Honor Yourself This Season For Happier Holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person
Updated: 3 days ago
Authored by Lynn Salmon-Easter 12/08/2021
Photo by Abby Khan on Pexels
With the holiday season upon us, I want to reach out to those of you that identify with being highly sensitive and reassure you that you can create holidays that are calmer, brighter and more meaningful.
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.
As 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 about 15--20 percent of the population. If you are wondering if you may be highly sensitive, you can take this free sensitivity quiz (scroll up on leaf photo if you do not see the blue button that says TAKE 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. Too much information and stimulus easily leads HSPs to feel frazzled and overwhelmed as well as stressed and anxious.
It can be really hard on us as sensitive indivudals when we have to attend numerous social engagements, we are bombarded with noise from multiple stores and our daily routines are turned upside down during these frantic holiday seasons. Your natural instinct may be to withdraw from holiday and family activities in order to preserve your own energy, but likely you also crave the connection and camaraderie from time with loved ones and friends that this time of year brings.
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.
This holiday season, spend time focusing on what brings you joy and peace, so you can create more calm and ease in your life. Below you can find ways I make the holiday season calmer, brighter and more meaningful for myself. I hope these rituals can help bring you calm and peace 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 attending 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, 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, settled and satisfied 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 use the adage ‘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 as 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. Bake cookies, bread or make a special meal with friends and family.
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
25 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself Over the Holidays by Courtney Carver
Holiday Survival Plan for the Highly Sensitive Person by April Snow, LMFT