How To Be Less High Strung: 9 No Bullsh*t Tips!

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Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you get to grips with your high strung personality. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.

Has anyone ever told you that you are “high strung?”

Or have you reached that conclusion yourself by observing your thoughts and behaviors?

Although this label is often used in a demeaning way—usually to try to control another person’s behavior—it can also be helpful when trying to describe one’s feelings and impulses.

After all, once you can put a name to what it is you’re experiencing, you can work on sorting it out so it doesn’t trouble you (or others) quite so much.

This article will explore being high strung, what it means, the causes of it, and how to stop being so high strung if you can see it is having a detrimental effect on your life.

What does it mean to be high strung?

Interestingly enough, I know the definition for this term because I’m an archer, and that’s where the phrase originated.

When you string a bow, the goal is to create enough tension so your arrows fly well and true. If you attach the string too high on the bow’s upper limb, it causes too much tension. Sure, you’ll get a strong pull on the bow, but it’s likely to snap fairly easily.

Similarly, a person who’s high strung might feel like they have a lot of intensely powerful emotions just below the surface. All it takes is the tiniest pull for those emotions to come bursting out. Those can manifest as tears, anger, enthusiasm, terror, and more.

This can be difficult for the individual to deal with, as they might feel like they have no control over their own behaviors. Since they’re easily “triggered,” they may avoid situations that could cause these outbursts to be unleashed. As you can imagine, this can be hugely detrimental to them when trying to cultivate close relationships, whether friendly, romantic, professional, or otherwise.

If you’re high strung, then the emotions and impulses you feel at times can be absolutely overwhelming. It may seem as though you have no choice but to be swept along with the current and let these thoughts and feelings burn themselves out before you can function again. From how I’ve heard it described, it sounds rather like trying to keep soda crammed into a bottle after it’s been shaken and the cap has been loosened.

Common traits of high-strung people.

Since being high strung can manifest across a spectrum, different people will of course present different behaviors. That said, there are some traits that many have in common:

  • Perfectionism and overachievement – Many high-strung people are extremely hypersensitive to criticism of any kind, and as such, they over-perform and try to be as perfect as possible in order to avoid any potential negative feedback.

    Here’s an article we wrote that should help you with this: How To Overcome Perfectionism: 8 No Bullsh*t Tips!

  • Inability to relax – High-strung people are generally always doing something. They have immense difficulty being still and just chilling out, and see any downtime as an opportunity to catch up on something. For instance, instead of just hanging out and watching a movie in the evening, they might need to mend clothing or make notes about the next day’s workload.

    If this sounds like you, check out the advice we give in this article: 13 No Bullsh*t Ways To Relax When You Can’t Seem To

  • Insomnia/difficulty staying asleep – This goes along with the inability to relax mentioned above. When it’s time for bed, the minds of high-strung people are still racing. They’re going over everything that happened over the course of the day/week/month, planning what’s next, stressing about a meeting or project deadline, and so on. This agitation makes it difficult for them to get enough sleep, which then exacerbates their heightened emotions in a vicious catch-22 situation.

    We’ve got a helpful article if this is something you struggle with: 14 Things To Do Before Bed That Will Put You Into A Deep, Restful Sleep

  • Emotional overload – High-strung people are quick to tears or anger, but they also tend to be extremely empathetic. They might go into full-on freakout mode if the Christmas dinner they’re planning is imperfect in any way (see above), because they want everyone attending to have the most amazing time possible, and they don’t want to disappoint anyone.

  • Constant stress – Since they’re a perfectionist to a fault, these folks are constantly in a heightened stress situation (usually of their own making). They’ll freak out at the thought of being late for work or an appointment, get upset if the house isn’t as clean as it could be just in case a stranger drops by to judge them, and so on. As a result, their bodies can be affected bychronic inflammation, causing health problems such as gastro issues, ulcers, migraines, and various nervous conditions.

Too much, yet not enough?

Many people who are high strung have been told all their lives that they can be difficult to deal with. They’ve been called flighty or cowardly, told that they have anger issues, or that they can’t be depended upon because they bail on social functions so often.

Some are told that they’re “just too much” because their responses to various things are too big and intense for most others to deal with.

This kind of feedback is immensely detrimental to the high-strung person’s psyche. If you’ve been on the receiving end of comments like these, you might feel like there’s something “wrong” with you and that you’ll only be more tolerable—even likeable—if you can be a more toned-down version of yourself; one that’s more acceptable to the general public.

Why might a person be high strung?

Like most other personality traits, being high strung is often a combination of nature and nurture. Sure, a person might be competitive or goal-oriented by nature, but if they’ve been raised in an extremely critical or hostile home environment, those traits are going to be ramped up significantly.

We touched upon the perfectionist qualities earlier: those often come about when someone has been constantly put down and criticized in their youth. They’ll become so vigilant about avoiding being put down or “less than” that they’ll get competitive—even with themselves. They’ll need to be top of the class, top employee, most successful in the family, and most attractive in their friend group. And that puts enormous pressure on them, both body and mind.

Of course, not everyone who is high strung had a crap family life growing up to cause this disposition in adulthood. A person could have had an idyllic home life growing up, but current life circumstances have caused the high-strung aspects to go into overdrive.

For instance, a usually more grounded person could easily be driven to brittleness and knee-jerk emotional reactions by lifestyle choices, stress, dietary choices, and so on.

A common example of this would be a parent of a newborn who’s running on about two hours of sleep a night and is hypervigilant about the little one’s health and wellbeing. They’ve likely gone from being chill to freaking out if the wee one so much as sneezes, plus being completely on edge from chronic sleep deprivation and consuming way too much caffeine in order to make it through the day.

How can a person be less high strung?

We can’t undo genetics, but we can work with them and adjust them for the most ideal outcome. As we mentioned earlier, if you’re someone who’s described as “high strung,” this can manifest in a variety of different ways.

We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to become less high strung over time.

1. What flavor of high strung are you?

First and foremost, determine how being high strung manifests for you. Are you quick to anger? Or are you constantly on the verge of an anxiety attack? Does the tiniest thing excite you and agitate you? Or are you nervous and skittish, jumping at the tiniest sound or unexpected movement?

Alternatively, are you the type of person who isn’t anxious or irritable, but instead has way more energy and enthusiasm than you know what to do with? Maybe you’ve often been told by people to use your “inside voice” because you’re being too loud, or to “tone it down” because you’re talking a million miles a minute about the thing that you’re SO EXCITED about.

Once you’ve determined how your behavior presents itself, you can work on adjusting and even reversing some of your reactions. This will, of course, require you to delve into how and where this behavior originated (as mentioned above). Then, you can determine how you’d like to go about managing these traits in a manner that best suits you.

You may be surprised to discover that the traits that labeled you as “high strung” in one scenario are of immense benefit in another.

2. Determine whether current lifestyle factors are adding to your high frequency.

Quite often, food and environmental sensitivities are determined by how the body feels after consuming or being exposed to a stressor. Well, the same goes for emotional stressors. There can be a number of different things we consume or expose ourselves to that can make us far more high strung than we would otherwise be.

If you haven’t been tested for food allergies or sensitivities yet, consider doing so. You might be eating something on the daily that you had no idea you were allergic or sensitive to, and it might be wreaking havoc on your system—causing inflammation, insomnia, hyperactivity, and countless other issues.

And don’t assume that a negative allergy test means diet is not an issue for you. Food sensitivities may be undetectable through standard tests but can still have a major impact on your body and exacerbate conditions such as ADHD. Elimination diets can help you to identify potential sensitivities, though this should be done with the guidance of a medical professional.

Finding this out might shed a ton of light on certain behavioral patterns. You may discover that rather than being high strung, you’re simply sensitive to nightshades, gluten, or sugar.

Note that these kinds of allergies aren’t just limited to foods. People can have similar reactions from tobacco smoke, ingredients in personal care products, and environmental allergens like pet dander, black mold, and so on.

If and when you find out that you have these kinds of sensitivities, eliminating them from your diet (and finding alternatives so you don’t feel that you’re missing out) will undoubtedly create a marked improvement in your health and emotional stability.

3. Use your traits to your greatest advantage.

Please remember that there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with being high strung. This kind of behavior and wiring absolutely has its time and place, and it can even be beneficial depending on the situation.

