If you are a highly sensitive person (HSP) who has trouble dealing with intense emotions, then please know that you are not alone. Among all the people who have taken my HSP Types Quiz, 89 percent state that their emotions are triggered more easily than most other people they know. And 86 percent say that their emotions get so overwhelming they experience meltdowns or blowups.
Why do so many of us have these issues? Is there anything you can do about it? Well, in this article, I’d like to share with you what I know.
Why HSPs Tend To Be Emotionally Sensitive
There are a few reasons why HSPs tend to be emotionally sensitive – some stemming from our biological makeup and some caused by the way our society in general handles emotions.
On the biological side, HSPs have more reactive nervous systems than less sensitive people. Therefore, HSPs’ emotions are both triggered more easily and felt more intensely. And because our nervous systems are activated more, we are more vulnerable to stress and fatigue. Being tired and stressed out, in turn, makes it even harder to regulate emotions and easier to get stuck in negative emotions. To top it all off, HSPs tend to be highly empathetic, adding to our emotional load.
On the societal side, most of us have not been schooled in strategies that promote emotional intelligence. Instead of learning techniques that help regulate and process emotions, most of us have been taught that negative emotions should be avoided
and suppressed at all costs.
So if you’ve been feeling guilty or weak for not feeling in control 100 percent of the time, please stop. It’s not your fault.
What HSPs Can Do To Manage Intense Emotions
The good news is that there’s a lot that can be done to make navigating life as an emotionally sensitive person less stormy and more smooth sailing. Based on my own experience and based on the experience of many of my clients, here are the two things that make the biggest difference:
1. Get enough rest
Being chronically tired and stressed out makes it harder to regulate emotions. Being well rested makes it easier. Personally, I need a 9-hour sleep window most nights and an hour or two of quiet time in the evenings to wind down.
2. LEARN TO PROCESS EMOTIONS
I used to think that there was something wrong with me every time I would get emotional. As if the ideal – the goal to shoot for – was to never feel anything. I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but I was basically wishing to be a psychopath. No emotion!
Only the harder I would try to avoid and stuff the emotions, the more intense they would be when they would inevitably fight their way up to the surface.
Fortunately, I’ve since come to learn that experiencing emotions is healthy. Even unpleasant emotions have a purpose. I’ve learned to welcome emotions. Pay attention to them. Make friends with them. Ask what they are trying to tell me.
Instead of fighting a war against emotions, I’ve learned to move through them.
want to know more about processing intense emotions?
If you’d like to learn more about reading and responding to emotional messages in a productive way, check out my self-paced coaching session (video + workbook) on managing intense emotions.