The HSP World Podcast Ep. 40: Practical 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 different than non-HSP convos. We feel it’s important for HSPs to hear the difference.

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

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

Rayne: Hey Britta, hey Tonya.

Tonya: Hi.

Britta: Hello there.

Rayne: Hey, so today we want to talk about how do you practice practical self-care. And this is how, this is sort of the definition, the rough definition we’re going by. So first practical self-care is about tasks you complete that fulfill core aspects of your life in order to prevent future stressful situations like creating a budget, taking professional development classes, organizing your closet, etc.

So, how about we dive into this with, with what with you, Tonya, what do you do to practice practical self-care?

Tonya: One of the biggest things for me is meal planning and prepping.

So I really enjoy cooking for my husband, it’s kind of part of my love language for him. But when it comes to making things for myself, because we have different diets, I am vegan, he is not.

So for myself, I often just grab whatever is easiest, or sometimes I even forget to eat. And so taking some time, you know, maybe on Saturdays or Sundays to plan out, you know what we’re going to eat that week and doing some batch cooking one or two days a week of just some staples, you know, like having beans already made to add to something else, or rice or whatever.

That’s really huge for me, not just time-wise but also health-wise, making sure that you know what I’m, what I’m reaching for is healthy and good for my body, versus you know, just grabbing a frozen meal from the freezer or something like that.

So I’m really working towards, through the meal planning and prepping, I’m really working towards kind of expressing and, and finding that same love for myself and my own body that that I have for my husband, in taking that time to prep and make meals and things ahead of time.

So that’s that’s a really big one for me, is just making sure that I have healthy food to eat on a daily basis. So, it’s definitely a work in progress. But you know, but I’m getting there.

Rayne: It’s funny you say that, I can remember a time where I think Sunday’s were my cooking day. Saturday was my day that I meal prepped and grocery shopped. And then Sunday was the day that I did my batch cooking for the week.

And I’d put on music and I pour myself a little bit of red wine, and I would basically spend you know, the next six hours in the kitchen, enjoying myself cooking and getting everything ready. So, but it was basically the the Sunday was written off kind of thing, right?

Tonya: Yeah, I mean, making it a ritual and, you know, trying to make trying to make it a pleasant experience. And I feel like it’s, it’s long term benefits. Really, I think that you know, we may not feel it right away or it might be a really hard habit to get into, you know, spending that Sunday afternoon or whatever it is.

But long term benefits to our, to our physical health, which also obviously affects our emotional health and everything else, I think is really, really important and especially for us as HSPs where we can easily get overwhelmed and stressed out about sometimes the, what others would call like seemingly small things, about you know, what do I eat? I’m tired, all this other kind of stuff. I think just doing that little bit of, of planning planning ahead, can is really helpful for me, and I find it to be really a practical way to take care of myself.

Rayne: Snacks on hand, do you do that? Healthy snacks on hand?

Tonya: Yeah, snacks for sure. You know, I try to grab. And that’s another thing about my husband, he, you know, he loves his junk food, and candy and all of that. They’re not things that are healthy for me to have around.

So, we I actually invented something I called the candy coffin, which is one of those long, low, thin storage containers, like the plastic bins that you can put underneath the bed? We have one of those in the bottom of our pantry now, where he puts all of his candy bars and his cookies and everything. So they’re out of sight, and they’re behind other things.

So it’s like, he really has to dig for them to get them out. And for me, it’s out of sight, out of mind. So that’s how, that’s how we kind of dealt with that problem. But yeah, you know, I keep, if I’m, if I want something sweet, I try to, you know, reach for an orange as opposed to, you know, a piece of chocolate. But it’s, it’s a um, it can be a struggle.

And it takes a lot of intention and thinking through to, to really catch catch myself in the moment to say, okay, what am I really hungry for? What am I, what do I really need?

Rayne: Am I really thirsty?

Tonya: Yeah, what does my body really need, as opposed to, you know, what is my brain craving or what habit am I in?

Rayne: Cool, cool. How about you, Britta?

