High Sensitivity: Gifts And Challenges

Highly sensitive people (HSPs) make up about 20% of the population and have a trait that is scientifically known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity. This trait evolved as a survival strategy of the population and brings with it many gifts that support the world, but in today’s busy fast-paced way of living can also create many challenges for the sensitive person.  

Brain Differences And High Sensitivity

Particular brain differences, such as more activation in the insula (seat of awareness) and a finely tuned nervous system means HSPs can pick up on details and information that up to 80% of the population might miss.  Having a group of people living in a population with this advanced awareness supports and protects everyone. Although taking in so much information means we also have to process the extra details. If we are burning the gas pedal of our nervous system constantly without enough rest we can burn out our system and might experience the following challenges:  


  • Shutting down
  • Withdrawing
  • Isolating
  • Cocooning
  • Disconnecting
  • Addiction (to help numb)


  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling out of control
  • Rumination, out-of-control worry
  • Worsening or creating chronic health conditions
  • Reduced immune system response
  • Poor general health


  • Emotional meltdowns
  • Irrational thoughts and behaviors
  • Highly irritable
  • Anger explosions
  • Inability to access cognitive brain (memory and focus issues, irrational fears magnified)
  • Relationship problems can be created or worsen

The Positives Of High Sensitivity

People with high sensitivity have so many gifts to offer the world and it has become my mission to help HSPs learn about their unique needs so they can live in balance and access those many positives! Once an HSP has learned the right self-care to balance their sensitive system they can truly soar in the world.  In my work with HSPs all over the world, I have observed that HSPs are…

  • Kind
  • Empathetic
  • Compassionate 
  • Intuitive
  • Genuine 
  • Detailed and want to get things done right
  • Able to read microexpressions & body language up to 80% of the population miss
  • Advanced in their awareness and consciousness
  • More insightful
  • Often able to make people feel comfortable and safe
  • Good listeners
  • Able to notice subtleties and can, therefore, read people well
  • More creative
  • Moved deeply by nature’s beauty
  • Able to see, feel, and experience more with music and art
  • More creative parent and often intuitively know a child’s needs
  • Attentive partners
  • More conscientious and courteous
  • Deeply aware with strong insight 
  • And so much more!

When you see someone going out of their way to help another it is often an HSP.  Some of the best artists, musicians, creators, healers, educators, and innovators have this trait. What I know for sure is that people with high sensitivity are needed in the world and when given the right information and support will soar in their life and go out and make the world a better place. It’s just who you are. Your deep caring and sensitive nature make you an important part of the world. 

Avoiding Overwhelm

As an HSP myself I also struggled with overwhelm constantly before I fully understood how to support my needs as a sensitive person.  I’ve made it my mission as a psychotherapist and global HSP expert to learn what I see works well for HSPs and to share that information so that more HSPs can reach their highest level of balance and wellness.  

Based on my experience with this population the following are the most supportive.

  1. Educate yourself. Learn all you can about this trait and the brain differences because it will help you understand what you need to be your best. 
  2. Connect with other HSPs. Spending time with other highly sensitive people, even in online groups, like my Sensitive Empowerment community, can be transformative because it feels normalizing and validating to spend time with people who experience the world in a similar way. 
  3. Rest that nervous system. Give yourself enough rest and downtime daily to truly restore. We recommend at least 2 hours per day and one full day off per week of meditative, quiet alone time. This is not time to do your to-do list, this is true restorative time. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness are all great practices to slow that nervous system motor down. 

Many HSPs say they don’t have enough time to take that alone time, but I suggest trying it for one week. What will happen is that you will actually be more efficient, focused, calm and preserve energy when you get your nervous system motor slowed down. Taking the right amount of time to process, rest and restore will give you more energy, enhance your mood, improve your health, and give you the life you deserve.   When you are in balance everyone in your life benefits.  

About Julie Bjelland

Julie Bjelland is a licensed psychotherapist, author, and founder of the online resource, Sensitive Empowerment. As a leader in the field of high sensitivity, Julie has helped thousands of highly sensitive people (HSPs) around the world reduce their challenges, access their gifts and intuition, and discover their balance, inner strength, and significant value. Known for her ability to give people a sense of true support, Julie is featured on national media regularly and on a mission to empower sensitive people to live their best lives. For articles, resources and the Sensitivity Quiz, visit Sensitive Connection.


  1. Susan on January 8, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    At 49, I’m finally beginning to understand myself. I always thought that being different was a bad thing and never trusted my intuition. Now, I’m realizing why I am the way I am and have been able to help my HSP son realize he’s not “crazy.” He’s gifted like his mom. It helps to know other HSPs!

    • Maria Hill on January 8, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks, Susan. I am happy for you and your son. It does help to know other HSPs.


  2. Melanie on January 10, 2020 at 9:02 am

    What I like about this post is not only do you describe the difficulties of being an HSP, but you also explain the good things about being an HSP. Through experience, I have found that you are right that HSP HAVE to take a “downtime”. I try to take a “downtime” at least once a week and find it definitely helps, it’s like taking a multi-vitamin for my soul.

    • Maria Hill on January 10, 2020 at 9:05 am

      Thanks for the feedback. I love that you call downtime a multi-vitamin for the soul.