This post is going to benefit every HSS (Hyper Sensitive Soul), even more so, the ones out there diagnosed with wanderlust! Following this guide has helped me develop my draining sensitivity into an immeasurable virtue. It’s a long read but one you’ll want to bookmark, I promise. Because it’s not just words words words, it’s practical, it makes sense, and it’s written for you!
Self-investment = Self-love. And there’s never enough of that. Love is boundless.
I will cover why you need to start creating awareness of your HSP habits asap and how it’s going to help you enjoy exploring your city, country, the world, the universe! Learn how to pamper your amplifiers, get in touch with your triggers and why it’s so crucial to respect your response. What, huh and how? I told ya, this is for you!
If you aren’t sure if you are a Highly Sensitive Person (and you’re obviously dying to know) I recommend you start out here. Simple statements, do they resonate yes or no? This list is created by the mommy and daddy of HSP research, psychologists Elaine & Arthur Aron.
Without further ado.
The Sky-High Merit of Being HSP
Some people might laugh at me for saying this, but I truly do honor my hypersensitivity and I’m grateful to have this powerful asset on my side whilst wandering this precious planet. Discovering, exploring and interacting are done with great intensity leaving me with unforgettable memories for the mind and soul.
It makes me experience life deeply. Something beautiful can instantly ignite bliss, goosebumps, and interconnectedness. And this is a gift I treasure every day. I’d hate to miss the intense joy of that.
The joy of traveling the world, meeting the craving of your wanderlust and getting inspired by the planets most breathtaking landscapes, cultures and depths is something you definitely don’t want to miss out on. You can take my word for that!
I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that amongst the characteristics of an HSP include their craving for freedom and longing for meaning. Endlessly trying to make sense of what, why and how something occurs as it did to understand the true nature of life. We go for the whole ocean, not just the shallow streams.
Naturally concluding, it can be of great value to a highly sensitive soul to pull up those adventure socks and stroll the off-beaten path. To find calmness in the now, to allow the senses to absorb the beauty that this planet has to offer, to reconnect with the grander scope of things and to get positively overwhelmed by all things inspiring and moving along the way.
Keep in mind, HSP is a personality trait, not a disorder.
Flip The Coin
And the downside of HSP? I’m not going to be all roses and puppies here and say that’s it’s not too bad because most of the times it’s pretty horrible if you don’t act upon the triggers. Sensory overload is just an understatement…
Sigh, all virtues have a shadow, right?
If you can reach bliss within a finger snap, equally you can get severely upset by just someone else’s negativity let alone a crowd in rush hour or the scent of (literally) all kind of foods and city smells mixed together. And no, I’m not overexaggerating here.
Personally, if the conditions are unfavorable, I tend to submerge in the draining emotion/energy and feel lost and super cloudy without understanding why. Chances are I get emotional and very uncomfortable and just want to find ways to escape as soon as possible. What happens to you?
The most challenging part is to be aware of the fact that the energy that takes over is not yours in the first place. But hey, it needed more than just a couple of reflection moments for me to really get that and still, I struggle with it often. So allow yourself time to get that properly in your system.
You might also like: the Passionate vs the Emotionally Over-Invested
Awareness Is Key!
Luckily for me, I’ve met that one special person who supports me unconditionally and respectfully honors every up, down and turn my mind and emotions take. So, whenever it does get too much I’ve got a safety net that always catches, dries up the tears, says goodbye to the fears and makes me smile again.
That being said, I also have (more than once) traveled alone and then what? (And honestly, safety nets are and should be last resources.)
And let’s be honest, traveling is one of those things that can be pretty overwhelming as an HSP’er, to say the least…
Not having your ‘own’ space, exploring a place you don’t know, getting accustomed with a culture new to you, smells and sounds that are unfamiliar are just a fraction of all the impressions you need to digest. And whether you are introverted/ extroverted or a special mix of those two. Just being your sensitive self, traveling can be quite the challenge.
However, in my years of traveling, I’ve found there are many things you can do to support your sensitive-self on the road. And for this, it’s really important that you are aware of your triggers and amplifiers so you can approach the down-side of HSP-on-tour as a challenge rather than the inescapable situation.
So YES (with a bit of self-investment), for anyone who isn’t convinced yet, you can enjoy the fruits of exploring the beauty of the world without feeling drained and/or uncomfortable.
A Simple Example
Amongst my sensitivities harsh sounds/noises and huge crowds are an extreme trigger. I also know that the more tired I am, the more likely I will be affected by these triggers. So, in able to brace this, I create the conditions for the best sleep I can get (avoiding screens before bedtime, tea, private rooms, showers etc.) and I have a pair of awesome sound-canceling headphones that work like a charm whenever the sounds get too much for me to handle.
Besides that, I have a playlist of mantras and soothing compositions that help me calm down. And I mentally prepare myself for big crowds (a meditation where I visualize a protecting orb around me). I also make sure I have enough time so I don’t need to rush and I always carry on enough things to distract myself.
Starting to see my formula here?
