8 self-care practices for Very Sensitive people.

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Growing up an empath comes with it’s own set of very specific Things that Happen to You that don’t seem to happen to other people. A non-exhaustive list includes:

  • Crying at the sight of other people crying, even when you don’t know what they are upset about.
  • Feeling the tension of someone across the room and actually becoming anxious on their behalf.
  • Physically carrying the stress of yourself, your friends, your family, the world, etc., in your neck, shoulders, belly, back, and everywhere.
  • Waking up in a panic in the middle of the night with a strong knowledge that Something is Wrong Somewhere, with few clues as to what the Something is or how to fix it.
  • Pinpointing Something that is Wrong and attempting to fix it without success for hours, days, weeks, decades.
  • Etcetera, ad nauseam.

Being a Very Sensitive person is an exhausting lot in life.

Don’t get me wrong here- sensitivity comes with numerous beautiful benefits attached to it, such as unusually close relationships and the ability to truly share in moments of sheer joy when good things happen to the people you love. But it also can be super challenging to bear over time. Sensitive people are more likely to absorb the pain of others around them, and are also more likely to deny themselves their own needs and wants in favor of focusing in on meeting the needs and wants of others. When this becomes habitual, the Sensitive among us sometimes turn to behaviors that are less than optimum to numb themselves to the painful emotional stuff they are carrying (their own and everyone else’s). Disordered eating, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, obsessions/compulsions, etc., can all manifest when sensitivity is not tempered with a healthy and consistent dose of self-care.

How to care for yourself if you are one of the lucky Very Sensitive few? Some suggestions:

  1. Go to therapy on the regular. This does not mean you are mentally ill or have some big Problem that needs solving; therapy is a space to process all that weighty emotional stuff so it doesn’t bog you down.
  2. Share your own stuff with others, as much as others share their stuff with you. This means letting them in on the big secret that you are imperfect and sometimes have feelings, too.
  3. Know that you cannot fix All the Things. Even though this is Very Hard, practice letting go of the things that do not belong to you.
  4. Talk to yourself. Every day. Check in with what different Parts of you want and need, and prioritize meeting those wants and needs first, before you try meeting the wants and needs of people around you.
  5. Do the basics every day. Even when others need you, even when there’s a lot to do, even in times of stress. This means eat well, sleep well, see friends/family/loved ones, have fun, and seek balance. Every day.
  6. Give your body support if you tend to hold emotions physically. Yoga, acupuncture, reiki, hiking, and getting a massage are all great ways to help your body release held tension and stress.
  7. Don’t accept negative messages about your sensitivity. These might sound like “You’re being overdramatic” or “stop making such a big deal out of this”, or might look like eye rolls or laughing at something that is important to you. If people do this to you, they are intimidated by your sensitivity and are shaming you for it,  and I encourage you to run in the opposite direction.
  8. Set big, firm, line-in-the-sand boundaries. If someone’s emotional stuff is too much for you and they are intent on having you carry it for them, set boundaries. Be consistent and confident about them. If you have to, end relationships with people who routinely ask for more than they give.

Being a Sensitive person is a rarity and a gift, but it requires a certain amount of intentional maintenance to be both Sensitive and Well. I encourage you to try to prioritize just one new method of self-care, and notice how it serves you, emotionally and physically.

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