Digital Detox For Highly Sensitive People

So here I was again, crying on the floor of my tiny rented studio from an unbearable migraine and fatigue, weak and desperate after a day in the office. I seemed to have finally landed in a decent digital marketing role I’ve always wanted – a great brand, professional and ambitious colleagues, a decent salary – and yet I was at the edge of a severe depression. I was looking forward to getting to the office on Monday morning, but by the second half of Tuesday I was already feeling tired, and from Wednesday onwards would end up in tears every evening. I didn’t feel like talking to my colleagues, nor like going out anywhere. The weekend was just enough to recover. What’s wrong with me?

The Beginning Of My Digital Detox Journey

It wasn’t the first time this was happening. In my previous job, also in digital marketing, I resigned a couple of months after I started. I was feeling so unwell physically after an 8 hour daily in an open space office, where each person had at least two gigantic monitors that I could barely sleep. I could feel how my physical state was deteriorating because of the number of computers in the office. I left my job although I was risking losing my visa and being sent out of the country. A previous employer luckily allowed me to work part-time from home but the reduced salary did not pay enough. After a few months of recovery and occasional consulting work, I ended up in the job that I thought I’ve always wanted. I became a digital marketing manager of an exciting startup, launching the product in a new big market from the scratch.

However, the job turned out to be not exactly what I thought. I spent most of my days seated in front of the computer, manipulating spreadsheets, juggling journalist enquiries, doing cold sales calls, replying to customer support emails and apologizing for what I had no control over, chasing tech support so that they would finally fix bugs on the website, writing blogs and promoting the company on social media, sending email campaigns, managing external agencies and doing one hundred other things that the only person responsible for covering the whole market is expected to do. The job was far less creative than I thought and somewhat repetitive.

We all were sharing the same room, and everyone would always be on the phone making sales calls. Opening windows wasn’t encouraged as it was noisy outside, and the air conditioner made the room too cold, so the room felt stuffy most of the time. We were expected to work overtime, especially checking our emails over the weekend as a demonstration of our dedication to work. Working from home wasn’t seen as something healthy, as the company management was looking to build a “family-like” environment where everyone was learning from each other. Most colleagues had lunch at their desks in front of the laptop and preferred to talk to each other via messengers, albeit sitting within a hand distance from each other.

A Need For Digital Detox

It’s only now that I know that I’m an HSP I realize that basically everything that was happening in this company was a “red flag” for a highly sensitive person – information overload, being in a closed room with a lot of tech devices, the lack of boundaries between work and private life, a lack of natural light, air, movement and live human interaction. But at that time I wasn’t aware of my trait and couldn’t understand why I was the only who was so disturbed with all of the above, whereas everyone else was doing just fine. Leaving yet another company was not an option, so it was the time to think what I could do to support myself. Without reading anything about it, I intuitively set up a digital detox program for myself.

The first change was to stop switching on the computer from the moment I came into the office, as I knew there were hundreds of emails waiting for me. Instead, I would take 10-15 minutes every morning to prepare a tea and then sit down with a piece of paper and put together my thoughts of what I needed to do for the day. I tried not to stay in my seat all the time and spend as much time as I could in the meeting room, where I could be by myself, using sales calls as an excuse. In other times, I chose to sit on a couch in the corner, which was less exposed to radiation from the devices around. I signed up for the gym nearby, taking a lunch break to do some exercise and/or swim – I discovered that water had a tremendously regenerating effect on me after spending hours in front of the laptop, or would just go for a long walk no matter what the weather was like. I started wearing the glasses that absorb computer blinks and a protective apron to protect from too much radiation, to which I seemed to be so sensitive. When I finally negotiated one day in the middle of the week to work from home, it made a huge difference as it gave me some breathing space. Most importantly, I adjusted how I worked on my computer. I switched off all notifications and only occasionally opened my mailbox, as well as Skype, which we used for internal communications.

