Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

I always intended to give this space a fashion focus, rather than making it a true lifestyle blog. But on occasion, I've talked about my personal struggles. These posts have been scary to publish, but they've also been really cathartic (and have often been well-received). I've written about breakups and heartbreak, as well as identity, self-esteem, and the importance of vulnerability. I've always been careful to not turn this blog into a journal, but I also fear that my posts are sometimes too superficial.

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.

highly sensitive people self-care
Pictured: The Highly Sensitive Person ||  Sensitive enamel pin c/o Color Theory
Target candles and bottle brush tree (similar)
...Which brings me to today's post. I've been incredibly stressed out and totally drained lately. Learning how to balance a creative and demanding full-time job, rehearsals and performances, a relationship, blogging, and various other responsibilities has been a real struggle. As an introvert and highly sensitive person, the pressure of these obligations often takes a bigger emotional and physical toll than it might for others. While we tend to thrive in creative, unconventional environments, there are times when the world gets a little too overwhelming for us.

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.

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

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.

Get moving

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.

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

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.

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

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!

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

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.

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

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.

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

Get pampered

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). 

Go exploring

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.

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

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.

The Soubrette Brunette: Self-Care Tips For Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

Do you have any favorite coping strategies that I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for new ways to wind down and refuel. And if you're wondering whether you might be a Highly Sensitive Person, this HSP test might help you figure it out. Finally, let me know if there's anything you'd like to see or learn more about here this year. I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Love this! These are all things that make me feel better when I get too stressed or overwhelmed :)

    Rachael xx.

  2. This is a great post. Every time you mention highly sensitive people, I always wonder what you would think of Drabrowski's Overexcitabiltlies. Its not a hugely discussed topic outside of gifted education, but I think you'd find it interesting. He separates out emotional overexcitablities (being emotionally intense and/or incredibly empathatic) from sensual overexcitablities (physically sensitive to things like touch, taste etc. This often also translates into a love of shopping or being deeply moved by art or music etc.)

    Anyway, something to read in your copious spare time, eh?

    For myself, I find carving out time to myself is really important. Mornings are that for me, even though I might not be doing anything but getting ready. Not sure how this will change with kids but....

    1. I definitely want to read! Thank you for the recommendation! And yes, that's an awesome strategy. I hope it can translate well into motherhood (at least at some point) <3

  3. Wow, this post is GREAT! It's all very spot on and so valid for us introverts who love their blogs/creative work but have commitments to a 9-5 during the week. I hear ya! Since I had the 9-5 prior to the blog, balancing both wasn't too big of a challenge for me since I worked it into my already existing schedule but I can only imagine how tough it was for you since you just recently obtained the 9-5. Ugh! It IS hard. I do most of my blogging on weekends since after work, I do NOT want to sit in front of my computer at home. This is usually convenient but when we have busy weekends, it gets to be stressful. I like to try to schedule posts out ahead of time so that if I stumble upon a weekend that makes it impossible to go photograph something for the blog, I am not freaking out over it. Easier said than done, though, I know!

    I think it's a great idea to try to expand your content. I am always struggling on whether to stick with what I do currently (mostly style, a couple recipes every few weeks, some book reviews) or whether I should stick with what gets the best traction (my style posts get the most views for example while my recipes kind of fall flat sometimes) but at the end of the day, I consider the recipes to be a part of my identity and blog's story so I don't think I'll drop the recipes simply bc the dresses do better. Instead, I want to figure out how to improve the recipe posts and how to make them better.

    ooo sorry for the long ass comment - just know you are so not alone in any of these feelings! There are soo many other blogger gals going through the same struggles (me included!)!

    1. Thanks, lady! Even now, my job isn't *really* 9-5, but it IS 40 hours a week, so tomato/tomahto. Fitting in photos on the weekend can be difficult because all I want to do is relax and recoup, haha! Ultimately, whatever I've published here is always for me first; if other people like it, then that's an added bonus. But since I started this as a creative outlet for my own benefit (and I think you probably did the same), I honestly don't pay a TON of attention to which posts get the most traffic. Of course, I love when my posts are well-received, but ultimately, I've never wanted that to dictate what kinds of things I write. I honestly don't always have time to read blogs anymore, but I'm glad that your instinct is to improve upon what you're already doing, rather than eliminating it! <3

  4. Love this post. I hadn't had a look at your blog for a little while and this was the perfect post to check back in on! I have been pretty anxious and stressed out the last few months too and it's great to get a few extra self care suggestions, but also to know so many people can often feel the same. For me I mostly read to de-stress, but this year I am trying to have a bit more silence. Less radio and TV on as background noise, and try to be a bit more concious and mindful about my surroundings x

  5. I love this post so much, Sammi! I've noticed a lot lately how so many of these things affect me (like being outside, it really does ease some of the tension of everyday stress.) In one of Jen Kirkman's podcasts she was talking about how our minds can go into overdrive over small stressful things & one way she tries to overcome that is by consciously thinking about what she's doing -- like in the shower rather than spend the whole time obsessing over everything that went wrong that day, she'll think "I am picking up soap. I am lathering the soap on the washcloth. It's creating bubbles." -- really concentrating on each detail of her actions, and it gives your brain a little break. I've started trying to do it and it does actually help! Even something as simple as trying to think "breathe in. breathe out." can help my mind stop racing and calm me down when I'm having a sensitive reaction to something :)

    1. By the way, what did you think of the HSP book?

    2. Thank you, Kate! I feel like there are so many podcasts/TED talks about these kinds of things that I need to get into. I always have to remind myself to breathe, too. Also, I haven't actually finished the HSP book yet, but it's in my ever-growing pile! From what I've read, it's been helpful but it's also a lot to absorb all at once. I got my friend Rusty the workbook version, which looks interesting too!

  6. Such a great list! You sound a lot like me and I have been struggling to find down time lately to relax and recharge. I personally love making lists as you posted above and exploring always helps get me out of a funk. Thank you for sharing more ideas :]

  7. Thank-you for sharing this blog post, as an introvert myself I can get get overwhelmed, stressed and drained, especially whilst working 5 days a week! I actually need to start exercising again, as it does help with my energy and fitness levels! :)

  8. This is a brilliant post. I think all of the pointers are good, and I find I use them all myself (except for cuddling with a furry friend T.T ). I'm a very anxious person, always have been, and to top it off I'm also an introvert. I really need to have me-time where I get to do exactly what I want, on my own, in order to recharge. And the suggestions you came with are all so good. I tend to watch a Disney film or Amelie to calm down my mind. I think exercise (dance in my case, don't know if that really counts) turns off the rushing thoughts (which is fantastic). And lastly the thing about talking or writing it down, is something I've found to be the most helpful during my depressive episodes.

    Also, I think it's an excellent idea to branch out if that is what you want. Your blog should be something you're happy with and proud of, and you're the one who should enjoy it the most (in my opinion). So if it feels like this is another path you want to pave with your blog, you definitely should. Good for you!

    Thank you for this post. I love posts like these. I love to get a reminder from people around me that it's okay to take a break, and to read about how other people manage their stresses and anxiety.
    Thanks again!

    Much love,


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