The Gifts + Challenges of the Highly Sensitive Person

by | Apr 17, 2015 | Uncategorized

Are you highly sensitive?

About 15-20% of people in the world are considered to be.  I am.  And having an understanding of high sensitivity has really made a big difference in my life.

Highly sensitive people:

  • Notice and are affected by smells, noises and bright lights (highly sensitive people often don’t like the TV on in the background, or being around people with strong perfume)
  • Pick up easily on the emotions of others
  • Feel overwhelmed by busy days and long to do lists
  • Prefer a meaningful one-on-one talk to speaking with large groups or making small talk
  • Are strongly affected by caffeine, alcohol, drugs, medication and herbs
  • Enjoy their own company, in fact they need down time by themselves to recover from the busy-ness of the world
  • Have a rich and deep inner life
  • Were often described as ‘sensitive’ as a child
  • Appreciate creativity, art and music
  • Get overwhelmed and overstimulated in shopping centers and supermarkets
  • Are intuitive and empathetic

Does any of this sound like you?  Take the HSP test to find out if you (or a person you love) is a Highly Sensitive Person too.

It’s important to know that high sensitivity isn’t a diagnosis or an illness.  It’s a trait, meaning that we’re born with it.  It’s simply a way of describing the workings of the nervous system.

Highly Sensitive People have nervous systems that are more sensitive than normal and they process things more deeply.  Basically, it means we pick up on more information from the environment than the majority of the population.

The challenge that comes with this is that we can get exhausted, overwhelmed and burnt out more quickly than ‘normal’.  So fatigue related illness, anxiety, depression and low self esteem and are not uncommon.  More on this in another post (stay tuned!).

The up-side of being a HSP is that we are often deeply creative, spiritual, empathic and insightful.  We make links between things in the world that other people may miss, and hence we are often thought-leaders and creative-folk.

People who embrace and nourish their sensitivity are likely to be happy, healthy and doing wonderful things in the world.  People who see their sensitivity as a burden and ignore it, are more likely to end up depressed and wondering why they can’t keep up with rest of the world.

These challenges and gifts  come as a package.  It’s important that we learn to embrace this trait in it’s entirety and learn to nourish and nurture ourselves in a way that allows us to thrive in the world.  Whether or not our sensitivity was understood and valued in our childhood, we can learn to value and nourish it in ourselves.

One of the most important ways I’ve learnt to nourish myself is through my daily yoga practice, even a short practice can make a big difference.

I wonder sometimes if yogic practices were developed by highly sensitive people, they seem to be the perfect anti-dote to an overstimulated nervous system.

My favourite practices for highly sensitive people are iRest Yoga Nidra, Legs-Up-The-Wall pose and mindful breathing practices where the out breath is longer than the in breath.  My teaching team and I will be sharing these practice (and many more) in A Daily Dose of Bliss, a six week course to help you to find your bliss and calm your nervous system, in just 5-10 minutes a day.  I do hope you can join us.

Happy nourishing,


  1. Emma

    Thanks for this post Lauren. I was diagnosed as a HSP many years ago and saw it as a burden for a long time. It is only the last year that I have embraced it and managed it – thanks for the reminder. It truly is a gift but can be very draining if not acknowledged and nurtured!

  2. Dr Lauren Tober

    So glad to hear you’ve embraced your superpower Emma! And yes, it’s a gift that needs nourishing and nurturing. I just had a look at your website, it looks like you’re doing wonderful work for teachers 🙂

  3. maria wilson

    Thanka Lauren..for drawing my attention to this. Over the years ive met people who have suggested I was or could be hsp…as they were…and i did tick 20 boxes…or so…but I have also had the habit of overriding my sensitivity…and putting myself in situations which inflame that very sensitivity…good to read this…a reminder that i need to deepen my self care even more
    Thanks again

    • Dr Lauren Tober

      Everyone needs self care, but HSPs seem to have a deeper need for stilness and down-time. So glad that you found the reminder you need 🙂

  4. Heidi

    Thank you Lauren. I had never heard of this before, my daughter and I have always had every trait. Thought it was just us, interesting there are other people with the same sensitivities. Yoga nidra, restorative yoga and meditation have greatly helped both of us xx

    • Dr Lauren Tober

      Welcome to the club Heidi 😉 I recommend Dr Aron’s book called the Highly Sensitive Person as a wonderful place to start understanding and embracing high sensitivity 🙂

  5. Julie

    It’s great to read more people referring to HSP! For a while I have identified as an introvert but I have come to realise that the highly sensitive trait is also a big part of me. I like what you write, Lauren, about embracing it in its entirety. I am beginning to see that I have embraced parts of it but to really be authentic to myself I need to look at more changes in my life. More yoga, more meditation, more self-compassion! Small changes, big outcomes. Namaste 🙂

    • Dr Lauren Tober

      Hi Julie, I’ve been hearing more and more about HSPs in the media lately too, including Alannis Morrisette, Susannah Conway and Marianne Elliott. I like the idea of small changes effective big outcomes 🙂

  6. Serafin Dillon

    mind. blown. I had come up with all sorts of ways of understanding and terms for the way I perceive the world…. finally something that makes sense! thanks so much for posting 🙂

    • Dr Lauren Tober

      My pleasure! If you’d like to learn more about what it means to be a HSP I totally recommend checking out Dr Aron’s book the Highly Sensitive Person 🙂


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