Britta: I was, I was listening. Because I don’t really do that. I, luckily for me, my husband is the cook at our place, I don’t like to cook. I only do it when I have to. And sometimes I do have to, but I’ve been spoiled over the past couple of years.

So my husband always makes sure that there’s plenty of food, like home cooked food around. So that’s, that’s good.

One of the things practical around food is that I have to make sure that I eat and drink at regular times, or I get like splitting headaches. Or I get a really low blood sugar. And that doesn’t feel too good either.

So that those are things that I need to take, I know that, I’ve learned it the hard way.

So I always have to make sure if I’m going out for a longer period of time that I have a snack with me, that I have something to drink with me. So that I don’t run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere, without something handy.

And then another thing that really helps me is my calendar management.

Because I tend to take on a lot of things and have like back-to-back meetings. But that’s actually not really good. Those are the days also that by the end of the day I’ve got a splitting headache or a migraine and it’s like my neck is all cramped up.

And I know that so sometimes I do it because I ended up to be productive, but then you just pay the price afterwards. So I’m trying to keep my calendar very strict. And I try to put everything on the calendar so that I don’t miss anything.

And I try to schedule and I try to really look at okay, is isn’t enough for today? You know, like that I don’t have too many things or too many commitments in terms of talking to people or meetings or calls or whatever.

Because otherwise it just feels like you’re running around like a headless chicken and not getting anything done. And I don’t like the feeling of, especially like when you’re working from home, and I’ve got the kids to take care of and people are waiting for, for me to get back to them with feedback or other things like work-related.

And then you have a bunch of calls that things are slipping through the cracks and you can’t manage everything. So then people are waiting for a reply or you’re late to pick up your kids from school so everything starts to become one big mess. And that’s not good for me or any anyone else.

So it’s good to have very, very tight calendar management with notifications also because sometimes I forget things and then get notifications or an alarm to remind myself like ‘Oh, it’s time to start getting to the car and drive off to school.’ Because otherwise there are two little ones going hysterical thinking that their mommy’s not coming up to coming to pick them up or something. So calendar management, and then making sure that you’re not overstretching yourself.

Tonya: Scheduling your breaks into your into your calendar.

Britta:  Yes, yes. Or just blocking blocking time blocking pieces of the day that you’re like, Okay, this is just for whatever comes up at that moment, but not not anything else.

Rayne: Yeah, it’s funny that you’re saying that Britta because this is this, I’ve kind of done, been experimenting with this. And so what I’m doing is I’m prioritizing activities that are good for me. So like meditation, downtime, exercising, art play time, writing, whatever.

And, but I am allowing for days and times when I want, when I’m going to feel like doing nothing, because there are going to be a couple of those, and I need those because those, those are the times in the spaces in time, where I thoroughly enjoy the time and I find inspiration in there.

So downtime, I’m realizing is something that’s critical for, for my creative endeavors, right? So, so that’s what I’ve been moving into. But it is more or less a rhythm or a lifestyle, I think that I’m experimenting with but I’m fine. It’s helping me stay on a healthy track for myself. So I’ll block off downtime and stick to the schedule.

So like, there’s just certain times where I am not going to answer the phone, I’m not going to look at my computer, I’m not going to talk to anybody. For the most part, you know what I mean? Like, just for the most part, that’s the plan, you know, if some, you know, emergency or something happens or whatever, fine, but, but I prioritized giving myself what I know I need, right?

You know, the only thing that’s tricky for me is, and I do this using like you Britta using a schedule, right? Is, is when my HSS thing kind of kicks in a little bit. And that’s the high sensation seeking. And that’s where you get bored, right?

So for me, I have to make sure that the activities I am doing aren’t boring to me, I don’t find them boring, so I’m excited about them.

And then, then I’ll be less likely to, you know, be like “squirrel”. You know, when I see, something that I find is interesting, you know? So, but blocking off my time that’s helping, that’s, I’m noticing that’s helping me deal, it’s doing a great job of helping me deal with overwhelm. There’s a ton that I control actually, right.

