Coping Strategies for Super Smart, Highly Sensitive Souls

photo courtesy of christinawocintechchat, Unsplash

But surely, super smart (aka gifted) people don’t need coping strategies. They are smart so they can use their brainiac brains to solve anything, right? They are all too busy building rocket ships to Mars, anyway. And gifted people aren’t sensitive, right? Aren’t they all science nerdified, anti-social, and unemotional?


In fact, gifted humans of the rainforest-minded variety are not simply cognitively advanced. They, that means you, are extremely: sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, perceptive, analytical, curious, and creative. Not to mention, you are an advanced ruminator.

And, unlike many regular humans, you also have a constant need for intellectual stimulation. Like most folks need food, you need libraries.

Not only that. If you were raised by wolves in a seriously dysfunctional family (sorry, nothing against wolves), then you may feel particularly vulnerable, especially now. If you have complex PTSD, then any situation that threatens your safety or well-being, such as pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, racism, poverty, anti-Semitism, climate change, and sociopathic politicians (not mentioning any names), can trigger traumatic memories.

Thus the need for coping strategies.

Here are some ideas:

You know about the standard recommendations. These are helpful: Crying, hiding under a blanket, watching mindless TV, baking, more crying, exercise, meditation, warm baths, screaming in your car, journal writing, hot tea, binge watching Modern Love, Trader Joe’s organic peanut butter mini-crackers, reading, massage, support groups, Brain Pickings, independent bookstore browsing, acupuncture, yoga, gardening, listening to music, prayer, denial and compartmentalization, wild dancing, tai chi, inspiring podcasts, apps such as Calm and Headspace, essential oils, rescue remedy, snuggling with your kitty/puppy, time away from the kids, hugging your kids, psychotherapy, gratitude lists, texting your friends, hiking, cleaning your home, time in nature, helping someone in need, taking political/climate action, voting.

For you in particular: Keep looking for other RFMs; even just one will make a difference. Build a list of skilled, sensitive practitioners who will support you through hard times: naturopaths, acupuncturists, physical/massage therapists, psychotherapists, energy healers, astrologers, artists, mentors, and teachers. Learn something new, like a craft or a language or how to build a guitar. Give yourself permission to grieve for the losses that no one else you know feels. Develop your spiritual practice and your intuition; this can help you tune into new possibilities. Find someone who laughs at your jokes. Check out Patricia Albere‘s community, the Evolutionary Collective. (I recently discovered her work. She has a powerful and beautiful vision of the future.)

And, most important: Keep learning about your rainforest mind so you can really truly accept who you are, in all of your gorgeous multidimensional complexity. And so you can live the authentic, love-filled, socially responsible life you are here to live.

And don’t forget the wise words of Jon Stewart:

“My brain is not a brain that does well with downtime. So if I have a lot of down time, it will start out like “You’ve had a really rewarding career” and end up with “You’ve failed everyone that ever loved you.”


To my bloggEEs: These are very challenging times. I am in Eugene, Oregon, USA, and have been dealing with unprecedented wildfires, along with the pandemic. I am grateful to be safe/healthy and I hope all of you are, too. What have you been dealing with? How are you coping? Are you finding more acceptance for and understanding of your rainforest mind? Sending you all much love. Thank you so much for being here.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

35 responses to “Coping Strategies for Super Smart, Highly Sensitive Souls”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. ShiraDest Avatar

    Still seeking, getting very tired of being told to “stop thinking so much”…

  2. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    Great suggestion, Corinna. Thanks!

  3. Corinna Avatar

    Beside of all the gorgeous ideas already listed here –

    ANGER! And transforming it into a sharp and cutting (internal) sword for change… I highly recommend the book “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger” by Soraya Chemaly.

    Humor is also one of my favorite ones 🙂

  4. Danielle Avatar

    Thank you for this article!

    I’d like to ask my fellow RFMs about their career story, from start to finish.

    Let’s see if we can find patterns! 😉

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Actually, Danielle, my next post will be about careers, particularly multipotentiality. So perhaps we can gather comments there!

