The HSP World Podcast Ep. 42: Mental Self-Care Strategies for Highly Sensitives


In honour of World Mental Health Day, on October 10, 2022 we’ve released the complete podcast for your enjoyment.

The HSP World podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean App, Spotify, Amazon Music/Audible, Pandora, TuneIn + Alexa, iHeartRadio, RadioFM, Listen Notes, Samsung, iTunes and Google Play.

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 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 hosts Rayne and our other wonderful co-hosts are Tonya and Britta.

Rayne: Hey, Tonya.

Tonya: Hello.

Rayne: Hey, Britta.

Britta: Hi, there.

Rayne: Okay, now we started our mini series on self-care strategies for Highly Sensitives, and it includes six topics on aspects of self-care we’d like to explore with you.

We’re on the fourth aspect of self-care in our series, which is mental self-care strategies for Highly Sensitives.

So first, let’s chat about what is mental self-care?

Some examples are reading a book, solving a puzzle, playing chess, going to a museum. So those are some examples. Okay. So that’s what it is and a few examples. So… Tonya, because I’m not going to pick on you Britta,

Britta: Thank you.

Rayne: So Tonya how do you practice mental self-care?

Tonya: Mental self-care. You know, just kind of building on some of the examples that you offered, I would say probably my, my number one is reading. I was an English major, a humanities major in college and graduate school. So I love books. I’m surrounded by them. I love philosophy. Krishnamurti is one of my favorites. I enjoy reading Buddhist teachings, yoga philosophy as well. I also like cozy mysteries. So like MC Beaton, Vivian Chen. So reading.

Yeah, and probably because I’m also introverted, and I really like a kind of a quiet life. So, you know, diving into the world of books is, is very nourishing for me. That’s one of my favorite things to do.

Probably in a very close second would be spending time with my family and my family is very small. It’s basically my husband and myself, our furbabies, my plants.

And this is really my happy place. You know, these, these people, these beings are my whole world. And just spending time with them is, is very calming for me. Very, it’s just the, like I said, my happy place. So those are, those are my top, my top two, go-to’s for mental self-care for sure. I have a couple others, but those, those are my two main ones.

Rayne: Cool. Cool. I like that. And you obviously that, you know, the, the reading a book, solving a puzzle, you know, those are, those sound like, those are… sorry, reading a book. That was the main one, right?

Tonya: Yeah, yeah, reading. Yeah, puzzles and things like that are, are fun, too. But I’m not much of a, of a game type person and puzzles to me are kind of more of problem solving than relaxing. Yeah.

So yeah, so reading definitely. And like I said, time with my family, you know, and then I have, you know, some other small ones, like things like limiting my time on social media, for example. And, you know, social, my social media isn’t even bad or triggering, but it really just becomes a kind of a time suck. So I try to be mindful of that.

And I also like to draw, I also like to draw and play the guitar a little bit. I’m not an expert, by any means, but I like to play around with that stuff as well. It’s kind of an escape. So, but it’s something that I can do, you know, privately, quietly, and you try not to judge myself too much.

Rayne: Cool, cool. I like that. I like that you, you notice that and you’re not judging yourself, I like that.

Tonya: Yeah. And it’s easy when you’re just doing it for yourself, right? Instead of, you know, trying to show it to other people. So you can just play.

Rayne: Yeah. How about you Britta? How do you practice mental self-care?

Britta: Well, I, I have a couple of things that, that I like to do. I agree with reading, I’m also a big reader. Fiction, non-fiction. Nowadays I focus on non-fiction.

More read, I really like to read about self development and just learning more about myself, about the HSP Trait, about other ways, or other theories about self development.

So I’m really, I really like learning about that. I just like learning new things in general. So keeping my mind busy, broadening my mind.

But I was listening to Tonya and I really love puzzles. That’s, that’s one of the things that I love. Puzzles, and the harder the better. Because it’s something that I noticed for myself is that my mind keeps on going, if I don’t give it something to do or something to focus on.

And because I have difficulty with doing like, breathing exercises or meditation, what works for me personally is, for example, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or solving like a sudoku thing. It focuses my mind in a way that there is no room to think about anything else. And sometimes you just need that.

