Do you feel drained by a fast-paced, output-driven workplace that bombards you with stimulation? If so, you could be a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP. (You can take the full quiz here.)
And you’re not alone: A full 1.4 billion people worldwide (or one in five people) are estimated to be HSPs. So even if you aren’t one yourself, it’s likely that you care about someone who is.
HSPs possess a hard-coded trait that enables them to process information more deeply than others. In an environment that cultivates this unique capacity, HSPs are predicted to be some of the most precocious and resilient leaders.
However, HSPs require a different kind of self-care to protect their energy and access their potential. Here’s how to support—and celebrate—your (or your loved one’s) unique HSP talents so they can fully shine:
1. Shape Your Space
According to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of the best-selling book, “The Highly Sensitive Person,” the biggest challenge you face as an HSP is that your nervous system gets overstimulated sooner than others’. This is especially true in a high-energy office wrought with distractions, requests, and the backdrop of constant chatter.
What to do: Reclaim control over your environment by curating it (as much as you can). Filter out excess noise with calming music or noise-canceling headphones. Counter fluorescent lights with a warm-wattage lamp, and set alerts to low-volume or less frequent. Fill your space with positive pictures of family and friends, office supplies in soothing colors, stress balls, or plants—which have been shown to increase concentration and productivity at work by a full 15 percent.
2. Take a Time-Out
Not all HSPs are introverts. In fact, a full 30 percent are extroverts. But while you may enjoy socializing as an HSP, studies show that because you are more attuned to—and affected by—others’ moods, your energy gets drained by a full day of face-time.
What to do: Check in with yourself and your energy levels. Take breaks throughout the day to step outside for a walk, grab a coffee, or even do a short meditation. Know what you need in order to recharge. It could be an after-work fitness class, scheduled time in nature, or maybe an expressive outlet, like painting or dancing. And prioritize it: Set boundaries around your energy and advocate for the things that fuel you. Your empathy is an advantage in the workplace and in your personal life. Taking time for you will ensure that your emotional battery is recharged, so you’re ready to show up authentically and wholeheartedly for others.
3. Lean Into Your Strengths
Being in the minority can make HSPs feel isolated, misunderstood, or even flawed. But on the contrary, HSPs have a long list of unique talents and strengths, such as strong semantic memories (making them incredibly adept at creative tasks), deep emotional intelligence, and a critical eye for detail. According to Aron, HSPs are “intuitive visionaries, able to see the big picture, creative, aware of and thoughtful to the needs of others…highly conscientious…in short, they are ideal employees.”
What to do: Your unique strengths are an asset in the workplace. Lean into them. Use your empathy, for example, to bridge communication gaps or leverage your creativity to suggest out-of-the-box solutions. Because HSPs are deep, critical thinkers, they tend to be slow, deliberate decision-makers. Be the one on your team who calls out a key detail that’s being overlooked or advocates for taking time, rather than rushing into a decision. Your strengths may look different from others’, but that makes them all the more valuable.
You offer a unique perspective that may get drowned out or undervalued in a loud, fast-paced world, but by remaining self-compassionate and shining—rather than dimming—the light of your HSP talents, you can leverage them to thrive.