The HSP World Podcast Ep. 8: COVID Strategies for Highly Sensitive People

The HSP World Podcast Ep. 8: COVID Strategies for Highly Sensitive People


The HSP World Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Podbean, and Spotify!

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. We are not coaches or therapists. We are HSPs holding space with you and I’m one of your hosts, Thomas and your other hosts are

Robyn: Robyn.

Rayne: and Rayne. 

Robyn: Welcome back everybody. For our next episode today, we have a guest, Eileen, with us. Welcome Eileen. 

Eileen: Thank you. Good to be here. 

Robyn: Thanks for joining us.  As usual, I’d like to ask you, if you could share a little bit of the story about how you came to find out about your Highly Sensitive Trait? 

Eileen: Sure, Robyn. So, I guess it was probably about 2009 or 2010. I know that there was a book, highly sensitive person that had come out and I’m a Reiki and Energy Practitioner.

I’ve always known I’ve been pretty sensitive, but maybe hadn’t put words to it. And I remember being in a bookstore and seeing that book and you know, it resonated for me.

And so I got it and started reading about it and realized that’s who I was. And, I guess it validated me. So it was helpful. A lot of people I’ve found who are drawn to healing arts, um, also have, uh, HSP traits and some for the other group members, you know, we would talk about it in those terms and then fast forward to now, you know, during the pandemic, like a lot of people, I felt pretty isolated.

And so I went on Facebook looking for an HSP group and had come upon your group and was really happy to connect and to also find out about the podcast. And so that’s, that’s kind of what’s brought me here today. So, I do have a question, um, but you tell me.

Robyn: Oh please. Yeah. Yeah, let’s go right into it. 

Eileen: Yeah. You know, during this time, during this pandemic,  I’ve wondered cause I’ve struggled too, you know, like what stress, what are strategies that other HSPs have found useful, to just help them to get through it with all the different issues of this complex situation.

And then, you know, as we go forward, you know, maybe those strategies, like, I think to myself, things that I did initially, I don’t know if they’re going to be relevant going forward. But you know, what else can we do going forward to honor our nature? So that’s my question. 

Robyn: Thank you.  I’m just curious. So you said that there were some things that you had tried out initially that you feel like you wouldn’t keep doing,  going forward. But it’s always nice to know, even when something doesn’t pan out, it’s nice to know how it worked. Right? What was the result? So I’m wondering if there’s any examples you’d be comfortable sharing.

Eileen: Sure, absolutely. Uh, I think my top one, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, is initially I was watching the news more than I ever had in my life. Like, every day and, you know, watching it on like YouTube or on the regular television, versus reading it.  I used to always just read the news, but so many things were changing so quickly.

I felt drawn to it, attached to it, and then maybe a month in, so somewhere in like April or something, I realized it’s just, I mean, yes, it’s information, but you know, every, I feel every piece of media has a spin, you know? And so it was too much. I had to shift it, you know? Um, so that’s one thing I don’t think I would do. I’ve gone back to watching some news and I’ve gone back to reading more news.

So I don’t know. That’s that’s one example you can think of. Yeah. 

Thomas: That’s a really good observation.  I’ve had to detach from news as well because otherwise I drive myself crazy. I just absorb all this energy that I don’t want to absorb. 

I don’t know if it’s negative energy. I think some of it is negative energy, but there’s a lot there that I don’t want to absorb, and I also remind myself that over the long term, things change slowly. There are things that change fast and that’s sort of the impression you get when you watch the news too much, when you read the news too much, I feel, but then if I go away from it for a week or a month and then come back to it, I find it’s really all the same stuff all the time.

And not much has changed. And I mean that in a broadest sense. You know, obviously there’s a lot that’s been changing. There’s a lot that has changed with this pandemic. So I don’t want to minimize that at all. I’m just saying that in the broad strokes, uh, oftentimes watching the news seems like it’s just the same thing over and over again.

That’s what I meant. 

Eileen: Hmm. Yeah, I agree. That’s really astute. Thank you. I appreciate that Thomas. That’s good insight. 

