Next month, my blog will turn four years old. I'm proud of that accomplishment, but I sort of feel like I'm not doing enough with it. And while I didn't make this an official resolution, I want to branch out a bit in terms of my content – specifically with interesting or challenging things that aren't necessarily related to personal style but that are very much personal to me.
|Pictured: The Highly Sensitive Person || Sensitive enamel pin c/o Color Theory|
Target candles and bottle brush tree (similar)
Even though I work pretty well under pressure, I know that I require significant time alone in order to recharge. But when you barely have any downtime, that can be much easier said than done. It's not always realistic to take substantial time off from work, so I have to take advantage of what little free time I have. If you're feeling anxious, stressed out, particularly sensitive, emotional, or just plain burnt out, you might just need a little break from it all. Below are some of my favorite coping mechanisms and self-care methods for my fellow introverts and HSPs – but I think they'll be of benefit to just about anyone.
Spend time in nature
I was in a near-constant state of anxiety this past summer. When I couldn't figure out what else to do with myself, my instincts took me outside. I don't consider myself to be a very outdoorsy person, but whenever I spend time in nature, my mood lifts and my mind feels much more at ease. It's actually been scientifically proven that taking walks in nature can help reduce stress and can even stave off depression. I'll usually head to a local park, but backyards, hiking trails, or other green spaces work well, too. This can also be helpful if you live with other people and don't have a private space in your home.
I think most of us know that exercise helps us both physically and mentally/emotionally, but it's easy for me to forget how big an impact it has on my well-being. Any fan of Legally Blonde knows that exercise releases endorphins! Plus, working out can act as a distraction and as a means for reducing frustrations or even solving problems. I've never been a fitness queen by any means, but doing some kind of physical activity on a regular basis allows me to sleep better at night, have more energy during the day, and generally feel happier, more accomplished, and more confident. This year, I want to branch out and try something like Zumba (or maybe tackle yoga again) in addition to walking outside or on the treadmill/elliptical.
Escape to another world
Sometimes you need to check out of your own reality for a little while. One of my favorite ways to do this is by getting sucked into a good book or by watching a comforting TV show or movie. While it's not good to run away from your problems, these activities allow me to relax and shift my focus. When I'm too brain-dead or anxious to be productive, I'll turn on an episode of Friends, watch a Disney movie, or read a bit of this book (a gift from my dear friend and fellow HSP, Rusty). Personally, listening to music when I'm stressed tends to backfire – it's usually a bit too stimulating – but I know that many people find it to be a good option.
Write it down or talk it out
Though I've never tried it, my friend Rusty says that journaling his thoughts has been a very helpful practice for him. If you can put what you're feeling into words, it can allow you to see things more objectively. I think therapy can also be extremely beneficial, and I wish there wasn't such a stigma about seeking it out. There are a couple of friends I'd feel comfortable talking to as well, but I don't always want to talk to someone else about my problems; I tend to want to work them out for myself. Writing down what you're experiencing can help you look at things from a different angle or take out unnecessary emotion from the equation.
Consider your environment
Until recently, I never realized what a huge role my surroundings play in my overall mood. When I was living with my parents, I felt constantly on-edge because I felt like I never had any privacy. I'm so much happier living on my own, surrounded by things that bring me joy. Another thing I've learned: I can be a messy person, but messes tend to make me anxious. One of my main resolutions for 2017 was to stay on top of the housework and generally be more organized. Since I work from home a lot now, I've found that I need to be in an environment that makes me feel calm. I also decorate with touches that make me feel happy whenever I see them. If you live with roommates or a partner, try to find a quiet space that's all yours for when you're feeling overstimulated or overwhelmed for even a few minutes of precious alone time.
Make a plan, list, or schedule
I'm not sure whether this is true for all introverts and HSPs, but I think a lot of us tend to be "type A." Many of us are perfectionists and planners. I tend to get totally overwhelmed if I have a lot of tasks to complete; for a long time, my response was to avoid them altogether because I didn't know how to tackle them without getting stressed. Often, I find that making a list, a schedule, or a plan with specific goals or a timeline can help a lot. I know that I don't do well when I have to wing it. Even if I end up deviating from a schedule, I can have that to work from. Since I essentially make my own work schedule now, it's more important than ever for me to plan out my days. I always make sure to schedule in breaks for when I'm feeling too tired or stressed!
