Written by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy.
Whether or not you’ve heard the term before, that description should ring true for about 1 in 5 of you.
A highly sensitive person is someone who’s more sensitive to physical and/or emotional stimuli than the general population. They have sensitive nervous systems, are more attuned to subtleties in their surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulating environments.
Interacting with people drains introverts; sensory input — sights, smells, sounds, emotional stimulation — drains highly sensitive people. (HSPs are more likely to be introverts, but about 30% of HSPs are extroverts.)
I’m an HSP to the core. In practice, that means I avoid violent movies, am easily overwhelmed by loud noises and bright lights, need time and space to regroup on busy days, and feel like my head will explode when two people try to talk to me at the same time.
We have four kids, ages 4 to 11. Our default home environment is highly stimulating. (Or as I usually call it: just plain crazy.) Understanding highly sensitive people has dramatically changed the way we homeschool.
When HSPs get overwhelmed, their typical response is to shut down because their overworked nervous systems can’t take the strain any longer. As an HSP, if I don’t approach our homeschool days intentionally, my brain will be done by 10:00 a.m.
That is really inconvenient when the kids and I still have piles of work to get through! I need to make my energy last.
When it comes to personality, knowledge is power. I’m sharing my HSP cheat sheet in the hopes it will help my fellow sensitive types — and their kids — stay peaceful, happy, and sane during homeschool days.
Start the day right.
I’ve never talked to a parent who likes to be woken by their children in the morning, but it’s especially important for HSPs to have a calm start to their days. Put yourself to bed on time so you can wake before the kids, have a cup of coffee by yourself, and do whatever you do to ready yourself for the day in peace.
(If you’re in a season where that’s not possible right now, I’m sorry. I’ve been there. It’ll get better; until then, move on to the next tip.)
Smooth routines means fewer decisions, which tax your mental energy. Consistent routines also mean less talking, which zaps the HSP’s energy when engaged in nonstop during a 8-hour school day.
Make checklists so you don’t have to remind the kids to make their beds, brush their teeth, or start their math. Streamline snack time. Put a daily schedule in place, and stick to it.
Outsource the talking.
I love reading aloud to my kids, but talking all day drains every drop of my energy.
Let audiobooks do some of the work for you. (Here’s a fantastic list.)
Enforce quiet times.
HSPs need some noise-free zones in their day. At our house, we have book basket time: 30 minutes of silent reading time to let everyone rest and recharge, and learn something. (Mom has a book basket, too.)
We also have a daily rest time at our house. Everyone — including me — spends two hours alone (well, mostly alone) every afternoon. The kids can read, play quietly, listen to music or audiobooks, and watch the occasional movie — as long as they do it by themselves.
Control the clutter.
Messy spaces are draining for many HSPs because there’s too much visual input.
Although I would never describe myself as a neatnik, I’ve noticed that keeping my house tidy (or tidy enough) keeps my metaphorical fuel tank full. Clear kitchen counters do a lot for inner calm.
Limit the amount of information you’re taking in during the school day.
As a general rule, I don’t check email, Twitter, or Facebook during our school days. It’s not just that I don’t want my kids seeing me on my phone.
HSPs are more likely to find a homeschool day exhausting (especially with multiple students) because of the sheer amount of info coming in from all directions. The last thing my brain needs is additional stimulation via email or social media.
Be deliberate about how you rest and re-charge.
Build some down time into your day, and be deliberate about how you use it. When you need to re-charge, make sure to do something that actually fills your tank.
As much as I love catching up on the phone with a friend, that’s not the best way for me to recharge after a loud and busy homeschool morning.
I’m much better off with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Do you suspect you’re a highly sensitive person? Please share your tips, tricks, and coping strategies in comments.