Know Yourself, Know Your HSP
I’m sure you are aware of the fact that every HSP’er has their own ‘things’ that provoke feeling awkward, uncomfortable, self-conscious, hurt, worried, anxious, (physical/mental) painful etc. and it’s vital to know what those ‘things’ are.
If you are going to (over)expose yourself to even more impulses than you have on a regular day (by say.. going global or a weekend trip to the neighboring city) it’s going to be of immeasurable value to know yourself. Like really réally know yourself so you can take responsibility for your own needs and personal sanity.
Traveling has this superpower where it exposes you to unexpected challenges and you get to know your mind and thought patterns better and better. In a way, you could say that traveling forces you to self-reflect, look at things from different perspectives and be creative in finding solutions.
From one HSP’er to another – If you don’t already – I friendly advise you start approaching your sensitivity more mindfully, asap.
Bonus tip: note your findings somewhere! Don’t expect yourself to remember every mini detail (morning/afternoon/did I have lunch or not?) and also just for the sake of processing it, save it somewhere. In the notes on your phone, in a journal, as a voice memo. Whatever works for you!
Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to conclude that you regularly have outbreaks in the evening when you go to parties and didn’t have dinner… wouldn’t that be useful info?
I don’t want to pop your bubble but becoming mindful isn’t going to happen overnight. It requires dedication, just like you can’t run a marathon without training you can’t master your HSP without going to primary school.
Rejoice every small step along the way and allow yourself to fully experience the journey as it will be one of the most spine-tingling trips of your life. And as an HSP we like spine-tingling don’t we?
Back to business, as you’ll read later on, the first steps will be analyzing what your amplifiers & triggers are. Become aware of when, why and where they happen and their effect (closing off towards others, getting angry, sad, the desire to ‘escape’ etc.).
Read and re-read:
Triggers are caused by an external source. Whereas amplifiers are personal situations that can be controlled “to an extent”. The more mindful you are about your triggers, amplifiers and the way you respond, the more mindfully you can avoid/soften/brace them.
So to simplify it a little: you have the control to have that breakfast, which will kickstart your day positively and decrease the chance of ‘hangry’ being an amplifier when exposed to a trigger.
The Formula: Amplifier > Trigger > Response
This is what it all comes down to. These are the ingredients of your how-to-handle-HSP shake.
What I’ve laid out below is a structure that works for me. If you ask me, I would explain it like a map (did anyone say travel?) where you can place different spectrums of your HSP. Just like on regular maps you’ll find streams, mountains, bridges, wide open spaces, straight lines, and squiggles. Maybe even secret, unknown spots of treasure and beauty. Nah, not maybe… for sure!!
One last tip before we dive into the blueprint of HSP: be APAP, as precise as possible. The more concentrated and specific the information is, the more directed you can respond to it. You will see what I mean by this in a bit.
Enjoy the ride!
1. Pamper your amplifiers
” When I don’t […] my sensitivity seems to be more on edge and I’m more likely to feel uncomfortable and unsteady when exposed to triggers. ”
Take a moment to reflect on situations when your HSP was harsh on you and try to fill in the blank in the statement above. Can you recollect your mental/physical state before the trigger exposed itself? Were you feeling uneasy because you were dirty? Were you hungry? Were you sunburnt?
Examples of the […] above could be [sleep well] / [sleep enough] / [have breakfast] / [refresh myself after a workout] / [have my afternoon nap] / [have some me-time] etc. etc.
The awareness of your amplifier gives you the opportunity to cater to it right?
Meaning, when traveling (and also totally applicable in daily life), put in the energy and effort to create the conditions to reduce the chances of your amplifiers being a problem. Don’t add fuel the to fire where you don’t have to. Act upon your needs.
Say an amplifier for you is either bad sleep or not enough sleep. How you cater to this would be different. And this is why being APAP is so useful.
>For example bad sleep, I would not only recommend you to selectively choose an accommodation where you feel you can properly come to rest. I would also encourage you to seek deeper, what causes you to sleep badly? Overexposure to screens? Caffeine? And then you can act upon it by not drinking coffee after 4 pm and switching off your phone an hour prior to bedtime. Utilize your hypersensitivity in ways that it also can totally benefit you!
>For not enough sleep, you’d rather be more mindful in your planning. If you know you need a certain amount of rest (definitely after a whole day of sightseeing) then be kind with yourself, accept it and maybe skip the first tour in the morning so you will be able to enjoy the rest of the day or go just to bed sooner.
Remember, you have 90% control over these factors (and that’s a lot). That’s why it can be so beneficial to invest in yourself and get to know your amplifier just as well as you know your best friend.
If you aren’t aware
yet of your amplifiers (no biggie, this research is already an amazing step in the right direction!) then you can also consider utilizing the reverse method.
When you have been exposed to one of your triggers and you felt drained afterward try to think back. Close your eyes, walk through events before being exposed to your trigger step by step. Did you skip anything of your regular daily routine? When and what did you eat? Did you have enough rest? etc. Slowly but surely you might reveal useful info that can help you become aware of possible amplifiers.