And then just by writing down what my goals are the steps I need to take daily to get there, being you know, like, you know, just understanding that that the enjoyment is in the journey, you know, who knows where we’re going, you know?

But the enjoyment is in the journey and that’s, you know, that’s that’s what I found has been really, really cool.

So yeah, prioritizing and blocking off down my schedule to downtime to blocking off spaces of time I know I’ll need that’s been a huge one for me.

And then a grocery list. I never go grocery shopping without a grocery list because I don’t like wandering through a busy grocery store looking at hundreds of products, it’s like I have a list I know what I need. I know, you know, I just go and then leave right? Because there’s no need to be in a potentially busy store with long lineups.

Britta: There’s another way to doing that, you know, I actually enjoy looking around and seeing what oh they have this or they have that but I don’t like to do it when it’s really busy or too crowded. That, no.

So, I just go on at times where I know there won’t be a lot of people so I will never go shopping on a Saturday or Sunday, just off time, or you know just, just after work time around five between five and six when everyone’s picking up dinner or whatever, I will not go to a store or show up at those times but I can enjoy just looking around at all the foods that are available and picking like oh this seems good, nice yeah.

Rayne: Yeah, I’m the same way I can, I can enjoy it if it’s not a super busy, tons of people, huge lineups you know, you know, that’s no…

Britta: Yeah, that’s, that’s I had it happen before that there was like, you’ve got this, this cart loaded with stuff. And then you come into at at how do you say that?

Tonya: At the checkout?

Britta: Yes. Thank you, Tonya.

Tonya: You’re welcome.

Britta: Where you make your payment? And then it’s like, oh my god. Oh no, I don’t. I just don’t feel no, I can’t do this and I am probably not the only one. And you just leave. Okay, I’m not in the headspace to be here right now with so yeah.

Tonya: Yeah, and especially like the holidays and stuff like that are the worst is, uh, you really have to be mindful and intentional about?

Well, I was gonna say the grocery store but basically whenever you leave the house, yeah, you know, everywhere where you can, yeah, get into, they’re all out. They’re all out. They’re all doing something weird and, you know, it’s just a lot of people out and a lot of activity at once. Especially during those times.

Rayne: Yeah, it’s a… You know, and it’s, you know, we laugh about it, but essentially what it is, is, is it’s an abundance of sensory information. that we’re exposing ourselves to that. And that’s fine. You can have healthy boundaries. And yeah, I can go do my thing in a busy environment and it’s fine, whatever, you know, but it’s like, do I, you know, do I need to put stressors on my on, on my nervous system that are not required? You know, if I can enjoy something much more, you know, in doing it my way, or in a way that’s better for me, that feels better for me, then why not? Why not? Why not do it?

Britta: And that’s, that’s, that’s actually just being practical, right? I know, for example, I don’t enjoy being in crowds. So I, you will probably not find me at a concert standing at the front line, like screaming my heart out. I enjoy music. But I just know that I do not function well in crowds, especially being at the front of the crowd.

Like and not feel having this feeling of uh-oh, okay, if I want to leave, I need to work my way through this entire mass of people. That’s just, that’s just anxiety provoking for me. So I just don’t do those things. I don’t enjoy it. So why would I even put myself in that position? You know, that’s just being practical?

Rayne: Absolutely. Absolutely. I will say it’s been like I said, it’s been odd. It’s been odd, it’s been odd prioritizing things, that in the past were inconsequential. Maybe if I got them in, that’s great. If not, well, you know, soldier on. You know, kind of a thing.

So it’s, it’s really flipped. It’s a really cool experiment to flip that on its, on its head, and instead look at, okay, what, how do I create the most optimal environment for me? What are the things that I can do to create the most optimum optimal environment for me? That’s easy on my nervous system, right? That’s like, you know, where I can take advantage of the benefits of having this Trait, right? Because that’s what I want. That’s, the you know, that’s, you guys know about that? Vantage sensitivity? Do you know about that study?

Britta: No, I don’t think so.

Rayne: Okay, so what Vantage Sensitivity is, is if you have an HSP and a non-HSP, and it’s a negative environment, that they’re in, the non-HSP will not be, you know, affected, and the the HSP will be negatively affected.