For example, being high strung often comes with being highly sensitive. These traits can indicate high intelligence and energy levels. As you may have noticed, many aspects of modern life seem to demand that people all behave the same way, regardless of their own natural inclinations.

A young child who has an extraordinary amount of energy might be labeled as a “problem student” because they can’t/won’t sit still in a classroom all day. When they get older, they may have similar difficulties sitting at a desk in an office where they’re expected to be still and quiet. All their natural programming is screaming against the constraints they find themselves in, and that will escape the only way it can: through emotional outbursts, anxiety, overperformance, and so on.

To counteract this, harness your natural leanings and choose a career or pastime that’s highly demanding and intensive. The flavor of this will depend on your own inclination (e.g., whether you’re naturally energetic and extraverted, or intensely focused and introverted—or any combination thereof).

An intense introvert who is goal-oriented and a perfectionist might thrive in a field in which they have to be very precise about their work. They may also be able to use their intense focus to learn things like languages or other demanding subject matter.

Meanwhile, the person who has a ton of physical energy might do well in a career where they have to interact enthusiastically with a lot of people. Event coordination and public relations would be great for them, as they can channel their energy into being friendly and “on” all the time.

Remember that nothing is ever “good” or “bad,” it’s just interpreted differently depending on the scenario. If your natural energy doesn’t fit your environment, then change the environment, right?

4. Learn to mirror the energy of those around you.

As we mentioned earlier, this world often demands that people behave a certain way in specific situations. This is why we get frowned at if we laugh at a funeral or break out dancing at an art gallery. Macro society expects certain behaviors and judges/punishes those who don’t fall into line.

When it comes to a shared home dynamic—either with family members or housemates—dealing with those who don’t share the same “beat” as you can be difficult to deal with. This is particularly true if you’re a fairly calm, quiet individual and one household member spins and whirls like the Tasmanian Devil on a cocaine bender.

It’s even more frustrating when you’re the individual who has an extraordinary amount of energy and intense emotions—it can be incredibly difficult to temper your output. You might be told that your mere presence is difficult for others to handle because of the vibes you put out.

You know how you can “just tell” if those you share living space with are happy, angry, or upset, because of the energy coming off them? High-strung people can emanate a sort of intense humming pitch that can be quite intolerable for anyone in sustained close proximity. This energy can’t be blocked out and causes the same anxious irritation as having to listen to an ambulance siren for a protracted period of time. You may not be that high strung by your own interpretation, but your resonance may be a bit much for those slowpokes!

As a result, you can learn to modulate your energy and tone to suit your surroundings.

Imagine this rather like when you have to speak more loudly to someone who’s sitting in another room. You wouldn’t use the same amount of volume to speak to them if they were standing right in front of you, right? The same goes for the energy that you’re exuding.

If those around you like things to be a bit more calm and peaceful, then avoid spinning and whirling around when they’re nearby. Are you full of energy that needs to expend itself? Then do something physical like going for a run or a bike ride to burn some of it off. Then, when you come back home, you’ll be much more relaxed and you’ll hum at a similar frequency to everyone else.

5. Readjust your surroundings.

This expands upon the ideas above regarding finding careers, hobbies, and other interests that best suit your energy levels.

While it’s great to be able to modulate your own energy to suit others around you, it’s even better to put yourself in circumstances where you don’t have to. Much like switching jobs in order to use your energy levels to their best potential, it might benefit you greatly to change your living environment, friend group, and even intimate relationship if need be.

After all, if the people around you are constantly demanding that you change yourself to better suit their whims, that’s an uncomfortable situation to deal with. You won’t be able to be truly yourself around them, and it’s exhausting to have to pretend to be something you’re not just to be more palatable to others.

If your friends are low-energy and you aren’t, hang out with people whose zests for life mirrors your own. Similarly, if you’re in a home environment that’s chaotic and makes you feel jumpy and anxious all the time, move. You’re not a tree; you can pick up and go elsewhere.

Change your surroundings, change your life.

6. Try some breathwork and energy grounding techniques.

I think that just about everyone can benefit from meditation of one form or another. The type of meditation that benefits the individual, however, will depend on what kind of person they are.