Like one of the other things that I do, and that’s maybe a bit embarrassing, but okay, I’m just gonna own it. I watch some brainless TV shows sometimes. Oh, yeah. What do I watch? There was this, I don’t even remember the name. It was about people getting to know each other, like romantically without seeing each other.

Tonya: Like reality TV?

Britta: Yeah, it was reality TV. But it’s just and my husband makes fun of me. Because Why are you watching this? This is such a waste of time. And I’m like, Yeah, but of all the hours that I spend keeping my mind occupied, this is giving me something that I enjoy. And it just, it takes me into that show. It gives my mind something to do but it’s, it’s entertaining. I don’t need to think about it. I can just laugh. And that’s like an escape. It is it is an escape.

And yeah, for my for my husband, for example, he likes to play video games. And for me, it can be one of these shows, you know, or it’s not only the brainless TV as I call it, it can also be a very nice series. I personally also love Outlander series.

Tonya: Oh, yeah.

Britta: Yeah, you can almost be in the story and live with it and that’s that’s also a way to and not that I want to escape. But sometimes it’s just giving your mind a break of the constant processing and, and thinking, and I do a lot of thinking and then sometimes you just… I just want to give my head my brain a break and myself. So that’s, that’s, that’s what I consider mental self-care.

Rayne: Cool.

Britta: So reading, the puzzles. Yeah, and I also enjoy crafting. Okay, yeah, crafting or playing music, coloring like with my kids, drawing, or especially in wintertime, when it’s like all cold outside. And I like to crochet when I’m watching TV or just, I don’t know. Like, yeah, those are things that help me to keep my mind sane.

Rayne: Yeah, very important in today’s world. On the tail end to COVID and all and getting back to some, back to somewhat normalcy here hey?

Britta: Yeah, definitely. And also what Tonya said about the family time. Living abroad, away from friends and family does create a very strong bond with the people that you do live with. So in my case, that’s my husband and my two children. So we’re very close, connected, very, very tight bond that we have and it’s, it’s important to, to spend enough time with, with the people that you care about.

Tonya: Yeah, and not taking it for granted is so important.

Rayne: Yes, yes. Absolutely agree. 

Britta: How about you Rayne?

Rayne: Well, this is, this is pretty… this is interesting. So, I think I like solving puzzles. But, but as an HSS I think I can go a little overboard.  

But this is really cool. Okay, so, so my example was solving a puzzle but and this is on our, on our first perf podcast in our self care series, it was on emotional self care, right? But what I did was labeled a blog post and this social media post mental self care strategy for Highly Sensitive, but it wasn’t about mental health self-care, it was about emotional self-care, right?

Britta: Yeah.

Rayne: So, so I made a mistake. But the mistake was a puzzle to to me, right? Like, why did I misname it? Like out of 40, this was the first and only one I misnamed right?

So, so for me, it was a puzzle to be solved. So. And by the way, I fixed the blog post title in the title of part of the podcast, sorry for that confusion, you know, but back to the puzzle. Yeah, I think I may have solved it.

So it goes back to the D.O.E.S. acronym Dr. Elaine Aaron created, and.in case anybody listening doesn’t know Dr. Elaine Aaron is the researcher who discovered the HSP Trait. 

The D stands for depth of processing deep thinking, the O stands for overstimulation, the E stands for emotional reactivity slash empathy. And the S stands for sensory sensitivity. So when I was looking closer at the E, which is emotional reactivity, slash empathy, it’s all about emotions. 

And then I wondered, since this podcast is on mental health, right? I was like, how closely are my emotions tied to my mental health? Right? And for me, it turns out quite a bit. 

Because I learned emotional health is the ability to cope with and manage emotions. It’s also the ability to have positive relationships. 

But mental health is the ability to think clearly and make good decisions. It’s also the ability to cope with stress and manage emotions. 

So pretty closely tied together.

Britta: Yeah, there can be some overlap there. 

Rayne: Yeah. And especially, you know, and that’s just a general, you know, I found that online, you know, what, what the differences between emotional health and mental health is, and I thought, geez, you know, for HSPs, because of the D.O.E.S. acronym… this is, they’re actually really quite tied together. 

Yeah, um, case are and just, I’m to, for me, it’s important. So it makes sense to me why, why I did that, why I messed up the titles, I think, because obviously, I needed, I needed to look at that closer. So emotional health is the ability to cope with and manage emotions and it’s also the ability to have positive relationships. But mental health is the ability to think clearly and make good decisions. It’s also the ability to cope with stress and manage emotions. So that’s pretty cool. 

