The Highly Sensitive Hitch…

One of the most common grievances I hear from the highly sensitive people I have met and worked with is this one…singular…complaint:

I hate that I have to take SUCH delicate care of myself to feel grounded. It feels like I have two options. I can either have a social life, go after my dream job, and be financially secure…and be forced to sacrifice my health OR I can stay physically healthy, and mentally calm, but I have to live small and deal with a certain amount of loneliness in order to do it. 

I, too, used to feel this way. My nervous system seemed wired and ready to respond at the drop of a hat. My sleep was so damn sensitive, I had to be almost obsessive compulsive with my evening rituals…

  • What’s that? You want to go out and have drinks? On a Thursday? At 7pm!! Absolutely not. Did you know that alcohol disrupts your body’s ability to get into deep sleep and REM sleep? And whenever I drink alcohol, I notice my heart rate always goes up. It makes it impossible to fall asleep so…
  • Wait…what? There is a concert happening this weekend? It’s my favorite band?!? Oh…wait…it doesn’t even START until 9. Sorry. I have to start drinking my Chinese herbs and eating my eye of newt by 8:45. Maybe next time.
  • You’re going to buy my ticket to never-never land?!? That’s awesome! Wait…what’s the time change going to be like? Is it a long flight to never-never land? Because I need to get at least 15000 steps each day in order to work off all the extra cortisol I accumulate from my sleep deprivation and moderate day-to-day anxiety I experience.
  • Oh! You want to go to that trendy new restaurant? But it’s packed full of people. As in wall-to-wall people. I won’t even be able to hear you. Nahhh. Better not.
  • I just got a job offer! It pays 6-figures! Just one problem…I’ll probably have to work long hours. And the hours aren’t consistent. It’s so hard to keep a good self-care schedule in place as it is. I  better not risk it.

With these kinds of obstacles…is it any wonder that highly sensitive people feel discouraged? Frustrated? Maybe even…weak? 

There’s good news, though. The idea that you need to choose between living big in an exciting, meaningful (even if anxious) life or living small in a womb-like cocoon of militaristic self-care routines is false. There is no rule that says you can’t have health, vitality and excitement and meaning. You can have it all.

The only thing you have to give up is the notion that you can use the same algorithm to do it that highly extroverted, thick-skinned, work horses use.

First – You Need to Know What It Is You Want and WHY

So often, when I speak with highly sensitive people who have complaints about their “weakness” I ask them: “Well…if I could wave a magic wand and make it so that you would feel no mental/emotional discomfort when engaging in stimulating things…what would you do?”

Aaaaand their answer?

” I dunno…”

So the first thing I work with folks on is identifying what it is they are hungry for. Would they want a more interesting job? A lasting romantic relationship? More money? Be able to do more travel?

Then I ask the “why” question. What is your why? Why would this change in your life make such a difference? In what way is it in alignment with your core values? Who else would benefit from this change? Who would it serve? Get as specific as possible.

SO – My dear reader…If you are a highly sensitive person, and you feel unsatisfied with your life…try this right now. What is it that you are hungry for? What change would you like to see? Visualize how this change would impact your life and the lives of those you care most about.

Second – You need to have a strategy

Knowing the outcome you want is lovely. It helps increase your chances of success significantly.  It’s easier to map out a route to a destination when you know what your desired destination is.

BUT – If you think knowing what you want is enough…I have some less-than-good news. It isn’t.

Fun fact: According to the University of Scranton, of those who set New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful.  That means, in a standard classroom of 25 students, only 2 would have been successful in a goal they cast out for themselves.

Why so few? And what are those happy-go-lucky outliers doing that is different?

Apparently, they are doing two things.

  1. They are writing down their goals. Research done in a cohort of Harvard’s MBA students determined that about 13 percent of those students wrote down their goals. Those 13 percent made about twice as much as those students that did not write down their goals.
  2. They have a plan and write that plan down as well. That group at Harvard? About 3 percent of the students not only wrote down their goals, but they also put a plan in place for how they were going to meet that goal. Those individuals ended up making about 10 times as much as the rest of the students who were goal-less.

Third – You need to have capacity

You can have the most fabulous, holistic, comprehensive plan imaginable. You might have written it down. Set deadlines on your calendar. Written outlines for the book you intend to complete. THE WORKS.

But if you don’t have capacity you aren’t likely to get much done.

This is the thing so many self-help books leave out. Knowing what you want is great. Knowing how you are going to do it is fabulous. But what if you’re exhausted right now? This is the classic catch-22. You know the job you are in is sucking the life out of you. It’s not HSP friendly. But changing careers requires you to do some leg work. It might require you to get more education. Or maybe it will require you to network. The last thing an exhausted and lonely HSP wants to do is put MORE on their plate.

This means that before you go about making changes in your life, you want to be sure your system is at full capacity.

What does that look like for an HSP?

In my E-Course, Become a Highly Sensitive Super Hero: Part I (Building the Foundation) I talk about key areas that highly sensitive people would want to have in place in order to be at full capacity (and thus able to go out and start living BIG). Basically – these are the sections in your life you would want to have in balance in order to feel “STRONGER.”

S – Spiritual Practices that provide meaning

T – Time to process and recharge

R – Relationships that are fulfilling

O – Outlets for your creativity and expression

N – Nutrition habits that keep your body firing optimally

G – Growth practices that help you continue to build your capacity

E – Exercise habits to keep your stress managed and your body fit

R – Rest (time to do nothing…to space out…to sleep)

 When you look at each of these categories…which would you say you are areas that are already thriving in your life?

Which areas do you think might still need some work?

(And if you’re not entirely sure, I put together a survey for each of these categories. The links to the short quiz in each section can be found here. You don’t have to sign up for the course to take them. They can just help give you an idea of which areas are going well for you, and which areas might be worth spending some more time on.

Fourth – You need a combination of willpower and skillpower.

Whether you are already at full capacity and are ready to create that business you always wanted to create…or maybe you’re at the stage where you are trying to build capacity so that you have the stamina to embark on the journey, you’ll need to have the will and the skills to create change in your life.

Having willpower essentially means that this thing is important enough to you that even during those days when you “just don’t wanna” there is a voice inside of you strong enough to override the impulse to let go of your dreams.

Skillpower, on the other hand, is about putting systems in place that make staying on target easy enough that you don’t need so much willpower.

In essence, it’s about enough drive to get you to move away from the TV and toward your capital “W” work…and it’s about having the tools necessary to make doing that simple.

If you are looking for tips for how to build on both your will and your skills, I wrote an article about that here.


I know it can feel daunting to make a change in your life when you’re already feeling tapped out. On the one hand, you want a life that looks like you. On the other hand – the work required to make that happen seems too much.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! By being strategic about how you go about making the change, you might find you even enjoy the process. You just have to do it in a way that looks like you.

What are some changes you would like to see in your life? How might the Healthy Sensitive community help support you in those endeavors?