The new book, Thrive by Dr. Tracy Cooper, with a foreword by Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person and originator of the Sensory Processing Sensitivity personality trait is available now. Dr. Cooper is introducing his book through a blog tour. His first stop is Sensitive Evolution. He has written an article below to tell you in his own words his thinking and why he decided to write this book.
Thrive Through Self-Care
In chapter four of my new book, Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career, I cover a number of important aspects of self-care. What I’d like to do in this stop on the blog tour is offer a framework within which we can consider self-care in the working environment. The workplace has certainly changed over the past decade, along with the overall society, with more emphasis in many cases on offering a better balance between work and home time, along with greater autonomy in how and when we carry out our work. This isn’t true in all cases, but in order to attract the top talent, even the top third perhaps, companies and organizations have had to reexamine the needs of younger workers and restructure the way they do business to recruit and retain the best individuals. This shift in the structure of work is a potential boon for us all as we seek working conditions that are more suited to our individual needs.
What do I mean when I say self-care? Isn’t self-care just a tired, old phrase that’s largely lost any meaning in the rough and tumble world of work where one’s needs are many times subordinate to the needs of the job? Self-care for highly sensitive people, or HSPs, implies a broader set of considerations of necessity because HSPs are more complex and dynamic individuals with particular needs. Self-care for HSPs must be inclusive, dedicated, and flexible. Inclusive in the sense that we take into account not only our physical needs for a proper diet that imparts nourishment without unduly taxing the body with stimulants or excessively processed foods, but also our emotional, and spiritual needs. An inclusive view of self-care, or an integral view, acknowledges the interrelatedness of all of the body’s systems with the intent of maintaining a state of optimal functioning at any given time. All of the systems in our body are interconnected and interrelated. Only a holistic, inclusive approach will ensure all systems remain “go,” especially as we age.
Self-care As Dedicated Practice
Self-care for HSPs must become a dedicated practice. Just as many of us walk or otherwise engage in forms of physical exercise with dedicated fervor around the first of every year we must see self-care as a practice we carry out on a daily basis to maintain balance and health. Unlike our often honest attempts to begin the year on a bright note, only to fall prey to procrastination and declining interest, our self-care practices must be maintained throughout the year. The best way we can help ensure that our good intentions do not fall by the wayside, like so many New Year’s resolutions, is to understand that our practice must be flexible and allow for times when we cannot do everything we want the way we would like. A certain amount of self-compassion is advisable as we go through our daily routines and try to fit everything in. In times when we are simply too stressed we should forgo one aspect or another so that we may rest. Getting adequate rest is the foundation on which everything else should be built. When we build in a flexible approach and acknowledge that, at times, life may come calling with too many demands, we are being compassionate toward ourselves and in so doing compassionate toward others.
In Thrive I recall one HSP who explained that her intention in assiduously attending to her self-care needs was to enable her to function within a comfortable range each day where her energy levels remain more or less stable so that her co-workers would never see the part of her that “hits the limits.” This careful tending of our energies must, of necessity, be inclusive of our lives outside of work where we do have more control in how we are able to spend our time and get the rest we need. Because we spend so much of our days at work in a modern age, particularly in the U.S. where the average work week is around 47 hours, the issue of self-care is relevant to all, HSP or non-HSP. Perhaps, in a very real sense, we HSPs are the harbingers of a new way of being that offers a counterpoint to the all-consuming nature of modern work.
Boundaries Help You To Thrive
Another extremely important aspect of self-care I cover in Thrive, which by the way is based on original new research conducted to rigorous academic standards and approved of by Dr. Elaine Aron, is setting boundaries and protecting ourselves from too much negative stimulation at work. Many HSPs have real issues with simply saying “no,” or otherwise letting someone know they have reached a boundary it would unwise to continue violating. The HSPs in my study communicated to me their difficulties with arrogant, manipulative, and exploitive supervisors, bosses, and co-workers in the workplace and the resultant effects of absorbing the overwhelming negative energy on a daily basis. That’s not to say that every HSP is in such an undesirable environment. Many are doing quite well, but still face issues with the energies they must absorb from customers, clients, and co-workers. Effective coping requires the same inclusive strategy of proper diet, rest, setting boundaries, and relaxing the mind through contemplative practice.
Lastly, thriving and self-care in the workplace does not mean that we huddle off in corners too afraid to interact with anyone for fear we might become upset, rather it means we choose to interact with quality individuals for quality amounts of time (which will vary by person) and minimize our exposure to negatively stimulating individuals. We highly sensitive people do not exist in a vacuum, though many of us sometimes feel as if we do, we may benefit greatly from the right types of socialization with quality people capable of meeting us on our level of personal authenticity.
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career will help you learn more about self-care and much more as you journey down this path of self-awareness, acceptance, and adaptation.
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career is available through: