in·ter·mis·sion — stress awareness month

April is stress awareness month. I’ve been planning and planning — in my head — on how to incorporate that into my life and blog. I wanted to make a little something that would help me, and maybe any other person, to be more conscious of (my) time and life and energy. It’s been two years since I’ve put some thought into stress awareness month, and that was the last time I blogged about it. Isn’t that ironic, huh?

Another thing that has been a while, is pouring my soul into a blog again. The scarce Japan-blogs have a hint of that sparkle in there — only if that’s mostly because I felt a lot when I took the pictures during my travels in Japan. I want to make this work. Whatever this is. So bear with me… here is that little something. Maybe as an ode to stress-awareness and how it shouldn’t be just a month, but a continuous thing.

Let’s first do a round of confessions. First, this post feels very egocentric (sorry about that). Second, I am a perfectionist. There, I said it.

Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Phew, it’s good to get that off my chest. I’ve been under the impression (and maybe still am) that ‘perfectionism’ or being a ‘perfectionist’ is bad and it feels like a bad word. I am fully aware that perfect does not exist. I’m even convinced we are all perfectly imperfect. So it was a bit of a blow in the face when I was told that I am a perfectionist.

One of the first things my new employer let me do, was this little personality test so they can see what kind of personality I may be categorised in with, specifically in work environments (the DISC-assesment). And then and there they bluntly told me: “Your personality type is the perfectionist. Now of course you don’t have to be a perfectionist to fall under this type, but here are a few questions we have after we’ve done that test so we can establish your performance in a workspace.” –or something along those lines.

It finally dawned on me, all that time I’ve been telling myself off for really silly things, actually really did stem from something real. And that it’s something that I should deal with, and maybe not everybody else but I’m also most definitely not alone in this.

Why, you may be thinking, is this important to this stress-awarenss stuff you’re on about? You see, I am a very stressed-out person. I have to actively practice to relax. And being bored is something I feel I cannot afford. So here’s the thing… I need to become aware of stress – and how to deal with it. I get a lot of the side-effects from stress, like any other person. But I just don’t acknowledge it because I feel it’s not a priority. I know there’s nothing wrong with me, nobody is wired wrong. But I know that I need to become aware so I can try to acknowledge it, see the signs, deal with it and live my best life possible.

Now then, did you know that stress awareness month ‘started’ in 1992? It’s the same year that I was born in. And somehow it made me feel a bit icky — yet it was a comforting thought. Another confession: I found out at the beginning of this month — after almost 25 years of venturing on this earth — that I might identify as an “HSP”, a highly sensitive person. Also known as: sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait, a high measure of which defines a highly sensitive person.

To be honest, I felt a bit insulted when my sister first coined the term a few weeks ago. It felt weird to be labelled so straightforwardly with something unfamiliar. I don’t like to label myself because I don’t like boxes and labels as they confuse the hell out of me (people can’t be put into boxes imo). I’ve read into and and talked to a friend whose therapist suggested she might be HSP. A world has opened to me and it explains so much.

As I’m still new to this term, and maybe you are too, I figured it’d be nice to put down a few things that I found out so far and share them. I feel that my stress is induced by impulses from the “outside world”, these translate very heavily onto my brain/person and are making me really tired. A bit like, mentally exhausted. Which then made me wonder if I’m doing life correctly…which doesn’t really go well with me being a perfectionist.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS, HSP, or Highly Sensitive Person) is not a condition, a disorder, or a diagnosis. It is a normal trait found in about 20% if the population and many non-human species as well. It is a survival advantage in some situations and not in others. Their survival strategy is to process information (stimuli) more thoroughly than others do, for which there is considerable evidence. This can certainly lead to overstimulation and possibly efforts to protect one’s self against that.

Further, HSPs process stimuli in a highly organized, big picture way, which includes awareness of nuances and subtleties that others might not notice. Again, at times, HSPs can become extremely overstimulated by the sheer amount of information they may be asked to process. (source)

There’s this woman, Elaine Aron, who is basically the big researcher who coined the phrase ‘highly sensitive person’. And she writes on her website (and in her books) that this trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. I quote:

Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy.” But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extroverts, although the trait is often mislabelled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.

You can imagine that her book is high on my ‘to-read’ list. As I’ve finally found something that explains a lot of my feelings, emotions and way of experiencing life. And it’s great to see how people ‘do this’ and help you get a grip on things. One of the things that a lot of people have been telling me in the last week is that becoming aware is the first step. And now we’re taking baby-steps. Not with eradicating stress out of my life, because stress really also is important at times, but to handle stress better.

I’m not sure on where all this might lead to. But I think as to ‘stress awareness month’ and finding out my sources of stress and sharing some of the things online helps me with creating that awareness for myself. Putting my thoughts and feelings into words is not really my forte but practice makes perfect…says the girl with the blog.

