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Nina Handwerk: Brennan Healing Science Practitioner

4 Survival Techniques for the Highly Sensitive Person

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I have noticed in my work over the years that people who identify as “highly sensitive” or “psychically open” are often prone to moodiness, overwhelm, irritation, and struggle in daily life. And I have experienced this myself. When we, as highly sensitive people, are in a constant struggle to manage our moods, fatigue, and over-sensitivity, the world misses out on our unique gifts and contributions.

In this article I will discuss the energetic-aware type who has developed their energetic awareness, yet has difficulty managing the overload of information that being psychically open can bring. This article may also help those who identify as “highly sensitive,” those with chronic fatigue syndrome, introverts, empaths, and those with hard-to-diagnose illnesses related to sensitivity.

If you have spent a lot of time developing your sensitivity through studying healing, doing yoga, meditating, etc, chances are your energy field is more open than others who have not gone through these practices. All of that spiritual development you’ve gone through has made you far more open to wonderful energies that can heal and enlighten. At the same time, however, you have also become more aware of negative energies like anger, sickness, underlying motivations, insecurities, and hatred. You begin to feel the energy in all situations, and the underlying dynamics often become louder to you than what is happening in the foreground.

Because of this, your energetic responsibility also increases as you open spiritually.

If you try to ignore unwanted perceptions either within your own psyche or within others, the energetic imprints can build up in your system, leaving you sick and unhappy. Once you develop high-sense perception, you no longer have the luxury of not feeling, or of compartmentalizing your life experience!

Exhaustion is a common complaint amongst high-sense-perception or highly sensitive types. Chronic fatigue is rampant, as well as anxiety, and hard-to-diagnose illnesses caused by the additional energetic/psychic stress.

So, how do we keep the benefits of the sensitivity (psychism, intuition, heightened awareness, heightened sensations of love and heightened spiritual wisdom) while lessening the bad effects of over-openness?

1. Look at why you are as open as you are.

Although spiritual development creates heightened perception and awareness, so does trauma! If you are open psychically because you had to be hyper-aware around an erratic parent as a child, the signature of heightened awareness will carry with it a traumatic memory. Many of my clients who are excellent at leaving the body and having out-of-body experiences first developed the pattern of leaving because they were traumatized and couldn’t stay grounded through difficult experiences.

My suggestion with this is to focus on healing the underlying trauma, because further developing the psychism can be counter-productive. Work on grounding and safety. This can help you feel safer and stronger in daily life.

Once the traumas underneath are given some serious attention and healing, then the openness, expansion, and ability to witness life from a higher perspective can bring enormous gifts. But when they are escape routes, they won’t create more safety for you, they will only make you less capable of handling life.

2. Make sure you have enough personal intent and purpose in all situations.

As you become more open and psychically aware, it becomes imperative that you stay connected to your purpose in each situation. Your purpose could be as simple as “I’m here to make money.” Or “I am here to celebrate with my friends.” If you don’t have a strong intention, you will get swept up in the tide of someone else’s desire for you, or the group’s current mood. This will likely cause depression later, as you have to expend energy re-centering. People who are not as sensitive can “get away” with a lot more than you can as an intentional person! For you, dropping your purpose and clarity in order to fit in or to avoid standing out, will mean that after the experience is over, you’ll realize you have lost yourself and it will take you awhile to find yourself again. The energy that it takes can exhaust your system.

3. Notice your reaction to challenging energy.

When you encounter a challenging person, or get caught in a complicated situation, often the highly sensitive person’s knee-jerk reaction will be to either withdraw (“If I just hide out, the negativity won’t get me!”) or react (“the energy is so bad that I have no choice but to fight against it”), yet both of these responses create more disharmony in the long run. If you withdraw, you give your personal power away to the situation or person, and if you over-react, you prolong the negativity and increase the difficulty. Although each challenging situation in life calls for a different response, the important thing is to find the courage to face the energy that is disturbing you. If you get “hit” by a person’s anger or unfairness in a situation, for example, you will have to find a way to discharge the energy from your body and psyche. This could mean talking it out with a trusted friend, forgiving yourself for any part you played, or doing a practice to let the energy go so that you can walk away and move on.

To paraphrase a teacher of mine, a good rule of thumb is that if you feel it, you need to do something about it. This doesn’t mean you have to try to make a crazy person sane, or prolong an argument, not at all! It just means that you have to find a way to deal with the energy in a ways that gives you a feeling of safety, comfort, and resolution. Often this means consciously letting go of a person who is causing destruction, or finding a way to cheer yourself up after you’ve been taken down by a mood. Often this kind of self-clearing can be done on your own time, after the chellenging encoutner. Often all it takes is recalling what interaction left you feeling off, and consciously releasing it or making an inner plan for how to handle that person/type of interaction next time.

4. Keep your sensitivity to yourself!

Most highly sensitive people, because they are so aware of underlying energies in their environment, end up trying to manage the energy around them to make it cleaner, and easier to be around. The result can look a little bit neurotic or controlling, not to mention exhausting and overwhelming!

Once upon a time a very accomplished astrologer said to me, “you just can’t be in negative environments. You have to work at retreat centers, and only be around positive people.” While I loved most of her insights, this point I just couldn’t quite agree with. “You mean, I am supposed to just take to the hills to escape the negativity of the world?” I thought. I just didn’t see the value of retreating and hiding myself away from the world just because I am over-the-top sensitive. I realized I would rather develop tools to deal with the challenges that energy-sensitive types like me face every day.

What I have found is that rather than trying to manage the energy around me, which is often impossible anyway, the most effective thing I can do in negative environments, is to pull my energy in to myself. Rather than feeling everything, I focus on feeling myself. It sounds simple but reduces so much frenetic, hard-to-sort energetic information.

This focus on feeling oneself may sound, well, self-centered (something that highly sensitive people are not used to being), and it kind of is…but it comes from the awareness that other people’s energy is ultimately not yours to fix. In the very clear space of a treatment room, when I am being asked for direct help, I give myself a lot more permission to crank up the psychism, but when it comes to being in chaotic environments, I only need as much of it as will keep me safe and happy. I don’t need to pay attention to what other people are thinking or feeling or what kind of energy they are throwing around, unless it is threatening me in some way.

This is a great exercise for highly sensitive people: next time you go to a difficult work situation or a grocery store or a night club, practice just feeling yourself and consciously lowering the dimmer switch on any energetic information about the people around you. If you do this you may find you enjoy social situations much more and can relax around people who used to make you feel tense!


Whether you think of yourself as having high-sense perception, or as highly sensitive, or as environmentally sensitive, these four exercises can help you to reap the benefits of your sensitivity rather than being doomed to feeling functional only when certain environmental criteria are met. This world is a place filled with all different types of energy; the good, the bad, and the ugly, and so rather than waiting for an ideal world to happen, I hope that with these tools you can enjoy yourself and create the world you’d like to be in through your own strength and positivity.

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Nina Handwerk: Brennan Healing Science Practitioner