The HSP World Podcast Ep. 4: Do Changes To Your Routine Make You Feel Anxious?

The HSP World Podcast Ep. 4: Do Changes To Your Routine Make You Feel Anxious?


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Thomas: Hi and welcome to the HSP world podcast. With each episode, we invite a guest with the HSP trait to have a conversation about a burning HSP related question that they have. Our Guest had technical issues so today we’re doing a Host Only conversation. We’re not coaches or therapists. We’re HSPs holding space with you. I’m one of your hosts, Thomas and your other hosts are:

Robyn: Robyn.

Rayne: And Rayne.

Robyn: All right. So as Thomas mentioned today, we have a special edition of our podcast. It’s host only. So what we’ve gone and done is selected a question from Reddit, actually, it’s a Reddit question, for an HSP channel. And we’re gonna just have a little chat about that one. So the question is, does anyone, any other HSP, feel anxious over changes from your normal routine?

I thought this was a really interesting question. And just one thing I’d like to point out right from the beginning is that this does touch upon an item that’s already there in Elaine Aron’s self-assessment. So there is that questionnaire that you can take to find out if you are an HSP, as per this definition.

And one of the items on that list is changes in my life, shake me up. So I’m not specifically talking about routine, but, you can imagine. Do you know, the most frequent kind of change that you would be experiencing would be a change to your routine and your daily life.

Thomas: I think I have a lot to say about this one. So the first thing I want to say is yes, definitely. When there’s some sort of change, it takes me a while to get used to. But the question somewhat assumes that you have a normal routine, and one thing that happens for me a lot is that I don’t have a routine or I don’t have an established routine.

And for me that makes me anxious just in itself. I get this feeling of being ungrounded and what I’ve discovered, particularly in the past three years is by creating a routine, creating a daily, you know, I’m gonna do meditation and I’m going to do some practices and whatnot. I feel far more grounded and I feel less anxious overall.

So that’s the first thing that just pops into my mind is like, Oh, wow. Look at that, having a routine can really help.

Robyn: I would second that, I tend to have, I have some routines that happen all the time. So for example, I have a nighttime routine before I go to bed. But I’ve actually had, I think since I was a kid, like I always take a shower before I go to sleep and it’s, it’s fantastic. I sleep very well. I have never had a hard time falling asleep or very rarely.

So it’s actually that that’s a routine that’s been long established and I’m very grateful that I have that. Um, other things, because my work situation is often evolving, I’m doing contract and seasonal and freelance work, my routine, my daily routine will change from one season to the next.

So, I will have routines within work contracts. So like, there’s one place in particular that I know I have to drive to a lot. So I have particular routines around preparing my day and my week. When I’m not doing that contract, I’ll have more routines, related to working at home.

But the transition periods are always a little bit difficult. I always find that I’m a little bit, I could be anxious. I could be more, um, let’s say inflexible on a little bit. Yeah, shaken up, as it says in the in the questionnaire when, when those transition periods are happening. Right. So sometimes I’m like, why am I doing this to myself?

Why do I take contract and seasonal work when it guarantees that I’m going to have changes to my schedule and routine every day? Every year, a few times a year? I do it for other reasons, other benefits that it affords me, but that’s one of the downsides is that you kind of have to start over again.

I guess the benefit though is it does teach me to get really good at carving out a routine kind of out of nothing. So, this was coming up a lot during the quarantine period. A lot of people were saying, okay, you have to establish a routine to feel normal again. And I was kind of like, yep, it makes sense to me, and I know how to do it, even though I have absolutely nothing dictating my schedule right now.

I know how to get a little routine going for myself, and it does always make me feel better. I guess the thing that I struggle with is once I have a routine that I’ve established I’m a little bit stubborn about letting it go. I guess I have this belief that I shouldn’t be inflexible that I should be comfortable with, you know, not always following my routine. But the truth is I definitely feel more comfortable when I can stick to my routine as much as possible.

Thomas: We make up what we think we should be instead of the way we are.

Robyn: Yeah. And I think, I mean, I think there’s good reason for this, right? Like, it’s not a question of like one of the criticisms that often gets leveled at HSPs, is that, “Oh, you’re very controlling.” Right? 

