The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide

Reviewed by Dr. Panchajanya Paul, MD

Author: Ted Zeff, PH.D Paperback: 200 pages Publisher: New Harbinger Publications; 1 edition (October 1, 2004) Language: English

We are all aware of introverts and extroverts. But there is a group of people who are highly sensitive to the environmental stimulus. These groups of people comprise around 20 percent of the population. They are highly sensitive to pain, crowds, time pressure, bright lights, loud noise, and strong odors. This book is about those highly sensitive people and provides easy and practical coping skills. The author gives examples of explains the highly sensitive people (HSP) with practical examples as -"I can't take the stress at work anymore. My coworker at the next desk talks all day long in a loud, abrasive voice, and my boss keeps demanding that I meet his rigid deadlines. I leave work every day feeling drained, jittery, with my stomach tied up in knots". "Everyone in my family is always running around trying some new adventure while I like to stay home. I feel like there's something wrong with me because I usually don't like to go out after work or on weekends".

The book is written by Dr. Ted Zeff. He has written seven books, and is a world expert on the topic of highly sensitive people. His other books are: The Highly Sensitive Person's Companion, The Strong, Sensitive Boy, Raise an Emotionally Healthy Boy; the Psychological and Physiological Effects of Meditation and the Physical Isolation Tank on Type A Behavior, Searching for God Part I, and Searching for God Part II. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology in 1981 from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and has completed post-graduate studies in nutrition, Ayurveda and meditation. The author who himself is a HSP draws on many examples from his own life and practice. "When I was thirty years old, I began studying for my PHD in psychology and completed great deal of research in the field of stress management and insomnia. During this period I made important changes in my lifestyle. I began reducing my over stimulating type A behavior, maintained an exercise schedule that was appropriate for my constitution, changed my diet, began implementing daily meditation and relaxation techniques, and developed a new positive attitude towards sleep."

The book provides easy and practical skills that highly sensitive people can apply to their lives to cope and survive in the over stimulating world. The pioneering work on highly sensitive people was done by Elaine Aron who through her research and writing created awareness about the highly sensitive people. Aron's first book- 'The highly Sensitive person' created a new understanding of people who are highly sensitive to outside stimuli. It sparked more research and books on this topic, and helped numerous people. It is imprtant for parents to understand their HSP children. Highly sensitive boys have challenges while growing up. Many of them prefer genle games over the aggressive games of soccer and football. Many are bullied and made fun off at the school and social setting. Parents need to protect them and provide all necessary support. The author provides numerous easy ways for the HSP to cope and thrive in a world bombarded with stimulus every where. Here are some of the practical tips for HSP to cope at work and home. Although it is specifically written for highly sensitive people, others will also find it helpful.

1. "HSP need a lot of downtime and may find it difficult to work a 40 hour week. Studies have shown no correlation about between happiness in life and increased income once your basic needs have been met. Also, when you you are performing a work that you feel is meaningful , your job satisfaction increases. For example, if you can understand how your job is benefitting humanity , you will likely become more enthusiastic about your vocation. It will increase your sense of wellbeing at work in a less demanding job that may pay a lower salary but give you the freedom to spend more time pursuing enjoyable and calming activities.."

2. The author talks about the effect of karma and talks about the importance of compassion. "HSPs has the ability to feel compassion for suffering humanity. When you perform kind acts , you not only uplift others , but you transcend negative, self centered emotions. The law of karma states that whatever energy you put out comes back to you. When you dwell on interpersonal problems due to your sensitivity ,you may feel depressed ; but when you perform kind deeds by helping others , the endorphins are released in your body will literally make you feel joyful."