Now that I run a digital detox company, I know that after reading an incoming email it takes our brain 64 seconds to return to what we were doing,  so keeping notifications enabled is a guaranteed way to make you unproductive. I stopped reading any comments about my articles and my company on social media because when they made me anxious and sometimes weren’t kind, it took me long to recover from them. Although I was still expected to read my emails over the weekend, instead of thinking about them all the time, I did them in the evening. I made an effort to stand up and stretch every hour.

Deepening My Digital Detox

It wasn’t perfect, but at least it became bearable. When the contract finished, and we mutually agreed not to extend, I didn’t need to recover as long as after the first job. When I was offered the next job, a very senior role with a top global internet company, I negotiated my terms straight away – flexible working hours, ability to work from home and a 4-day a week contract. In return, I knew I could provide a strong expertise and results – if I had the flexibility to manage my digital workload. Funny enough, I ended up working for them many more hours than in the previous job, but felt less tired and was more productive – because I was able to follow my own cycles.

Information overload was still a huge challenge for me because I receive 500 emails daily in addition to video conferences. So I decided to cut back on it at least in my private life. I gave up my smartphone and exchanged it to a very basic Nokia with no internet. Not having my phone constantly with me suddenly made me aware of how anxious I had been before, and how I was allowing many distractions to dominate my life. It felt as if I had been surrounded by 10 noisy needy kids, who were all pulling me in different directions and trying to grab my attention – and all of a sudden, they disappeared after I gave up the smartphone. I started sleeping better and having more interest in people around me, not to mention being more productive. This was when I seriously thought that I can help other people not to get into the same loop I’ve been it, and started looking into what neuroscience says about the impact of technology on our health and well-being. My research meant that I founded my digital detox business, a coaching and training company called Consciously Digital.

Top Digital Detox Lessons For HSPs

There are clearly some things that HSPs need to be aware of about using digital media more than other people:

  1. Sensitivity comes in many forms, and if you think you are sensitive to computer/TV radiation, you are not crazy – this is probably true, trust your body. If you can’t avoid it altogether, try looking for a place in your office where you have less exposure to the technology.
  2. As an HSP, you MUST unplug throughout the day. Your brain processes more information and gets overwhelmed faster than the brain of a non-sensitive person. One hour on social media for you is an equivalent of 5 hours on social media for a normal person. You need a digital diet.
  3. Don’t read your emails or news in the morning – as an HSP, you are so influenced by the moods or energies of others that you’ll get charged for the whole day. Instead, you can start with something inspirational, like watching a TED talk. Or just walk to work.
  4. Ban notifications – messengers, email alerts etc. They aren’t helping anyone, but for you, they are really much more harmful than for a regular person, because they interrupt your processing and add one more item on your agenda.
  5. Today’s connected world is always about the others, as you can be reached at any time. So you need to put artificial boundaries in place when you are and are not available – you can choose to use your devices at a specific time of the day, or in a specific place, and avoid using that on other occasions (for example, keep them shut and away from sight during dinner with friends or choosing not to use them in your bedroom).

You can be effective in our interconnected world and still respect your needs as a highly sensitive person, you can avoid the hazards that will require a digital detox.

Highly Self-Employed


For much of my working life (and I’m in my 50s, so it’s been a while), I struggled with the demands of the “normal” 40-hour work week.

Working the way our society seemed to insist I work in order make a living made me feel like I was dying. I needed more peace, more depth, more meaning, more self-direction, and more time off than any of the jobs I found seemed to offer.

I would do my best, but over and over again, after a few weeks or months, I’d become so sick and tired that the only way I saw to choose life over death was to quit the job. I’d rest up a while, then be back at square one, frustrated by the outlook.

The Path To Becoming Self-Employed

As a way to avoid that unhealthy pattern, I began flirting with becoming self-employed, at first trying it out in addition to part-time jobs and in spite of not knowing how to do it. Whenever I achieved some success at being self-employed, even if only temporarily, I was much happier. So I took workshops and read books about self-employment and I experimented.

