Highly sensitive people are not just your girlfriends who cry while watching "Golden Girls" reruns. They are male and female, children and adults who experience stimuli at a more profound level than the average person. According to research by Dr. Elaine Aron, HSPs represent 15 percent to 20 percent of the population. If you or someone you love is an HSP, you may be thinking about what careers are best suited to these people. While HSPs are found in every field, there are guidelines that can help an HSP to incorporate in her work life in order to support her increased sensitivity.
Breaks and downtime
Highly sensitive people need frequent times of solitude to recharge their batteries and to keep them from feeling overwhelmed by stimuli. Whatever your career, be sure you have the freedom to stroll through the park, sit in a quiet room and meditate, or sit under a tree and breathe fresh air at frequent intervals. Peace and quiet are essential to HSPs being able to manage the mental and emotional stimuli that comes their way during an average workday. Choose careers that will give you chances to take frequent breaks. Self-employed artists, writers and graphic designers often make their own hours and work from the comfort of home.
Skip the coffee
While your colleagues may enjoy slinging back the free java that your company supplies in the break room, as an HSP, caffeine is not your best friend. Caffeine can contribute to anxiety, and in a nervous system that is more highly taxed in general, coffee can add to a feeling of anxiety. Or, maybe you are a mid-afternoon chocolate nibbler. Removing coffee and dark chocolate from your daily reality will help you to feel more centered and peaceful as you go about your workday, whatever career you have chosen.
Find meaningful work
Most people want to find meaning in their work and in their life. But this is especially true of HSPs, for whom meaning is essential. Don't settle for a job that doesn't fulfill your need to help humanity. Some ideas for careers are those with humanistic goals, such as jobs in social work, the clergy, or inspirational leadership. Roles that allow you to work one-on-one with another person might be ideal. Are you musical? You could give private lessons. A careers counselor or life coach might be able to help you on this path.
Get plenty of sleep
Humans can't functional optimally on very little sleep. HSPs are especially in need of eight hours of solid sleep each night. This may mean finding a job that allows you to wake up to your own biological clock each day and to have a lazy, undemanding morning as you ease into your workday. Naps can also be rejuvenating and restorative for HSPs, so schedule them as often as you can. To make this possible, you will want to choose a career that will not demand overnight coverage or being on-call all of the time. Yes, the health-care field will be the source of a lot of jobs in the future, but focus on options or departments that have hours that are more 9 to 5 than 24/7. Think of being a receptionist or data clerk in a doctor's office.
- Psychology Today; Top 10 Survival Tips for the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP); Susan Biali, M.D.
- The Highly Sensitive Person; Elaine Aron, Ph.D.
Parker Janney is a web developer and writer based in Philadelphia. With a Master of Arts in international politics, she has been ghostwriting for several underground publications since the late 2000s, with works featured in "Virtuoso," the "Philadelphia Anthropology Journal" and "Clutter" magazine.