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Dealing with stress – especially when you’re highly sensitive

holiday shoppers

“I love the atmosphere at the mall – everything about Christmas.” Actor, musician Drake Bell

I don’t like holidays. And I don’t like crowds of people. I don’t like noise.” Writer, cartoonist Roz Chast

Of course, there is no “season” for stress – but holidays can be more stressful and challenging, especially when we are highly sensitive.

What are these seasons like for you? Do you feel overwhelmed more often? Here are some ideas of what you can do to take care of your health and emotional balance.

Carol Burbank, Ph.D. notes “When we’re sensitive to other people’s emotions and struggles, holidays bring extra challenges.

“Winter celebrations bring their own craziness, the joy/grief cycle of memory, reunions and rituals that touch everyone to the core.

“Just riding our own rollercoaster is enough! But when we are empathic, we sense everyone else’s wild ride, too!”

She provides several suggestions, including “take some time to make your home nest beautiful. Make a place where you can feel grounded and have the cozy space you need.”

She adds that it may be very helpful to do some basic cleanup and organizing:

“What a difference it makes, to sit down and write my Christmas cards on a clean, empty desk. The rest of the house? – well, let’s just say, a quick sweep and a few pine boughs were enough to bring in the holiday feeling.”

Read more in the article Slow Holidays: A Survival Guide for Sensitives, HSPs and Empaths.

Another article on the BioElectric Shield site gives additional tips, such as:

Almost Christmas movie 2016Tradition vs something else? There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change.

Watch the ‘shoulds.’ Pay attention to what is actually doable for you and your family. Set limits.

“Do the things that are very special and/or important to you. Let some of the other things go.

Do you really need to….? Do you really have to bake that pie, cut that tree, make that gift? Does the thought of doing it make you tired? Then give yourself a break and go buy one or decide to do without it.”

From Healthy and Happy during the Holidays – Some ideas on getting through the Holidays with a  Little Sanity.


Psychologist Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person and a series of related titles, points out the holidays have more than religious and commercial meanings:

“If you aren’t religious, think about the symbolic/archetypal meaning, always there, in this season of darkness turning to light and the birth of hope.

Don’t take on too much, especially if you are already doing all you can in the time you’ve got. Make a budget for gifts and food, and stick to it.”

Read more in my article Elaine Aron on holiday stress relief for sensitive people.

Meditation for stress relief

An article notes that psychology professor Vince Favilla, who identifies as an HSP (highly sensitive person), “turns to meditation when he gets overwhelmed.

“When my to-do list piles up, or my environment is overstimulating me, I put everything on pause for 5 minutes and meditate.”

“He likes to put on headphones, close his eyes and listen to rain or white noise. He said it gives him the ‘mental rest‘ he needs.”

From 5 Tips for Highly Sensitive People in Navigating Overwhelm, by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.


Meditation teacher Emily Fletcher says, “My morning meditation is like taking a shower for my brain.”

Emily FletcherShe cites a growing body of research on various benefits of the practice and says “Meditation is a tool to help de-excite your nervous system so you can perform at the top of your game in every area of your life.”

From article (with a video) about her program:
Meditation for stress, meditation for positive energy: ZivaMind.

Fletcher points out, “Stress keeps you trapped in anxiety and overwhelm, which affects your performance right when it matters most.”

In a very real sense, of course, living life in general is a performance.

But creative thinking and doing creative work may be particularly difficult when we are under “too much” or a lot of stress.

Fletcher teaches a breathing technique “you can use anytime you feel like you’re at your breaking point.

“Simply stop, take a breath, then walk around your office or room inhaling for 4 steps and exhaling for 6 steps.

“So simple, but helps to cool off, oxygenate the blood and calm the vagus nerve which connects your brain to your body. This gets you out of fight-or-flight and into stay-and-play.”

Learn about her free Master Class: Stress Less, Accomplish More – which includes a free quiz and a “relaxation tool to get grounded and focused.”


More resources


For several years, I have been enjoying the benefits of the online music service and its multiple channels with a wide range of genres for both energizing and relaxing music, and nature sounds, while working many hours a day at my computer.

Definitely a stress relief strategy – and a pleasure.

Online shopping

Amazon shoppingShopping in the physical world certainly has its pleasures and advantages.

But for those of us who are introverted and/or highly sensitive, online shopping can provide less stress.

There can be a wider selection of stuff, often lower prices, more product details, reviews etc etc.

At this time of year – and any time – Amazon Online Shopping has many special offers.

Working with our emotions

The word “stress” covers a wide range of different kinds and depths of physical and emotional experiences.

Emotional intelligence is – to simplify it – learning to work with our emotions in healthy ways, no matter what time of year it is or what circumstances we face.

Karla McLarenCounselor and empathic author Karla McLaren teaches the online course Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions.

She writes about her class: “This information and skill set comes not from any particular culture or teaching, but directly from the realm of the emotions themselves.

“Certainly, I’ve studied everything I could get my hands on, but I also did something unusual: Instead of enforcing my ideas upon the emotions, I listened closely to the emotions and engaged them in an empathic dialogue. I’ll teach you how to do this.”

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What do you find helpful for relieving stress?




Dealing with stress – especially when you’re highly sensitive

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2016). Dealing with stress – especially when you’re highly sensitive. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Nov 2016
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