But, you know, yes. There’s certain kinds of control I like to have. It’s never over other people. I never feel a desire to control other people or what they’re doing. Really what I want to control is my level of stimulation. Right? So, anything that touches upon that. Right? So my, my immediate space, my personal space, my schedule, those are the things that I am a little bit more inflexible about. And desiring control of those things than I think a non HSP, or even just the average person. 

And yeah, and it’s because I know that I am, I feel my best and I’m my most present and available and mentally healthy when I know I’m not going to have random interference from things.

Rayne: Yeah, so I’m HSS. So that’s High Sensation Seeking, so, 30% of HSPs are HSS, and again, you can have it on a continuum, you know, to one degree or another and the HSS, you know, it’s on a continuum as well. 

For me, yeah, I do like a schedule. I find it helpful.

There’s a couple of core things that are part of my schedule. That just, it doesn’t matter where I am, that’s I’ll be doing it, you know? 

And that’s meditation is one, and breathing exercises is another and walking. You know, getting outside and going for walks. Those three things, they’re part of my routine and it doesn’t really matter where I am.

Those are things that I stick with. Now where there will be a change where I find that my anxiety can get a bit higher is when I’m traveling. Because there’s some things I don’t have, you know, like you, there’s a lot of flexibility and a lot of things that you can control when you’re traveling, like when and how long and all of that kind of thing. Right? 

But there’s also, you know, certain things, you can’t control. So, that’s where, those three things that I, you know, create a routine around every day, no matter where I am, those things really help me, especially, you know, the deep breathing exercises and the meditation. 

And then walking, you know, it’s a great way to get rid of stress. That’s what I find. And plus, plus get in touch with, you know, the natural world, the world around me, you know what I mean? So, yeah, I find that really helpful. Sorry, go ahead, Robyn.

Robyn: No, no, actually I was just gonna say, those are things that I haven’t necessarily built into a routine and it’s funny because as much as I like routine, I do also like variety. So if someone told me, like, you can only pick one type of exercise, you know, for the rest of your life and assuming, imagine it’s not going to wear out your body, you know, cause we do actually need variety, but imagine you could only pick one, I would get bored and I wouldn’t want to do it.

So I’m often like cycling through different things like okay, walking, but then also running, but then also going to the gym or dance or whatever. And I prefer it that way. So what it means is that I can’t do all of those every day. I try to get them in a little bit every week, but it’s hard to keep a routine going.

So I don’t, I don’t have those as a routine, but I do have them on my, like my wellness list. And especially my emergency wellness list. Like there are times when I’m like, “Oh, things are not going well and I’m not feeling good.” And then I have that little checklist of like, are you exercising enough? Are you eating okay? Are you, are you getting time to see some trees or something? You know, and I find that having those there helped me a lot. But I wonder, I wonder what it would do to me. If I had that as a routine, if I built it in more, more steadily.

Rayne: Well, I mean, it’s not to say, like, I won’t go swimming and bike riding. I mean, when I was in Chile, I went and bought a secondhand bike and did a bunch of bike riding too. But just the idea of exercising really, you know, just some, some sort of exercise and getting outside.

Yeah, I find that I like that – it seems to help me quite a bit. Yeah. And again, the meditation and breathing. I usually do that in the morning. Um not usually like as soon as I get up, but a while after I get up. 

For me it helps create a rhythm for the day, if that makes any sense. Because I’ve noticed when I don’t do that, then I kind of end up and maybe this is the HSS, but I ended up kind of popping around into different things that I’m doing or involved in, and I don’t tend to get as much done basically.

But when I do my breathing and my meditation, I’m just centered, and I just sort of stick with one thing and see it through and then move on to the next thing. So there’s more of a, a rhythm to it and it just, I don’t know, it feels right for me. I don’t know.

Thomas: I do a daily meditation in the morning, usually in the morning, as well as some intention setting and other practices. And, and it is very, very centering. I call it grounding, but I’m realizing grounding and centering is really sort of the same thing. And it’s the, whatever the opposite of anxiety is, I guess.

