10 Creative Things Sensitive People Can Do to Process and Calm Their Emotions

A highly sensitive man plays the guitar

Creativity allows us to make something of our strong feelings, like preserving joy or turning pain into something beautiful.

If you’re deeply moved by beauty, very attuned to the subtleties of your environment, and absorb others’ emotions as though they’re your own, you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP). And another trait common among HSPs? Their creativity. 

Creative outlets are a powerful way to celebrate our high sensitivity rather than become burdened by what can seem like an excess of feeling. Creativity allows us to do something with all those feelings. By being creative, we are able to preserve joy in the form of something artistic we’re proud of, or to turn our pain into something beautiful.

If you’re in search of a creative emotional outlet, here are 10 ideas on where to get started.

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10 Creative Ways to Celebrate Being a Highly Sensitive Person

1. Write a micro-memoir to reflect on and express your emotions.

As opposed to an autobiography, which is usually a more straight-on recollection of life events, a memoir borrows strategies from fiction writing to tell a life story in a way that can be more emotionally immersive. Going a step further than simply recollecting major life events, a memoir recognizes the idea that feelings are facts, validating our emotional experiences and the critical ways in which they shape our life story. This emphasis on emotion makes memoir writing the perfect expressive outlet for highly sensitive people, as it honors our keen ability for self-reflection and meaning-making. So, suffice it to say, HSPs often make great writers.

Because not everyone has the time or interest to write the whole story of their life, a micro-memoir can be a way of reflecting on the meaning you drew from one major life event . This kind of memoir could be anything from a few sentences to several pages. No matter the length, I’ve found that the process of memorializing yourself is a great exercise in self-compassion. When I write memoiristically about my life, I teach myself to better appreciate my uniquely sensitive lens on the human experience. 

2. Take a trip — go anywhere that takes you out of your daily routine.

Famous travelers like Anthony Bourdain have shown us that while travel exposes us to a range of creative experiences — from art to food to cultural sites — the act of travel itself is also a creative process. During his life, Bourdain reflected extensively on his travels and worked with others in developing creative ways to share those reflections with the world. Going deeper than telling us what museums to visit and where to eat, he used travel to ask pertinent questions about political instability, social injustice, and the human condition.  

The creative process of travel can be a useful outlet for channeling highly sensitive tendencies. As HSPs, we are particularly attuned to both our own emotions and the emotional impressions apparent in our surroundings. This level of emotional attunement makes for a deep and fulfilling travel experience. 

Because we can’t all globetrot like Anthony Bourdain, it’s important to remember that deep, transformative trips can be taken right where you live. For me, travel implies any trip that takes me out of my daily routine. This can be as simple as finding a new route through a neighborhood or city I know very well. When I take a trip, I do my best Bourdian impression by recording recollections and recommendations for someone else who might enjoy visiting the same place. 

3. When you get back, compile your memories into a scrapbook. 

In spite of what stereotypes might lead you to believe, scrapbooking is not a thing just for retirees. As a young working person with a fast-paced life, scrapbooking a big trip helps me savor the journey before I get swept back into my daily routine. As an HSP, scrapbooking is a way to elaborate on the things I felt and observed during my trip. 

Items for your scrapbook could range from ticket stubs to napkins from your favorite cafes or bars. Making a scrapbook plan also makes traveling more intentional, as you are always thinking of the best way to preserve an experience and take a piece of it with you.

4. Make a playlist for whatever mood you may be feeling.

Developing plans for self-soothing is an important piece of coping with life as a highly sensitive person. Listening to certain music is the most reliable way for me to do this. More than any other art form, music has helped me to embrace my emotional sensitivities and understand the feelings I will never know how to name. Making a playlist turns music-listening into an active process that allows room for your own creative input. 

Whether you’ve endured a difficult life or event, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by life in general, try making a playlist. You can put together a bunch of melancholy songs to validate your grief, or a collection of joyful songs to cheer yourself up. You could even make what I think of as a “progressive playlist,” one that moves you through difficult emotions, like sadness and anger, toward more pleasurable ones, like joy or contentment. 

Whatever kind of playlist you make, you’ll see how the process of creation can be cathartic while also keeping you from dwelling too long on things you don’t want to feel forever. 

5. Create a cartoon of yourself (even if it’s just a stick figure).

I started to draw last year. I was having a hard time, frequently beating myself up over failures or perceived failures, and feeling very alone. I thought journaling might help, but I was struggling to journal, quite frankly, because I did not love myself enough to feel that personal reflection was worth my time. Confronted with this obstacle, I began projecting my thoughts and experiences onto a comic strip character. I call him Blip. 

Blip is like me in most respects. We share a similar style, personality, and set of lived experiences. Addressing my life in the third person, through Blip, helped me learn more about my emotional sensitives and develop compassion for myself. When I was finding it too hard to love myself, I learned to love Blip instead.