Robyn: Yeah, I mean, it goes to the more general theme of like balancing how much to be out with how much to be in right? Which is already a very big question for HSPs before the pandemic happened, right? We’re always kinda of asking ourselves ‘how much of the outside world can I handle?’ Right? And I think it just became amplified in this situation.

You know, how much news can I take in, how much actual physical exposure to other people can I take in? Um, what’s interesting is that we’re not alone now. Even people who don’t identify as HSP have similar considerations going on. Um, I think I dealt with it, I actually got a really good tip from another HSP early on.

And she said, you know, all sensitives, no matter how extroverted you are, have an introverted side or have a capacity to retreat into their inner world and be, you know, quite entertained there. And so I decided to dig into that. And, uh, it really gives me quite a bit. I wasn’t bored actually.

There were two months where I wasn’t even working and I wasn’t bored because I had a lot of reading and writing and just random stuff that was always kind of at the back of my mind. And now I actually had space and freedom to bring it to the fore. And so I actually kind of enjoyed that.

I enjoyed that. I enjoyed not having to think about what I was missing out on. I love that. Um, I love that meme that went by someone saying, who knew you could kill off FOMO by getting rid of MO: missing out, but getting rid of missing out? Right? I was like, Oh yeah, I actually kinda liked this. Right? I think a question for me going forward and I don’t have an answer to this.

I think it’s just a negotiation that we each have to make continually, but it’s how do you balance that very, very real need to be in enough and protected enough and shielded enough, without getting isolated in a negative way, you know?

So even with the news, and I was already who’s somebody who really curated my news intake before, because as you said, I was felt there was a spin on things. And I just, I felt often that I was being manipulated by reading certain, certain sensational titles. And, you know, you want to be critical of it. But it got to the point where at some point I wasn’t following the news at all, and I did start wondering, huh?

You know, what if like, things are happening, things are still happening whether or not I’m reading about them. At some point I started feeling guilty about not being aware at all. Right? So that like, if you really go extreme with it that can become a concern. So, uh, so there you go. I guess I just added a complication, not necessarily, or a resource, but it is something to think about.

Rayne: Yeah. I think for me, it’s more for me, like, um, continuing on a journey of making friends with uncertainty. Um, because, you know, there is, um, I don’t know a sense of calm that I get from having certainty about things in my world, at least. Um, and it’s, I think it’s just about getting comfortable with uncertainty and, and I say that it’s a  continuation of the journey because… well, to explain it, I’ll have to kind of go through a bit of a, um, I guess an understanding of why it feels like that for me.

So when I was about three or four, I drowned. And at that time I met what I call, The Light, because that’s what it was. It was just an amazing… it was a consciousness and an energy, and it was just absolutely amazing.

It was everything, you know, everything that’s beautiful and wonderful about existence, you know? Just love and patience and understanding, and, power, creativity, just everything wonderful. And, so, of course I wanted to stay with The Light. But that was not to be, so back I came.

Then fast forward about, um, probably about 25 years and I was on a silent solo nature retreat. And when I was on this retreat… um, so, I guess that that first experience was sort of the beginning of my relationship with, I don’t know, with what’s not known, I guess is the best way I can describe it.

So yeah, fast forward 25 years and I was on a silent solo retreat and it was sort of given to me, a message was sort of relayed to me that I was very, very loved and I was doing good, according to The Light basically, and that something difficult was going to be given to me to do in the future.

And basically that was kind of “it.” So that brought up uncertainty in me.

Then fast forward another 10 years and basically The Light was asking me to warn someone about our environment. That this was important and our environment was very important and we needed to be careful, type of thing.

So I went ahead. And of course you’re always given the, you know, or I shouldn’t say, of course, for me I was given the opportunity to do either do what The Light was asking or not do it. But for me, it was, you know, and I didn’t necessarily want to, because it was difficult and I knew it was going to be difficult, but I did.

And what that brought up for me, and that went on for about, I don’t know, 10 or 12 years. And I suppose the main takeaway for me was that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing.

