The Secret Life of the Sensitive

When I discovered the term “empath” and realised that it perfectly explained a whole host of unusual experiences that I thought were peculiar to me, it was like the lights went on and I felt a lot less alone.
Things like being careful with my energy, managing how often I’m around people, needing a lot of quiet time and space, getting overwhelmed easily, and even more experiences like getting physically unwell after being near someone in a lot of emotional pain.
Having previously known few people who seemed to have similar experiences, it came as a relief to know that these seemingly unusual needs and experiences were connected.
My journey with the term has evolved and I now prefer to use the term “sensitive” or what many would say “highly sensitive person” (HSP) as this feels like a description that relates more to a set of experiences than a specific identity.
Whatever term you identify with, understanding these traits and making allowances for them can be essential to our ability to both survive and thrive in the world.
Understanding the full impact of what it means to be sensitive has been a huge piece in my healing journey.
What I’ve noticed now is many women that I meet are also sensitive/ highly sensitive. In fact, most of my clients to some degree are sensitive.
So, for those who are looking for answers, or are learning to live and thrive with sensitivity, here are a few pointers that I hope will help.
What I really believe is that sensitive women make the most incredible natural leaders, once they’ve learned to work in harmony with their sensitivity and manage their energy.

What does it mean to be sensitive?
A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is an individual who possesses an increased or deeper sensitivity within their central nervous system. This heightened sensitivity extends to physical, emotional, or social stimuli. Some refer to this trait as sensory processing sensitivity (SPS).
Coined by psychologist Elaine Aron, the term “Highly Sensitive Person” describes a subset of the population characterized by their sensitivity to various stimuli.
HSPs exhibit strong emotional sensitivity, react intensely to both external and internal cues (such as pain, hunger, light, and noise), and have a rich inner life.
They may feel more disturbed than others by violence, tension, or overwhelming situations.
On the positive side, high sensitivity is linked to creativity, meaningful relationships, and an appreciation for beauty.
If you react strongly to criticism, become easily overstimulated (both physically and emotionally), and have a rich inner world, you may score highly in sensory processing sensitivity.
HSPs often exhibit a higher capacity for empathy and sensitivity to others’ moods.

Why are there so many sensitive people out there?
We don’t fully know the reason for why sensitivity is becoming so common, but it could be related to several factors, like:
• As mental health awareness grows, people are becoming more sensitive to their feelings and those of others, leading to heightened awareness of emotions.
• Changing social dynamics means that the interconnected world exposes us to a constant stream of information and emotional stimuli. Social media, news, and global events evoke strong emotional responses, impacting our sensitivity.
• Neurobiological factors also contribute—research suggests that highly sensitive people have a more active amygdala, the brain region responsible for processing emotions. They pick up on subtle emotional cues and are affected by emotional situations more intensely.
• Environmental overstimulation is another aspect—modern life bombards us with sensory input, from bright screens to loud noises and crowded spaces. Highly sensitive individuals process this information deeply, leading to overstimulation and overwhelm.
• One theory is that the change in frequency of the earth’s electromagnetic field has impacted our level of sensitivity through our nervous system.

Common concerns of the sensitive
• The body can continually be overwhelming and uncomfortable to be in
• They may wonder why they react so strongly to situations that others seem to brush off easily
• Stress, burnout and overwhelm are common.
• Introspection can sometimes lead to perfectionism and worry about not measuring up.
• HSPs with high ambition may spiral into overthinking.
• While HSPs excel in certain professional aspects (innovation, fairness, team leadership), they may struggle with pressure and negative feedback.
• They may worry about being judged or rejected by partners.
• HSPs need ample alone time to recharge.
• Busy environments, loud noises, and excessive stimuli can overwhelm HSPs.
• They may worry about managing sensory overload.
• They may worry about sleep quality due to their heightened awareness.

The somatic antidote
I’ve found that somatic work is a real antidote to living with sensitivity.

It can:
• Help us open the channels of processing within the body that feel overwhelmed.
• Support us to come into an easier relationship with stimuli that move through us so that we can develop a greater tolerance.
• Help us to better understand the experiences of our body and how we relate to the external world.
• Supports us in understanding our energy, developing boundaries, advocating for ourselves, and harnessing the true potential of our sensitivity.
• We learn to understand the language of the body and learn what and how it’s trying to communicate with us.
• By developing a relationship with our body we prevent health problems that can occur from the continued dismissal of bodily signals.

The hidden power of the sensitive
Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) is like having an extra antenna—one that picks up nuances, emotions, and subtleties that others might miss. While it can feel overwhelming at times, sensitivity is a superpower waiting to be harnessed, especially for business leaders.
Innate strengths we experience include:
• Finely tuned to the emotional currents around them. Empathy is like a secret weapon—a bridge that connects people in their world.
• Creativity – sensitivity can birth ground breaking ideas.
• High emotional intelligence and the capacity and preference for deep relationships
• A more developed appreciation for beauty.
• An ability to read between the lines, create inclusive cultures, and spot opportunities.
• Highly developed intuition that means they can see beyond what’s happening.
• Creating Inclusive Cultures: HSPs value harmony and authenticity. They create an environment where everyone feels seen and heard.
• Spotting Opportunities: HSPs notice gaps, unmet needs, and emerging trends
• HSPs cherish reflection and self-awareness.

These traits make us incredible, naturally conscious leaders once we learn to work with our needs, and the natural flow of our body and master our energy.

Self-care needs
The impact of overwhelm and the tendency to burn out is very real when you’re highly sensitive. As our more
• They need to prioritize self-care.
• Yoga, meditation, nature walks, or whatever feels good to support recharge.
• Set energetic boundaries. Learn to say no.
• Decompression Time: After intense meetings or interactions, decompress.
• Retreat to a quiet space. Breathe. Reset.
• Regular time away from stimuli, like people, noise, light, etc.
• Good quality sleep is important.

Other resources:
Elaine Aron
Psychology Today
The Guardian

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