If you’re having trouble with self-compassion and constructive self-reflection, I encourage you to find your Blip, a character who can help you more kindly and honestly process your emotional experiences. But what if I can’t draw? You might be wondering. Even better. 

In essence, I learned that forcing myself to draw helped me accept imperfection in myself and in my relationships with other people.

Is the chaos of life overwhelming you as a highly sensitive person?

Sensitive people have certain brain differences that make them more susceptible to stress and anxiety. Thankfully, there is a way to train your brain so you can navigate the challenges of sensitivity, access your gifts, and thrive in life. Psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland will show you how in her popular online course, HSP Brain Training. As an Introvert, Dear reader, you can take 50% off the registration fee using the code INTROVERTDEARClick here to learn more.

6. Dance it out.

Dance, like many art forms, is one of those things people are afraid to do because they worry they aren’t good at it. This is a shame, because dance is incredibly therapeutic, especially for introverts, those of us who don’t always know how to verbally process our experiences.

Dance combines the endorphin release of movement with the fulfillment of creative expression. Since highly sensitive people are often overwhelmed by emotion, dance is a perfect way to express the feelings we might struggle to name and talk about. Depending on where you fall on the extrovert-introvert spectrum, you can go out dancing with friends, or, my personal favorite, host an exclusive dance party for one in your room.

7. Do yoga, and practice poses that match your mindset.

If dancing isn’t the right speed to handle the feelings you’re working through, yoga can benefit highly sensitive people, too — it’s a great way to embody your emotions. I began this year with a 30-day yoga challenge that drastically improved my quality of life. As with many New Year’s resolutions, I haven’t been the best at keeping up the practice. But I do fall back on yoga when I’m struggling to cope and in need of relief.

Because yoga poses range from the challenging handstand scorpion to the more meditative child’s pose, you can build a routine that matches the feeling you’re in or the feeling you are working toward. If you want to boost your heart rate, go for a more progressive routine that warms you up, then raises your energy. If you are trying to slow down because of stress, you could opt for a wind-down routine that moves you toward quiet stillness. 

8. Make up a story, whether it’s by writing a short story, play, or something else entirely. 

Fiction helps us gain distance from real-life stressors while also gaining vital perspective on real world experiences. As a fiction writer, I find that the characters in my stories help me better understand myself and the challenges I’m working through. 

Storytelling comes in many forms, several of which can give you the opportunity to learn a new skill. You could try out claymation, learn to edit videos in order to make a short film, or develop an understanding of stagecraft by writing a play. 

No matter your chosen medium, being highly sensitive will strengthen the story you set out to tell. By being deeply attuned to our own feelings, HSPs are able to create deep, emotionally complex characters who audiences easily connect with.

9. Record an oral history of a friend or family member.

In my work as an oral historian, I record the stories of everyday people who are making exceptional contributions to the arts or politics in their communities. Oral history is the process of recording the life stories of “everyday people,” those whose names won’t typically pop up in history books. The simple premise of oral history is that each of us has a life story that is worth documenting and remembering. 

I learn so many life skills and lessons from the oral histories I conduct. My narrators (what an oral historian calls “interviewees”) have helped me become a more active citizen and more complete person. Recording oral histories has also helped me better appreciate and embrace my sensitive side

Being an HSP is one of the main reasons that I have found success as someone who interviews people for a living. Because of my emotional sensitivities, I am able to track the subtleties of a story, quickly pick up on social cues and body language, and remain attuned to my narrator’s feelings, figuring out when and how to follow up on an interesting topic. 

When recording an oral history, you could  interview a member of your extended family, a best friend, or a mentor. You can get to know your narrator by asking them about the people and places that have shaped them, or their first encounter with something they became passionate about. In each case, you will be surprised by how much you can learn both about people you don’t know and people you thought you knew already.

10. Prepare a new meal for yourself, which can be a positive outlet for expression. 

Food and feelings are closely interconnected. Though dieticians warn against the dangers of emotional eating, food does not always need to have a negative emotional connotation. In fact, the experience of preparing food itself can be a positive outlet for expression, like “culinary therapy.” Furthermore, certain foods have also been linked to feelings; they’ve been shown to have a positive impact on what we think and how we feel, like using saffron to stave off depression or cooking with olive oil to boost your memory. 

Preparing a new meal can also allow you to fold in a few other activities already included on this list. You can build the perfect playlist and dance as you cook, or take some time for daydreaming as you wait for your food to cook. 

Practice Does Not Have to Make Perfect 

As a parting tip, when you’re getting creative for the purpose of celebrating your sensitive self, it is vital to remember that whatever you create doesn’t have to be “good” by fine arts standards. Instead, the “good” you should have in mind is all the good you can do for yourself — by finding new ways to process your emotions and celebrate your sensitive side.

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