How to Be Less High Strung

Learn helpful ways on how to be less high strung, as advised by mental wellness experts and more.

Here are their insights:

Deborah K. Krevalin, LPC, LMHC

Deborah Krevalin

Psychotherapist and Relationship Expert, West Hartford Holistic Counseling

High-strung people struggle with a frenetic form of anxiety and are often unlovingly referred to as Type-A.

Their symptoms are much more intense than the expected, everyday anxiety or worry. They feel a constant beat within themselves that is palpable and an urgency of thought that can be off-putting to those around them.

High-strung people are stressed, impatient and irritable and often hear friends and family telling them to “chill out” and “just relax,” which of course, is never helpful.

As a psychotherapist and relationship expert, I work with bright, successful professionals, many of whom are “high-strung.” They also tend to be organized, smart, empathetic, and capable and would like nothing more than to feel relaxed, at peace, and “chill.” However, this is extremely difficult for them to achieve.

Related: 9 Ways to Relax and Calm Your Mind

So, how do you combat being high strung?

Call yourself out when you become agitated and impatient

Like most things in life, it takes practice and commitment. “Calling yourself out” when you become agitated, irritated, and impatient can be an effective intervention.

Employ positive self-talk

Employing positive self-talk is an excellent tool that helps to change emotionally-charged and/or distorted thinking. It can decrease internal chaos and increase the chance to regain composure to problem-solve more productively.

Exercise to empower yourself

Exercise is an “oldie but goodie” remedy for Type-A individuals. Taking a run, lifting weights, or jamming out to your favorite tune are not only heart-healthy options but empowers us and restores faith in ourselves to create positive change.

Lynell Ross

Lynell Ross

Psychology-Trained Certified Health and Wellness Coach | Behavior Change Specialist | Resource Director, Test Prep Insight

We can be high strung for a variety of reasons. Most people don’t realize that the things we think, believe, and how we behave affects us physically and mentally. If you want to change your behavior, you will need to work on both areas.

Mental strategy: Make a conscious decision to be more calm and peaceful

If you want to be less high strung, then you will want to examine what you believe about yourself. You may say that you have always been high strung, but you should examine where that came from.

If you lived in a household with nervous or highly energetic family members, you could have picked up their traits. Once you decide that you don’t want to be high strung, then make a commitment to bring peace and calm into your life.

Related: How to Find Inner Peace

Keep a journal, and note when you begin to ramp up your energy—question what makes you rush or get nervous. Oftentimes, bringing awareness to a behavior can help you make changes.

Physical strategy: There are lots of things you can do to help you calm your energy

When you first get up in the morning, drink a cup of hot water with lemon or herbal tea and cut back on drinking coffee or beverages with caffeine. Also try taking a walk or do some exercises to channel your high energy.

Eat nutritious foods that help balance your blood sugar. For example, eat a lean protein, with a complex carbohydrate and healthy fat, instead of just grabbing a high carb breakfast like a muffin, which would spike your blood sugar and cause it to crash.

Eating a balanced meal or snack helps to stabilize blood sugar and keep you calm.

Establish a better sleep routine by turning down the lights earlier in the evening, eating a lighter meal at night, avoid watching violent or upsetting programs or the news, and get to bed earlier.

Getting a good night’s sleep is important to help keep your nervous system calm and balanced.

If you find yourself rushing around during the day, just gently remind yourself that you want to change. Stop and take a break, do some deep breathing or close your eyes, and begin again in a slower, more deliberate way.

Melissa Zawisza, LCSW-S

Melissa Zawisza

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Reilly Counseling, PLLC

I am a recovering high-strung person. I’ve done some work, improvements have been made, and there will be ongoing maintenance. I have accepted this. I lived this way for a long time.

I paid attention to the short-term consequences and took steps to find some relief. This approach worked well for a long time.

After some serious health issues in 2018, I got the message loud and clear. In the midst of working at a trauma clinic and planning a wedding, I landed in the hospital, spent six months in outpatient neuro-rehab, and returned to work.

Plus, I got married, so 2018 was a big year. For the majority of 2018, I switched roles from a helper to a patient. Here are a few lessons learned from my experience.

Identify your support system

During a follow-up visit, one of my doctors told me some valuable information. He shared he has seen other patients who similar health issues to mine, and some of those patients did not make it.

He acknowledged part of my recovery was the medical providers and my determination. According to him, a contributing factor to my recovery was my support system.

Find the time to rest

Make good sleep and rest a priority. Figure it out.

Readjust your expectations

Set more realistic expectations. Not everything needs to be done immediately. Figure out what is critical.

Create a schedule

For me, good days include walking outside, working, and reading. Figure out what works for you.

Write it down

Whether it’s goals, to-do list, ideas, or what you are grateful for, write it down.

Incorporate movement in your day

Run, walk, do yoga, play sports, or dance in your living room. Find what works for you.

