Column by Nicky Ferry.

Highly sensitive people (HSP) are in the minority - they make up around 15 to 20 per cent of the population.

However I’m convinced that in Stroud that figure is higher, possibly significantly so. I’ll explain later.

In terms of mental and emotional health and wellbeing, being a highly sensitive person presents certain challenges.

Firstly you may well have gone through life feeling - or being told - that there is something wrong with you.

Because those with this level of sensitivity feel things very intensely and deeply, it is easy to become overwhelmed and stressed.

In this over-stimulated state there can be a strong need to withdraw and take sanctuary in quiet and calming surroundings.

All highly sensitive people feel and empathise with the feelings of others acutely - they pick up on atmospheres instantly and as a result, can easily feel drained or emotionally confused.

They also need more time to process change and can find anything stimulating such as loud noise, crowds, aggression and conflict all very distressing, considerably more so than the average person.

Research has shown that the brains of HSPs are wired differently.

Although highly sensitive people are neurologically different, culturally we often do not accommodate, understand or respect this level of sensitivity.

It is therefore easy for the HSP to feel alienated or somehow lacking.

However, there are many and important positives in being such a highly sensitive individual.

While you may be challenged by life, you are also very easily moved by its beauty and you are often transported to great heights and depths of experience.

You instantly know the tone of the room, the emotional state of others and can tune into subtleties that others may miss.

Unsurprisingly many HSPs are especially creative, spiritually orientated and are inspired to bring about social justice.

Because of the extent of their empathy, HSPs are often drawn to the healing arts, to therapeutic work and they revel in nature - all of which sounds like a certain percentage of the Stroud population to me –including me!