But if you put an HSP in a non-HSP in a positive environment, the non-HSP will be, you know, the same effect that the toxic environment had, they’re, they’re steady, they’re stable, right?

But the HSP will boomerang up. So it has a much, a much greater benefit for an HSP having a positive environment.

So, so for me, that’s, that’s my goal is to create, to create that for myself, right? And in order to do it, I’m trying to you know, I am having to experiment with different ways of doing it and how to do it. Right. Sorry, go on Tonya.

Tonya: Oh, no, I was just gonna say I haven’t heard of that study. But I can attest to that being an HSP, who grew up in a toxic environment, and someone who now lives in a very positive and nurturing environment that I agree 100%.

Rayne: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I’m, that’s why that I’m so glad, you know that Dr. Aron discovered the Trait and I’m so glad that they are continuing to do studies on the Trait I think much more, you know, especially when it comes to neurodiversity needs to be considered and understood, and there’s a lot of positive things in it.

So. So I just wanted to pop over to this one, because one of the things that I have to do that’s practical, is keep my space clear.

So for me, this is a big one. But I found that as I’ve traveled and moved a lot in the past, you know, the last ten to fifteen years, each time I’ve traveled or moved, I have less stuff. So it’s been weird.

It’s been a, it’s been a gradual transition to a minimalistic lifestyle right? But it’s based, it’s based on prudence, right? Why pay for storage, or lugging it around, if I don’t use it or need it, you know, that’s just basically the lifestyle, so.

But yeah, I don’t know, my memories, my mind and my body are where my home is. So having a lot of stuff for me removes the importance of life and each object, living or non biological, and it needs to have a purpose to be in my space, helps me keep my space clear and fresh. I like fresh air, open the window a lot. I like to keep things simple, you know, in a practical way of objects around me.

But it’s a way of life of not buying things constantly, right? And which is weird, because I wasn’t raised that way. My mom loved shopping. And that’s probably one of the reasons I like shopping so much now.

But I like keeping my clothing items down to like six pieces, and like a few coats, you know, I do only have to do one load of wash a week. If the clothing item is new or thrift shop, then it’s equivalent that I already own has to go. So something in, something out.

And for me, this works great. It’s just the less time I have to spend thinking about clothes and things in in my space, right? Like, um it’s just, I, it’s like, I need to have my my space clear. I don’t even know how to… It’s it, there’s a whole bunch of things…

And I know a lot of people aren’t like this, you know, a lot of people can have papers all over the place. And if you ask them where something is, they’ll reach under ten pieces of paper and pull it out like it was, you know, just they knew exactly where it is. But for me, I can’t that doesn’t work for me. It’s like too much stuff in my environment is, it’s like it, it’s like the energy is clouded up or something, I really don’t know how to put it. I don’t know.

So what do you guys do? Do you do anything like that?

Britta: I do recognize it in parts, although I have you know, for me, it’s it’s always been like clearing and cleaning and but in a way that it’s also almost too much, you know?

I wanted the house to be perfect. Everything needed to be in order and everything needed to be clean. And, and it was, it was actually maybe a bit too much. I was, I wasn’t doing nothing but cleaning and decluttering and blah, blah.

So that’s I’m giving myself a little bit of space to create some some mess. And also, I’m not the only one living here. You know, it was easier to do so before we had the kids but now with the kids running around, whenever I put something away, it just takes two minutes and it’s out again. Or something else comes in the same way or I need that.

What’s going on here? Are their ghost in the house? So it’s becoming a lot harder. And I’m I’m teaching them how to, you know, they, they have their chores, and when we come home from school, it’s not like, ‘Okay, I throw my backpack wherever it ends. And I’ll see it back in the morning when we have to use it again.’

So they know they have to clear that backpacks and put everything away and you know, you have a decent amount of organization and structure. But for me it was, it was healthier to let go a little bit of the, of the organizing and having everything in a certain place. But I do, I don’t like if it’s too messy that just gets under my skin. Yeah.