And yes, I also find that I need to get outdoors at least once a day, whether it’s a walk or you know, during fishing season, I’ll be out at the beach fishing for a couple of hours. It just has that very deep, grounding effect for me. So I really appreciate it. One thing I wanted to say is is that, you know, the pandemic actually has, has changed a lot for me.

I’m also self-employed I do internet development and computer programming. And what’s interesting about that is that is actually different every day. Like I’m doing something different almost every day because I have different clients and the clients have different projects.

So, the process, I suppose, is the same, but what I’m thinking about is totally different for each project. So that’s a little bit anxiety inducing, but I get to work from home. So that is  where the stability comes in and what’s happened is that, before the pandemic, my family, there’s four of us in our household here, and, the rest of the family, they were all working. 

So they all, you know, either going to school or going to work and so I had the house to myself. And ever since the shelter in place or the stay at home was put in effect, now everybody’s working from home, or taking school remotely, whatever it is, everybody’s home all the time now.

And that’s caused me not a great amount of anxiety, but it’s definitely been a change. It’s like, “Like when do I get the house to myself?” And of course, you know, I’m adjusting to the fact that I’m not going to have the house to myself. And, so partly the way I handle that is just to make sure I go on that daily walk or I get out somehow.

Robyn: Yeah. I’m listening to you guys, I’m wondering if maybe I need to pare down my routine list. Right? Because with the exception of like having a very clear routine for getting ready for sleep, my other routines, I guess they’re a little bit more like habits. And then I, yeah, so I think I maybe need to observe for myself, what are the routines that really make a difference? And how can I be more systematic about them? I don’t know, but at the same time, because everything changes, I still need to have a certain amount of flexibility. Right? So that’s why I’ll say like, I don’t, I’m not going to say like, Oh, every Tuesday I’m going to go swimming.

Like maybe every Tuesday I go swimming for a while, but then next season, I’m not going to swim at all because it’s winter and I don’t want to swim so, well, I dunno, I’ll go running on an indoor track or something. I guess that that’s something that I am still kind of struggling with. Right? Like how do I have routines that are flexible enough to deal with changes that happen but grounded enough that they serve their purpose of centering me and keeping me well. 

Thomas: And Robyn, I’m also hearing that you want routines that don’t get boring.

Robyn: Yeah. Yeah. 

Rayne: You’re sure your not HSS Robyn?

Robyn: Maybe a little bit, maybe a little bit.

Thomas: I think I’m hearing that subtext for all three of us in a way, because I think we’re all very creative too, and HSPs are really creative even though we don’t necessarily want to get into a rut. We don’t want to get into a state where it’s like just the same thing every day.

And we do, you know, get up and do this and meditate and, you know, go for the walk and all that. We want that variety, we want that variety with a certain amount of stability underneath as well.

Robyn: Well, I think like if – you probably have a little bit more knowledge about this Thomas, but my sense is that artists and creatives are always walking that fine balance right? Of you need to have enough routine, right? Like a lot of writers will say, I have to make a point of writing every day, even if what I write goes straight in the garbage can. 

At least I need to like, have that, that routine, that promise to myself that I’m going to sit down and write like three pages every day. Otherwise it will, it will never happen. It will never come. Right? Or it just won’t be regular enough for me to upkeep my skill level.

Right? So I think there’s there’s that, but then you also have to have your routine be flexible enough to accommodate for the fact that sometimes, inspiration’s gonna flash, not on schedule and you need to say, okay, I’m going to sit down now and, and write, or, you know, inspiration is telling me, no, actually you need to go out and like people watch for awhile, skip your writing this morning, people watch.

And I think it’s, it’s hard to tell the difference. And I think that’s probably the eternal struggle to tell the difference between when are you following your inspiration and when are you being too easy on yourself in terms of discipline?

Rayne: Well, and I think it’s tough too right now, because not just right now, but you know, 15 to 20% of the population are HSPs right? And the rest of the world operates on a “busy is good” model. Right? It doesn’t really matter what the busy is. As long as you’re busy, then like busy is equated with productive. And for me, at least that is not the case. It’s just not the case. 