So, and since HSPs have big emotions, it stands to reason that if I don’t know how to recognize, regulate and process my big emotions, it’s going to affect my mental health, and my ability to think clearly and make good decisions, right? And then be able to cope with stress and manage my emotions. 

So, so, here’s one example of how I practice mental self-care. I make it okay for me to make mistakes. Right? I make it okay for me to make mistakes, and I own my mistakes. Just like misnaming the podcast right? And because that mistake taught me something really cool, right? 

So instead of like getting caught and stopped at the point where I realized, Oh my God, I misnamed, I misnamed, the blog post, I misnamed the podcast… you know what I mean? Instead of stopping there and fixing it and thinking that, um, you know, what, you know, and beating myself up. I got curious and open and it was like, Yeah, you’re a human being and you made a mistake. Big deal. 

But what was the, what was that trying to help me understand? Right? So because I can be hard on myself. I’m, you know, in the past that that was, you know, that was just the way it was right? I’m doing the opposite of judging myself. I’m accepting that I’m going to make mistakes. And that’s all right. In fact, it’s good because making mistakes means I’m trying, right?

Britta: And it means you’re learning.

Rayne: Exactly, exactly. Because that was a really cool thing learn, about how closely those are, those are connected, right?

Britta: Yeah, I’m okay. And I feel they’re all a bit connected in a way.

Rayne: Yeah, yeah. 

Britta: Well, there’s definitely more overlap. 

Rayne: Yeah, absolutely. And especially when, you know, the D depth of processing, you know, things ca,n can get into quite a few layers, you know, as you go into things, so, it definitely can, but for sure. 

Another way I look after myself in terms of mental self-care is, lately I’ve been teaching myself how to draw by learning from YouTube videos. But I’ve always told myself, I can’t draw. It always seemed like an unsolvable puzzle. To me, it seemed way too hard. And I felt like I had no talent for it. 

But when I practice learning how to draw, and I put on some relaxing music to listen to, while I’m doing it, it’s like figuring out a puzzle. Because I’m learning the basics of drawing are simply circles, squares and cylinders. And that’s it. I’ve got, I’ve got an eraser. So if I don’t like what’s going on, I can erase some of it, or part of it, or whatever. And, and I can draw beautiful images that inspire me. Right? 

So I’m also learning that it, it is something that I can learn, it’s not, you know, we’d like some people just seem to have a gift for it, you know, they just do it. And that’s it, you know? And I just sort of always thought, Oh, well, you know, that’s their gift. It’s not something I’ll ever be able to do. 

But it’s not true, it is something you can you can learn and teach yourself. So. So the act of practicing drawing also helps me cope with stress and manage my emotions. And it also helps me recognize emotions I may be suppressing. 

So, for example, so this is something that’s good to know, because I know a lot of HSPs were not, did not grow up in healthy surroundings, right? So where suppressing comes up is you might be more likely to repress emotions; 

  • If your caregivers rarely showed emotion, or talked about their feelings, 
  • shamed or punished you for expressing your emotions, 
  • or told you your emotions were wrong or denied your experience. 

So you know, that this, you know, I mean, I feel like our whole society needs a, you know, like, I don’t know, a whole course in this.

Britta: Oh, yeah. It’s not common knowledge yet.

Rayne: It’s not yet. Yeah. Right. So for me, practicing drawing is also relaxing, because I have no expectations, right? I’m just enjoying the act of doing it. And it gives me extra time to process other emotions that I may be repressing and recognize it. And that’s a big one, right? 

Oftentimes, if someone around me says, or does something negative, my default setting used to be to just take what they said, personally, overthink it and react emotionally. But that’s a negative cycle. Right? And it just, it just goes round and around and around, right? 

But now I know, what they say or do is a reflection of their world, how they feel, and how they are or aren’t managing their own emotions, right? So now, I know that people who repress their emotions, no, you don’t like this isn’t a matter of you either do or you don’t, you, when you start recognizing that you may be doing it, it’s it’s a matter of kind of you you start moving that that needle, you know, a little bit in the other way. Right? 