Uncertainty can actually open things up. It can allow you to open up and look at something from a different perspective.

And it was interesting because after about 10 or 12 years, The Light said, okay, you can stop. Like basically you don’t need to warn this person anymore. And now I want you to write a book about your experience. And I had never written a book before, but it was like, okay, this is what The Light wants me to do this so I’ll do it.

So I did. And lo and behold, you know, couple of years later COVID happens. Right?

So uncertainty brought me to the understanding that it’s actually a really interesting thing to make friends with uncertainty, because what I did in that time period of that 10-12 years—was I actually used my senses more.

And as an HSP, you know, it’s funny because the Inuit have a hundred or more different ways to describe snow. You know, like there’s all these different types of snow and it sort of feels to me like that’s the same thing with an HSP and their senses.

You know, there’s so many different ways that we experience the world and that our senses pick up that we’re not even aware that we are. And, and it’s funny because before I had gone on, you know, gone ahead and followed what The Light wanted me to do, I just sort of took a lot of things for granted and never, you know, uh, you know, like the sun will be up tomorrow and this will be how this happens and this will be how that happens. And that’s just the way it’s going to go, you know?

And when I stopped doing that, it became, I suppose, a lot more interesting and I don’t know, it allowed me to tap into my senses more.

So instead of listening to the news, I would then, you know, go outside and be like, okay, you know, this is a brand new experience. What am I experiencing? And not having anything that I was trying to conform my experiences to and just accepting what that experience “is.”

That allows me to be a lot more thankful for, uh, all the things that might just be trade affords me, and that knowing that the uncertainty is actually kind of a blessing, you know? Because it’s like opening up new presents, not sort of taking anything for granted, you know, and utilizing my own senses to gather information, um, makes me a lot more thankful for them.

So it’s a bit of a different take on it. Um, but yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s more about, um, appreciating my senses a lot more and understanding that a lot of people don’t have them, you know? They don’t necessarily have them to appreciate them. So it’s, it’s um, yeah, it’s something pretty cool.

Eileen: Thank you, Rayne. I like what you were saying. And I was writing that you said like with the news watching, it is trying to conform, you know, to another kind of standard, I mean, on the one hand it’s information, but yeah, there is this sort of imposed view from that channel or that article or whatever, you know?

Okay, I have been, and I continue to practice gratitude, similarly, things that are much greater than myself. During this time I’ve rekindled my interest in astronomy. Astronomy group and, you know, virtually watching the media or in the, you know, just the celestial events, um, and, and the, you know, Reiki as well, a universal energy greater than yourself.

I appreciate your story. Thank you.

Rayne: Oh, thank you.

Eileen: I will say that being an HSP, something I did find necessary during this last six months and probably will continue is as much as I do enjoy opening my senses up in places like nature and for the night sky. Um, just day in and day out, the work that I do in the world, I’m a helper to many people. Um, I often need to do my own version of a sensory deprivation.

And so I love the invention of noise, canceling headphones. 

Like one of the greatest inventions, they are, or ear buds. Yeah right? And also an eye pillow, you know, and both combined. So I’m laying down. I have the eye pillow, I have the noise blacked out. And then, you know, Reiki, in gently put your hands over your heart or abdomen.

So I just go into a little bubble. Yeah? Not the whole day. Right? And not every day, but it’s like, there are certain days, depending upon what is going on, whether it was the news, whether it was the clients I work with, whatever it was that I was doing, um, it helps to recharge me. It always has, but I was very aware of it this year, you know, as a strategy. So do you all, do you do some version of that where you kind of tune out the sense? 

Thomas: Um, I suppose, I mean, I do a daily meditation, and I do a daily daydreaming which is part of my creativity practice. What I’ve found, now, I live in a large city and everything shut down and it continues to be shut down.

So I guess the difference for me before and after is that there, that I truly am sort of, you know, staying in and that’s, that’s allowed me to really focus inward and I’ve been doing that. So a lot of that has to do with reading, and contemplation, and self discovery. So for me, this has been actually a really wonderful time because I’ve gone down some new paths for myself and I find that I’m as creative as I ever have been. 

