Business Advice For Highly Sensitive People

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, personal and professional development remains an often neglected yet powerful area of business. In this article, Bridie interviewed Female Health Founders Expert Network member Sinead Rafferty, who is a Alignment Coach for HSP (Highly Sensitive People) and Empaths. Sinead is also the creator of the HSP Purpose Pathway (take the quiz). In this article you will delve into what a Highly Sensitive Person is, how to avoid burn out, develop your purpose lead business and how to harness your HSP strengths as your super power in business.

Founding a women’s health company as a highly sensitive person sounds challenging yet rewarding. What’s the first action female health founders, who are HSPs, can take to set the foundation for success without burning out?

The first thing to do is self-validation. 

It’s all about identity; it’s essential that driven, determined founders take the time to get to know themselves and the way they function. Being highly sensitive is a trait, it is one part of your identity but it influences everything else in a big way. 

By honouring this part of yourself and validating it, you can empower everything else. 

If you try to function like everyone else by ignoring this core part of your experience, or you try to turn down the volume on your sensitivities to ‘fit in’ – this suppression of energy will catch up with you and influence you and your business in a less than desirable or productive way. 

Setting a foundation for success is all about honouring who you truly are; allowing all parts of yourself to play a role in your business.

Understanding what it means to be Highly Sensitive will give you massive insight into this powerful aspect of your identity. But you need to decide to do so.

A lot of HSP founders feel resistance to the term ‘highly sensitive’ at the beginning, until it is reframed and redefined for them. This is due to negative connotations with the word ‘sensitive’ itself and in most cases due to negative past experiences. Empowering this part of your identity begins with self-compassion and honesty.

How can highly sensitive female health founders quickly identify and leverage their unique strengths to create a business model that aligns with their sensitive nature while ensuring sustainable growth?

To align with your sensitive nature, you must take the time to explore and understand it. I promise you it will be time well spent and will shape how you approach your business planning.

The four main characteristics of high sensitivity are:

  1. A depth of processing which means a depth of thought, emotion, process & experience. 
  2. Overwhelm – because your experience and processing is so deep, you will hit your peak sooner than your non-HSP peers. That is OK. Managing your energy is what supports this.
  3. Emotional Intelligence & Empathy – which is a gift and superpower as an entrepreneur.
  4. Picking up on subtleties…a massive strength in business as you can think globally, join the dots where others can’t and avail of your creative magic!

As a HSP, to leverage the strength and power of your high sensitivity, a.k.a. high sensory intelligence – you have to allow space for it in your life and work. You have to give yourself the self-validation that it is ‘real’ and that it is a central part of your experience, personally and professionally. 

With this validation, you can manage your energy in light of your needs which makes your growth and expansion sustainable. If you are all action but you don’t give any attention to your energetic needs and optimal energy flow, your actions will not be sustainable – this is when burnout begins to appear on the horizon.

If you’d like to learn about the power of high sensitivity and how to embrace it as the gift that it is – check out my micro course “Misaligned Identity: Embracing The Gift of High Sensitivity”

Balancing sensitivity and resilience is crucial. What practical strategies can female health founders employ to protect their energy, avoid burnout, and stay emotionally resilient in the fast-paced entrepreneurial world?

Firstly, let’s reframe this – your sensitivity and your resilience are not mutually exclusive, they are one and the same. As a highly sensitive person (HSP) you are MORE strong and MORE resilient than others because you have been navigating a largely non-HSP world all your life. So bring the two together in your mind – your sensitivity is a source of deeper resilience, if you allow it to be. 

Resilience is our ability to ‘bounce back’ when things don’t go as planned and it is cultivated through experience; from how you respond and react to adversity and challenge to decision-making and tenacity. As an entrepreneur, you are naturally building resilience every day as the terrain is not exactly predictable! You’re flexing that muscle, so firstly observe how you’re doing, take stock of your current processes.

Energy management and stress management is central to building resilience. This applies to everyone, HSPs and non-HSPs; when we become stressed, enhanced activation in the amygdala triggers the flight, fight or freeze response.

Known as the amygdala hijack, our limbic brain takes over to protect us with stress hormones and adrenaline which limits the ability of our rational thinking brain; the prefrontal cortex to direct our actions.