2. Get in touch with your triggers
‘ When I am exposed to […] I instantly feel it having an effect on me. ”
Once you realize you are an HSP (such a relief isn’t it?!) you naturally already start recognizing your triggers. Because their effect is pretty direct. Exposure immediately evokes a response, the gift of being an HSP. You most probably even have found some automatic responses to certain situations.
A trigger releases something within us that lets our sensitivity spike. To be fair, this is both on the positive and negative spectrum. A breathtaking sunset triggers our sensation of bliss just like a very explosive sound triggers the sensation of fear.
These two examples are very obvious – you don’t need to be super sensitive to experience those forms of bliss or fear – but as an HSP we tend to pick up (the hyper in HSP) on more subtle energy differences as well.
Therefore just sitting on a plane next to someone unfamiliar can mess you up. Because their state of being (remember: their energy, not yours) might be in a very dark place or they just smell funny… nonetheless, you are affected by it big time. Not fun, you arrive at your dream destination feeling upset and drained.
So when I say recognize your triggers. I really do mean that. Acknowledge the validity of that person/group/ environment/ space being something that will affect you. When you are able to recognize it (the sooner the better) immediately remind yourself of that what’s around you, isn’t yours.
The famous anger management method of counting to ten is famous for a reason. Because it works. Likewise, it can help you reconnect with yourself in the here and now. Disarm the effect of your trigger even more by adding deep, slow breaths to the counts. Make it your moment, not theirs.
I don’t want to sound like I’m repeating myself, but just like with the amplifiers, once you know what your triggers are, use your common sense and rational mind to figure out how you can either avoid it or how you can weaken its impact on you.
Trigger: the buzz and energy of too many people in one place with too many unrecognizable and unharmonious sounds at a large transportation hub.
> What can I do to avoid the trigger? > Don’t travel at rush hour. Travel in low season etc.
> What can assist me in softening/weakening the trigger? > Wear sunglasses and noise canceling ear plugs. Pre-book tickets. Travel with someone who isn’t affected by it as much and ask if they can do the practical things (talking, handing over the tickets etc.) etc.
I love examples because it helps me grasp a system/concept more thoroughly, so let’s take this simple one to break it down a little:
You go for lunch at like 3 pm because you’re super hungry (let alone sweaty) after your morning hike. This in itself is making you a tad unstable and causes you to have a shorter fuse than usual. You finally order your food but then the guy next to you is making all these odd chewing sounds and slurps (hellooo trigger! #misophoniamadness) which results in a mini-breakdown.
How to control the amplifier of unsteadiness caused by hunger?
I.e. Take snacks with you (as easy as that)
How to control the amplifier of unsteadiness caused by being all worked out?
I.e. Bring along a clean shirt, some deodorant and splurge some water on your face. And voila, you’ll feel like new.
How to avoid the trigger?
I.e. Ask for a takeaway and enjoy your meal elsewhere. (Park, beach, hotel room…)
How to weaken the trigger?
I.e Sit somewhere else in the restaurant; put in earplugs; start a conversation with someone (this stimulates yourself to shift your attention); turn your back towards to the source and visualize a wall.
3. Respect your response
Self-love is the best kind of love. Allow your beautiful self to be as it is. Hypersensitivity is one of your virtues and if it affects you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, so what! Everything in life is temporary. Embrace your breakout with love and light, don’t ever harm yourself for being who you are.
(hahaha ☝ might be one of the most difficult steps! But I have faith in you and myself and anyone struggling with unconditional self-love. YES! We can!! and YES we deserve!)
The simplicity of this step is what makes it so powerful. If you analyze your behavior and response when you are overexposed to your triggers you’ll most likely see a reoccurring way in how you respond. Naturally, this is different for every HSP, it can be anywhere from crying, shouting to people, wanting to run away etc.
Try to become aware of what helps you to get out that state. Are 10 minutes alone outside going to help you? Do you need a splurge of cold water and a (figuratively speaking) smack in the face? The more clear it is for you, the more clear you’ll be able to communicate this to yourself and to the people you are with.
Don’t be ‘surprised’ by what happens when you have your senses overloaded. Be prepared. Shakespeare was a well-spoken one ‘All things are ready, if our mind be so.’
Just like you know that you can throw water on the fire but not on blazing oil. You need to know how to respectfully respond to your outbreak.
The Real Deal: Traveling
Traveling is going to change your life and you are going experience the most blissful sensation of freedom, meeting new people and having life be your most valuable teacher.
“Spend enough time putting yourself out there in the world—your sensitivity is not something to be feared.”
― Elaine N. Aron (The Highly Sensitive Person)
Like Elaine very powerfully beautifully states, your sensitivity is not something to be feared. I’m saving that one for the rainy days.
Also, totally check out this post on 10+ Essential Travel Hacks For Highly Sensitive People with more practical down-to-earth tips on slaying it as a roaming sensitive soul. I got your back sister/brother!
If you choose to take on this adventure, brace them triggers and welcome the wanders into your life. You won’t regret it! I’ll vouch for that. ♥
Are you struggling with something like you don’t know how to avoid/weaken the trigger or recognize the amplifier? Shoot me a message, we are here to help each other.
✵ The proud to be a sensitive one ✵