And so how that relates to my HSP Trait is actually, you know, part of what I was doing was overthinking things, which is something that I’ve always done. And I’m discovering that I’m overthinking less, the meditation practice has helped enormously with that, but also just self discovery and finding out what my, what my inner compass is saying and honoring that and staying true to that.

So for me, I mean, yes, I miss a lot of what’s not available right now, especially being here in the city. Um, but on the other hand, I’m so grateful and so thankful for having this time to really go deep.

Did I answer the question sort of in a roundabout way, Eileen? 

Eileen: Yeah, no, I really, I just appreciate all of what you’re sharing, you know? It is, but I’m aware of this in the work that I do. You know, I am a counselor. I do see clients. And so I really have been on this kind of front line with people since day one, even though I’ve been telehealth.

And so I’ve had my process, but I’ve been holding space for everybody else’s process. So that’s different, right? I mean, I’ve heard this with the folks I’ve worked with, you know, who told me about their creative time and I’m a creative person too. And some things have popped up later, later. So much in the beginning for me was dealing with my own and everybody’s crisis.

And now yeah, on this end of it or whatever part of it, we’re in, I’m hearing where, what you’ve been through and like, ‘Oh yeah. some of that is I’ve been able to tap into’ and like revitalize some things. 

Thomas: There’s something definitely qualitatively different from March, you know, when it all happened and today, right?

I remember in March we were all like, ‘Oh, we have to, you know, have a happy hour with our friends over zoom’ and you know, ‘we gotta keep this going’ and you know, and all of that has sort of gone away. And there’s just, there’s a little bit more peace now. I don’t know what other word to describe it as, but as this progresses everything’s a little bit more peaceful now, at least maybe I’m also reflecting what’s going on inside me.

Robyn: Yeah. Because I think it depends on where you are as well. Like where I am things were able to open up quite a bit for the summer. So a lot of normal activities resumed and uh, I think even for myself there’s been a little bit of a, not quite frantic, but definitely an urgent sense of, okay, let me maximize getting out, seeing people doing the kinds of things that I can do now, because I don’t know when it’s going to all go away.

Which at the beginning, I think was a good strategy because you know, it kind of made me feel like, alright, I’m seizing this opportunity and making the most out of what’s available to me. And, um, I did actually manage to do quite a few, um, engage in a few really nice activities that I think will kind of, you know, feed me for awhile.

Um, cause I do notice that happens. I do notice that if I have periods of my life where I’m more out there then it is a little bit easier to have a period of my life where I’m more in there. Um, like more inwardly focused. The only thing that I think I have to watch out for is that, um, if I take it too far, it goes into a scarcity mindset, right?

If like, let me do this now, before it all goes away. And that is just, that’s just stressful that doesn’t help, it erodes a little bit, the joy that you would normally get from doing those activities. Right? If you, if you just go and say, ‘Oh, let me enjoy this, you know, this sunny afternoon in the park while I still can.’

Okay. But if you spend too much energy on the ‘while I still can’ before it’s gone. Um, that’s uh, well, I think it comes to, comes back a little bit to what Rayne was saying about, um, befriending uncertainty, and I guess in this case, loss as well. Right? And, um, I think I’m able to acknowledge it.

Acknowledge the presence of uncertainty and loss, but it’s not always a, it’s more of a love/hate relationship right now, rather than us, rather than a friendship, or even, even just kind of mutual tolerance, you know? Um, again, it depends on the moment, but, uh, yeah, I find it a little bit tricky.

Rayne: For me I’ve been sort of, um, again, I tend to listen to The Light and it’s basically the message for me has been, you know, self care, self care in every way which way, form possible.

So food and, um, therapy, and food, and being creative and giving myself quiet time and time I need. And, you know, being pretty selective about who I spend my time with and how long I spend my time there. You know, and it’s been wonderful, it’s been really wonderful. You know, I think for the HSP community, um, you know, like you are Eileen,  there are like a lot of helpers and, um, you know, that kind of thing.

