This morning I was sitting in my usual coffee shop (drinking tea, of course) and trying to write. I usually enjoy the low murmur of activity around me while working. This morning was a different. I couldn't block out every distracting detail of my environment:
→ There was the guy two tables over who was angry typing. You know the kind. TAPTAP TAPTAPTAP TAP TAP.
→ A girl sat to my immediate left with too-loud music coming from her earbuds.
→ The tag in my shirt felt like it was rubbing my skin raw.
→ A startling noise at the other end of the coffee shop made me jump.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you might be a highly sensitive person.
What does it mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
I only learned about HSPs in the last few years. When I first saw the phrase, I thought, sensitive? Check. Highly sensitive? Hmmm...I know some would say so...but...(reading checklist)...oh yep, yep, uh-uh...ok. So, it looks like I'm highly sensitive. The term "highly sensitive person" comes from Dr. Elaine Aron who began studying high sensitivity in the 1990s. There are many indicators, but here are a few:
You hate those bright, overhead lights, especially fluorescents.
You can't stand loud noises.
You'll rip off itchy clothing faster than you can say "nuh-uh!".
Repetitive noises like feet or pen tapping make you feel like you're losing your mind.
Strong smells bother you and can lead to physical responses (headaches, sneezing, etc).
You're more sensitive to pain than the average person.
Caffeine has a stronger effect on you than most.
You get hungry and you must eat NOW. The word "hangry" is a fitting description.
You're jumpy. (Funny side note: I literally just jumped out of my chair again because an open window in my apartment caused a door to slam. Ok...heart rate returning to normal any day now)
Simply put, being an HSP means you're more sensitive to your environment than other people. Being an HSP is not a disorder, and about 20% of the population are HSPs. Scientists have also discovered that many animals can also be highly sensitive. A common misconception is that introverts are the only ones who can be highly sensitive. But according to Dr. Aron, 30% of HSPs are extroverts.
Are INFJs more likely to be highly sensitive?
Several INFJ characteristics fall in line with the characteristics of a highly sensitive person. From what I've seen, there's a larger percentage of highly sensitive INFJs and INFPs than other personality types. If you know you're an HSP, you can manage the aspects within your control. For example,
Use earbuds, noise-canceling headphones, or ear plugs when you'll be in noisy environments.
Pay attention to your caffeine intake (including dark chocolate!). Feeling jittery is only going to exacerbate the issue.
Give yourself plenty of quiet downtime to recover after experiencing highly stimulating environments. Be proactive about planning this time in your schedule. You can take a walk in a park or create an area in your home that is calm and promotes relaxation.
My solution for the coffee shop this morning? I decided to walk back home and settle in on the couch with my laptop instead. Oh, and I changed my shirt!
Are you an HSP? If so, comment below with what works for you.