Discover how you can thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in an overwhelming world with bestselling Author Theresa Cheung. Since leaving King’s College, Cambridge University with a degree in Theology and English Theresa has written numerous books and encyclopaedias which have been translated into dozens of different languages. Theresa’s latest book The Sensitivity Code: Life strategies for thriving in an overwhelming world, provides life strategies for any Highly Sensitive Person. Theresa shows you how to unlock the potential of your own sensitivity using strategies proven to be effective by scientists and psychologists, combined with her own research with real life stories.
Highly sensitive people are more aware of subtleties and process information deeply. This means they tend to be creative, insightful, and empathetic, but it also means they’re more prone than others to stress and overwhelm. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can thrive as a highly sensitive person…
Am I A Highly Sensitive Person?
Q. How do you know if you are a highly sensitive person?
Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) can show up in so many ways (See Page 29 of The Sensitivity Code) Some of the most common traits are extreme intuition and empathy, you feel life rather than just living it. If you’re a highly sensitive you will feel other people’s feelings, you will soak up the atmosphere of a room. Highly sensitive people need lots of time alone. You often get the feeling that you don’t quite fit in or that you may be a bit of an odd one out.
Often sensitive people have to make a real effort to “appear normal” but actually they are normal, that’s who they are, but they feel they have to fit in with extroverts and people that are less sensitive. HSPs desire to have regular periods alone, like a Jane Austen heroin, they need time alone to gather their thoughts and reflect.
Recognising Sensitivity As A Strength
Q. Being a highly sensitive person comes with many negative connotations, often being labelled as “overemotional” a “snowflake” or “soft”. What are some of the positive aspects of being a highly sensitive person?
If you google sensitivity often illnesses come up like toothache or stomach-ache. Sensitivity has a negative association with being weak, it is seen as a flaw to be emotional or to overthink things or to be highly reflective or to have an emotional approach to life. This is one of the reasons I wrote The Sensitivity Code.
I wrote this book not just for the 20% of the population who are highly sensitive, but for everybody who has felt sensitive. We all have that sensitivity code within us that can be triggered by life events such as having a baby or a bereavement.
‘Sadly, when we feel highly sensitive, we tend to think of it as a flaw or a weakness, it’s not, it is a strength.’– Theresa Cheung Author of The Sensitivity Code
In times past people who had these emotional, empathetic, intuitive traits were the shaman, the healers, the medicine people and frequently they would heal and save lives. protecting their tribes, because they could sense coming danger or atmospheres that were toxic long before other people could. They were highly valued by society. Technology has advanced and we have become very material, so we don’t tend to value these intuitive traits anymore.
Hopefully one of the positives coming out of the Coronavirus pandemic is that people who are empathetic and intuitive will get more of the attention. We can see this gradually happening, with the applause and gratitude for nurses and the care workers. Most nurses are drawn to the profession because they are caring, nurturing, empathetic souls. Those sensitive qualities are being regarded as a strength now. Everyone wants to hear stories of kindness, compassion and empathy today, we don’t want to hear about anything else. It could be that 2020 is a turning point for sensitive people or for people having a desire for kindness and compassion and trying to make difference.
‘This could be the moment that we start regarding sensitive traits, not as a weakness but as a true gift to humanity.’– Author Theresa Cheung
Raising Highly Sensitive Children
Q. Could you recommend any practical tips to help parents raising a highly sensitive child?
I have two highly sensitive children of my own, we ended up home schooling for five years as they were feeling so overwhelmed, one of whom is musically gifted, and the school was not providing for that.
Choose Your Words Wisely
My biggest tip for raising a sensitive child is: never make them feel ashamed of their emotional, imaginative and reflective response to life. Don’t say things that I was called when I was a child over and over again by my teachers and carers “you are too sensitive for your own good” what does that mean?! That’s like saying to someone who is tall “you are too tall for your own good” sensitivity is genetic, it’s an inherited trait, it’s something that we all have.
‘Don’t say to a sensitive child “toughen up” that’s the last thing we should be saying to them, because it makes them feel like they are somehow inadequate or there is something wrong with them. Being sensitive is a strength.’– Author Theresa Cheung on raising highly sensitive children
Allow Time For Reflection
You need to allow these children time alone, they are not necessarily always going to want to hang out with their peer group, they are going to want quiet periods of time alone for reflection.
Allow them to indulge their creativity. Allow them to go against the flow. All their peer group may want to go one way and they may want to go another. Celebrate them as individuals. Let them know that being sensitive is nothing to be ashamed of, it is not a weakness. If any parent can do that then, my goodness, their future could be amazing. Not all sensitive children are geniuses but a lot of them go on to be great thinkers, great innovators, great artists, great thought leaders. Walt Disney, Ghandi, John Lennon, all these people had sensitive traits, if you allow them to flower and believe in themselves, they can move mountains.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons for high depression rates in sensitive people is the negative messaging they have had from schooling and sometimes from home. I know parents are well meaning, they want their children to fit in and be like everybody else, but you have to question why. You have to celebrate their individuality and learn from that. As they learn from you, you too can learn from them.
How To Calm Anxiety As A Highly Sensitive Person
Q. Could you share three life strategies for highly sensitive people reading this who maybe suffering with overwhelm or anxiety?
1 in 5 people are believed to be highly sensitive, that means they have extreme sensitivity and are extremely intuitive and empathetic. Everybody will go through sensitive times in their life when their feelings overwhelm them. These strategies apply for everyone who is going through particularly overwhelming times. The book gives 12 strategies, but I will focus in on three that I feel are particularly effective.
Remember You’re In Charge Of Your feelings
Visualise a protective bubble, pause take a deep breath, remember you can step outside yourself, that you are in charge of your feelings, not the other way around.
Connect With Nature
Have quiet time alone each day to gather your thoughts and reflect. Like Mr Bennett who retired to his library after the overwhelm of having dinner with his wife and five daughters. One of the best ways to do that is to spend time in nature. Nature is very healing for empathetic sensitive people, especially spending time near water because empaths have a great affinity with water, also spending time with animals.
Prioritise self-care and self-compassion as HSP tend to put other people first. You need to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. This can difficult for parents, but parents need to give an example to their children. You want to give a powerful example to your children so they have a role model that shows that self-love and self-care is not an act of arrogance or narcissism.
The aim of The Sensitivity Code is to gently guide sensitive people to recognise their own worth. To offer practical coping tools to manage emotions and navigate insensitive situations. Special thank you to Theresa for sharing her wisdom and guidance. You can get your copy of Theresa’s book The Sensitivity Code on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Google.