Over the years, I tried different self-employment activities, searching for ones that would succeed for me and my particular needs and HSP traits, ones that would give me enough money to live on and feel like making a living (vs. a dying). I tried consulting about different things. I tried making and selling art. I tried collaborations and self-employment systems others had pioneered.

A major shift occurred when I changed my perspective from asking myself, What can I do that will make me money as a self-employed person? to asking, What am I already good at that helps the people in my life? I started paying attention to what came naturally and easily. I started noticing what others valued about me and valuing myself more as who I was rather than who I should be.

When one of my housemates timidly asked me for a beginner’s lesson on the computer because “You know how to use a computer, I don’t, and I know you’ll be patient with me,” I paid attention. When friends called me weird for staying up late having fun using a bookkeeping program, I paid attention. When I eventually had a waiting list for my bookkeeping services, even though I wasn’t a trained or even a very good bookkeeper, I paid attention.

Being Nice Pays

I took a step up in self-employment when I figured out that people will gladly pay me to be nice to them as they learn. People will pay me to witness their learning process with kindness rather than judging them for their stumbles.

I took another step up when, after observing (and living with) my income struggles for years, my husband said to me one day, “You know, it’s kind of obvious that you need to focus on raising the amount of money you get per hour.”

Raising my rates became a reality when I paired my HSP-strengthened quality of attentive empathy with something I’m passionate about: writing. Gradually, I figured out ways of specializing in helping people write and became good enough at it to earn at a rate that supports me without requiring more of my time than I can healthily give. It feels infinitely fun to continue finding more ways to help people write as I also help myself thrive in my work.

Why Being Self-Employed Works For HSPs

When I wrote a blog called Highly Sensitive Power for a couple of years, I reached out to other HSPs and learned a lot about their struggles and their solutions. There are many self-employed HSPs who are happy doing what they do best: being an HSP and working with passion. They’re thriving within the constellation of being their own boss, being free to change and grow, and focusing on what they enjoy doing.

For HSPs like me and many others I know, the Internet makes it possible to work from home on my own timeline while still providing my clients and readers with the services they need. The Internet, as a tool, tipped the scale for me, making my working life increasingly joyful and profitable. So much is possible online – connections, communities, and resources that tap into the world’s population and wisdom.

If you’re struggling with income issues and your health is suffering because of it, consider the option of becoming self-employed. You deserve a working life you love. And your potential customers deserve access to your special wisdom.

Being Self-Emplyed Can Be Profitable

Here are some questions to help you clarify ways of moving toward healthy self-employment:

  • What do people ask you to help them with?
  • What are you passionate about (particularly in a way that’s ongoing versus fleeting)?
  • In what ways does or can the kind of help you’re asked for intersect with what you’re passionate about?
  • How can you explore and develop those intersections as self-employment possibilities, even if only in small or experimental ways for now?
  • Who do you know who’s both an HSP and self-employed? Would you be willing to ask them to share their wisdom and/or tell you their story about becoming a self-employed HSP?
  • What would your ideal work be? What specific elements of that work can you include in your explorations about self-employment?
  • If you’re interested in being self-employed but have fears, what are they?
  • What are some options for getting help with working through those fears in meaningful ways?

There’s a wealth of wonderful, useful information to be found regarding self-employment, but because there’s so much, it can be overwhelming to begin. To offer you a supportive nudge and a way in, I recommend the two resources listed below. They’ve helped me the most on my journey of creating healthy, ever-improving self-employment that really works for highly sensitive me:

  • Barbara Winter’s book Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love (there’s now a revised edition), and
  • Darren Rowse’s Problogger website and e-books, which are packed with inspiration and practical tools for creating and growing an Internet-based business.

Good luck, and make sure to spread the word within the HSP community if you become your own boss. We’re rooting for you.


The New Skill: Ecological Thinking


We humans have been running on left-brained, linear thinking for a long time. It has accomplished a lot but its limitations are evident also.

What Is Linear Thinking?

Linear thinking is thinking that is based on the idea of sequential events and therefore a line. Sequential events lead to a story, reasoning and narratives.