Think about what you put in your body
Admittedly, I am not usually very good at this one. I think it's best to strike a balance between eating thoughtfully and healthfully (i.e., thinking of food as fuel for your body to do its best work) and letting yourself indulge and enjoy. For me, equating food with comfort tends to be a slippery slope because I often turn to junk food when I'm feeling stressed. I have a wicked sweet tooth, and I'm currently struggling to keep it in check. One of my other resolutions for the new year was to be much more mindful of what I'm eating. Weight Watchers has been really helpful for me in that regard because it makes me much more accountable, but food journaling or making a conscious effort to follow certain food standards can help, too.
In addition, HSPs in particular tend to be a lot more sensitive to any substances like caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. Although I drink more caffeine now than I used to, I have to be very careful about how much I have. If I have too much, I'll be anxious and jittery for hours. I can't even take Midol because there's caffeine in it! I never really enjoyed drinking all that much in college and I actually don't drink at all now. It's a personal preference, and if you like a glass of wine at the end of a long day, that's okay too. But if you find your caffeine or alcohol intake is affecting your ability to sleep at night or be productive during the day, you might consider cutting down a bit.
Find comfort in a furry friend
Those of us with canine or feline friends are very lucky in that our pets are natural mood stabilizers. Studies have shown that caring for a dog as an adult can lower stress levels and can reduce depression. It's also been proven that a cat's purr can reduce stress and provide a host of other physical benefits. While they may not always do what we'd like them to do when we're upset or anxious (I'm looking at you, Pumpkin), the act of showing affection to your kitty or pup will likely make you feel much calmer – and your pet will enjoy it, too.
Give yourself permission to unplug
In the digital age, we're constantly connected to our devices and our social networks. There's a lot of pressure to be constantly engaged, and while there are benefits that go along with that, it can be a big source of anxiety. This election season was especially overwhelming. I purposely took a break from Facebook for a weekend afterwards and it helped a lot. Although there are a lot of things to enjoy about these platforms, I make it a point to enjoy my life instead of merely documenting it. I might have less engagement and fewer followers, but I'd so much rather spend time with people I love – or by myself – than feel like my life is ruled by social media. Remember that it is perfectly okay (and advisable, even) to take a break from your personal tech use.
I find that getting a massage or taking a personal day to catch up on rest can be two of the best things I can do for both my body and mind. No matter your preference, self-care methods are extremely important for overall well-being. Taking a long, hot shower or bubble bath can do wonders. Paint your nails, have a blow-out at the salon, take yourself out to lunch, or meet up with a friend for tea. Reward yourself in a way that acknowledges your hard work and invigorates you for what's to come. Put your own comfort ahead of your other obligations for the day (or at least part of the day).
Whether you want to take a weekend trip out of town or want to spend the afternoon exploring a familiar place, a change of scenery can also change your entire perspective. I know not everyone can take time off from work and family life to take a vacation, but if you're able, you should. Studies have actually shown that just planning your trip will give you a huge happiness boost – oftentimes more so than the vacation itself! That's why it's better to plan a trip well in advance; the anticipation is even more rewarding than the relaxation. Of course, exploring a new place can be exciting and can help you forget your stress. When you return from being away, you can look at your responsibilities with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit.
Acknowledge what you're feeling and tell others what you need
Above all, don't be afraid to ask for help or to tell important people in your life what you need. This can be difficult to communicate when you're overwhelmed, but if you can't express it at the time, reflect on it afterwards. That way, you can tell your friends, family, or significant other how they can help you when you need it. For instance, laughter always helps me a LOT. Whether it's intentional or sheer instinct, my boyfriend knows how to make me laugh when I'm feeling stressed out and it's a huge relief. It helps me breathe and acts as a great reset button.
It's also important to acknowledge how you're feeling, rather than denying or ignoring what you're experiencing. Being honest with yourself and others is how we learn and grow. There's no shame in feeling overwhelmed or being highly sensitive. But acknowledging these things allows us to discover how to deal with issues that inevitably come up. You're likely pretty hard on yourself as it is, so remember to be patient and forgiving for your own sake.