As HSPs, we're learning to embrace the fact that our senses are more fine-tuned to our environments than others. Because I am writing specifically to parents, I want to focus on creating sensory-rich and sensory-happy homes in ways that are practical to life at home with children. And as we have discussed before, life at home can be stinky!
In my original 15 Tips post, I began the smell section by noting that we need to be proactive about smell because I feel that is the most important step parents can take to make sure their noses are happy at home. It's also free! Well, in terms of not spending money, it is free. But it will cost you a little bit of time and effort to maintain a pleasingly-scented home.
So on a practical level, this looks like recognizing the yuck smells and doing whatever needs to be done to eliminate them.
There will likely be seasons of home life where creating and maintaining a scent-neutral home is all you can do to care for yourself as an HSP.
But there may very well come a day when the fog of a hard season lifts and you decide to step further into the creation of a nice-smelling home. In the 15 Tips, I mentioned some ways to do that. Let's expound on those:
Essential oils can be a wonderful way to bring not only good scents but great health benefits into your home. You could diffuse them using something like a cool mist diffuser (this one diffuses for up to five hours and this one up to eight hours), or if you don't want to mess with a misting device, you might consider investing in something like an ultrasonic diffuser such as Greenair's Nebair.
Another option might be grabbing some aromatherapy inhalers which are kind of awesome because you can take them anywhere - even your Aunt Clara's cigarette-scented living room!
As far as what essential oil works best for creating well-scented homes, that's totally going to be a matter of personal preference! While frankincense is known for its soothing, centering properties, the balsamic notes that some HSPs love might be off-putting to others. The same goes with lavender, an EO traditionally known for its calming and balancing effects, but the floral notes might not jive with you. Consider a trip to a health food store to sniff their collection for sale, or visit with an essential oil distributor (I'm sure you know at least one!) for finding the right oils or oil blends for your home.
(Just a note - though caution should be exercised in using essential oils topically on children under 2, diffusing oils around them is generally considered safe. If you want to double-check before purchasing and using, you can reference this article at Learning About EOs: Essential Oils and Children)
Speaking of using caution around the kiddos - candles can be a great way to scent a home as long as you are able to burn them safely. (Which, with two toddlers on the prowl, I really cannot right now!)
The very best candles I have ever burned are from Pure Integrity. These candles are AMAZING. I could not get over the strength of the scents they throw! And they are paraffin-free, too. (Totally unsponsored, non-affiliate endorsement here. I'm just an enthusiastic fan!)
Some HSPs might prefer the more gentle scent of beeswax candles. Haley of Carrots for Michaelmas adores the ones from Toadily Handmade Beeswax Candles, and over at Red and Honey, you can learn to make them yourself!
I asked our Facebook community about their favorite candles, and you can read what they recommend here.
SCENTS OF NATURE
Something that can be free or very low-cost would be bringing nature into the house. This could in the form of bouquets of fresh flowers, or as I mentioned in the 15 Tips post, simmering spices on the stove. Here are some more ideas to check out:
As always, it's incredibly important to start with the fundamentals for HSParents, training your thoughts and choices to affirm that though it may seem impractical to some, the act of creating a home that is a sensory haven for you as a parent can only mean good things for your family, friends, and community. A balanced, centered, peaceful parent is one who can best nurture those dependent on us!
Next up in the series, we'll discuss touch - one sensory element so inescapable in parenthood! But for now, I would love to hear from you Highly Sensitive People on what makes your nose so very happy.
Top photo by islandjoe
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photo by Carlie Jeen Co. via unsplash
It continues to completely amaze me how many people have responded to the Highly Sensitive Parents post that I published last June. Even more than amazed by the response, I have been utterly humbled as I have heard from so many parents who have said that discovering they are HSPs has changed their lives. That's big stuff, y'all.
I've given a lot of thought to how to continue building a community of conversation and support for those of us who are highly sensitive and in the trenches of parenting. I want to take each of the sensory categories we discussed in the original Highly Sensitive Parent post and expand on those, as well as trouble-shooting some of the questions and scenarios you shared with me in the follow-up survey I created.
Before we dive into practical application, though, I wanted to talk about some of the philosophical aspects that I think are fundamental to becoming healthy, confident, and peaceful parents so that we can navigate each day without hiding under the covers in the dark by mid-morning each day.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR HIGHLY SENSITIVE PARENTS
1. Reject the practical; choose the helpful
Much of what we need to do for ourselves to soothe our overstimulated responses to family life is not going to be practical.
It's not practical to take a break to sit and just be during naptime - there are always laundry or dishes to be done, right? It's not practical to take the kids on a walk right before the dinner hour - the house needs to be picked up and the table needs to be set. It's not practical to not know the story behind every headline screeching for attention - we might feel left out when current events topics come up in conversation.
Our culture's conventional ideas on what is practical are not based on what is helpful for an HSP. And that's okay. We probably aren't going to start a cultural revolution or change the world with our approaches to family life. But we can change the worlds inside the walls of our homes by creating environments that are helpful to us.
And when our environments are helpful to us, we can be better helpers to others. And that leads to the next fundamental:
2. Devote yourself to self-care
This one is really hard for some of us, particularly if you were raised under the teaching of JOY in life being Jesus first, Others second, You third (or some variation on that idea). Self-care feels selfish and self-centered.
In reality, a more holistic approach to self-care recognizes that when we are devoted to being the most healthy, centered, and balanced people we can be, we are in the best possible position to care for those around us.
Even amongst HSPs, we are all incredibly diverse. We all have different needs and trigger points, and we all have different modes of self-care. Figure out two or three practices that soothe your system and be devoted to actually practicing them! When you are in the habit of consistent self-care, you are equipping yourself to a blessing to those around you. And that gives you the freedom to explore the last fundamental:
3. Embrace the power of being sensitive
For far too long in my life, I've been apologetic of my sensitivities. I think many HSPs are because, as I said above, our culture is not wired for the sensitive person. Many of us might view our sensitivities as a defect, a curse, or a hindrance.
As we begin to create home environments and rhythms of family life, however, I think we will discover that we have the power to create warm, memorable, and supportive home lives for our partners and our children.
I like to hope (and pray!) that when my children look back on their childhoods, instead of remembering me frazzle-haired and crazy-eyed, mumbling about how "my nerves are shot!" they'll remember things like
"Gosh, it always smelled so nice in our kitchen" or
"Mom always had classical music playing while we got ready for school. I liked that." or
"I don't know how she did it, but my mom could always tell when I was upset. She was really intuitive about feelings."
When we invest the time and emotional energy into honoring our sensitivities instead of trying to deny them, I think we'll be surprised at the result. There is a certain strength that comes from fully living into the person we were created to be.
background photo by Keith Misner Photography
Friends, like or not, we cannot do anything about the way our brains are wired. And we probably can't do much about the often loud and frantic culture we live in. But we absolutely can and should figure out how to carve out patterns and practices that allow us to be strong, compassionate, peaceful parents who are wonderfully, amazingly sensitive.