Linear thinking is very cause and effect. It’s objective is to create a kind of solidity. Because it connects everything in a line, it is very surface in what it treats as valid. Linear thinking pervades our culture:

  • are you in line
  • are you out of line
  • are you above the live
  • are you on the line
  • line up

Linear thinking is a way of measuring ourselves and each other. Linear thinking is at home with our inner critics.

Why Linear Thinking Fails

Linear thinking omits a lot of information from what it considers relevant. Natural cycles are ignored, denigrated and denied in the linear world. The linear world believes that through our efforts we can control the ups and down of life. Many years and untold effort have been dedicated to the goal of permanent positivity. Natural cycles do not recognize our yearning for a life with no pain or downside.

Linear thinking creates structures and systems that require the use of force to maintain. The structures themselves become what people depend on. It is a lot like putting a roller coaster ride in the middle of the ocean and expecting it to be safe.

Natural cycles operate in a natural process of give and take which creates a circular process of renewal. Linear thinking does not consider renewal as necessary. The need for renewal “takes away” from the goals of the linear system.

Cyclical Thinking

Where linear thinking is more structural, cyclical thinking is process oriented and aligned with natural cycles of life. Cyclical thinking takes into account physical limits, the need for physical and other forms of renewal, stages of the life cycle and the interdependency of living creatures and systems.

Cyclical thinking promotes a way of life aligned with nature. It supports a thoughtful adaptation of human to the reality of life processes. Cyclical thinking places humans in the web of life, not outside it and not over it.

What Is Ecological Thinking?

Ecological thinking is post linear thinking  It is flexible thinking which rejects fixed cultural structures that are not tied to the natural cycles of life.

Ecological thinking is the manifestation of wholeness in ourselves and the natural world, a result of embracing the interconnectedness of all life forms.

It’s a way of interacting with all of life that respects the limits and gifts of each life form. It respects the need for nourishment and renewal of all life. It embraces the complexity of the natural world which includes us as well as the natural intelligence and benevolence of the universe.

Ecological thinking sees life as a large web of beings which support each other and an endless process of living and renewal. It recognizes death as part of the process. Ecological thinking does not elevate one species over the others. Each species contributes to the whole so to protect one over another disturbs the web of life.

Ecological thinking recognizes the balancing mechanism that nature is and respects and supports it. By continually aligning with the need for rebalancing, humans can live in harmony with nature.

Ecological Thinking And HSPs

Ecological thinking is a natural way for highly sensitive people to live and think. It allows our pain to be part of the natural rebalancing process in our lives and lets our sensitivity serve the interdependent whole web of nature and life. It makes our sensitivity valuable to ourselves and others.

Ecological thinking and living restores HSPs to their rightful, respected place in human society.

Additional Reading:

Linear Thinking vs. Cyclical Thinking

Trading Push for Pull: What I Learned About Vacation

A funny thing happened on the way to the alarm clock.

After three non-stop years of making my way through several major life events, including the death of a parent and moving abroad, I have decision fatigue. This is turning out to be a good thing.

A Line In The Sand

At the beginning of November, after a year of struggling to calm my overwhelmed HSP sensibilities and find a more stable foothold amid all the changes in the realms of home, finances, work, and family, I snapped. It was like my psyche drew a line in the sand and said, “Take one more step and I won’t be responsible for the results.”

I’d been pushing myself and my life improvement agendas hard in order to make my life better as soon as possible, but it was backfiring.

The line drawn by my psyche took the form of an insistence that I go on vacation, immediately and lengthily.

Creating Vacation

I live in southwestern Germany, within easy reach of loads of wonderful places to get away to, but an extended away-from-home vacation was not feasible considering the transitional state of my work and finances. So, to appease my psyche, and because I recognized a mental health red flag when I saw it, I decided to go on vacation in a different way. Late one night, I sat at my desk and drew up an “Official Vacation Declaration” consisting of three lists: things I commit to doing during my vacation, things I excuse myself from during my vacation, and things I’m allowed to do during my vacation. I tuned in to what my sensitive body and over-taxed mind needed and considered how the practicalities of my life could bend toward a vacation. I thought deeply about what to put on each list. Then, on October 29, 2013, I read through what I’d created and dated and signed the document. I was officially on vacation through January 7th. Here’s a selection of the things I included on the three lists:

Things I commit to doing during my vacation:

  • meditate every morning;
  • accept and complete work for clients;
  • write enough journal pages to fill a spiral notebook;
  • go on weekly dates with my husband;
  • attend to holiday gift-giving pro-actively;
  • exercise enough to improve my health;
  • and (this one has made all the difference) stop doing work or work-like activities by 1:30 p.m. every weekday, no matter what.

Things I excuse myself from during my vacation:

  • business strategizing other than the minimum needed to meet my vacation commitments;
  • social obligations that don’t seem fun or restful;
  • solving big, long-term issues;
  • clutter-clearing, except to maintain the current state of things;
  • figuring stuff out;
  • telling anyone about this vacation, unless I really want to.

Things I’m allowed to do during my vacation:

  • space out,
  • not have a clue,
  • do things that are completely pointless,
  • watch YouTube videos of German soap opera storylines,
  • spend huge blocks of time on hobbies,
  • cry for any or no reason,
  • make a lot of mistakes,
  • stare into space,
  • sleep a lot,
  • wander aimlessly,
  • allow myself to be exactly as I am.

Finding Joy Again

As I write this, I’ve been on vacation for a month and I’m surprised and delighted by the results so far.

I spent the first couple of weeks in a dozy daze. I’d stop working at 1:30, then not do anything else of much importance at all. I read ridiculously indulgent things, online and off. I started writing fiction again, after a hiatus of about six years, which felt and feels like pure joy. I allowed my body’s clock to rule, staying up until two in the morning sometimes and sleeping in the next day, yet somehow, magically, still meeting my work commitments by 1:30, which seemed odd, but because my vacation document excused me from figuring stuff out, I didn’t try to understand why it was working. I simply went with it. And my joy kept increasing. About a week ago, I found words for why I feel so much better: I stopped pushing and allowed myself to be pulled. I’ve switched from doing things because I feel pressured to leaning toward a lack of pressure.

I don’t do today what I could put off until tomorrow, because if I feel like putting it off, it’s not pulling me. Instead, I turn toward what magnetizes me, as though I’m a bloom seeking sunlight. I know I’m going in the direction of a pull rather than a push because my body tells me. My breath slows, my chest and shoulders relax, my mouth curves into a smile, I sit up straight, my senses sharpen, and my internal chatter ceases. So far, the results of being on this vacation include immense relief, extravagant amounts of joy, deepening peace of mind, greater connection with intuition, and weird, welcome, unexpected adjustments of my career path.

At this rate, I may renew my vacation declaration on January 7th. Maybe I’ll decide to stay on vacation for the rest of my life. Why not? I’m already so much happier. This morning, I spontaneously skipped from one room of our apartment to the other. Just happy, I guess, I said to myself and continued on my merry way. I invite you to honour and empower yourself by trading push for pull, somehow.

Allow yourself space to notice and connect with the good stuff of your life, right now, today, even if you have to redefine some parameters.

You deserve it.

How To Overcome Your Marketing Fears

Marketing is the achilles heel for many highly sensitive entrepreneurs (HSEs) and business people. Even sensitive people who are employed fear marketing. Since we all have to market ourselves and our services, this is a serious issue. Many sensitive people are self employed in order to manage their sensitivity and financial needs, but avoid marketing because it brings them discomfort and even pain. Have you ever wondered why almost every highly sensitive person fears marketing?