So it’s it’s not saying I haven’t done it. Because if, if you’re not aware that you’re repressing your emotions, you know, then that it’s simply, you know, I wasn’t aware of the importance of taking the time to look after my own emotional health, which then affects my ability to look after my own mental health. Right? 

So instead of following a reflex of reacting to their emotions, their emotional health and then saying or doing something to hurt themselves or others, that’s the, that’s mental health, the ability to think clearly and make good decisions, and the ability to cope with stress and manage emotions, right. 

So basically, I don’t take too much personally. And if I do react emotionally respective of the situation, right, because there are times where it is necessary to be assertive, it’s just, it’s necessary. You just, you know, you? You know, it’s it’s, you know? 

If, if if if somebody does something that’s not appropriate, you know, reacting, you know, sometimes it helps to react in a way that’s appropriate to what it is they’ve done, right? Yeah, you know, you, you do need to, you know, we live in a physical world, you know, it’s just, I’m not on a path to Buddha, to be Buddha or something. 

If somebody, you know, behaves in a way that is not, you know, appropriate for the situation, or whatever it is, I am going to, you know, match it to, to the point where I need to get my point across, right? 

So, it’s, you know, and that’s being assertive, and you have to be, right? Well, you don’t have to be, but if, if you aren’t, you’re you’re not making life easier on yourself. Right. 

So that’s just that that’s my little two cents there. I don’t know what, what do you guys think of that? What do you think about the, the, the part about how closely the emotional health is linked to the mental health?

Britta: I think it’s very, very much related. Yeah, I think you cannot have one without the other. Or at least that’s, that’s my experience. And probably, especially as HSPs you know, I don’t think I can ever have a thought that is not tied to an emotion. I don’t know how that is for you. 

But every when I when I look outside, and I see for example, beautiful sight, trees, and whatever, that, that creates an emotion inside of me. Yeah. And I have that with almost everything. Unless I focus my mind. Like I was saying, like doing a puzzle or doing something really, really, that requires all of my headspace. Yeah. Then, then I can zone out of it. But otherwise, it’s always, it always goes together.

Tonya: I agree. I feel the same way about it. I think a lot of these are all connected for me as well. Not just the mental and emotional, probably that are the closely, the closest, have the closest connection, but all of these things that we’re talking about in the series. You know, spiritual… all these kinds of things there. I think they’re all really closely connected for me.

Britta: I agree. And one of the other things that I thought of when I was listening, and just thinking about my experience for mental, and what you said about the definition of the mental self-care, that it is any activity that really stimulates the mind, is what I think I mentioned at the beginning, that I really enjoy broadening my mind. So enjoy the process of learning and experiencing new things.

Rayne: Yeah, and as an HSS I’ll seek that out. It’s just yeah, it’s like breathing. I have to do it sometimes.

Britta: Yeah, I feel that way too. Otherwise, it gets boring. And yeah, when whenever something is just like, going and I know what it is, then, then I’m already scouting for for a new topic or for a new book about the same topic because there’s always more to learn, but there seems to be this endless hunger for… is it knowledge? I don’t know, just just things to read and learn about.

Rayne: I think it’s… for me it feels like it’s linked to growth, my growth, ya know? And, and I just feel like there’s, as long as I’m taking in air, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to be growing. I’m supposed to be learning and growing and, you know, doing everything I can you know, just, you know, you know, just appreciating, appreciating it. That’s part of appreciating this life, you know? 

Britta: Yeah. And I’m now that I think about it, and the ideas are jumping into my head. I was actually thinking about Tonya. I think mindfulness as such might also be something to help with self-care, keeping, keeping your eye on the “now” instead of getting stuck in the past or being too much focused on the future, what do you think?

Tonya: No, I agree. I mean, I think it can be linked to, to all of these things I would for myself, personally, I would probably link it more to spiritual self-care, but I feel like, you know, just kind of splitting hairs really, when it comes to a lot of this stuff. Because they are so connected. 

But yeah, just being mindful about, you know, how we eat our food, for example. You know, all those kinds of like, just simple things, where we can apply mindfulness every day, can make a big difference, especially in our overstimulating, fast-paced world, you know, even if you’re, you know, living in a, in a small town, we still have, you know, we still live in the modern world, and we have all those kinds of influences. And the world is moving at a very fast, very fast pace. And, you know, so I think, I think you’re totally right about mindfulness being important for emotional self-care, mental self-care, spiritual self-care, physical self-care. 

