7 Essential Stress Rules for HSP’s

by Caroline van Kimmenade

Simply put, stress happens when something is “too much”. When is something too much? It depends.

Too much for a 1 liter container is less than too much for a 5 liter container. As HSP’s, our inner containers tend to fill up more quickly. This is because we sense the world around us (and inside of us) more intensely, in more detail. More detail means more “megabytes” so to say. Hence, we tend to get overwhelmed and stressed more quickly than non-HSP’s.

Yet, we should remember that: 

One essential strategy is to rewire how we respond to stress.

Below are seven typical patterns to spot. When we’re stressed, our natural impulse is to “keep running”, but instead, we need to consciously take steps to calm down first. When our inner containers are bursting with undigested input, then we lack the focus and clarity needed to take smart decisions. In the same way that our gut needs time to digest food (and we can’t continually stuff ourselves) our brain also needs time to digest things. Hence, first things first: when you’re stressed, get some rest.

Here are some typical and sneaky stress reactions to be on the lookout for:

  1. When you feel there is no way you can take a break, that is a big indicator that you absolutely need and must take a break right now!
  2. When you feel that everything is important and must be done right away, that is an indicator that you need to regain your perspective FIRST before you go running around and get further stressed out (and unproductive).
  3. When your head is spinning, trying to find solutions to pressing problems, THAT is a sign that you need to stop trying for a bit and let all those stirred up things settle. Like shaking a snowglobe: you need to stop shaking for the flakes to settle. Similarly, when we’re stressed out and we keep searching for information or keep pondering something, we’re shaking those mind-flakes endlessly and it’s impossible for things to settle and clarify.
  4. When you’re putting yourself last in order to get stuff done or please others, THAT is a sign that you are stressed out and need some you-time. If you don’t take a break now, then there will always be someone around with an issue that seemingly needs addressing before you “can” take some time for yourself.
  5. When little things that you normally enjoy stop being enjoyable, THAT is a sign to slow down. You build energy through little pleasures. When the little pleasures become little burdens too, it’s a sure sign that you’re overburdened, and working harder isn’t going to help.
  6. When you tell yourself that you’ll do something nice for yourself when you have “achieved X” “finished Y” or “addressed C”…and you’re always saying that, then THAT is a sign that you’re stressed and need to put x,y and z aside and do something nice for yourself right now.
  7. When you tell yourself that things will be easier in a few months time: your schedule will open up, things won’t be as hectic, you’ll feel better, you’ll start prioritizing…then THAT is a sign that you are stressed. The future fixation is just a way to keep yourself going, and in three months’ time, you’ll be just as stressed and busy as you are right now, unless you do something about it right now!

To switch ¬†from a frantic runner’s pace, to a sudden gentle walk, is not really realistic most of the time. Slowing down happens a lot more naturally when we create a transition, some “inbetween” steps that help us unwind. More ideas on that here.


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