Rayne: So for practical self care, that’s how you you’ve you you feel like you kind of you went to too much into keeping things organized and clean and now you’ve backed up on that and are more, ‘You know what we’re going to live life we’re going to be enjoying life as we live it.’

And that’s fine, too.

Britta: Yeah, and I won’t say that our house is not a mess or anything, but if if one of the kids drops their dirty clothes at the spot where I told them to put those dirty clothes and they just stay there until tomorrow then so be it.

I will not well, because I’m the one who takes them upstairs and brings them to the laundry and does the laundry, blah, blah, blah. So normally, I think I would have been like, Okay, this is this is laying around, I need to take this to the laundry room. Now it has to be out of sight, it has to be gone. So I don’t do that anymore. So if there’s a pile, there’s a pile and it will move up, but not right now.

So that’s just yeah, a way that I treat myself or give myself some grace, like, Okay, you are doing the laundry, but maybe not today, because you’re also doing other things. So…

Rayne: That’s awesome. Very important. Another very important thing. Absolutely.

Britta: And it’s different for everyone. It works for me that way. Because I used to be on the other side, I wanted to have everything perfect and in place and maybe over organized. So for me the task is to let it go and just be okay with a little bit of mess.

Rayne: Yeah, there’s a happy medium in there.

Britta: Yes.

Rayne: How about you Tonya?

Tonya: Yeah, my experience is a kind of the opposite to where I grew up in a house where everything, you know, all the furniture, everything had to be perfectly arranged, everything had to be dusted. That’s how my mom wanted it. We had a living room that you weren’t allowed to sit in.

And so I kind of, I guess, felt, unconsciously, I didn’t do it consciously. But unconsciously, it was kind of the opposite to where I had stuff everywhere after I left the house. And so I really struggle with organization or buying shiny things, which, which I’m getting much, much better at. But that used to be a real problem for me.

And so now I just try to find one, one space in the house a week that I that I tidy, right? So like tidying my desk once a week. If I tidy on Sundays, throughout the week, you know, I’ll have books out, I’ll have you know, notes everywhere or pieces of paper, I’m always writing or researching or planning classes and stuff like that.

And so all that stuff starts to pile up really quickly. And so then I start to notice it. And so once a week, now I kind of tidy that space or you know, things kind of accumulate on the kitchen counter over the week or something like that. So I just put those away slowly but, so trying to find that balance for me to where not having a house that’s, you know, a show home or whatever you call those, those houses where you, the model home, right? When you go to the developments and you’re looking at the house, and it’s all staged because that’s what I feel like I grew up in, to where just not knowing where anything is because I forgot about it or I put it somewhere and so just really finding a way to kind of tidy one space a week is really helpful to me.

And then I do a lot of the same things that that the both of you do.

So I set alarms on my phone, I have alarms on my phone for, for almost everything. I set them usually at the beginning of the week. So every meeting, appointment, I have alarms set to get up from my desk and move around or to do a little bit of exercise.

My husband teases me about it because he says there’s an alarm going off, like every other hour but it works for me. And you know when I’m, when I’m working at the desk, I’m sure both of you can really relate to this that you know you kind of get into the flow and you can lose track of time.

So it’s a really small or it’s a really small thing that I do that that makes a big difference. And I also write everything down too, so and sometimes more in, more than one place. And like you said Rayne like writing down your intentions and everyday and things like that is, I think is also really important to keep us keep us focused on on our goals if we have goals for certain things like work or…

Rayne: Yeah, like I’ve got lists of classes that I want to take, that, things I want to learn because I love looking forward to learning something new and interesting, you know?

Tonya: Yeah, and even just planning the night before what I want to get done the next day is huge. So instead of, I know a lot of people will plan things out on Sunday night everything they want to get done on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, that doesn’t really work for me. Because I kind of feel like a failure at the end of the week if I didn’t check all those boxes.