HSP founders are more neurologically reactive so we will be more acutely aware of the experience and repeated activation of the amygdala can lead to sustained stress, anxiety, digestive issues, headaches etc…HSPs in particular need to manage their stress and energy levels to protect their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

As HSPs our nervous system is even more finely tuned so our responses can be more marked so it’s essential to not only appreciate the cycles of change as a founder and entrepreneur, the highs and lows that inevitably present themselves, but also your response to the experience.

This is all resilience building; self-knowledge and self-care – again, validating and accepting that your nervous system will react more acutely than 80% of the people around you. 

This sounds dramatic, but it doesn’t have to be, by managing your mindset and energetic state you can take on the world, just like the rest of them – with the added bonus of high sensitivity and high sensory perception. 

To avoid burnout, think energy first, action second. Tend to your energy and your needs first and foremost and this is what will empower your emotional resilience. 

To navigate the fast-paced entrepreneurial world – get up ahead of it. Eat well, sleep well, nourish your mind, body, heart and soul and explore the techniques that keep you grounded so that when you’re making that pitch or on your way to another networking event, you have tried and tested tips and tricks in your back pocket. 

Rhythm Resistance is the micro course for you if you want to learn how to cultivate your optimal energy flow.

Let’s talk about team dynamics. How can highly sensitive female health founders build and lead a team that complements their strengths, fostering a supportive and empathetic work environment without sacrificing efficiency?

Leadership is multi-faceted of course and being highly sensitive is one part of your identity but it does not form the full picture. The rest of your character and personality and values and ambitions and priorities and life experience will shape your leadership style. The best place to begin is by asking yourself, what kind of leader am I now, and what kind of leader do I aspire to be? This exercise will point to so much around what’s most important for you in terms of your experience as a leader and that of your team members. Also reflect on your experience of leaders in the past, what was empowering, what was limiting and what was inspiring?

As a HSP, you are naturally attuned to others, you are wired to sense and feel the needs and perspective of others, your capacity for empathy is innate so you can take advantage of these natural skills as a leader. But, to remain efficient and effective, you need to be careful that these abilities don’t trip you up. This is where boundaries come into play – by empowering your own personal space, you empower that of your team. 

If boundaries is an area that you know you need to address – explore micro course ‘Broken Boundaries: Empowering Your Own Personal Space’

Decision-making can be overwhelming. What’s your advice for highly sensitive female health founders to make critical decisions swiftly without getting overwhelmed or drained in their power hour?

Self-knowledge is once again the answer – knowing your process for decision-making is everything – knowing if you make decisions by deliberating pros and cons, by following your gut or your intuition or by consulting with a lot of other people (extroverts tend to do this more than introverts). Knowing and appreciating your process builds trust in your decision-making and ultimately in your decisions.

I understand that swift decision-making is important for entrepreneurs, but do not sacrifice aligned, decisive, grounded decisions for speed every time, especially as a HSP because you need time and space to process at a depth that feels right to you. If you are a leader and founder who needs 24-48 hours to make a decision, empower yourself by giving yourself sufficient time.

When time is not an option, find space where you can be alone – for one hour, change your environment if possible, even better, get out into nature. Ground yourself through deep breathing or meditation – detach from the energies and demands of others. LISTEN. Listen to your inner voice and intuition. If you’re still not sure of a way forward – sleep on it if possible.

Overwhelm is a result of overstimulation and overstimulation is a lack of self-knowledge and a failure to manage your energy. If you feel overwhelmed by decisions on an ongoing basis, it is a question of managing your energy when it comes to decisions.

To learn more about managing overwhelm and overstimulation ‘Rhythm Resistance – Cultivating Optimal Energy Flow’ offers a lot of insight on energy management.

Networking is key. How can highly sensitive female health founders strategically network and form connections within the industry to grow their women’s health company without feeling emotionally drained?

I’m sure you’d agree the key to effective networking is authenticity. Network in a way that suits you. Knowing if you are introverted or extroverted or somewhere in between helps a lot. In fact, it is the extroverted HSPs (30% of HSPs are extroverted) who tend to become more emotionally drained in networking environments, because they are energised by others on the one hand but need to manage the depth of interaction on another. So feel into a networking style and rhythm that suits your energies.