How Marketing Triumphalism Creates Problems For HSPs

What is marketing triumphalism? It is the attitude that there is only one worthy way to market, everything else is inferior. It belongs to a competitive, conquering mindset. This one way of marketing comes from a dominant business culture which is non-HSP. To succeed in it the entrepreneur is expected to:

  • Present their product or service as the best choice, even when they know this isn’t true
  • Appear as if they know all the answers all the time, even when they don’t
  • Care only about their own bottom line, even if this means being dishonest or harming others

Not surprisingly this form of marketing is very difficult for any highly sensitive person, employed or self-employed–it feels manipulative, disingenuous, and egocentric. And it is! Being naturally more aware of negative energy and its costs, we simply cannot bring ourselves to market this way.

Unfortunately, in triumphalism non-conformists are severely punished–they are devalued, rejected, and perceived as failures which causes HSPs to develop a severe fear of marketing.

But the good news is once you know these marketing fears are a result of triumphalism you can heal and transform them.

Overcome Your Marketing Fears

Here are 3 ways to beat triumphalism and heal your marketing fears.

  1. Decide you will no longer let competitive, triumphalist thinking sway your marketing decisions. Simply making this decision will make you more aware of triumphalist pressures and become less likely to give into them.
  2. You are already clear about what you don’t want, now choose what you do want. Ask yourself, “What kind of experience do I want to create in my marketing?” What kind of experience do you want your customers to have? Then commit to taking action that will fulfill your ideas.
  3. Investigate and surround yourself with entrepreneurs whose marketing you trust and respect. This will not only constantly remind you that don’t have to market in the triumphalist way, but also inspire and encourage you to create the type of marketing you want. Best of all it will also make it easier to withstand any punishment triumphalists give you for nonconformity.

Marketing in a way that honors your desires and values will help you create more inner ease, peace, and satisfaction. Your honoring approach to marketing and your customers will stand out so they will then be more likely to work with you. At the same time you are leading your customers through a more caring and uplifting marketing experience, one that may end up giving them the exact nudge they need to make positive changes in their lives.

Move Forward With New Marketing Approaches

Here is what you learned:

  1. You now know that your fear of marketing comes from the dominant culture’s marketing triumphalism
  2. You can recognize when this triumphalist thinking ignites your fears
  3. You have some ideas for how to heal these fears

Now that you know that beating triumphalism will heal your fears, you also need to learn what to do to turn this fear into confidence. Download my free masterclass where I show you exactly how to do this.


The Baby Step Method Of High Productivity


High productivity is something everyone wants. It is wonderful when we find our efforts and results connecting in a positive way. It feels rewarding and nourishing.

So why does it often elude us?

How Living In Your Head Gets You In Trouble

High productivity comes with a requirement: we have to engage with reality. So often we work from an idea or ideal without considering the reality constraints that we are working with. Inevitably, then we will fail in some way or suffer a setback because we were not in touch with the issues and requirements to achieve our goal. We lose our productivity.

There is nothing wrong with having an ideal or idea for what we want in life. The problem comes from how we relate to reality.

If you wanted to play professional basketball, but were a 5 foot tall man, unless you were exceptionally hard-working or gifted the odds would be against you. If you wanted to created a new fashion line and had no training in tailoring, or design and wanted the line to be available in one week, you would also be guilty of unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations cost us our not only our productivity but over time can damage our spirits.

The problem is not to make you “realistic” in the sense of assuming you can never succeed. The idea is to understand reality so that you can then create a way to succeed based on reality not in defiance of it.

How Baby Steps Help Your Productivity

Baby steps are a great model for learning how to succeed. Like the baby in the image, each step is an engagement with the present and present reality and one follows and succeeds another. The baby cannot jump too far ahead, but delights in taking each step.

That kind of thinking lets you see each step in your process to achieving anything as something precious to be honored and treated well. Honoring each step is a great way to increase your productivity.

When you do that you consider each step in full context and with all the information you need to make the best of it. You are not rushing to a conclusion. You are joyfully creating your success.

Honoring The Creative Process

As Robert Fritz, author of The Path Of Least Resistance, has written, each time you honor each step of the creative process you are allowing real hope to enter your life.

There is a gift to each of us in honoring our work in all of its aspects, by being thorough and attentive to the work, that gives us a quiet joy and leads to our feeling hopeful. Taking one step successfully, being centered in our work, lets us know that we can take the next step.

Once we know we can do it we have real hope that comes from our own efforts. Our hope is not wrapped up in anything but our own effort, and that puts it under our control and not at the mercy of others.

That is a wonderful gift to give to yourself. So increase your productivity and take a chance on yourself by taking baby steps.

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career


The new book, Thrive by Dr. Tracy Cooper, with a foreword by Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person and originator of the Sensory Processing Sensitivity personality trait is available now. Dr. Cooper is introducing his book through a blog tour. His first stop is Sensitive Evolution. He has written an article below to tell you in his own words his thinking and why he decided to write this book.

 Thrive Through Self-Care

In chapter four of my new book, Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career, I cover a number of important aspects of self-care.  What I’d like to do in this stop on the blog tour is offer a framework within which we can consider self-care in the working environment.  The workplace has certainly changed over the past decade, along with the overall society, with more emphasis in many cases on offering a better balance between work and home time, along with greater autonomy in how and when we carry out our work.  This isn’t true in all cases, but in order to attract the top talent, even the top third perhaps, companies and organizations have had to reexamine the needs of younger workers and restructure the way they do business to recruit and retain the best individuals.  This shift in the structure of work is a potential boon for us all as we seek working conditions that are more suited to our individual needs.

What do I mean when I say self-care?   Isn’t self-care just a tired, old phrase that’s largely lost any meaning in the rough and tumble world of work where one’s needs are many times subordinate to the needs of the job?  Self-care for highly sensitive people, or HSPs, implies a broader set of considerations of necessity because HSPs are more complex and dynamic individuals with particular needs.  Self-care for HSPs must be inclusive, dedicated, and flexible.  Inclusive in the sense that we take into account not only our physical needs for a proper diet that imparts nourishment without unduly taxing the body with stimulants or excessively processed foods, but also our emotional, and spiritual needs.  An inclusive view of self-care, or an integral view, acknowledges the interrelatedness of all of the body’s systems with the intent of maintaining a state of optimal functioning at any given time.  All of the systems in our body are interconnected and interrelated.  Only a holistic, inclusive approach will ensure all systems remain “go,” especially as we age.

Self-care As Dedicated Practice

Self-care for HSPs must become a dedicated practice.  Just as many of us walk or otherwise engage in forms of physical exercise with dedicated fervor around the first of every year we must see self-care as a practice we carry out on a daily basis to maintain balance and health.  Unlike our often honest attempts to begin the year on a bright note, only to fall prey to procrastination and declining interest, our self-care practices must be maintained throughout the year.  The best way we can help ensure that our good intentions do not fall by the wayside, like so many New Year’s resolutions, is to understand that our practice must be flexible and allow for times when we cannot do everything we want the way we would like.  A certain amount of self-compassion is advisable as we go through our daily routines and try to fit everything in.  In times when we are simply too stressed we should forgo one aspect or another so that we may rest.  Getting adequate rest is the foundation on which everything else should be built.  When we build in a flexible approach and acknowledge that, at times, life may come calling with too many demands, we are being compassionate toward ourselves and in so doing compassionate toward others.

In Thrive I recall one HSP who explained that her intention in assiduously attending to her self-care needs was to enable her to function within a comfortable range each day where her energy levels remain more or less stable so that her co-workers would never see the part of her that “hits the limits.”  This careful tending of our energies must, of necessity, be inclusive of our lives outside of work where we do have more control in how we are able to spend our time and get the rest we need.  Because we spend so much of our days at work in a modern age, particularly in the U.S. where the average work week is around 47 hours, the issue of self-care is relevant to all, HSP or non-HSP.  Perhaps, in a very real sense, we HSPs are the harbingers of a new way of being that offers a counterpoint to the all-consuming nature of modern work.     

