How to Cope With Stress When You're Highly Sensitive

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If you are wondering if you are a highly sensitive person, it's quite possible that you are. Highly sensitive people process subtleties and details that most miss. They also tend to be much more emotionally attuned to those around them. They are the first ones to notice when a friend needs a hug or if someone is angry.

Unfortunately, this heightened sensitivity to internal and external stimuli often translates into rumination and extra stress.

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How to Be Less Sensitive

Below are five strategies you can use to cope with the additional and unique stress of being a highly sensitive person.

Create Healthy Boundaries

When we speak of "boundaries," we mean boundaries in your relationships, but we also mean it in other ways as well. This means becoming more comfortable letting people know where you stand and what you need—classic boundary-setting techniques

This can also mean creating some wiggle room in your schedule so you don't feel stressed when things inevitably go wrong, pile on, or require an extra response from you.

Meditate and Practice Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are closely related to the practice of setting boundaries. Boundary setting, meditation, and mindfulness all involve creating a perimeter around your experiences in life and your thoughts and feelings about them.

When you practice meditation, you learn to step back and observe your thoughts and feelings, and even your physical reactions as separate from your life and your "self." With practice, a few important things may happen:

  • You learn to calm your body more quickly, reversing your stress response and returning to a place of calmness.
  • You learn to emotionally detach from things more easily so if things feel overwhelming, you don't get swept away in the flood of emotion as easily.
  • You get help staying grounded.
  • You build resilience to stress.

These benefits make meditation and mindfulness worth the effort for anyone, but they are especially beneficial for the highly sensitive person.

Create "Relaxing Zones"

Creating "relaxing zones" can mean having your home be soothing and relatively free of conflict. You can accomplish a calm environment by adding a few elements known to relieve stress, such as soothing music and aromatherapy, and having "downtime" there on a regular basis.

Creating calm also means keeping your close relationships as conflict-free as possible. You can accomplish this by learning conflict-resolution techniques and assertiveness, both of which can help you work through difficulties that may arise between you and your loved ones.

Ultimately, it's important to distance yourself from toxic personalities and build a supportive network of friends. Save your supportiveness for those who will return it, at least in part, rather than those who will drain you and desert you or inspire self-doubt.

Practice Self-Care

As a highly sensitive person, you are likely more susceptible to the ravages of sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and burnout. This means you need to be sure to get enough sleep at night, eat healthy meals, and take care of your body, mind, and spirit in whatever ways you can. Practicing self-care will leave you more able to handle whatever comes your way.

Know Your Triggers

Everyone has their own unique challenges. As a highly sensitive person, it helps to know what stresses you the most so you can prepare for or avoid those triggers in your life.

Pay attention to how you feel throughout the day. You might consider keeping a stress journal to record your feelings and the situations that triggered strong negative emotions. Be proactive in adding resilience-building practices as well as eliminating stressors whenever possible. 

A Word From Verywell

You may not be able to change the fact that you are highly sensitive, but you can absolutely change your lifestyle and habits so that you're less affected by those stressors you can't control. After a while, this approach will become second nature and you will feel more resilient toward stress in general. Then you can simply enjoy the benefits that come with being sensitive.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.