A good tip is to always have an ‘out’ – have a plan as to why you have to leave at a given time. If you find it hard to pull yourself away (HSPs can sometimes find endings challenging as it takes us time to transition from one energetic state to another), this is where your own boundaries once again come into play. Boundaries that protect you. Think quality over quantity in all areas, including networking.

And LinkedIn is your best friend here, you can connect at a deep level with your network while maintaining clear energetic boundaries. I’m not suggesting you avoid in-person events  – this would be counterproductive of course as an entrepreneur – I am saying to leverage both and find a balance.

Boundaries matter. In a short span, what actionable steps can female health founders, who are highly sensitive, take to establish and communicate clear boundaries in their professional lives, ensuring a healthy work-life balance?

Boundaries are essential for all entrepreneurs but much more so for those with high sensory intelligence. Boundaries are directly linked to your needs so tuning into your needs at all times will help you to identify the boundaries that will empower you and establish them in such a way that supports your overall productivity and energy flow.

Your empathy can trip you up here, HSPs are wired towards the needs of others and it is our natural state to respond to and appease the needs of others. Becoming aware of this is key. Boundaries are not barriers, they empower both sides, they bring respect and appreciation into the picture and are central to building lasting business relationships.

Begin with small boundaries and work your way up to more significant ones. If setting boundaries is a challenging area for you, it is worth taking the time to enrol in my mini course ‘Broken Boundaries’ as it will give you a strong foundation in setting empowering boundaries in your business. 

Marketing can be intense. How can highly sensitive female health founders effectively market their women’s health company in a power hour, tapping into their empathetic nature to connect with customers on a deeper level?

What is your WHY? Write your why on a piece of paper and put it on the wall in your office so you can refer to it every day. Coming from a place of service is what will ignite your marketing efforts by tapping into your natural ability to empathise with those you are inspired to serve. Of course as an entrepreneur, your marketing efforts are often two-fold; you are speaking directly to the needs of the ‘end user’ as well as to the motivations of those who will invest in or purchase your product or service. 

Often as HSPs, we can get caught up in the ‘shoulds’ around tactics and strategies but remember, always allow room in your messaging for authenticity, heart, connection and honesty. This is where your WHY will return into the picture every time. Your why will evolve with you and your business so keep adding to that reminder on your office wall. Your why is related directly to the experience of your customers and potential customers so always remain focused on them. This is one of your superpowers as a HSP so take advantage of it and trust your intuition.

What’s one often overlooked but powerful technique that highly sensitive founders can implement quickly to harness their sensitivity as a strength in building and growing their women’s health company?

Let’s do a quick exercise.

I’d like to introduce you to The HSP Alignment Code – this is the basis of my work as an Alignment coach for HSPs and Empaths: You reach alignment, balance, fulfilment and success you need Optimal Energy Flow – an understanding and appreciation for your unique energy flow in your life and work. You also need an Empowered Identity and sense of self; a feeling of groundedness in who are truly are. And you need Aligned Action to make it all happen, to answer your calling and turns your dreams into reality.

The thing is, you need all 3 to see real progress and reach a point of alignment as an ‘empowered trailblazer’.

  1. Energy Management: If you have optimal energy flow and you feel empowered in who you are but you’re not taking aligned action – nothing will change in your reality, in your experience.
  2. Empowered Identity: If you have optimal energy flow and your blocks are cleared and you’re taking a lot of action  – you’ll still lack clarity about how to you want to truly show up without an empowered sense of identity and who you truly are.
  3. Aligned Action: If you feeling empowered in your identity and taking a lot of action – it won’t be sustainable without energy management – you need an optimal energy flow to support it all.

So let’s take the pulse on YOUR alignment code here today. Ask yourself – how am I doing in all 3 areas? 

Give yourself a score out of 10 in each area.

  • 1 = not at all.
  • 10 = absolutely.

These scores will give you a good indication of where you’re at on your alignment journey. All 3 areas need your attention, but which one (the lowest score) needs your attention first?

  • If it’s Energy Management: Reset your energies – soothe, reconnect, rest, replenish, meditate.
  • If it’s Empowered Identity: Tap into your authentic self: journal on your ‘why’ and your ‘why me’.
  • If it’s Aligned Action: Ask yourself, what one action can I take this week that FEELS really good?

To explore your blocks as a HSP, take the quiz:

Connect & Work With Sinead