In my ongoing quest of self-improvement I decided to explore the various personality tests online. I was hoping to learn more about my personality traits so that I could tailor my routines and working day accordingly. One of the most famous personality tests is the Myers-Briggs; a comprehensive test which puts the reader into one of 16 categories. It turns out that I’m an INFJ which, as it happens, is the rarest type of personality. The deeper I delved into researching my personality type, the more it made sense to me. I’ve always felt kind of misunderstood, weird and unlike other people. My whole life I’ve been called shy or an introvert. Some people misinterpreted me as being aloof or thinking that something was wrong if I was quiet.
The more I read about INFJs, the more the term Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP kept coming up. Reading about HSPs made me rethink how I function as a human being. Here are some of the common aspects of being an HSP. For more in depth information, Elaine N. Aron’s website on the subject can be found here.
The Normal Mould doesn’t fit
I learned early on that working in an office, doing the typical 9 to 5 and working with other people didn’t work for me. In fact, it made me really depressed. HSPs are often very creative and/or intellectual and therefore may feel unfulfilled working in a conventional job.
You Need Time to Recharge
One of the main issues I had with working with other people was that by the end of the day I would be completely and utterly drained. I always thought a large part of this was because I couldn’t be myself with other people, and was putting on some kind of act. I wasn’t at ease and so I was using up all my energy being a false version of myself. What I’ve realised though is that hanging out with any people, even my friends and family has an affect on me. I would certainly hate for my loved ones to think that when I’m with them I can’t wait to escape, or that I would describe spending time with them as draining because that isn’t the case. No, simply I just need time to myself on a regular basis. Time alone for me gives me a chance to recharge.
Change is Bad
I’m a creature of habit. I like routine and I am very stuck in my ways. I find upheaval very unsettling, and I find it takes me longer to adjust to change than perhaps other people do. I would love to be the type of person who lands on their feet every time and knows exactly what to do and when, instead I often find that I am a fish out of water, flip-flopping and hyperventilating. When I travel, I like to unpack as soon as I arrive, and also to establish some kind of loose routine to keep me grounded. It’s also important for the people around you to know that it might take you longer than them to adjust to change and to be patient with you.
Overwhelm is Also Bad
Overwhelm is not my friend, yet she hangs around me a lot. It’s my fault because I invite her along for the ride. Another problem I have is that I’m a scatterbrain. Overwhelm and Scatterbrain are like the creepy twins from The Shining. This displeases me greatly on a daily basis because I would love to be hyper-organised. I don’t really suffer from creative droughts, rather, I get a million ideas every day, and it’s a mad race to scribble each idea down before it floats off into the ether. I have a notebook for every goal, course or project, but then I end up cramming loads of unrelated stuff into the pages. I usually have no fewer than ten tabs open on my computer at any given time, my to-read list is higher than Everest and I love making lists so much that I often make many versions of the same list. All of these lists and ideas are great but my brain constantly suffers from information overload and then threatens to shut down. I get headaches, I get tired and I get really pissed off. The only method I’ve found that counteracts these issues is to break down each task into a manageable daily step, to time block for each task, and to use bullet journals and habit trackers to mark off when I’ve completed a task. Also, limiting your daily to-do list to 3 top priority items is a lot less overwhelming.
Sensitive to Conflict
I will do anything to avoid an argument. I hate conflict. If I was a turtle I’d quickly retreat into my shell and not emerge until the coast is clear. The only exception to this is if I’m driving and feeling safe in my little car, I freely spout a whole array of colourful language at the shitty drivers around me.
Playing back events over in your mind. Worrying that a message you sent to a friend had the wrong tone or that you’ve somehow offended them. I do these things all the time.
How to help:
- Be Present. We spend most of our time worrying about what will happen in the future or obsessing over something that has already happened. This is wasted time. Take a step back, take a deep breath and just focus on the here and now.
- Don’t Isolate Yourself. Yes, HSPs crave solitude and require it to function properly, but we can slip perilously close to being a full-on hermit. This isn’t healthy. Find friends or family members that you can open up to. I know introverts hate phone calls usually, but meeting in person for a cup of coffee, or even just emailing someone can really help. Don’t bottle up your emotions, tell someone how you feel. Also, speaking to someone else can help you to see that you’re not alone in your feelings.
- Look after yourself. Some people can get by perfectly well on five hours of sleep a night. HSPs can’t. Work out what time you realistically need to be up in the morning and count back eight hours. Set that as your bedtime. Get ready an hour before; have a bath, put your comfy pjs on, have a chamomile tea, light candles or use low light lamps. Basically, do anything that relaxes you and doesn’t stimulate the brain. Similarly, don’t throw yourself kicking and screaming into the day. Ease yourself in. Have a gentle alarm clock. I use the chimes one on my iPhone. I also stretch and meditate and give myself ample time to get ready in a relaxed manner. Eat healthily, exercise (preferably something that you enjoy rather than have to endure), drink plenty of water and learn to recognise when your body needs rest.
- Find your time. Track the times in the day when you are at your most productive, and if you can, work around that. Women are cyclical and their moods and ability to be productive can wax and wane throughout the month. Lisa Lister advocates charting your cycle in her books and I highly recommend it.
- Slow down. I hate busy schedules. If you have deadlines, whether self-imposed or not, give yourself plenty of time to complete them. Be realistic and plan ahead so that if you have a sick day or there is something unexpected that might throw a spanner in the works, you’ll still be ok. Give yourself plenty of time and don’t try and cram too much into one day.
- Seek out beauty. HSPs are deeply moved by the arts and by music, and they often notice the simple beauties found in everyday life that many others ignore or take for granted. Find places you love and that you enjoy spending time in. It could be quirky bookshop where you can sit in a chair and quietly flick through books, a park that has a beautiful rose garden and a perfect patch for a picnic blanket or an art gallery that houses your favourite painting.
- Have a ‘zone-out kit’. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or drained, know how to make yourself feel better. Is there an essential oil that soothes you? Perhaps you can carry it in your bag. Are there certain songs that make you feel happy or chilled out? Compile a playlist. Perhaps you could make a scrapbook of magazine cuttings that bring a smile to your face, or a notepad you could fill with your favourite inspiring quotes, poems, and ideas.