It was only after the discovery of Elaine Aron’s original book on HSPs that I finally began to relax into myself. Literally, I wanted to relax alone without the guilt or shame of telling people “no, I’m sorry,” when invitations came. Five years into seeing only HSWs (Highly Sensitive Women) in my practice, I came to a necessary conclusion for mine and their sake; we need to establish our Rule and live by it. That means, each HSP needs to take a serious inventory of their non-work time and how to spend it. Personally, I arrived at the 80/20 breakdown. Eighty percent of my non-work time, I need to spend alone or in an extremely quiet environment, namely at home. Once I established my rule, I could then use it as a litmus test of why and when I wasn’t in my element. If I accepted more than 2 invitations in a week, let’s say evenings out or a daytime activity with others, I became weary, distracted, anxious or irritable. I needed to hole up if I had worked a full week. There was no way around it and now I had tacit permission from my invisible HS tribe, to not take on more than my body-mind-spirit could handle and still feel at optimal level of arousal (Dr. Aron speaks often on the subject of optimal arousal, i.e. having our central nervous system neither over stimulated nor under stimulated).
It’s never exactly the percentage you choose, life does get in the way. However, it’s a very good mental construct to keep close at hand; tucked away in the pocket of your psyche. Saying to yourself, “I need to spend 4 nights a week alone or in serene settings in order to feel my best.” Then knowing there will be weeks with 5 nights at home and other weeks with 2-3, say around the holidays or major work functions. The bottom line is, we can simply enjoy that down time with unadulterated self-love and acceptance. I am so much more grounded and happy when I adhere to my Rule. Give it a try for a month, and see if you notice any difference in your mental state, tolerance level, energy, creativity, etc. I challenge you to challenge your Self. One of the hardest parts is when it’s a friend and really fun things you’re being invited to. Maybe you’ll feel fine, just self-observe and see what happens. Harder yet is when your children are young and constantly have needs. Still, you simply must find ways for true mommy downtime. Be it a walk on the beach, a one hour yoga class, lunch with a dear friend, an hour with a good book, a pedicure, a nap. You do need to carve out some sensitive self care time. Everyone may need it, yet HSPs need it like we need air and water! You will quickly realize whether the anxiety and exhaustion outweighs the people-pleasing or not and make some changes. Just be kind to yourself and know that it’s truly okay to be who you are!