I have been doing a lot of work around the topic of HSP Self-Care lately. Not that this is a new thing, but I have noticed that more and more of my work with HSPs relates to this.
Why is this topic so important and what makes it something we have to return to again and again?
One of the reasons, I guess, is that the very thing we are trying to reduce (our holistic stress), prevents us from feeling able to consistently plan for or work with ideas that relate to our self-care. Further, finding time in the diary to include things that are good for us means being able to use our logistical brain. The trouble is, stress makes it hard to focus and use our working memory effectively. Then, the other difficulties, our physical and emotional fatigue, come into the picture – how can we work up enough confidence and energy to actually give ourselves the space and permission to do that logistical and subsequent self care work in the first place? Why is this all so damn hard?!
Well… its a complex story, and not possible to explore fully in a short piece like this, but we can make a start by going back to basics. Whatever is going on, it’s really important to remember that everything we experience is filtered through our four HSP sub-traits – Depth of Processing, Emotional Intensity, Sensory Sensitivity and our potentially Over-stimulated nervous system (D.O.E.S. – E A Aron PhD). So even our attempt at Self-Care comes via these four areas.
We also need to remember that our attitude to our sensitivity and our normal needs is influenced by our upbringing and experiences. If we have been told we are not tired, when we actually are, we may have learned to ignore and in fact not plan for taking care of fatigue. The stress this neglect brings about causes an increase in our cortisol levels, which in cases of long-term and chronic stress, actually makes it hard for us to focus and even to remember things properly. With what attitude do we observe and act on this neglect and its effects?
If you are someone who was criticized for your emotional sensitivity or intensity, have you spent a lifetime failing to make room for those emotional responses in your life – both the joyful ones and the sad or frustrated ones? Self-care isn’t all about the physical, eating a good diet and getting the right amount of sleep – its also about making space and honouring your natural feelings, the beauty of their intensity and the role they play in directing you towards what is good for you. It’s also about surrounding yourself with positive people.
There are also your gifts – potential skills and experiences that need good, healthy soil in which to grow. Self-care, of course underlies the development of your abilities and even deeper, gives the right environment to accommodate and reference your soul, (whatever soul means to you).
I think you are getting the picture here, that Self-Care, especially for HSPs is a complex and holistic matter. It includes the past, even though the focus has to be in the present. It includes the future because that is the way to your authentic self-hood. It includes making space for all that you are as well as who you are to others. Above all, Self Care requires as much respect and attention as anything else – its part of our life-blood, keeps us strong and able to contribute what highly sensitive people offer the world when they are well. ‘What’s that?’, I hear you wondering – Well, that’s for another piece….