As an INFJ personality type (introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging), a highly sensitive person (HSP), and an empath, modern-day life can feel incredibly draining at times. I need plenty of alone time to recharge, I don’t do well with drama or confrontation, and I’m easily overstimulated by excess activity, noise, scents, or bright lights. I have trouble focusing and functioning when I’m overly stressed, tired, or upset, and certain acts of violence — whether real or fake — can leave me feeling physically ill. When there’s tension in a room, I can feel it. 

I probably sound high maintenance, and the truth is, I kind of am. But I’m ok with that! In my 32 years of life, I’ve learned how to best care for my mind and body to avoid overstimulation and emotional exhaustion, and I have no reason to apologize for that. Self-care isn’t selfish — and for many of us — it’s crucial to our survival. 

Here are five of the self-care strategies I practice daily as a highly sensitive and empathetic introvert, along with some tips for developing your own self-care plan. 

1. My Phone Stays on Silent

As thankful as I am for modern-day technology, I can’t stand being reachable at all hours of the day or night. I find it stressful to hear my phone buzzing or beeping all day long, and I choose to keep my phone on silent for this very reason. It helps me to focus, eliminate distractions, and keep my stress levels in check. I love being there for my friends and family, but sometimes it prevents me from putting myself first. 

I also choose to keep my social media and mobile app notifications turned off, as this prevents me from feeling overwhelmed throughout the day. To me, there’s nothing worse than being bombarded with notifications when I’m trying to focus on something else — and I’d rather check for any updates or messages on my own schedule. 

What you can do: Keep your phone on silent, disable your notifications, or use a mobile app such as FocusMe to block distracting websites or applications. 

2. I Practice Deep Breathing

Phone calls, confrontations, large groups, and certain social situations are just a few of my anxiety triggers, and deep breathing has been a godsend for calming my anxious mind and heart. When I’m feeling especially anxious or experiencing an anxiety attack, I breathe deeply through my nose and hold the breath for a few seconds before exhaling slowly through my nose. It’s truly amazing how quickly this slows my racing heart and calms every inch of my body. 

What you can do: Practice my deep breathing exercise to alleviate anxiety or try another breathing technique such as alternate-nostril breathing, belly breathing, or 4-7-8 breathing. 

3. I Follow a Healthy Morning Routine

I like to take things slow in the morning, even if that means starting my workday at 9 or 9:30 and working a little later when needed. My schedule is pretty flexible as a freelance writer who works from home, and I find that this works best for me, my personality type, and the character traits I possess. 

Currently, my morning routine looks like this:

  • Wake up to my Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light, drink a large glass of water, and spend some time with my beloved fur babies before hopping in the shower. 
  • Listen to one of my favorite podcasts while moisturizing and getting ready for the day. My favorites include “The Ultimate Health Podcast”, “The Balanced Blonde Podcast”, and “Healthy Hormones for Women”. 
  • Take my morning supplements, make my Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee, and prepare a quick breakfast. I’ll typically whip up a smoothie, cashew milk yogurt parfait, gluten-free avocado toast, or grab a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Lärabar.
  • Head to my computer to check and respond to emails, read a daily affirmation, catch up on the latest health and wellness news, and get started on my work for the day. 

What you can do: Establish your own morning routine that boosts focus and productivity, alleviates stress, and starts your day on the right foot. 

4. I Prioritize “Me Time”

I have many friends and family with whom I love to spend my time, but my favorite way to relax and unwind is by myself — preferably with a good book, television show, or restorative at-home yoga class. I’ll gladly make time for other things — like social outings to breweries, family events, video games with my husband and our friends, and volunteer work — but I need at least 30 minutes to an hour of “me time” at the end of every day. Without this time for myself, I’m easily burned out and not much fun to be around. 

What you can do: Don’t be afraid to say no when you’re feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated, or burned out. Your needs matter, too!

5. I Nourish My Body

Healthy eating is important to me not only because it’s good for my physical health and wellness, but also because it’s best for my mental and emotional well-being. The foods we eat often affect how we feel (a new discipline known as nutritional psychiatry), and I choose to nourish my body with foods that fight free radicals and inflammation, boost brain health, stabilize blood sugar, and improve gut bacteria. As such, much of my diet consists of leafy greens, healthy fats, and lean proteins like organic sprouted tofu and pressure-cooked beans and lentils. 

What you can do: Prepare nutritious meals at home for improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being, or pay for a healthy meal delivery service such as Purple Carrot or Sunbasket. Healthy eating is one of the best forms of self-care!

In Conclusion

Self-care is never selfish — and for those of us who identify as introverts, empaths, and highly sensitive people — it’s essential to our survival. And fortunately, it’s easy to practice self-care if you work it into your daily routine. Before long, you’ll be taking better care of your physical, mental, and emotional health — and you might not even realize you’re doing it!