The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide – An Overstimulating World

Sometimes a book comes along that actually, literally, truly **changes your life**!

Sure, I’ve said it about a dozen times about as many books over the years. And, I meant it!

But none – as in NONE – of my books has changed my life more than The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, PH.D.! In fact, it was the very first book I wrote about for this blog … back on October 20, 2017!

I mention it now because the book I’ll be talking about today is like a follow-up and is endorsed by Aron. It’s called The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide. I know, catchy. 🙂 It’s by Ted Zeff, PH.D.

A little housekeeping before I begin: HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person… and I am one. You might be, too? If you’d like to learn more, click the link to the original book (above) or go to this website to take the online quiz.

Okay, let’s begin…

I especially loved something Zeff mentioned in the Introduction that has stayed with me since I originally read it. I won’t quote him but will give you the gist: In days gone by, people visited small stores and had personal relationships with the shopkeepers. You might run into your neighbors, who you already knew. There wasn’t a huge variety of most items, so you pretty much knew what you wanted before you went in. If not, you knew you could browse and take your time deciding. No rush.

Compare that with the present… and I probably don’t need to spell it out… especially just after Christmas! Big Box stores, tons of people (even during what’s left of this pandemic), fluorescent lights, the sounds of canned music, squeaky wheels on carts, and a cacophony of voices all competing with each other for attention. It’s a panic attack in the making for HSPs. In fact, I have been known to leave a full shopping cart in the middle of the aisle and drive home without food, gifts, or whatnots. It’s gotten so bad that I once left my favorite cape in the cart, along with my other purchases that never made it to the checkout. It was a gift from my grandmother I’d kept for 25 years, long after she passed away. Broke my heart!

Overwhelm is a very real emotion for HSPs.

This time in history is difficult for HSPs for other reasons, too. I won’t linger here because politics is not my bag to discuss here… but… the recent foray into widespread bad (and frankly, bullying) behavior is a death knell to HSPs. Empaths, too. Which is the perfect time to try and distill the difference between the two. I’ve done a lot of studying and here is what I’ve come up with…

Empaths and HSPs share some similarities:

  1. Both begin at the beginning – birth
  2. Both deal with subtlties around them
  3. Both are often called, “too sensitive”
  4. Both are often mislabled as “introverts”


  1. 15-20% of the population are HSP
  2. HSPs become easily overstimulated by sights, sounds, scents, and emotions (of themselves or others)
  3. HSPs often have a rich and complex inner life


  1. Empaths absorb energy
  2. Empaths internalize pain and emotions of others
  3. Empath brains have a special group of “compassion” cells that become hyperactive around people and nature

Oh, and some people, like me, are BOTH empaths and HSP. It’s a wonderful stew of emotion for folks like us!

What I’ve learned about both HSPs and empaths has been an amalgamation of information (including anecdotal). I have taken workshops and read plenty of books. For the notes above, I have taken info from the original HSP book by Aron (linked above), “The Empath’s Survival Guide” by Judith Orloff, MD., and a (non-published) workbook by my friend and mentor, Marybeth Haines.

It’s funny how – after all these years – so much of the information I read in books like this can also be found in other places.

For example: I just went through extensive training at work and one of the things that we talked about for a full day is something Zeff devotes a few pages to in this book: Active listening.

Active listening takes your mind from distractions and puts it back on the person speaking… not just the person… but the WORDS. It’s a good trick to pull yourself back into the conversation and away from the bright lights or the rumbling in your tummy – or theirs.

Active listening is just one small thing in a book chock-full of ideas. Just a few…

  1. Identifying the Ego
  2. Stepping back to observe
  3. Meditating
  4. Healing and self-care modalities
  5. Finding herbal suppliments to support your nervous system
  6. Dealing with job stress
  7. Aging
  8. Finding and feeling gratitude

I could go on and on!

If you are HSP or love someone who is, this is a FANTASTIC resource!

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