Boundaries Help You To Thrive

Another extremely important aspect of self-care I cover in Thrive, which by the way is based on original new research conducted to rigorous academic standards and approved of by Dr. Elaine Aron, is setting boundaries and protecting ourselves from too much negative stimulation at work.  Many HSPs have real issues with simply saying “no,” or otherwise letting someone know they have reached a boundary it would unwise to continue violating.  The HSPs in my study communicated to me their difficulties with arrogant, manipulative, and exploitive supervisors, bosses, and co-workers in the workplace and the resultant effects of absorbing the overwhelming negative energy on a daily basis.  That’s not to say that every HSP is in such an undesirable environment.  Many are doing quite well, but still face issues with the energies they must absorb from customers, clients, and co-workers.  Effective coping requires the same inclusive strategy of proper diet, rest, setting boundaries, and relaxing the mind through contemplative practice.  

Lastly, thriving and self-care in the workplace does not mean that we huddle off in corners too afraid to interact with anyone for fear we might become upset, rather it means we choose to interact with quality individuals for quality amounts of time (which will vary by person) and minimize our exposure to negatively stimulating individuals.  We highly sensitive people do not exist in a vacuum, though many of us sometimes feel as if we do, we may benefit greatly from the right types of socialization with quality people capable of meeting us on our level of personal authenticity.  

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career will help you learn more about self-care and much more as you journey down this path of self-awareness, acceptance, and adaptation.  

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career is available through:

Dr. Cooper’s website 


Barnes and Noble Booksellers


The New World Of Work for HSP’s

Work is a challenge for highly sensitive people.

At least it has been under the capitalistic economic system.

As the center of gravity in our society shifts from an individualistic to a communitarian approach to life and work, a new world of work is opening up for HSP’s.  The Age of Accumulation is giving way to the Age of Sharing.

For HSP’s, it cannot come soon enough.

The Evolution View Of Work

For centuries, we humans have created different societal structural models to support each step of our development.

This process has been documented in the book, Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan, based on the research of Dr. Clare Graves into psychological identity.

Dr. Graves was a psychology professor at Utica College, who conducted numerous surveys into how people perceived themselves. He found that people tended to define themselves in similar ways and that these identities correlated to distinct ages of human development: The Tribal Age, the Age of Empires, The Age of Religious Dominance, The Capitalistic Age, etc.

One of Dr. Graves findings is that the psychological identities of each age were created to serve the societal model not the other way around. Dr. Graves also found that we have tended to alternate a communitarian age with an individualistic age.

Recently we have been living in an individualistic age.  It has brought us indoor plumbing – nice –  and lots of pollution – not so nice.  It has enabled us to grow from a marginal species to a group of 7 billion.  Natural resources used to be plentiful; now we are plentiful and the natural resources not so much.  So now we have to go from an age of abundant resources to an age of abundant sharing.

What The New Age Means For HSP Work

How does this relate to work for HSP’s?

In 2008, Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer Wright published Tribal Leadership about different types of  human work arrangements, what they are like, and how effective they are.  The authors align the patterns they identified in their studies with those of Spiral Dynamics, because they found similar patterns in effect.

Tribal Leadership shows how the current individualistic system inevitably creates a depressed class of people to support the “stars” and shows the pitfalls inherent in that approach.  The book illuminates how the new emerging communitarian model in which work group cohesion is based on values and mission is a more productive and effective way of working. This new model is high on trust and sees the intelligence in all people.  Tribal Leadership offers numerous real life examples of the implementation of the new model.

The New Communitarian Age

We have benefited from the amount of learning that has taken place to attempt to improve human life.  It has become apparent, however, that individual knowledge and disciplines are not enough.  Each discipline has to find its way into the common fabric of life to realize its value. Each discipline adds value and has limitations as well.  They do not exist in isolation.

The new communitarian age will be an age of the synthesis of human knowledge where we identify the strengths and weaknesses of many disciplines so that we can find what really works and what does not.  For HSP’s, synthesis is our expertise, and this new model may open many doors for us and make work a joy again.

For More Information:

Spiral Dynamics