3 Self-Care Tips for Busy Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

Be deliberate with your time, and recognize that self-care doesn’t have to be a big process — it can be as simple as getting more sleep.

Google search results show that there are nearly 3 billion websites on the internet that talk about, or use, the word “self-care” in some shape or form. 

Plus, there are many articles that discuss what self-care looks like for those of us with introverted souls, “quiet ones” who prefer to have a few close friends yet also value our alone time. And for those of us who are both introverts and highly sensitive people (HSPs), I think we could use just a little bit more self-care, and not in the form of face masks. 

Truthfully, I think many of us could benefit from a whole routine of self-care methods. And since highly sensitive introverts love their routines, establishing some in these unstable times seemed like a good idea to me. Or so I thought.

Going Overboard With Self-Care

For about four months, I had countless hours at my disposal and went a bit overboard with self-care activities; I decided that the time was “now or never.” Whether I attribute it to the pandemic or the fact that I was on maternity leave, I was able to freely decide how to treat myself at any moment throughout the day.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I need a lot of alone time to process information and to feel like I’m being productive. For me, any activity that puts me out of the way of people, and into the depths of my mind, I consider as self-care. So I scheduled weekly massages, took myself out for a countless number of lunches (so many options here in Amsterdam!), rode my bike around town with earphones in, napped whenever I felt like it, and read a book a week. 

Throughout my pregnancy, I kept doing these things because I knew they’d eventually come to an end. I told myself that I had to keep going because this was it: I’d never have time to myself again in the future, so I must stuff it all in — right now.

But this absolute way of thinking must be what did me in.

From Self-Care to Self-Breakdown

In my mind, I’d been getting myself ready to enter “survival mode” —  being strong enough to make it out alive day in and day out, after my baby was born, despite the constant noise, people, and lack of personal space and time. And, in order to make it through “survival mode,” I needed to be armed with all the energy in the world (hence, all the self-care activities).

But once life with the baby took over, my self-care activities disappeared.

As an introvert and a highly sensitive person (HSP), it’s extremely hard to constantly have someone else around and not be able to do one thing for myself. By one thing, I’m not talking massages or fancy lunches. I mean, literally sitting down to open my laptop and write, the one thing that gives me the most peace.

Because what happens when that one thing that gives you the most peace is taken away from you?

Cue, mental breakdown. I started crying as I put my baby to nap one day.

The next morning, as I heard my son scream at the top of his lungs, I started crying again. It was like a knee-jerk reaction. I’d reached my limit. I could no longer sustain this “survival mode.”

Without practicing self-care on a consistent basis, the frustration accumulated. In my mind, I believed that walking hand-in-hand with self-care for a few months would give me the sustenance needed to handle this chaotic time. 

Unfortunately, it was not so. You can’t overdose on self-care and expect its effects to sustain you later on, when you’re “too busy” to make time for it.

As an intuitive person, I’m good at making sure that everyone else’s needs are met and taken care of, but it seems my own were suffering. This is why I want to give you a new perspective on prioritizing self-care if you’re a busy introvert or HSP. Because we need it, as much as we need air.

3 Self-Care Tips for Busy Introverts and HSPs

1. Tell others what you need before you hit your breaking point.

I could feel the anger stewing in my distant core — every loud noise, off-key laugh, scream, and cry made me cringe as the days wore on. The incessant noise piled up. I knew I needed a few hours to myself just to cool off and not be around people. 

We introverts love our alone time to recharge, and I was severely lacking some.

But I also knew that everyone in the house was still working full-time, with me being the only one without a job. I wanted to accommodate them as much as possible, knowing how hard it is to work and take care of kids. Unfortunately, I also ended up very busy myself, doing all the laundry, vacuuming, clearing the dishes, and packing lunches.

Although beyond overwhelmed — which is common for us highly sensitive folks to feel — I still refused to ask for help. I should have delegated earlier. Or at least make the intention known that I needed to go for a solo drive, as I was desperate for some time alone. 

But I kept pushing that desire down because I believed they needed it more than I did. I should have self-initiated this instead of my husband making me take a few hours to myself after my breakdown.

So tell others what you need, and then follow through. You’ll thank yourself later.

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2. Self-care doesn’t have to be an involved process — it can be something as simple as getting more sleep.

The most invigorating and restorative self-care activity for me is sleep — for introverts, our bedrooms tend to be our sanctuary. That’s it. Going to bed on time is the best thing I can do for my mind. And the best part? It’s under my control. Well, for the most part. 

For those of us who have newborns and toddlers, the night doesn’t truly belong to us anymore, but I can still get my hours in if I go to bed early, like when the kids do. And if I have a really bad night, I make sure to take a nap the following day.

Naps are the coolest. Apart from sleep, the other self-care activity that I’ve implemented recently is stretching for half an hour after the kids go to bed. All you need are your legs and a mat; seriously, it clears my mind like nothing else.

I don’t need to schedule 20 massages, 10 pedicures, and five solo drives in order to get my self-care time in. All I need is a dedicated half-hour every day to keep my highly sensitive self from exploding. Try it — you’ll see.

3. Be deliberate with how you spend your self-care time.

Let’s say you finally get the time you desperately need. One glorious half-hour or even an entire hour. What do you do? 

If you’re anything like me, you want to shower, eat, nap, check social media, write a blog post, read a book, do yoga, go for a walk, sit in silence, listen to music, reply to emails, clean the kitchen. Oh my goodness, how I could go on … 

But how does one fit all of that into one hour? 

Sometimes, my introverted, highly sensitive self gets so overwhelmed with what I want to do that a whole hour goes by and I’m still paralyzed. 

In order to avoid losing that hour trying to figure out what to do with it, I now always choose the one thing that will give me the biggest energy boost. Suffice it to say, I never choose watching TV or reading the news. Those things drain me instantly. 

Instead, I’ve learned to be deliberate with the time that I have and make the most of it. You can, too.

We all know it’s beyond necessary to set aside special time for self-care, but we don’t know how necessary it is until we reach that breaking point. I want you to avoid that (I’m sure you do, too!), which is why it’s important to remember that it’s under your control. You — and you alone — must initiate it, and you have to be deliberate with your choices. You’ve got this!

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Roxana Alexandru is an introvert at heart, an INFJ, and a highly sensitive person. She struggled her whole life with social anxiety and is now on a mission to help others break free of it. Find her at HonestRox and on Instagram.