natural and normal.

Tonya: Exactly, exactly. And it makes people uncomfortable. Right? And so that’s why we feel self-conscious about it. But you know, everyone, not just HSPs walk around with unprocessed emotions, right, that they’re dealing with, which causes a lot of problems for everyone.

So the more we can kind of get them out and process them in healthy ways, like crying, I think is, is a great thing.

Rayne: Yes. And how about you? How about you, Tonya, how do you, what are some of the ways or a way that you practice emotional self-care?

Tonya: Well, it’s, I mean, I, it’s not really an activity like, you know, painting or, you know, playing the guitar or anything.

But what I really try to do is just take a minute, sometimes not even a minute, to just express gratitude, and to just be thankful for the things in my life that are going well.

And the things, and more importantly, gratitude for myself and the things, and gratitude for the things that I’ve done so far in my life to get me to this point.

So, and, you know, all the choices that I’ve made, you know, like leaving a toxic family and environment to move across the country to start my life over.

You know, things that I didn’t really… things that I don’t really look back on and say, “Wow, Tonya, look what you did for yourself,” right? Because you get caught up in the day-to-day of things and, and the next problem or the next thing that you’re worried about.

And so just taking that minute every day to, to have appreciation for the steps that I’ve taken to make my life healthier and safer, are huge.

And that’s especially important if I’m having a really hard day, when I’m struggling with my, you know, mild to moderate depression, or having self-doubt about the journey that I’m on-taking that time to think about, you know, where I was in my life twenty years ago, five years ago, even a year ago, and where I am today, it really helps to bring me into the present moment, and gives me some sense of, of emotional balance.

Rayne: Right, which is so important for HSPs. So important. So you’ve been crafting a good environment for yourself. You’ve been creating your own positive environment.

Tonya: I have, it’s been a long journey. You know, coming, like I said, you know, coming from a really toxic childhood and you know, a lot of emotional trauma and being caught in kind of a co-dependent toxic environment and, and just finding my way out of that, and taking some really big risks.

And I, with no plan and not really knowing how things were going to work out. But knowing that what I was doing was, was best for me, even though I was taking, you know, chances, and everybody was telling me I was crazy to do it.

That… just kind of sitting in that space. That, you know, wow, look what you did. And look how much better your life is because of it. It really, it really helps my emotional state.

Rayne: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s super important too Tonya, because I know a lot of HSPs, and I know I can tend to be like that myself, where we don’t, we don’t really give ourselves credit for the things that we’ve accomplished and the different hurdles we’ve overcome.

And we don’t often sit back and go, geez, you know, right on, you’re doing great. You know?

Tonya: Look what you did. Look what you did.

Rayne: We don’t do it enough.

Tonya: And, you know, and we all have something, you know, it doesn’t have to be as drastic, or, you know, as, as something that I did where, you know, moving across the country, we I think if we, if we really sit in that space, any of us can, can find those moments, where we’ve where we’ve done something like that for ourselves and kind of use that as a, as a building block or momentum, to do something else for ourselves that can give us what we need to improve our emotional health.

Rayne: I like that. And when I was, when I was thinking about how I practice, one of the big, big game changers for me was, was, was how I practice emotional care with some boundaries, setting boundaries. That was a big one.

So I wrote a little bit about that when I was thinking about this topic and said, from what I’ve learned so far, and this is from an individual’s primary behavioral background experience was adapting to survival or adapting survival methods, sometimes toxic survival methods to deal with toxic behavior.

And what I’ve been learning so far is when I was teaching myself how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, at first, sometimes I got it wrong in the beginning, and sometimes I’d get it half right, you know, and this would be what tripped me up-feelings of guilt and shame.

When I looked at why I was feeling these feelings, where these feelings came from this is what I learned.

So for me, I learned when I was young, that I could protect myself by anticipating other’s needs and placing their needs above my own. Well, when I first started setting healthy boundaries, a guilt feeling would happen, and a shame feeling would happen, guilt because I was putting myself first and shame because my default was putting others ahead of myself.