For example, a person who’s naturally quite anxious can learn breathing techniques and utilize complementary coping strategies to help control anxiety. Breath is life, and breathing exercises are some of the best out there for coming back into oneself and controlling emotional storms.

In addition to using breathwork techniques, you can use five senses meditation to be more grounded in the present moment. This refocuses your energy and attention on what is immediately tangible, and it can lessen the overwhelming waves of panic that might otherwise push you to run away from a situation or become hysterical.

Those who are quick to anger or are easily irritated can also benefit from this kind of breathing and presence techniques, but they may also do well with physical meditations. Tai chi, yoga, kun mye, and chi gung are a few styles that could be of benefit. “Hot” emotions like anger tend to ripple through the body like a storm, so doing physical grounding work acts like a heat sink or lightning rod—literally grounding that energy so it doesn’t explode outward.

7. Exposure and desensitization.

This technique won’t work for everyone, but it can be beneficial for certain people. For instance, those who are sensitive to sudden movements and sharp noises can desensitize themselves through exposure in a controlled environment. These kinds of sensitivities can often spring from trauma, especially in childhood, but they are not limited thereto.

Someone who has PTSD from military action might get jumpy at sudden loud “BANG” noises. They may be constantly on edge, bracing themselves for the inevitable heart racing and fight-or-flight response they’ll get.

A great way to reduce this response is to hear these sounds, but in surroundings where they feel safe. They can start by controlling when and where they hear these sounds, as well as the intensity of the sound itself. Once they get more comfortable with that, they can get someone they trust to control the noises instead. Over time, through exposure, they’ll become less and less sensitive to that kind of stimuli.

Similarly, someone who’s quick to anger or tears from certain emotional triggers can also expose themselves to things that they know will “trigger” them. By controlling these triggers, they can learn coping strategies for dealing with the emotional wave that’ll hit them. Then, when and if these triggers happen out in the world, they’ll be less likely to blow up or fall apart.

8. Learn to ignore (or diffuse) negative self-talk.

More often than not, your perception of what others think is actually far from the truth.

Instead, it’s the negative self-talk in your own mind—possibly influenced by crappy things others have said to you in the past— that has you condemning yourself for not being good enough (or being too much). This causes a ton of emotional turmoil.

But you don’t have to listen to those voices.

These mental “hungry ghosts” are often cruel. They’ll deride our accomplishments, criticize our appearance, tell us we’re worthless, and so on. Fortunately, the cure for this is simple:

Engage with these negative voices and ask them about themselves. Since they have such a negative view on you, ask the voice that arises what it has accomplished that day. Has it done anything of worth? Has it received love and care from anyone?

The only answer you’ll get back is silence, and that in itself will speak volumes.

You will also benefit from the advice we give in another of our articles: 8 Highly Effective Steps To Silencing Your Inner Critic

When you don’t feel like you constantly have pressure up your backside—not even from your own psyche—you can’t help but relax a bit. Your shoulders will retract from your ears, your breathing will slow down, and you’ll be significantly less high strung.

So, take a deep breath, draw your energy down your spine and into the ground, let go of any negativity that comes up, and just BE.

9. Find a therapist who can help you work through root causes.

If you know (or even have a hunch) that your high-strung nature is due to difficulties you’ve experienced in the past, then you may wish to work with someone who can help you to heal those issues at their source.

For instance, if your relentless perfectionism is due to criticism and cruelty you experienced in the past, a good therapist can help you unravel that, and rebuild your self-confidence in a way that’s healthier for you.

Quite often, highly strung people feel that something is lacking in themselves, which pushes them to try harder and worry more. They often feel the need to be validated by their peers. Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect. People might react negatively to this need for validation and see it as needy or too much to deal with, which will cause the high-strung person to need even more reassurance. It’s a saddening, complicated feedback loop that rarely results in anything positive.

But by working with a therapist, you can address this need for validation in a healthy and controlled way so that you can rein in the behaviors that stem from it. This can mean you feel more comfortable in your own skin, more relaxed around others, and less susceptible to emotional outbursts when something happens which challenges your sense of self-worth.

However your high-strung personality manifests, a mental health professional can help you.

A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.

You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.

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