Highly Sensitive Person (HSP): This is a clinical term that refers to 20% of the human population, (& actually 20% of the animal population). People who are “highly sensitive” have a nervous system that processes stimuli very deeply and intensely compared to the average person. If an athlete or high profile person who is in the spotlight is highly sensitive, it looks as though they crack under pressure. It’s treated as a mental health issue, when it’s NOT.
High profile, highly sensitive people are often treated by mental coaches or psychotherapists. But this can be more harmful (and even dangerous) to them in the long run if these professionals are not educated about HSP’s and are not experienced in how to help them. Many HSP’s end up with “mental health issues” such as anxiety or depression, but these are secondary issues as a result of the lack of knowledge about how their own brains process stimulation. Some can end up leaving the sports or professions they love because they have no awareness that they are an HSP. And of course their sensitivities heighten when under pressure, stress, in the spotlight, or even just in the interviewing process after they perform.
This is NOT a condition or a diagnosis. Although HSP’s are a minority of the population, it’s normal. There is nothing wrong with the person. However, they will always have a hard time staying mentally and emotionally healthy if they remain unaware, and don’t learn how and what to do to manage their sensitivities.
The good news is that you don’t have to leave your sport or your high profile career. However, you must realize that if nothing is done, you are more likely to develop and struggle with disorders such as anxiety, depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, etc. as well as struggle in your intimate relationships over time, especially when your partner is also in the dark about what it means to be an HSP. If you are highly sensitive, then you can thrive in your career, relationships, and in life with these three essential things:
- Educate and understand the way your body, brain & nervous system processes stimuli. Every HSP is different. It’s vital to learn the intricacies of your own system.
- Learn daily management of your body’s deep responses to things as well as acute management for high stress or high pressure situations, (before, during & after). There is no such thing as “growing a thicker skin”, learning to just “suck it up”, or “pushing through it”. Remember, this is the way your body processes neurologically, and not some attitude you need to change. “Toughening up and pushing through” will almost certainly cause long term physical, mental, and emotional health issues.
- You will greatly benefit from support to learn exactly how to adapt your specific lifestyle and gain the vital tools needed in order to thrive in your high profile position, sport, or romantic relationship.
Signs That You Might Be Highly Sensitive
- Do you withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room, or have the need to be alone so you can feel relief from the situation?
- Do you have to take long breaks or a hiatus from your job or sport that you love in order to decompress?
- Do you feel overwhelmed or overstimulated when around a lot of people for long periods of time?
- Do you sometimes dread going in public, making appearances, or having to interact with a lot of demanding people?
- When you were a child did your parents or teacher see you as sensitive or shy? Or were you ever told “you’re too sensitive”?
- Do you tend to be observant before taking action?
- Do you take criticism harshly, (but respond to positive reinforcement extremely well)?
- Do you take longer to make decisions?
- Do you know that you have a heightened awareness of the emotions of others?
- If you’ve answered yes to three or more of the above, chances are, you are a highly sensitive person. If you are in a high profile career, it’s essential that you seek guidance. Gaining awareness of and learning the best tools and techniques takes time. It’s a process. Your health, and even the longevity of your career, depend on implementing the proper tools and strategies to nurture your nervous system while it processes emotions, subtle energies, and external stimuli.