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The Art of Managing Overwhelm for Highly Sensitive People

Women outside with hand on her forehead and eyes closed

"Almost everything will work if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." - Anne Lamott

As Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), we possess a unique gift – a heightened sensitivity to our surroundings and emotions. This sensitivity allows us to experience life's beauty and depth on a profound level. However, it can also make us more susceptible to feelings of overwhelm. In this blog, we will explore how HSPs can effectively manage overwhelm and find more ease amid life's challenges.

It's helpful to understand the distinction between overwhelm and overstimulation. Overwhelm is a feeling of being unable to cope with a situation, often due to a heavy workload, numerous responsibilities, or a complex and chaotic environment. Overstimulation, on the other hand, relates to excessive sensory input that can lead to sensory overload, often due to loud noises, bright lights, or crowded spaces. As HSPs, we are more prone to both experiences, but we likely need different strategies to manage each one.

Overwhelm manifests itself in various ways. Physically, it can lead to tension, headaches, and fatigue. Emotionally, it may result in anxiety, irritability, and even panic attacks. Mentally, you might feel scattered, disorganized, and unable to focus on tasks. As HSPs, we often deal with overwhelm on a daily or weekly basis. Our culture often tells us we need to get more tasks done to manage overwhelm, but as HSP’s usually we need to unplug for a bit and give ourselves time to recover.

9 Tips to Manage Overwhelm:

1) Recognizing Your Triggers

Identifying your triggers for overwhelm is crucial. Common triggers for HSPs include a chaotic environment, a heavy workload, or challenging interpersonal situations. Pay attention to the circumstances that cause you to feel overwhelmed.

2) Listen to your Body

Notice the signs of pre-overwhelm and take a break before it goes further. Don’t force it. For me, I feel a certain eye pain, fatigue, and a feeling that something that isn’t normally that challenging for me feels too challenging. When this happens, I know it’s time to stop and regroup. If I push forward, I always end up regretting it.

3) Ask for Help

Feeling overwhelmed can be a sign to ask for help. We often feel we don’t want to burden anyone by asking for help, but people generally love to help. It makes them feel valued, and helps you to feel less overwhelmed, truly a win-win.

4) Trust in Rest

Trust that your breaks and self-care are what you need to be doing, and that it is not lazy to break when you are overwhelmed, it is actually necessary.

5) Be Realistic

Our overwhelm can sometimes stem from a mistaken believe that we must do everything we need to do at once, which isn’t possible. Break down big tasks into smaller segments and don’t expect yourself to accomplish more than is reasonable. Appreciate the small steps.

6) Think of Your Future Self when Planning

Before committing to a busy schedule, ask yourself, would you want to do all that today? If not then you probably won’t want to do it one day in the future. Don’t overestimate what your future self will want to do, because sooner or later that day will be here, and you may regret it. I keep my overwhelm at bay by being extremely intentional about how much I do in one day. It may be less than most non-HSPs, but I am at peace with that because it is what I know works for me.

7) Eat the Frog

If you have a lot to do, do the most important task first if possible. I find that helps to reduce overwhelm, because once the most important task is done, a lot of pressure falls away and it makes taking a break feel easier.

8) Use Your Self-Care Tools

We need tools to manage our tendency to take in more information that we can process and help us come back into balance. I recommended having go to practices for when you feel overwhelmed. For example: listen to relaxing music, take a walk, exercise, practice yoga, do a guided relaxation, take a shower, take a nap, practice self-massage, call a friend, do art, play with animals, etc.

9) Seek Support and Understanding

Talking to a trusted friend or counselor can help you feel more understood and supported when feeling overwhelmed. It’s helpful to be reminded that everyone, even not HSPs feel overwhelmed sometimes. Feeling supported and that you are not alone can help you put things into perspective and come back into balance faster.

Managing overwhelm as a Highly Sensitive Person is not only possible but also essential for your well-being. By understanding the sources of overwhelm, implementing self-care, and seeking support, as HSPs we can navigate life's challenges with greater grace and resilience.

What tools work to manage your overwhelm? One of my favorites is restorative yoga.

Join me in releasing overwhelm with my new 45-minute restorative yoga class Release Overwhelm. Join for FREE with my free class pass, or 7-day free membership trial!

With love and sensitivity,



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