Do you know this scenario: you are super excited about an upcoming city trip and at the same time you feel like cancelling it? I recently visited Sydney – the beautiful and busy city with the unforgettable skyline. As a Highly Sensitive Person, at first I was concerned, but then I had the time of my life. Let me share with you the strategies and tactics that allowed me to thrive.
Do you know from experience that, sometimes, you just feel horrible and exhausted after spending time in busy streets, noisy restaurants or crowded shopping malls?
You are not weird or feeble. You might just be a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP. Find out more about being HSP in this article about getting off the roller coster.
What has complicated my life over and over again is the fact that I am a HSP and at the same time a so called High Sensation Seeker or HSS. I’ll write more in depth about this in my blog post about Princess and the Pea and you’ll get a glimpse of it by reading on.
For now, let me show you what you can concretely do to stop dreading a city trip and transforming it into an empowering experience instead.
How a Highly Sensitive Person can thrive during a city trip
I share here with you what worked for me. Everyone is different. Eventually, a lot boils down to mindset and knowing yourself (really well). This means for example that you embrace your high sensitivity, receptivity and empathy as strength and take it into account rather than to fight it.
1 Plan your stay (in a flexible way)
I mapped my half days and evenings out. On my second evening I went to see the play Arcadia in the Opera House. (If you love science and arts and existential questions like me, it’s most delicious brainfood, I look forward to reading it.) I also did an interview with a friend I met in person for the first time in the afternoon. Therefore, I planned zero activity in the morning – except sleeping in (see points 13 + 14) having breakfast with a view and do some shopping at the Kirribilli Deli.
2 Make sure the space where you live allows you to find peace and to unwind
I hardly every can sleep in a hotel bed. Therefore I rented a nice and quiet place (with a grand piano see point 3!) that was on the other side of the Harbour Bridge. It was aloof and at the same time only one Ferry stop from the Circular Quay and the Opera and only two train stops away from the City Centre.
3 Do what you love and what brightens you up
It’s handy to already know which activities allow you to thrive (aka to feel happy and at ease). I put this here, because when your nervous system is over aroused, the High Sensation Seeker HSS in you might ‘win’ and make things worse.
4 Check in with your feelings and your body regularly
If you are a Highly Sensitive Person or not, in case you are not used to do this yet set a timer (every 60 minutes for example). I’m not kidding! You absolutely need to create a habit around this.
5 Try local food (that may be exotic or not)
There are two types of HSP. If you are the ‘shy’/reflective type you may want to leave your comfort zone and go for the ‘real’ stuff like freshwater crocodile… I enjoyed local fish and seafood that doesn’t grow on Swiss trees.
6 Don’t meet more than one stranger a day
One main reason of my stay was to connect with people and to interview sensitive & successful women. I diligently applied point number 1 above and always planned other activities around to resource myself and to unwind. If you LOVE to connect with people like me, make sure you have enough down-time and you-time in your schedule as well.
7 Resource yourself in nature
Spending time in nature nourishes our mind and our body. I guess you have figured out this one by yourself. Apply it as well when you are on a city trip! You’ll need it even more than at home. Walking barefoot on the ground does magic as scientific evidence shows (but I can’t find the link to the study right now, sorry).
8 Be open for surprises
Typically HSP, I wanted to play ‘safe’ and asked a friend who runs a successful business teaching piano lessons if she would like to be interviewed. She wasn’t keen on it. But she connected me with two most inspiring women. (The series will be published later this year – watch this space!)
9 Know how to protect yourself
The idea of ‘protection’ or putting up a ‘shield’ as a general strategy is counterintuitive and not working for a person like me. However, you need to have concrete tactics in place you can apply anytime, when things get a bit ‘heavy’ or you start to feel overwhelmed.
10 Drink a lot of water
This always helps. It has a rather immediate effect on your mind as well as you body.
11 Avoid rush hours when taking public transport
Guess why J – I once forgot (I survived well, but it took me more time to calm my nervous system down afterwards that evening…).
12 Enjoy culture in a way you can digest it
It took my years to understand this one: art exhibitions may light you up the way they do for me. BUT it’s a lot of stimuli and information to process! Even more so if it’s contemporary art which ‘speaks’ to our intellect as well to our sense of aesthetics and beauty.
13 Sleep not just enough, but as much as you can
This is paramount for me. If I lack sleep, everything else can become quickly a bigger issue than if I am rested and relaxed.
14 Never think you’ll miss something out (you can always come back)
This aspect seems to be challenging for many. But if you think about it, it has to do with quality over quantity. This is the way I lead my life anyway. It has become rather easy for me now. But it takes practice.
15 Don’t buy your gifts last minute
I dreaded going to shops so much and postponed it until the second last day (telling myself that the other things were priority). When I left the Queen Victoria Building after more than 2.5 hours, my brain was all wiped out and all I wanted was some quiet space and time on my own.
16 Write snail mail postcards
I did not address all the amazingly positive aspects about being a HSP this time. I focused more on how to deal with the challenging side up to here. Your sensitivity makes you care deeply about people. And you love to and find it easy to find ways to show it to the loved ones in your life.
Postcards are perfect. You can write anywhere and you don’t have to spend hours in shops for this kind of gift. It will lift your mood.
And as far as I’m concerned, it made me happy three times at once:
1) while I wrote them to the people who matter most to me,
2) when I learned that my virtual gift of loving thoughts from the other side of the world cheered them up AND
3) when this brought up lovely memories and fabulous feelings…
… something we HSP experience more deeply and strongly as well, which is kind of cool, don’t you think?
Please share this post on social media, if you think it might be useful for others who love to travel and who know already or might want to find out about their high sensitivity and how to harness it as a strength.
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on 11/03/2016 at 10:32
Fabulous post! Really enjoyed it & although not having registered myself as sensitive, suffering from anxiety these tips suited me down to the ground. Thank you!
I’m so glad you got something out of this Julia. Anxiety and depression seem to be more prevalent among HSP under certain conditions. Maybe you want to take Elaine Aaron’s test?
Patricia Mauerhofer recently posted…Highly Sensitive Women, What we have to do that other women don’t
on 11/03/2016 at 20:53
I’ve taken the test & seem to be highly sensitive. Many thanks. Lots of learning in this post!
on 16/03/2016 at 18:16
Such excellent advice, especially about sleep – I too get easily exhausted in a new place, and need more sleep when the urge is to cram as much into a day as possible.
Looks like you had an amazing time!
Yes I had a wonderful time Jane. Thanks for your kind words. And now back in the European winter I seem to have to sleep a lot as well 😉 All this is changing of course. Wishing you a good nights sleep then.
Patricia Mauerhofer recently posted…Woman on a mission – stop watching everyone else live the life you want!