So I think getting really good with just being really kind to myself, you know, I mean just practicing self compassion. Like the other day I was just like, Hey, you know what? I have not taken a day and just that’s it, just enjoyed the day and tomorrow there’s not scheduled anything in like no meetings, no tasks to do no nothing.

And just, I haven’t just kind of done that and gone somewhere and done something that’s just good for my soul, that’s just good for me and it’s really funny because when I do those things, when I do do that -set a day aside and go, okay, that’s it, I’m going to go to a park and I’m just going to color and enjoy myself and that’s it. No big agenda, no nothing. And what happens is I come back refreshed and ideas are popping, solutions or brainstorms or inspirations or whatever – they just show up. Just naturally on their own. So yeah, I’m finding that that’s something that I just sort of have to pay more attention to, I suppose. Be sure that I am doing that for myself. I am being compassionate towards myself and giving myself that time where, you know, it’s a full day and I’m just enjoying myself, and that’s what I need and that’s what I’m going to do and that’s that.

And, there’s nothing wrong with it – that it actually inspires whatever it is that I’m doing, you know?

Thomas: I can tell you that I’m very much affected by the busy is good virus and it’s anxiety producing just in itself because it’s something that we do to ourselves. And so I have to tell myself sometimes because sometimes I’m just in this state where it’s like, I don’t feel inspired. I don’t feel creative right now. And it’s okay to actually sit on the sofa and watch a TV program. 

You know, I have to tell myself that because otherwise I berate myself for taking the time to watch a TV program. So there is definitely that sort of self-induced anxiety and that self-flagellation of like, “You should be downstairs painting,” or whatever it is that you do.

Right? And so self-compassion and self-forgiveness is a big part of this for me. Because otherwise I’d just drive myself crazy. So it’s not just, changes. And we started out talking about how changes can produce anxiety.

It’s also recognition that the ideas that we absorb also produces anxiety in ourselves because we punish ourselves too much. For doing stuff and not doing stuff. For having a routine and not sticking to a routine and you know, all that.

Robyn: Yeah, I definitely have a lot to say about the “busy is good mentality.” 

So I had two months where I wasn’t working during the quarantine and I can tell you I was not bored for a minute the entire two months and I’m extroverted, right? So, I like seeing people, I like connecting to people.

But as an HSP, I have that introverted side too, right? And I decided to just indulge in that completely. So I had a lot of just free unstructured time. And man, did that feel good! That felt so freeing just to know that whatever idea or craving that I have to do something, you know, as long as it was within reason, if I had a craving to fly to Italy, that was not going to happen.

If I had a craving to, I don’t know, read up as much as possible on so and so topic, or, you know, try recording a podcast, which is what I ended up doing for the first time, you know, any little project I wanted to get off the ground, like knowing that I could have time to do that and it would all fit.

It was just so freeing, and I feel that when I am working full time, it’s like, I’m just picking up scraps here and there for all the other projects and things that I want to do, and having that  unstructured time, which also feels so good – that starts shrinking. And that produces a lot of anxiety for me. And this one is tough. This one, I still haven’t figured out. 

I don’t know how to do it because I mean, Yes, there is, there’s an imagined pressure. There’s a societal pressure of you should be busy all the time, but there’s also the very concrete reality that, you know, most people need to work full time to support themselves.

So, yeah, we can get kind of creative about that and, and I’ve thought of that as well, but for the moment that’s, that’s my reality. So it’s yeah, it’s always a balancing act.

Thomas: Robyn, I am laughing at myself so hard because when you said unstructured time, my mind went like, “Oh, my God. No, that’s the last thing I want is unstructured.”

Robyn: That’s so interesting.

Thomas: I am such a planner. It’s like if I had a block of time I would have to map it out. I like that. That would be the first thing I did is that I would have to map it out. I have to do some mind maps. I’d figure out. “Okay. Okay. I want to do this and this.” And yeah, I would absolutely have to go structure my time. I don’t know why that is.

Robyn: I hate planning, actually. I absolutely loath it. And I do it when I’m busy, because then I get afraid basically that if I don’t plan things, they’re just not going to happen. So then I become very, very planful. And then I don’t like not having a plan, when I’m busy, but see that’s like, dealing with one uncomfortable situation by throwing another uncomfortable situation on top of it. Right? 

I don’t like being busy, but I also don’t like missing out on the things that I want to do. So I make myself extra busy and extra planful. I mean, that’s the way most people in our culture live their lives. I would, I think I’d probably probably feel more comfortable in a context where I had less obligations, less things taking my time and more freedom to just kind of do things as they come up.

Or as I decided I wanted to do them, I just don’t know. I don’t know if I can live my life like that. I don’t know.

Thomas: I went with my family on a houseboat trip on Lake Shasta. And so we had, you know, four days of just relaxing and, on like the second day my daughter was looking at me and she says, “Dad, you’re pretty much the least grounded person I know!”

Robyn: Oh, ouch.

Thomas: Because I was, I was fidgeting. I was like trying to figure out what to do next and all that. And, you know, everybody else is just relaxing. So,  you know, I like to go fishing, right? I like to be out there and just spend hours just, throwing the lure and you know?

Robyn: Yeah. Yeah.

Thomas: But there is that, that part of me that has a hard time sitting still.

Robyn: Well, I mean, this is the irony of it too, right? Like you want, I think it’s not like it’s one thing to say what you want your activity level to be and another to say, like what, how much you want to be planful about it. Like, it sounds that you want to be planful even about the activities requiring stillness. Right? 

So I’m happy to be still, as long as it’s like within a prescribed time if I’m doing yoga, I’m doing meditation, I’m doing fishing. Right. Whereas for me, I actually don’t like to do nothing. I don’t even like, I don’t even like to have a lazy Sunday. On I lazy Sunday I’m still going to say, “Oh, how can I get out of the house and do something or see somebody?” So I don’t actually like to spend a whole day doing nothing, but I love to have a whole day where nothing is planned. So then I can just do things on my own rhythm. Yeah.

Rayne: Yeah. And see that comes out when I’m traveling lately. I will like, I’ll be traveling where I’m going as I’m traveling. I will not know ahead of time really, because usually I’m trying to find places that are not well visited. And that’s part of the HSS seeking novel experiences, you know? I’m not a all-inclusive vacation kind of person, you know? 

So that’s where I think that comes in. But it’s really interesting when we’re talking about this, because it’s bringing, it’s bringing up the term Vantage Sensitivity for me. Which.

There’s been studies done on that term and that’s basically where an HSP, where they flourish in an environment and that’s one of the things I think that we have to find creative ways. To create those types of environments or to create that type of environment for ourselves, so that it’s supportive of our trait, of how we work and play and whatever you know? 

I think there are going to be common denominators that will work for you know, most HSPs, but I don’t think there’s one prescribed way that’s gonna work for everybody.

Thomas: We have to create our own environment in a way.

Rayne: Yeah. Our own habits, our own schedule. I know I do my meditation and my breathing exercises in the morning, but maybe for whatever reason, you know, in the evening, maybe something happened during the day, and I can feel that my solar plexus is, feels like a super tight ball, you know? And I can just feel that my shoulders feel really tense, and even though it’s not part of the daily thing that I do, breathing or meditation in the evening – I might have to that evening – that might be what I need to do to support myself in creating an environment that’s supportive of myself and my trait and what’s best for me.

Robyn: Yeah, that’s a very good point.

Thomas: This, this has been an incredible conversation. I really enjoyed this.

Rayne: Me too.

Thomas: And it also sounds like there’s another conversation maybe for a future time about how we might design routines that work for us. And you know, they’re going to be different for every person.

Rayne: Absolutely. Yeah, because it takes a bit of experimentation really. Yeah. I really enjoyed it. Thank you guys.

Thomas: Yeah. Thank you.

Robyn: Thank you and thank you to our listeners. So please join us for our next episode where we’ll be having another interesting HSP conversation.

To any highly sensitive listeners who have an HSP related question, be it big or small, we invite you to ask it on the HSP world podcast. Just email 


Pic credit via Free-Photos

Music credit: Intro and Outro music from the YouTube Music Library. Song is Clover 3.



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