Help for the Highly Sensitive
COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. And there are unique challenges that we each face depending on a number of variables- age, employment, relationship status, location, etc. One of those variables is our temperament.
The Highly Sensitive Person is a term coined by Elaine Aaron based on her extensive research. It describes an innate trait found in 15-20% of the population. There are four main characteristics of this trait:
1. Processing at a deeper level
2. Prone to overstimulation
3. Strong experience of empathy or emotional reactivity
4. Increased sensitivity to subtleties
Here is a blog post that explains these in more detail.
Elaine Aaron recently described her own (highly sensitive person's) response to COVID-19:
Corona Virus Reflections.
"I am often asked in interviews how HSPs are handling it. I joke, “Oh, about the same as left-handed people.” That is, it all depends. I like this interchange: One person said, “We’re all in the same boat,” and another responded, “No, we’re all in the same storm, but in many different boats.” Some of you are in horrible situations, in leaky boats or those going under, and some of you are just riding out the storm, calm or even happier. Most of you are probably in between.
Then I add for the interviewer that I am betting that HSPs are being more careful, for ourselves and others. And seeing the bigger picture, into the past where this has happened before and was predicted for years, and into the future, at what all of this might mean for humans in decades and centuries to come. And HSPs must be feeling many feelings, even more strongly than others—pain and grief for the sick and those and who have passed. (And the new grief of vulnerable grandparents separated from those grandkids who grow so fast; Zoom is not enough.) Deep sadness for those devastated financially. Maybe frustration, even anger. Our feelings go on and on.
I also say that some HSPs report enjoying the relief from the usual overstimulation out in the world. I hear from some HS introverts that they are actually enjoying much of it.
On the subject of feelings, I apologize if in my last email I seemed flippant about virus news being The Same Old Same Old. Truthfully, I was just feeling frustrated. When is this going away!!! (I still do not use the panic-sounding word pandemic, except to write it here.) I am a (cautious) high sensation seeker, easily bored, and was wishing that things would change--for the better, not to stay the same week after week. But I see now that changes must come very slowly. For people at risk especially, this may go on until there is a safe vaccine.
I now think of my husband and me as living in a monastery (something the very spiritual part of me always wanted)—with intentional sameness and almost four hours of rest and meditation each day, with useful work in between. No leaving just to have some fun. Our groceries are brought to us. No one else has entered our house since this began. So I am also very safe, as long as we stay cloistered.
Added the next morning: I am very happy with my sense that I can grow inwardly even more quickly here in my cloister. I feel its truth. This is just me, but it reminds me of something Maharishi used to say about aging: the trick is to “ride the tiger,” or let the dangerous thing take you forward rather than eat you up.
has written two helpful blog posts for those of us who are highly sensitive."
As a fellow HSP, this felt very validating and normalizing for me.
Here are 2 other blog posts she referenced that I found useful.
This one is help with a general big picture perspective.
This one is help for managing the living space with others.
I hope you find these useful.
Elaine's website is full of great resources for HSP's or people who love HSP's. You can find it here. She also has an electronic newsletter you can sign up for with wonderful insights and resources.
Elizabeth Wade is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Ames, IA. More importantly, she's a regular human being struggling through this crisis, just like you.