Britta: Yeah, there is another overlap, but also what brings, what comes to mind when I think about mental self-care is, for example, when you have an argument, it goes together with a lot of deep emotions, but it’s also, it messes with you mentally.

Tonay: Yeah, physically for me.

Britta: I experienced that too. But then, when you’re, when I’m thinking about the mindfulness is, that’s something that I’m working at right now is when, for example, I have an argument with my husband or something that I try to stay in the moment and in this moment, it’s okay. There is no point in worrying. And that’s something that it might… 

Yeah, I might not be explaining it very well. But I tried to not worry or think like, Okay, is it helping me if I keep thinking and thinking and overthinking about this, and it’s just making me feel worse. So it’s not really adding. Adding something good?

Rayne: Yes. And its detracting, not adding. Yes, yes, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s a really a nice, really nice, little good shortcut to, you know, is this adding or subtracting?

Britta: It’s not an easy to, it’s not like, switch on switch off. But it’s something that I, for myself and working on to really stay in that moment, like, Okay, hang on here before your mental state is going cuckoo? Is it worth it? To put all of this energy in? And remember that you have a choice?

Rayne: Well, you know, I think it’s, I think it’s, you know, HSP, and even in even non-HSPs, you know, giving everybody grace, ourselves and everybody grace, right? Because mental health is the ability to think clearly and make good decisions. It’s also the ability to cope with stress. Yeah, right, cope with stress, manage emotions. 

God knows this, you know, like, it’s been, it’s been quite a bizarre, you know, last few years, you know, I… there’s not very many people I’ve seen coping with stress, ya know, in a way that’s and managing their emotions, it seems like the, you know, things have gotten a little bit… 

So, you know, I think that’s really important. I really, you know, it’s not something we’re taught in school, the ability to cope with stress and manage your emotions, you know, I was taught at home to suppress and repress and at school, it’s pretty much the same thing. 

So, yeah. And then you start life and you realize, oh, you know, not being able to cope with stress and manage my emotions, you know, just my mental health that is affecting, you know, that’s having a huge impact on my quality of life, how much I’m enjoying my life, how much I’m enjoying my relationships, you know? 

So, it’s, it’s, you know, I think it’s, it’s important to, you know, give ourselves and everyone else you know, as we can some grace about it, because for some reason, these are things that, you know, are just sort of part of the norm. Not in my world. I don’t know about your guys’s world?

Tonya: No. And I like what you said Britta about being mindful. And I would say, you know, just having that, that you’re, that you’re able to pause when you’re in a situation like that and kind of, you know, press the pause button and say, Okay, wait a minute.  You know, what’s really going on? How am I going to manage this? I mean, that’s, you know, that’s huge. That’s huge. 

A lot of people can never, can never get there. Because like what you said, Rayne, we’re not typically taught these things. They’re things that we have to figure out on our, on our, on the way. Yeah, and depending on who we surround ourselves with, and how we spend our time and all of that, ya know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s work. 

Rayne: It is, it is, but in a way, it’s, it’s such a rewarding work. Absolutely. It is, you know, like, it really is, you know, when, when, when you can notice the benefits you’re experiencing, you know, and the benefits in either for just your own relationship. 

Like for me in my own relationship with myself. It just, it’s, I’ve just become so much more, you know, understanding and compassionate and everything with myself. 

And that’s been allowed me, you know, again, that it’s taken me time to, to being open to you know, I had to accept that I had the HSP Trait in stages. So it was like, I found out I was so happy. And then I was kind of freaked out. And then I went through all a bunch of different phases with that. But then it came to the point where it was just like, Oh, my God, this goes, like, quite a bit deeper. You know, there’s a lot to this. There’s there really is a lot to this. And the more I understand about it, the more I understand how I work, the better it’s going to be, not just for me, but for the people that are around me that I choose to be around, right.

Britta: Yeah. Yeah, I think so too. 

Rayne Yeah, yeah. Okay, 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, you cannot or you have a topic idea, please email info at HSP dot world and we’ll be in touch. Join us for our next podcast where we’ll be chatting about Social Self-Care Strategies for Highly Sensitives.

Tonya: See you next time. 

Britta: Bye.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.