The Pandemic Effect On Overarousal, Limits And Boundaries For HSPs


As an HSP and therapist, this period during the Covid-19 pandemic has been very challenging for me. At the same time, I think I have developed a very “big picture” perspective about how other HSPs, my clients, have lived through this historical moment. (I’m choosing not to tell about the virus and the pandemic from a medical point of view, I think many things have already been said and I don’t have the competence to share opinions about the medical emergency specifically, or the clinical psychological consequences due to the fear of virus.)

But I can share all I’ve seen about the psychological consequences of the pandemic created by the social measures that have been taken:

  • less work,
  • lack of social contacts,
  • fewer crowds,
  • less travel,
  • fewer appointments in general,
  • more “inner life” at home,
  • more time to spend reading or doing creativity things or simply staying by ourselves.

The reality has been that there have been two different phases of the pandemic this year, and people here in Italy navigated them in different ways.

The Effect Of Lockdown On HSPs

From February to May here in Italy, we had more or less a total lockdown, that meant a full halt to all of our activities including jobs, socializing with families or friends, and all sports. Every kind of “commitment” or involvement we had invested in before the pandemic was suddenly cancelled.

The first reaction for many highly sensitive people was “Oh god, I’m free!”. For me for example, this shutdown meant big changes to all of my many scheduled events around my role as a HS leader. That meant all scheduled events every week, and all the weekend programs scheduled from January until October. My first free weekend in 2020 hadn’t been scheduled until October.

So on the one hand, I regretted missing all of these appointments because I love my job educating about the highly sensitive trait, but on the other hand, I felt relieved as an HSP myself, because the lockdown afforded me the opportunity to slow down in my own life. I had become overwhelmed at the beginning of the year but because the COVID pandemic meant I had to clean the office and open windows every time I had a client visit as required, I was able to have a better more natural pace in my daily work.

The Effect On Other HSPs

I heard from many other HSPs who had a similar reaction to the lockdown, because it relieved many of us from the busyness that comes from living a life that does not suit us as HSPs. We suddenly could say “No, I cannot come” to friends or families or colleagues without the fear of disappointing anyone. No one could go out, so we were, for the first time in history, Justified in saying no to many social or family expectations or activities that we forced ourselves to do, in order to maintain our value in our social circle. Many HSPs were free from work places with colleagues who often made them feel like outsiders. They didn’t feel the pressure from managers or needy parents anymore.

Many highly sensitive children were initially happy to stay home with family, without the stress of overwhelming classes, social problems like bullying, and judgment from teachers. They could play, do creative activities and avoid competitive sports. So the first reaction for many HSPs here in Italy was something like this: “I can go more slowly and deal with less stimuli and others’ expectations”.

The Effect Of Opening Back Up

In the second part of 2020, from June until now, we’ve had a different experience. We are still not able to do things we’d like to do (even if at a slower pace than before the pandemic lockdown). We cannot do the physical activity that is so important for us, or see our best friend. We cannot do yoga or pilates or meditate in group activities. Highly sensitive children are adversely affected by the new rules at school which separate the students, make breathing and activities difficult. They feel anxious and demotivated.

So like others, we are suffering during the opening up phase from the looser bt remaining restrictions. I think, however, that we all had taken advantage of the lockdown to learn new ways of being around overarousal, limits, and boundaries that that we’d like to continue now and in the future. Much has been lost during the pandemic but there have been important gains as well.

Image: Paige Cody – Unsplash

About Elena Lupo

Elena Lupo, Ph.D. is a Psychologist and Psychotherapist based in Italy. She works in a body-oriented approach (Biosistemica) with highly sensitive men, women and children investigating and advocating coping strategies, psychosomatic issues and supporting the healthy parenting and teaching of highly sensitive children. She is the author of “Il Tesoro dei bambini sensibili”, 2017 and leads workshops about having boundaries using the body oriented approach. She is a member of the International Consultants on High Sensitivity. Connect with Elena on Facebook or Instagram


  1. […] The Pandemic Effect On Overarousal, Limits And Boundaries For HSPs […]

  2. Caroline Farquhar on January 16, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    Very insightful- thank you for sharing your personal experiences along with that of your clients from an Italian perspective. I live in Tasmania, Australia and our experiences have been very similar. As a HSP/Empath I can relate to all you have shared…..Stsy well and Stay Healthy !!!!