So at first putting myself first felt selfish. So these feelings of guilt, selfishness and shame were trying to drag me back into an old, ineffective and toxic adaptation pattern right? In these, in relationships.

Instead, I had to acknowledge and stay with these feelings, allow them and give myself props for that. Because that goes to what you were saying Tonya about how you know you give yourself kudos, you give yourself props for… and, I think it’s important to do that.

And then I also made sure at the same time I was giving myself a healthy doses of self-acceptance and self-forgiveness, right and I still do it right?

Now each time I practice setting and maintaining a healthy boundary the guilt, selfishness and shame feelings are becoming less strong, because they don’t fit. They don’t feel right, they’re  beginning to feel glaringly wrong and aren’t needed. Right?

So I’m training my mind to feel good about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.

And by doing this I’m creating a really good environment for myself, because setting healthy boundaries means by setting them in the first place, then it’s just a matter of enforcing them so maintaining them when necessary.

And it gives me much more time to spend on what I’m interested in, and doing things I love with people I enjoy spending time with and, and being grateful for it all, right?

So that was a, that was my big one, that was my big one for what I’ve been learning so far as I’ve been practicing emotional self-care, is that one’s been, that’ ones been a pretty big one for me.

Tonya: Yeah, and I’m so glad that you mentioned forgiveness, because that’s another one on my list is forgiving myself for mistakes, or well I’ll call missteps. And just understanding that every choice I make, is just part of my journey, and learning to not be so… you know, we’re always harder on ourselves, right, than we are on other people.

But also, a huge thing for me emotionally has been not just forgiving myself, but forgiving others. So forgiving my parents, you know, for not being the parents that I, that I really needed.

And things like that, and just not carrying grudges.

Rayne: And the added layer, the added layer to that too. Because when you’re setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, you know, you’re having to do it in a way where, you know, you are doing this with forgiveness in your heart, right? And, but your primary, your primary goal is ensuring that your well-being is the first and you know, kind of foremost thing on the on the list. Right?

Tonya: Yeah, and not carrying, not carrying grudges for things that other people have done that have affected my life in negative ways. You know, this is a huge and probably one of the longest journeys that I’ve been on is letting go, trying to let go and forgiving people who have hurt me either intentionally or unintentionally.

But just not carrying… It’s such a weight, you know, to carry that feeling.

You know, it feels anger, yeah, of anger, resentment. And letting that go is, is really life changing.

Rayne: Yeah. Yeah. And I find it has an energy to it, right? So if I can channel that energy, to something that’s going to be positive and beneficial for me, then that’s how I’m going to channel, because anger is energy. It’s energy. So, just just like love and you know, everything, all the emotions have, there’s, it’s energy, you know.

So it’s, um, I found it helpful at times when I’ve been angry to channel channel it into into things and creative projects and things I’m working on to, to move myself through that phase to get rid of that energy. Because I don’t, I don’t want to, like, you’re right, Tonya, it’s heavy.

Tonya: Yeah, and if you come from, if you if you weren’t taught, right, as, as a kid, that this is something that you can do if you come from a family who never forgives, and never forgets, you know, it really takes, it takes a lot of self work and effort to kind of find your way out of that.

You know, and like Britta was saying, you know, she’s, she’s seen a therapist before, which I know is really helpful to a lot of people. I personally haven’t done that. But I know that helps a lot of people.

But yeah, just, just knowing that if you are in that space, that it can be done. It can be done, as you know, with, with time and with intention.

Rayne: Yeah, I think that’s the, that’s the big one is, is the intention. I know… There was a point where I sought out a therapist, also Britta, but my experience was a bit different.

It was, I already knew I had PTSD. So when I was going to see I think I went to see three different therapists and none of them had heard of Accelerated Resolution Therapy, which is the most successful therapy you can use for PTSD, right.