Commit to a serious self-care plan

Identify what brings you joy or relaxation. Figure out how to include these items in your schedule. Plan for daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities to do. It’s necessary.

Go to therapy

It’s not forever; you don’t have to announce it on social media. It takes some work to find a therapist. It’s worth it.

These lessons have helped me. Since 2019, I have left my previous job due to a reorganization. In 2020, my husband and I moved into a house, and I started my private practice.

Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil

CEO and Lead Therapist, Naya Clinics

Learn to let go of things you can’t control

Being high-strung is the accumulated effect of long-term accommodation of excessive anxiety. We become excessively anxious over everything that we eventually become reactive and sensitive, sometimes even unstable, because of the very fact that our minds are the greatest multi-taskers.

Like our electronic devices, our minds become overloaded with all the thoughts and unnecessary worries that, when left unmanaged, cause our minds to become clouded.

We prevent our excessive anxieties and worries from permanently impacting our personality and negatively driving our responses by closing some programs in the electronic device located inside our heads.

We must learn to let go of things we can’t control; learn that our mental energies should only be used for things that are worthwhile. Allow our minds and ourselves to relax and breathe from everything else.

Practice YOLO once in a while, spend those vacation days you’ve been saving up, read a new book, socialize with like-minded people. These practices will help the brain divert its energy into things that help it improve and become better.

Ben Tanner, PA-C

Ben Tanner

Physician Assistant | Founder, FastingWell

Practice mindfulness and meditation into your life

The thing that’s helped me the most in recent years to relax and be less high-strung has been practicing mindfulness.

My own mindfulness experience

Over the past few years, I’ve read a few books about mindfulness and meditation and experimented with several apps that provide guided meditations and other tutorials. As I’ve practiced, I’ve gotten better at taking a step back and being less reactive when something frustrating or worrisome happens.

Now, I tend to notice when I first start getting angry or anxious, and I can usually redirect my thoughts or emotions.

This helps a lot when I’m working in the emergency room. Oftentimes, tests or treatments can be delayed. Perhaps the nursing staff is very busy and can’t get to certain things right away. I used to get sort of angry and uptight about these issues and would occasionally lash out. Now I’m more relaxed because I keep things more in perspective.

I realize most things can wait, and the nurses have a lot on their plates. And I’m able to remain polite and friendly when I remind them about something.

Mindfulness for patients

When patients come in with anxiety problems, panic, etc., one of the main things I counsel them on now is mindfulness and meditation. I give them recommendations on apps to try and how to implement mindfulness into their life.

Related: How to Improve Mindfulness and Meditation

I explain to them that this could be one of the most beneficial things that they can do to deal with their anxiety.

I typically don’t see these patients again since my encounter with them is in the emergency room. But I’m confident that if they implement some of this advice, they will notice some improvement in their symptoms.

Tyler Ellis

Tyler Ellis

Educational Background in Industrial-Organizational and Evolutionary Psychology | Founder, Don’t Panic, Do This

Incorporate healthier habits to your daily routine

When working on becoming less high strung, it’s important to consider the role physical activity plays in our mental health. Just as the body listens to the mind, the mind also listens to the body.

When our muscles are tense, our mind is forced to grapple with the tension of its own.

For this reason, it’s important to incorporate healthier habits into our daily routine. Even just 10 minutes of elevated heart rate exercise per day can help to decrease feelings of anxiety and tension. If traditional cardio or weightlifting isn’t for you, yoga can also bring significant relaxation benefits.

Learn how to laugh at yourself

People who are high strung tend to have a hard time finding humor in inconvenient or embarrassing situations. When learning how to be less high strung, it’s important you know how to laugh at yourself.

I’ve done a ton of things in my life that most people would be embarrassed to admit. For example, just last year, I flew to Istanbul for a hair transplant. I mean, that’s pretty crazy! But here I am blabbing about it on the Internet – and why?

Because when you’re able to laugh at yourself, it empowers you.

People don’t mock you because they know it wouldn’t bother you. Rather, they respect you for your openness and confide in you about similar issues they may be privately facing.

Learning how to laugh at yourself is not just a skill; it’s practically a superpower.

Practice effective coping mechanisms

If you’re feeling high strung on a regular basis, it’s important to know a few coping mechanisms for decreasing stress. These are techniques you can whip out any time you’re feeling a bit higher strung or more anxious than usual.

There are many options that work here, but my favorites are mindfulness meditations and breathwork.

Mindfulness meditations involve sitting quietly for 1-10 minutes and observing your thoughts. You may choose a focus object such as background noise, a visual object, or a mantra and try your best to keep your focus on that object.

Related: 17 Best Meditation Books

Any time your thoughts start to wander, you simply acknowledge the thought and let it pass, returning your focus back to your center. This may seem strange at first, but with repeated practice, it’s a great method for calming down.

Breathwork, on the other hand, involves actively regaining control of your breathing. For high strung individuals, you can have a tendency to “hold” your breath irregularly or even to over-breathe.