3. "One of the most effective methods to reduce stimulation and create inner peace is by spending time in silence. When you're in silence in the presence of other people , you don't have to constantly give your opinion or defend yourself. You can just relax and simply observe people projecting their beliefs , which actually becomes a meditative experience. You can tell people that being in silence helps calm your nervous system , releasing you from the expectation of needing to be engaged in intense verbal interactions. ..a technique I have found useful is to use the "pause for 5 seconds " technique. Both people agree to wait for 5 seconds before answering to each other. utilizing this intense argument can be transformed into a calm interaction...Since HSP feel more peaceful in a quite environment, it's important that we reduce the amount of time we spend in mindless talking. Being in silence with people also lessens the potential for interpersonal conflicts. ,,,being in silence in a group setting can be very beneficial. You will feel more peaceful when you practice being quiet in large groups since you won't have to constantly state your opinions, ask unnecessary questions,, or talk about yourself. first it may feel strange being in silence with people , but as you experience more joy during during such quiet interludes , you will want to integrate this practice into more areas of life"

4. Sometimes HSP are married to non-HSP. This can be challenging for both. An HSP who needs lower sensation and the non-HSP who is a high sensation seeker may fight about how to spend leisure. "The HSP incase enjoys spending quiet time at home or alone while the non-HSP becomes bored with such lifestyle , always craving stimulating activities.'s important for couples to learn to accept each other's differences rather than blaming the other for a different temperament."

5. "As an HSP you will find it challenging to cope with time pressure. Try to avoid driving on free ways during the rush hour. If you must attend a meeting , try to use city's mass transit system or arrive in the area several hours earlier. Its important to start early as worrying about being late will increase your anxiety levels. with the increase of road rage, urban highways have turned into a stress inducing nightmare for the HSP."

6. Many HSP are sensitive to odors...Some HSP become nauseated whenever they are near some one with perfume. If you sensitive to these kinds synthetic odors , try to move away. There may actually be a correlation between chemical sensitivity and being an HSP. The book talks about the use of aromatherapy to bring tranquility at works. It quotes a study which showed that keyboard errors decreased by 50 percent when the fragrance of lemon is diffused into the office. Consider using natural fragrance, or aroma therapy in your work and home .

7. "Control the visual stimulation. The reason people meditate with their eyes closed is to shut out the stimuli from the outside world, allowing them to dive deeply into the peace that lies dominant within. By constantly receiving excessive stimuli through your eyes , you are directly overloading your nervous system and possible creating anxiety and tension. Instead of staring endlessly at your television or your computer screen , which can over stimulate your nervous system, try an eye closing meditation break..."Spend time in nature every day- either walking or sitting in silence. Remember to stay focused in the present moment as you gaze at the magnificent array of luscious flowers or the cornucopia of cotton candy clouds reflected in the shimmering water of pond".

8. "Some colors are more soothing that others. It is important to surround yourself with calming colors like white, blue, green , and other soft colors. Bright shades of orange, yellow, and red can be over stimulating ..for HSP. Another important step in reducing stimulation for the HSP is to create a morning routine. The structure will set the tone for the entire day and your evening routine will influence the quality of your sleep."

In summary, it is not about a single habit or skill , but a change in lifestyle acknowledging our own unique strengths and limitations. The author concludes with " You need to create new, satisfying , and nurturing activities to replace old habits. For example, when I finally turned off the TV, I started to really enjoy reading inspiring books, writing stories, and listening to uplifting music. When I think of thousand of hours that I wasted staring at the inane , stimulating programs, I sometimes become saddened at how I increased tension and angst in my life. However I also realize that I was doing the best I could given the knowledge that I had at that particular time. This is also a time for new beginnings for you, and you don't have to keep repeating old habits that don't work for you anymore as you gain new knowledge and understanding of yourself."



Dr. Panchajanya 'Panch' Paul, MD, ABIHM, ABPN, FAPA - is an American Board certified - Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine, and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He holds an adjunct faculty position at Emory University School of Medicine; University of Georgia, and University of Central Florida School of Medicine. Call 7704541252 or email to schedule an appointment with Dr.Paul at Georgia Behavioral Health Professionals. He is also the author of 2 books- Stress Rescue and Sleep Coaching available at Amazon.