And so, yeah, I thought, you know, so then I basically went on a… looking for a specific therapist that practiced that type of therapy. Then when I finally found that person, then I was able to do twelve sessions, and they were absolutely amazing.

Because that type of therapy actually uses a lot of the imagination. So, and that’s something HSPs have an abundance of. So I found it just great, really, really helpful and, and really good.

But it’s not just HSPs you know, these days, you know, mental health, coming to realize that, oh you might need some help. I mean, that could be the death of a loved one, you know, that could be you lose your job, that can be you’re getting a divorce, that can be your, you know, COVID-there’s so many things that can you know, and it’s, it’s very, you know, most people in their lifetime are going to experience something, some type of mental health situation.

So it’s, I think it is good that, you know, to reach out and find what you need, you know, when you need it. I think it’s really good to do your homework, though. On therapists, if you’re going to reach out for a therapist, like I, like mine was positive, you know, in the end, Britta.

But at first, I found it really tough finding one, finding one that first knew about the HSP Trait. And next, you know, what I mean? Yeah, and had had this specific type of therapy I was looking for.

So yeah, I don’t know, it’s, it’s a different, it’s going to be a different road for everybody, I guess, you know, how we, how we navigate these things. But I think it is, overall, I think it is, it’s a good thing.

Some things I don’t know, as an HSP, I was basically taught never, you know, it was a toxic environment I grew up in and it was not good to, it was weak, if you’ve reached out for help, you know?

You’re not to reach out for help, basically right?

So it’s, it’s a big deal, when you do reach out for help. And you, you know, it’s, then it’s awesome. It’s, it’s great, you know, because it’s, it’s like, it’s like giving yourself permission to be a human being, you know, you’re just a human being, you’re allowed. You’re allowed to have times in your life where you’re going to need a little bit of extra support. And that’s just fine, you know, in whatever ways that shows up for you. Right?

Britta: Yeah, and I also feel there, there’s like this layers, so, and maybe there’s also a way that I’ve grown over the years that just by the way I interpret things, and I can re-frame certain situations, I feel I won’t need a therapist or, or external support, as quickly as I used to maybe, because I’ve, I’ve learned certain tools or certain ways to look at things that make it easier to cope.

Or one of the things that I learned from my husband actually is, nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

And that’s, that’s, that’s maybe an odd one. But sometimes I do tell myself that because one day, you can just have so many things and it gets, it feels even worse, or it feels so much bigger than it actually is because maybe you’re tired or it’s the end of the day, you’ve had a busy day, or I don’t know what else is going on.

But then when, when you have a good night’s sleep, and the next day is there, it can already look a lot different. And what I try to do to keep my sanity is with whatever situation that comes up and or whatever lands on my plate, I try to find the lightness in there. Or at least something positive.

And I’m not saying that you can never feel, have negative feelings. I’m not about toxic positivity at all, but just make it easier on yourself and focus on whatever good thing you can find.

Rayne: Yeah, things that make you feel good.

Britta: Yes, yes, exactly.

Rayne: Yeah, absolutely.

Tonya: And there’s a, there’s a quote from the from the Dalai Lama, where it might seem kind of over simplistic, but I kind of think of it also when I’m struggling is if a problem is fixable, if a situation is something that you know you can do about then there’s no need to worry, and if it’s not fixable then there’s no help in worrying about it, right? There’s no benefit to worrying.

So when you kind of take that into consideration in the big picture, that’s something that that really helps me. It’s like, okay, is there something I can do about this? And if there is, you know, try to focus on the solution. And if there isn’t, then how can I find ways to kind of set it aside or let it go?

Britta: And it’s not always easy to do so.

Tonya: Oh, it’s never easy. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.  That’s what I always tell my yoga students.

Britta: No, that’s but that’s, that’s the thing, you know, sometimes people tell you like, so is it helping? No, it’s not helping me. So why worry?