      1. Danielle Avatar

        Perfect! 😊

  5. Someti Avatar

    Thank you for this post, Paula. It is always nice to finally resonate with what someone says. I always feel as if you already knew me! As of you were writing these posts specially for me. I am still amazed by the accuracy of your words.
    Thank you for the tips (some of which I use and some of which I’d have to explore 😄 What I find the most difficult is to find RFMs around, you already know; but I keep looking for them, I keep interacting here and there, I keep reading… and, meantime, I may have to try some of your ideas 🙂

    I hope you all are doing well in these challenging times of viruses, fires and many other different sources of stress world wide. Big hugs to you all!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Big hugs back to you, Someti!

  6. Nik Avatar

    I appreciate this post so much ~ thanks Paula. I am very glad to hear you are doing good in Eugene. Here in Portland, my partner and I still can’t breathe outside. Living here is very scary, as the war on us continues. Propaganda about ‘antifa’ conspiring to set the state on fire has a huge following and they comment all over about heinous ways they want to murder anyone who “looks like antifa.” A large number of people from those communities who evacuated are now here. The neo-fascist hate group ‘Proud Boys’ are continuing on with their attack-rally on the people of Portland in 8 days. So, lots of fear. All the time.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m so sorry, Nik. I love Portland. It’s so hard to see what’s happening there.

  7. dw Avatar

    In BC, we’re getting some of the smoke from Washington and Oregon, resulting in eerie sunsets, respiratory irritation, and a (heightened) sense of claustrophobia. I can only imagine how bad it is there! Please stay safe.

    And these coping strategies are great! We can all use some humor and self-compassion right now, and as I chuckled at e.g. “denial and compartmentalization”, I sensed the centering effects of both 🙂 But jokes aside, there is so much wisdom here – always a pleasure to read.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, dw. Yes, it’s odd for a therapist to promote denial and compartmentalization! But in these times, it can come in handy on occasion.

  8. j'adore champagne Avatar
    j’adore champagne

    I watch the news of the fires with horrorfication. Is that a word? I returned to Scotland six weeks ago; I watch the deluges of rain and the River Kelvin in full rush and feel guilty because I can’t send it to you and my beloved Northern California.
    I’m coping with my camera. I’m still trying to find a real job; laughable at this point. Your blog is timely as so much is happening it’s overwhelming with a mind that wants to solve all of it, but can I please do it in my pyjamas and with a camera?
    My thoughts are with you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Horrorfication is now an official word. Good to hear from you!

  9. Cara Maclean Avatar
    Cara Maclean

    Advanced ruminator. Yes! That’s all that needs to be said really. 😂😂😂

  10. bethplanetbethcom Avatar

    I think we’re MORE prone to anxiety and depression than the average person!! Because on an intrapersonal level 1) we are perfectionistic and have a ‘rage to master’. And then on an interpersonal level we mystify most people … they minimize their interactions with us because we make them feel less intelligent or less capable (when we’re just being ourselves). One way I find Center is wandering around in my favorite, 400+ acre nature preserve the next county over. Trees relax me!!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh yes, gratitude for the trees. That is what’s so hard for people here, so many trees in flames. Thank you, Beth.

  11. Deborah Nam-Krane Avatar
    Deborah Nam-Krane

    Thank you for this post. Our bookstores opened up again a few months ago, and it’s good to have them back, but I fantasize about my library — my spiritual home — the way other people fantasize about winning the lottery. They’re offering a bunch of services, but it’s not the same as being there, surrounded by all of those books.

    And yes, this period has definitely been challenging regarding all of the triggers, and I’m totally comforting myself with Tarot, therapy, and acupuncture. (One of my daughters is going deep into astrology and crystals.) What’s keeping me sane is working with an environmental group, which is led by and mostly filled with a bunch of expansive, RFMs. The luxury of being able to work with such people has made me want to work even harder than I normally would, but I still laughed when I saw Jon Stewart’s quote; I don’t even bother patting myself on the back anymore because I know exactly where it will lead.

    Please stay safe!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great ideas, Deborah. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Yennefer Avatar

    Humour and stoicism are my tips ! Self-compassion is great too, but these help me get out and face hardship more quickly. That’s my blend at the moment 😊.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      And a good blend it is, Yennefer!

  13. ingodslove Avatar

    🙂 I’m glad you posted this today!
    I’m over on the coast. I homeschool my four kids (two have sensitive airways). I kept them inside since the fires started but yesterday the air was so much better, I thought 20-30 minutes of outside play would be reasonable. Unfortunately, that triggered asthma in one of my kids. I’ve kind of been carrying the fires, the helping evacuees, plus some personal and family things around and when the asthma started last night it was like I just couldn’t find a way to cope with that one last thing. I woke up with all of these questions: why am I not coping anymore? why am I feeling such strong feelings about all of these things and it seems like no one else around me is responding the same ways? What am I going to do to get through another day with all of these responsibilities? Do I try to explain to my husband what I’m struggling with? Do we even have time for that and do I have the emotional energy for that? Do I try to fake it with my kids today?
    After reading your post:
    I think I’m going to change up our day a little and be ok with less school, more rest…maybe hiding in my room a bit more than normal and trying to fit a cry in at some point.
    and now, I need to “help” the four year old “pick out her outfit” because today is one of those days when she wants me to be there while she picks out her outfit😉 Thank-you for your blog.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m happy that I was able to help you get through the day today, ingodslove!

  14. hksounds Avatar

    Please keep yourself safe, Paula. Many people find your blog valuable, especially now, in these difficult and unprecedented times. I am grateful that currently I am not in Oregon anymore, or even in the USA, but I have many family members in Linn County and things don’t look good there from here.

    1. Deborah Phillips Avatar
      Deborah Phillips

      Yeah, these times are something else. I live in Washington state not far from Seattle–home of CHOP/CHAZ. Between covid lockdowns and very unhealthy smoky skies, times haven’t been more difficult.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober


        1. Deborah Phillips Avatar
          Deborah Phillips

          That was an antifa zone earlier this year. They rioters claimed a portion of a neighborhood and used their guns to ‘patrol’ streets. They forced the nearby police precinct to close down. CHAZ was acronym for Capital Hill Antifa Zone, later named by the rioters to CHOP. It added to the ‘defund the police’ movement. We made national news — not exactly a positive though. Stay safe, Paula.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Oh yes, I did hear about that. You stay safe, too.

            1. Deborah Phillips Avatar
              Deborah Phillips

              Thanks! I really enjoy and appreciate your insightful articles.

              1. Nik Avatar

                CHAZ = Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. Not ‘antifa’ zone. AZs are a strategy used worldwide throughout history. Please come correct. Propaganda about ‘antifa terrorists’ means we in Portland live with barrages of online death threats & continued physical threats and attacks from people who travel from all over just to terrorize our city.

                1. Paula Prober Avatar
                  Paula Prober

                  Oh, sorry Deborah and Nik. I didn’t mean to take us into a political conversation. Although that’s hard to avoid now when it so much a part of our lives here in N. America. These times are indeed difficult.

                2. Deborah Phillips Avatar
                  Deborah Phillips

                  Sorry, Nik. ‘Autonomous’ is correct.

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I hope your family members are safe, hksounds. We have never had fires like this. The climate crisis is clearly in Oregon for all to see. Thank you for your kind words. Writing this blog sustains me, so I plan to keep it going. 🙂

  15. Ellen M Valentine Avatar
    Ellen M Valentine

    OMG I really needed this today. Today was the first day in almost a week that I felt clear headed. It’s helpful to read some of the things I tried and some I haven’t. To know I’m not the only one who feels these feelings. The more coping strategies we have the more choices we have when what worked before doesn’t work this time. And thank you for being the voice in the wilderness that reminds us we are not alone.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad this was good timing for you, Ellen. Thanks for being here.