So I know if I just planned the night before, okay, I want to get a, b and c done. But still keeping in mind, like having some flexibility and self-compassion that I might not get it all done. And also, like Britta mentioned, you know, working in blocks of time is really helpful as well. But sometimes I have trouble focusing. And so my, my mind and my body can, can get kind of scattered. So I really need to be intentional about that. And just doing it the night before I feel is a lot less pressure on me.

Rayne: Yeah, I, I use, I, I fully agree with using a calendar and planning things. I think that’s wonderful, Tonya. And it’s been working for you.

Tonya: Yeah, and like I said, especially, you know, um, I mean, I know, if I have a, if I have a meeting on Friday, then I know that I’ll have a meeting on Friday at eight o’clock in the morning. But as far as, like the things that I that I need to get done, you know, like, planning for my community or, you know, planning classes, yoga classes, or, you know, reading or writing.

Then if I do it the night before, I kind of have a better idea of what my Wednesday is gonna look like on Tuesday night versus the previous Saturday, if that makes sense. And how I’m feeling physically, emotionally, all of that, you know, I might feel great. On Saturday, I have tons of energy. But Tuesday night, I’m like, there’s no way I can get these five things done. I need to scale it back. So…

Rayne: Awesome. That’s, I think that’s a huge thing, too, is being flexible. That’s what you’re basically, the importance of flexibility. Yeah, because there’s a lot of being flexible is basically you’re just, you’re, you’re practicing a lot of self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance. And, you know, all of those things. That’s really, that’s a lot of what being flexible is too.

Tonya: Yeah, not knowing what’s going to come up, you know. So like, if Britta has to leave in the middle of the day, because one of her children forgot something at school, or, you know, the last couple of days, my cat wasn’t feeling well, so I had to drop everything and take her to the doctor, you know. So, these things that come up, we have to kind of be mentally prepared for that as well. I feel like give ourselves some grace for when those things come up.

Britta: Even things like in, for you as a person yourself, I can have some days where you feel like you said, Tonya, you have all the energy in the world. And then another day, you feel like you’re staring at the screen and you’re trying to be productive, but it’s just not working.

Tonya: What’s my name again? What’s happening?

Britta: Yeah, what was I supposed to be doing? That’s just frustrating. And it builds it builds up over time. So what I tried to do now whenever I feel like we’re, I’m sitting in my desk, and I’m working on something and I feel like my eyes are getting heavy, you know, know, that feeling is like, oh, no, but I just want to finish this, I need to, you want to push through through no matter what, but it just doesn’t work.

You’re just sitting there and nothing’s really working for you. So I just, I just try to become aware of it. Firstly, and then say like, okay, you know, this is this is not working. Take a break, take a nap if you can, do something else. Have a drink, do something else. Yeah, just just anything else. And if you’re up for it later, you can come back to it or otherwise it’ll just before tomorrow, or whenever you have availability, but that’s and that’s okay. That’s also practical self-care, you know, be practical, instead of just pushing through, against against how do you say against all odds or whatever,

Rayne: Well against your body, like you’re really going against your body and what you need. I mean, your body’s trying to tell you something there you know, if it’s nodding off on you…

Britta: Yeah, you need a break.

Tonya: And we base I feel like we you know, we base a lot of these, these expectations that we have for ourselves on the expectations that society has set for people in general and not taking High Sensitivity into account, right?

So, you know, calling ourselves uh, for lack of a better word ‘lazy’ or something, because you’re taking those breaks, or, you know, kind of having that, like, you know, Britta was saying push through mindset or something.

You know, our culture and our society and the way we work wasn’t built for Highly Sensitive people who need to take those breaks and need to take that extra self care. So I think that’s something else that we need to really use our voices for right to say, it doesn’t have to be this way. This is not the way we need to, we need to work and we need to function. There are other ways that it can be done.

Rayne: 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, please email your topic to [email protected] and we’ll be in touch. If you enjoy our podcasts, you can support us by making a donation at www.hsp.world.

Join us for our next podcast, where we’ll be chatting about Physical Self-Care for Highly Sensitives. Thank you, Britta. Thank you, Tonya.

Tonya: We’ll see you next time.

Britta: Thanks. Bye.

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

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