Yeah, I know. It’s not like, I have to switch up here. So I can turn it off and on, you know, it’s really a process that you have to go through. And sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t.

But yeah, find, find ways for yourself to, to break the, like, the negative spiral, or just to break out of that, that negativity, and you’re the best expert on yourself and what works for you just just try to find some things that work for you to get you out of any, anything that, that brings you down completely.

And the sooner you notice, like, “Oh oh, I’m going there,” the better, because the further you you sink in, the harder it is to, to, to get out of it.

Rayne: Yeah. And I mean, I think that’s why it’s really important to have, it’s really important for HSPs, especially introverted HSPs, to have a couple of close relationships, because, you know, they don’t-introverted HSPs don’t require a ton of you know, they don’t need to be going out, you know, every night and have ten friends, different friends each night kind of thing. You know what I mean? It’s a, it’s a quieter lifestyle, basically, you know?

So, yeah, I, I agree what you’re saying there. I, I, I’m just wondering, are there any other things you guys can think of like… Because some of the examples, we, it said was, sorry if I’m getting off… ‘Activities that help you connect, process, and reflect on a full range of emotions?’

Britta: I suppose you mean, like journaling?

Rayne: Or just, yeah. Or are there any other things that come to your mind that you just like, when I’m looking at this one, ‘reflect on a full range of emotions’. I noticed sometimes when I’m walking in nature, I can reflect on a full age range of emotions. It almost just happens on its own. I don’t, I’m not trying to do it. But do you guys notice anything like that?

Britta: It happens, I guess. I think it’s, I feel it’s almost Tonya’s field of expertise, like being into being and being in the moment and where, what you’re feeling and it does, it does happen.

I know I used to journal I don’t do it anymore. I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t do it as often.

Tonya: I think even just, I think there’s a lot of kind of, at least in my experience kind of pressure that comes with journaling to where, you know, you see a lot of things where people say, ‘Yeah, you know, you should journal every day,’ or, you know, you see people who say they journal every day. I would say if you’re really “in” something like you’re in it, it’s, it’s a good time to maybe just write it out or like I think I’ve mentioned before talk it out, right? Talking to yourself, talking to the picture on the wall, talking to your dog.

Rayne: Creating art, creating art, yeah…

Tonya: Yeah, making a video that you delete later. It’s really been surprising to me; the video journaling to where just the emotion that rises up by using my voice.

And I think anytime as HSPs when we can find ways to use our voice like Britta was saying, you know, when she was told not to cry, and she could feel it being caught in her throat, right? I think a lot of HSPs struggle with, with this and have a lot of blockages in their throat chakra.

And so I think just using any opportunity, like I said, especially if it’s not something that you want to do on a daily basis, you know, when you’re in, when you feel like you’re in a crisis, it’s really, it’s really a good way to, if you don’t want to write it out to just say it out or go into a closet and yell, or, you know, something like that.

Just something to, something to get it out of your body and into the world, even if you know, nobody is, nobody that you can see around you is listening, you know?

Britta: Like shake it out.

Tonya: Exactly, exactly. So I think that’s just as far as like activities go, I feel like that’s something that’s really accessible to everyone. Right? If you don’t, if you say I can’t play the guitar, or, you know, I really want to learn how to play the guitar, but it stresses me out.

Stuff like that can be can be stressful, because we, you know, could be perfectionists and all of that.

But just using your voice, in any way, I think is just something that HSPs need to do more of.

Rayne: I fully agree, I fully agree.

Well, thank you, Tonya and Britta for sharing your experiences and thank you to our Highly  Sensitive listeners for sharing your space and time today.

Feel free to join us on Instagram or Facebook. And if you’d like to have a conversation with us on the HSP World podcast, please email your topic to [email protected] and we’ll be in touch. If you enjoy our podcast you can support us by making a donation at www.hsp.world.

Join us for our next podcast where we’ll be chatting about practical self-care for Highly Sensitives.

Music credit: Journey Starts From One Step – Musik av Gvidon

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