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5 Simple Ways to Self-Soothe as a HSP

When people learn that they are highly sensitive, the next question most commonly asked is, "so what do I do now?" I remember asking the same question. Listed below are 5 simple self-soothing tools to assist when you are feeling too much arousal.

1) Take a Step Away Taking a step away is oftentimes one of the best ways to help self-soothe and decrease your level of arousal. Sometimes your mind and body has simply had enough, and it is time to leave the occasion. Other times, fully leaving a situation may not be that easy, so taking a step away will have to do. For example, taking a step away to the washroom, for a walk around the block, or even just to another room if you are able. Having this short, intentional break from stimulation can be just what you need in order to go back feeling more grounded.

2) Be With The Sensation, Without Trying to Change It This skill brings in a bit of somatic psychotherapy and mindfulness, as it requires one to get in touch with the sensations going on in their body. Many times if someone has felt overaroused frequently in their life, getting in touch with internal sensations is one of the last things they feel like doing. Trust me, I know. However, when I was introduced to somatic psychotherapy, it became apparent to me just how much I was not in touch with my body and the messages it was trying to give me. I would always describe myself as very overwhelmed, stressed, or easily frazzled. I was not tuning into the specific sensations going on that eventually helped me maneuver my arousal better. I want you to try it right now. Take a moment to go inside your body (instead of your head) to notice what sensations are going on for you. Check into your stomach area. What do you notice? Your chest? Your shoulders? Back? Legs? Jaw? Are they calm? Tense? Tingling? Sweaty? Painful? Buzzy? Now, the next step I am going to suggest comes from David R. Hawkin's book Letting Go. He suggests to feel the sensations going on in the body, without trying to change them. I have found this to be such a powerful step because oftentimes we will feel an uncomfortable sensation and immediately try to change or avoid it. Instead, as he suggests, I encourage you to notice your sensation, without trying to change it. Just be with it. See what happens. Once you get the hang of it, it is a tool that you can actually do when others are around. They will not even know you are doing it.

3) Where You Feel It, Breath Into It This goes a bit against my previous suggestion of noticing the sensation without trying to change it, but it is also quite useful. Try feeling into where you are experiencing the sensations of overarousal in your body, and then consciously breathe into these areas. A nice, deep breath. A couple breathing suggestions are: 1) Box breathing: Breathe in for the count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 4. Breathe out for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Repeat. 2) Breathing in for a count of 4, breathing out for a count of 6. The longer exhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which increases your your ability to rest and relax. This is another activity you can do around others without them noticing.

4) Turn Off One of Your Senses

This one is simple, but can also be quite effective. When feeling overaroused, try turning one of your senses off. Oftentimes the easiest ones are sight and sound. This is not always the easiest when around people, but sometimes when I take a step away, I will also take a moment to briefly close my eyes. For example, if you are at a restaurant or a friend's house for a gathering, you can excuse yourself to the bathroom and intentionally take a minute or two to close your eyes in the process. When at home, I have also stepped away and placed some ear plugs in for a bit. Occasionally, even just changing the sound you are hearing is helpful too by listening to something more soothing. Here is a track on Insight Timer that has the sounds of a campfire and stream, which I find very calming. This one can help when you are alone but experiencing overarousal in public as you can stick your headphones in without others knowing what you are listening to.

5) Speak to the Frazzled, Younger Part of Yourself When overaroused, if you follow the sensations that are going on inside of you, you will be able to locate the frazzled, younger part of yourself. This is a part of you that has most likely been there all of your life. Unless someone helped you with your high sensitivity from a young age, chances are that this young part was never acknowledged or understood by yourself or others. This could have lead to others around you requesting for it to stop, and oftentimes a feeling of confusion and shame in yourself because of it. What I suggest now is to start speaking to this frazzled, young part as if it were exactly that: a young child that is simply struggling with the level of stimulation going on. When we think of a young child who is upset and overwhelmed, the last thing we want to say to that little one is, “would you just stop?” “quit it!” “why do you have to be this way?!” Instead, we want to embrace them, explain that we see them, and reassure them that we understand what is going on. “I see that this must be hard for you. There is a lot going on, isn't there?" "You have a nervous system that actually takes in more than everyone else here, so that is why this feels too much right now." "Don't worry, I am here. Let’s take some deep breaths together.” See how much gentler this sounds? Sometimes starting to speak to the overaroused younger part of oneself is new, so it may feel awkward and foreign for a bit. I suggest just starting with, "I see you." You can even put your hand over the area where you have located this young part and take some deep breaths with it.


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