Take a few moments to regain a regular breathing pattern. To keep things simple, you may breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat this a few times, and it’s a great way to get your mind and body to relax.

Robert Herbst

Robert Herbst

Personal Trainer | Weight Loss and Wellness Expert, w8lifterusa

Be more confident in yourself and your abilities

Being high-strung is a symptom of being anxious. If you are confident and believe in yourself and your abilities, then nothing will bother you. You will go through life accomplishing things with steady competence.

One way to be confident is to be physically fit.

If you look fit and are in shape, you will be more confident around average people who are out of shape or obese. They will unconsciously defer to you because we are evolutionarily hardwired to respond to a more fit or alpha individual.

This deference will, in turn, feed your confidence. Knowing that you are fit will also make you act confident. If you can say do 50 push-ups or run a mile, it will show in your posture and demeanor, and people will respond to that body language.

Related: The 32 Best Books on Confidence and Self-Esteem

Also, if you have achieved that level of performance and developed the discipline and resilience it takes to reach that level, you will know deep down that you are capable of performing well.

Another way to be less high-strung is to be more mindful

While it is almost a cliché these days, another way to be less high-strung is to be more mindful. When anxiety hits, take a few deep breaths with slow exhalations and get centered again.

This will dampen the fight or flight reflex and lower your blood pressure as well as your level of the stress hormone cortisol, which makes one feel anxious.

The more you practice mindful breathing, the easier it will become to perform and to lower your anxiety during stressful situations and not let your anxiety get out of hand. You will be able to be a calm master of your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to be high-strung?

Being high-strung refers to a personality type or temperament characterized by an elevated level of stress, anxiety, or emotional reactivity. High-strung individuals are often more sensitive to their environment, and they may have a lower tolerance for stress or change. While this heightened sensitivity can make them perceptive and empathetic, it can also lead to challenges in managing their emotional well-being.

What are the common signs of being high-strung?

Easily stressed or overwhelmed: High-strung individuals are more prone to feeling stressed by everyday situations or changes, even if they seem minor to others.

Emotional reactivity: People who are high-strung might experience stronger emotional reactions, often in response to small triggers, such as a change in plans or a perceived slight.

Perfectionism: High-strung individuals often strive for perfection and can become frustrated when things don’t go according to their expectations.

Overthinking: They may have a tendency to ruminate on problems or situations, often creating more anxiety and stress for themselves.

Difficulty relaxing: High-strung individuals might find it challenging to unwind or let go of their concerns, even in their downtime.

What causes a person to be high-strung?

Genetics: Some people are naturally more high-strung due to their genetic makeup. They may inherit traits related to anxiety, stress reactivity, or emotional sensitivity.

Upbringing: A person’s upbringing and family environment can influence their temperament. Growing up in a high-stress, chaotic, or emotionally intense environment can contribute to developing a high-strung personality.

Life experiences: Traumatic or stressful events can also contribute to a high-strung temperament. These experiences may shape a person’s stress response and emotional reactivity.

Mental health: High-strung individuals may be more prone to anxiety disorders or other mental health challenges, further exacerbating their stress levels and emotional reactivity.

Personal beliefs and coping strategies: The way a person perceives and responds to stressors can affect their high-strung tendencies. Inadequate coping strategies or negative beliefs about themselves or their environment can make it difficult for them to manage stress effectively.

What are the negative effects of being high-strung?

Being high-strung can have some negative consequences on a person’s life, including:

Chronic stress: Continuously feeling stressed or overwhelmed can take a toll on both mental and physical health, potentially leading to issues like anxiety, depression, or even cardiovascular problems.

Relationship strain: High-strung individuals may struggle with interpersonal relationships due to heightened emotional reactivity, making it challenging to maintain healthy connections with others.

Reduced productivity: Overthinking and perfectionism can lead to procrastination or reduced efficiency, affecting personal and professional success.

Difficulty coping: People who are high-strung may have a harder time dealing with life’s challenges, leading to increased vulnerability to mental health issues.

Diminished quality of life: Constant worry and the inability to relax can hinder a person’s ability to enjoy life and experience pleasure in everyday activities.

Can therapy help me become less high-strung?

Yes! Therapy can be a valuable resource in helping you manage your high-strung tendencies. Through therapy, you can:

Develop self-awareness: Understanding your triggers, emotional responses, and thought patterns can help you recognize when you’re becoming overwhelmed, allowing you to take proactive steps to address stress.

Learn coping strategies: A therapist can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, or cognitive reframing, to better handle stress and anxiety.

Address underlying issues: If there are unresolved traumas, mental health challenges, or past experiences contributing to your high-strung nature, therapy can help you process and work through them.

Enhance communication skills: Therapy can also help you improve your interpersonal skills, allowing you to better navigate relationships and express your emotions more effectively.

Foster personal growth: With the support and guidance of a therapist, you can work towards personal growth and improved well-being, leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

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