Many individuals find this time of year to be exhausting, but when you are highly sensitive, you are particularly vulnerable to overwhelm and becoming overstimulated. Busyness and the hustle of the holidays can leave sensitive people prone to burnout and depletion.
When you are a highly sensitive person, your nervous system processes the world at a much deeper level than others. Being highly sensitive is completely normal and in fact, is a genetic trait that runs in families. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) make up 15-20 percent of the population. If you are wondering if you may be highly sensitive, you can take this free sensitivity quiz developed by leading expert and sensitivity psychotherapist, Julie Bjelland.
One of the greatest challenges highly sensitive people face, is the amount of information taken in daily due to our highly attuned nervous system. This easily leads HSPs to feel frazzled and overwhelmed as well as stressed and anxious.
It can be downright hard attending numerous social engagements, being bombarded with noise from multiple stores and having your daily routine disrupted during the holidays. Your natural instinct may be to withdraw from holiday and family activities in order to preserve your own energy.
Working with highly sensitive people and being one myself, i have found one of the greatest ways to offset stress of the holidays (or any stressful event) is to give yourself permission to be true to who you are. This means learning to honor your own unique needs and then learning to communicate these needs to yourself, family and loved ones.
Come back to what brings you joy and peace this holiday season, so you can create more calm and ease in your life. Below you can find ways I have found to make the holiday season calmer, brighter and more meaningful for myself. I hope these may bring you back to calm as well.
Find Meaning and Magic in the Season
What matters most to you this holiday season and what will bring meaning and joy to you at this time of year? I love twinkle lights, holiday decorations, handmade gifts, and candles. I enjoy the opportunity this time of year lends to attend intimate gatherings with close family and friends. Take time to ponder what events and activities bring your heart warmth and help ease holiday tension for you.
If you are able to identify the most meaningful (and even magical parts) of the season for you, it can foster a greater sense of purpose and deeper connection with the activities and gatherings you attend.
Finding both purpose and connection in life as highly sensitive people is incredibly important to us and helps us to feel a deeper meaning in our life. Identifying areas of purpose, meaning and connection in our lives will also allow us to feel more stable and settled as highly sensitive souls.
Awareness of Holiday Season Needs
As highly sensitive people, we simply need more time, space and rest than the other 80% percent of the population. Time and space are what allow us to sort through all the information and emotions we take in day-to-day. When we learn to honor our deep need for alone time, reflection and rest our life begins to feel better.
Consider how much quietude and time alone you really need to offset the level of activity you take in during this busy time of year. The more stimulation you have in your life, the more rest, space and quietude you will need to offset and bring your nervous system back into a calm and normal state once again.
Choose to engage in activities that soothe and calm your nervous system on a regular basis. Cooking, baking, taking baths, knitting, making art, journaling, sitting quietly or reading by a fire are just a few ideas.
Make a list of activities that are settling to your body and nervous system and keep it nearby as you navigate these upcoming weeks. I recommend calming your body and nervous system at least once a day. You will find even more calm and benefit if you commit to activities that settle your body several times a day.
Keep as close to your daily rituals and routines as possible. This will help to ease the strain of travel as well as offset the unsettling nature of interrupted schedules this time of year often brings.
Limit Family and Social Gatherings
Highly sensitive people think deeply about things in life and we crave meaningful time together with the people we love. Take time to reflect on which events and social gatherings will be most meaningful for you to attend this holiday season. I encourage you to politely give a “no” for any events that will drain or overstimulate you.
Spend time contemplating how many events you can sustainably attend in the weeks and months ahead. You can turn to the saying ‘quality over quantity’ to help you decide which events or gatherings to choose. Your body and nervous system will thank you for your discernment.
Sometimes you don’t even need to skip a family or social event entirely to avoid overwhelm. Give yourself permission to leave gatherings or events early. This way you won’t miss out and you will also have time left for you.
Get Creative to Find Calm
Most highly sensitive people have a creative side as well aa a deep appreciation for nature, beauty, art and music. By carving space for creativity this holiday season, you can naturally nourish and support your body, mind and spirit.
One of the ways I offset the hustle of the holidays is to make handcrafted gifts for family and friends. I find knitting settles and soothes my body and slows me down. By choosing to create handmade gifts, I calm my body and nervous system on a regular basis while making meaningful gifts to boot.
No worries if you don’t know how to knit. Get creative in ways that matter most to you. Take time to listen to music or appreciate art that soothes and settles your soul.
During this holiday season, give yourself the gift of quietude, contemplation and rest as a way to keep your energy renewed. If you need guidance on how to come back to your heart this holiday season, I highly recommend Courtney Carver’s hands-on-heart practice. This activity takes only 5 minutes a day. Time with family and friends can be more enjoyable and fulfilling when you make space for your thoughts and heart along the way.
- How to Thrive During the Holidays as an Empath, According to a Psychiatrist by Dr. Judith Orloff, MD
- 8 Things All Highly Sensitive People Need to Survive the Holidays by Andre Solo
- 25 Simple Ways to Care of Yourself Over the Holidays by Courtney Carver
- Holiday Survival Plan for the Highly Sensitive Person by April Snow, LMFT