We live in a culture that never stops. As we’ve become more global and connected, there’s constant input from everywhere—work demands, friend and family obligations, household chores and errands, not to mention an ongoing information stream on any topic or question we might possibly have. Want ideas for the best way to unclog your bathroom sink? You can go down a rabbit hole of blogs and YouTube videos dedicated to this topic and suddenly an hour has passed and you’re still not sure what you want to do!
Yowzers! For highly sensitive people (HSPs), the demands and input from everyday life can be utterly exhausting AND overwhelming. We’re already on the alert and any one task can take a lot of energy from us as we carefully reflect and consider the options and notice all the nuances along the way. Then, when your to-do list keeps climbing, it can feel completely paralyzing!
Just thinking about the ‘to dos’ can make me feel like there’s a fifty ton weight on my chest. It’s hard to breath. I don’t know where to start. I simultaneously have the urge to power through and conscientiously get everything done and the desire to hide under the covers and forget the world to get away from all the pressure. Then, I get butterflies in my stomach—how will I ever get it all done? Why does it never stop? How am I gonna make it? Because as sensitive people, we also feel the stress of this burden very acutely!
It’s tough. We live in a time of more convenience and options and information than ever, yet all of this can be intensely overwhelming for sensitive souls. There’s too much to do and too much to weed through. So how can we honor our need to take things slow and give ourselves time with the steady stream of pressure to get tasks done? Of course, there’s no one-solution-fits-all, but here are some tips that help me cope with the anxiety of the ‘to dos:’
- Take a ‘down day’ or partial day each week. This is time to rejuvenate. Depending on how your week has gone, this may mean an afternoon of solitude like quiet reading at the park or telling your partner you need some self-care and taking a hot bath and watching a good movie just for you. (This might even mean asking your partner to take the kids out for a few hours so you can get what you need. Of course, you can return the favor another day.) OR, you might need some escape and adventure—a day of hiking or wine tasting—to really step away from the grind.
- Prioritize. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that there is always more to do. Whether it’s work or family or personal, there will be more projects and tasks, and trying to get them all done so you can finally feel some relief is erroneous—you’ll probably never get there. There’s no worse feeling than thinking I’m all caught up, feeling relief and then getting the stomach-dropping realization that there are 5 other things I need to do. So, try to focus on 1-2 tasks per day, and prioritize those based on importance and necessary timelines, like paying that bill by the due date. Slow and steady baby. The rest will wait.
- Organize. I find it helpful to have a running ‘to do’ list for different parts of life—work, home improvements, shopping list. The more I can write (or type) things out, the less information I have to hold in my head and the more I can focus on doing the next item without having to reinvent the wheel each time. You can use apps like Trello, voice record notes on your smartphone, or pull out plain ol’ paper and pen.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate. As HSPs, we can be very conscientious, and it’s true that someone else may not care as much or be as careful as you. And that’s ok! It may not matter. Not everything needs to be near perfection. It can be worth hiring a lawn guy to free up an hour or two a week from yard maintenance or having your groceries delivered from Safeway, instead of having to spend time and energy sorting through all the options at the store. Even options like meal-delivery and meal prep services cover all sorts of dietary needs these days and can give you back some time AND energy from all the decision-making that can go into Tuesday night dinner.
I invite you to think about which areas in your life give you that dreaded knot in your stomach and make you want to run away forever. Ask yourself, ‘what’s one thing I can do in the next week that would give me some relief?’ If you’re not sure or you get overwhelmed with trying to decide what’s most important, just flip a coin or eeny-meeny-miny-mo it and pick something. What you choose is way less important than giving yourself the gift of a little more time and space. Because, for better or worse, I’m not sure our Western culture is going to slow down. But, as sensitive souls, we can be diligent in giving ourselves the time to rejuvenate. It’s essential.
Take good care out there!
Ivy Griffin, LMFT # 51714, Director
Thrive Therapy & Counseling
1614 X St., Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95818
Stay in touch with Tips from a Highly Sensitive Therapist delivered to your inbox!