So it can, you know, it can sometimes feel odd, you know, when you go into self care and you pay extra special attention to that, it can feel unfamiliar, you know? But it’s also doing something different, but that’s also very good for me. So yeah, I’ve been really thankful for that. Very, very thankful for that.

And it’s given me, well, I suppose I give myself permission and give myself the time, um, and that’s been, that’s the biggest thing, you know, as opposed to looking for somebody else to give me permission or anything like that.

It’s more going, you know, no, this is what’s best for me. I know what’s best for me. This is what I’m going to do, you know? So that’s been absolutely wonderful because, when you can tap into your senses and go yeah. Yeah, that was, yeah, I had a busy day today and that was enough, now you need your downtime.

You kind of have to be your own parent and go, yeah, that’s enough.

Robyn: It’s interesting because I think there is an extra twist in this though, and I definitely you know, one of the biggest things in general that HSPs can do to take care of themselves is, you know, as, as you’re mentioning Rayne, um, is develop like a Go To list or series of practices that are restorative, right?

Thankgs that help you manage your stimulation level and kind of make you feel nourished in the broader sense, right? But there is the very real, um, difficulty that a lot of things that we would normally go to are just not available right now, right? Um, a lot of social things are not available. A lot of public things are not available.

A lot of artistic, creative things, people going to concerts and stuff like that. A lot of like choir practices and things have been canceled. And as the weather becomes, at least where I live, as the weather becomes less and less hospitable to spending time outdoors, that will be, you know, even the connection to nature will be limited. Not gone. Definitely not.

You can still get out there. You can find other ways to do it. And again it’s not, these things are disappearing. I think they just posing new challenges. And, um, I think, I’m guessing, I’m going to see how it goes, but I’m guessing that, you know, a combination of, uh, creativity to innovate and find new ways to get back to those things that restore you, um, or other things that can be restorative.

And then also, um, just, you know, going through a process of grieving of everything that you can’t access now, and maybe won’t be able to access for awhile.

Eileen: Yeah, I think that’s a really important part rather than to be in touch with that. I mean, I’ve seen both in my work and my own experience just when I don’t acknowledge the grief part of it, of the losses, then I’m sort of dragging, I’m like dragging through life. Right. And what am I dragging?

I’m dragging the grief. The grief wants to be acknowledged, always. And so to do even I’m a big ritual person, you know, until I do a ritual around some of the losses and maybe that ends up being a creative project or maybe an instant being a quiet moment of reflection. Right? So those that’s what came up for me when you were talking about it.

And, and then I had the thought also of like, as we go into the Fall and the Winter and where I am too. I mean, we can get out and into it, but it’s just not ideal is to, it makes you resilient to like, plan, to be like, ‘Okay, maybe you should get that snow suit this year  you’re always thinking of’, or you know, ‘Maybe, maybe you should get a better rain suit’ or whatever, you know?

Like not to deny it, to accept just like Rayne said, you know, to be like, ‘Hey, here’s the uncertainty, the ambiguity of what’s going to occur and that’s going to be, is part of life.’ So, what will help you? I don’t know. It’s sort of like what’s in your backpack? Something like that.

Rayne: Yeah, yeah. That you don’t know is in your backpack sometimes. 

Eileen: Maybe you got to empty that backpack out and be like, Oh wow. I forgot about that! 

Thomas: Open it up. See what’s in there. Well, Eileen, I want to thank you for today’s conversation. 

Eileen: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. 

Thomas: I’m curious to know how you feel about it? Were there things that resonated with you? 

Eileen: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Such a great takeaway. I’m inspired. Thank you. 

Thomas: Thanks for joining us.

Rayne: Um, yes, Eileen, thank you so much for coming on and having the courage to ask your question. It was, it was great chatting about it. I really appreciate the opportunity to do that with you and Thomas and Robyn. 

Robyn: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks everybody. And thank you to our listeners.

So please join us for our next episode where we’ll be having another interesting HSP conversation and to any Highly Sensitives out there who have a burning HSP-related question, big or small, we invite you to ask it on the HSP world podcast. 

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


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