As I’ve written this, and discovered this about myself… I would like to ask something of you. How do you deal with stress, and are you aware of what induces stress in your life? How are you able to cope with it?


*I’ve written this post for myself. But as this is my blog I wanted to share this and include this so I can look back onto it. Life isn’t only about the happy times. Even though this blog is kind of my happy place, I feel like it should reflect on how I feel. As it has been my outlet for a long time already.

  • I didn’t know it was stress awareness month!

    In our action packed lifestyles, it’s important to acknowedge stressors and appropriate ways of dealing with them. It’s shocking how much of a toll it can take on your physical body. I like adding little things to the end of my day to destress: lighting a candle and playing music while I shower, indulging in skin care, a good meal, a night in.

    • Yes, yes, yes! You sound like you’ve got your stress-situation better under control than I have. But it’s so good that you actually allow yourself those “simple pleasures” to destress. I somehow always feel a bit guilty when I do.

  • Elise

    Oh, how good to ‘celebrate’ stress awareness month! I think it’s very good of you to become concious of stress and how to deal with it. Just as Alyse said, it’s super importat to acknowledge stressors and know to deal with them. It’s crazy to think how much our lives have change since the age of the internet.
    We call self care indulgent, while just less then decades ago we had afternoons where we couldn’t really talk to anybody if we didn’t leave the house. Even time to relax is, how to said, time we feel like we’re wasting because productivity comes first.
    Take care!!

    • Agreed! Self care is so so so important! I feel a bit ‘vain’ and ‘silly’ when I do ‘induldge’ on self care. Even though I know that’s all bullshit.

  • I think we’re quite similar in this way Louise – I get really really stressed way too easily. It usually helps me get things done, but lately it’s starting to give me physical symptoms so obviously I’m not dealing with it well. I haven’t heard about HSP before – I know people don’t like labels, but I actually find them useful in a way when it comes to understanding myself – you don’t have to feel like you need to fit into every part of the description! Anyway, I’m not very good at coping with stress, haha.

    • Yes, I think I’ve come to learn that labels can be very useful sometimes. And I should pay more attention to them. I’m afraid that I would ‘hide’ behind a label once I give myself one like: “Oh, I’m this and this so I’m not even trying to do that and that!”. But I guess that too is related to awareness and dealing with life while knowing what to be mindful of with yourself. And indeed, not trying or thinking you have to fit into every part of the description.

      And it’s good that you’re aware of it now. Now we only have to find a way to learn to be better with coping. :)

  • Let me guess, are you a C in the DISC profile? I am a SC. I can relate to this post so much especially the HSP which is something i discovered a few years ago during one of my late night Googling sessions.

    I think the most important things is to be aware of your triggers or the very least when you are feeling stressed. I am naturally quite a highly strung person and what has worked for me (depending on the situation) has been to physically write things out (when i am overwhelmed with work) or actually talk out loud to myself. Yes i sound like a crazy person, but I actually talk to myself, almost like a pep talk. The thing is, i know when i am stressed that it is 99% of the time irrational so i try to get my rational side dominate my thoughts.

    Nat / Dignifiable​

    • Ha! Yes! I’m a very high C with S tendencies. And yes, I feel triggers are more and more a thing that I am becoming aware off – now that I know more about myself and can read more into the ‘signs’ other people with similar personality traits see as triggers.

      But yes, talking out loud to yourself is bloody helpful! It’s interesting you say you try to get your rational side to dominate you thoughts, but how do you do that? And don’t you feel like you’re telling yourself off? Or is that the talk-out-loud-to-yourself-peptalk that does the trick?

      • I suppose I am telling myself off in a way. My inner voice is actually super critical, negative and really harsh. And they always say you should talk / treat yourself just like you would a friend. If I was to treat a friend the way that I automatically treat myself at times then lol, I don’t think I would have any friends at all. I suppose it is something I am aware of, but I can’t really shake the automatic voice away and the talking out loud helps to calm me down a little. Does that make sense?

  • funny that in this stress-awareness month i’ve been feeling hella stressed, and at one point contemplated suicide. i have always been stressed throughout my life despite a lot of people telling that i’m not because of my happy-go-lucky image. i just never let it get into me for more than a day or two, but that doesn’t mean that i never gave up under some past incidents i wished i could change. oh man. a lot. i broke once or twice. cried — i cried a lot in my younger days. i have fully accepted myself as someone that’s prone to stress and beat myself a little too much over it. not too mention i have this condition called ‘noisy brain’ in which i can’t stop thinking about everything and second guess literally everything. things are overwhelming and i have accepted it as it’s just the way i am.

    i don’t really identify myself as HSP though a friend who is a shrink diagnosed me as one for once. as an INFP, i’ve been aware that i sensed everything too highly. everything is dialed to 11 and everything is loud, bright, and vivid. it’s definitely a baggage (thus i hate extra baggage) but i try not to stress about it. i try to find joy in little things. think of happy times. eat and eat and eat. i emphasize on trying not to stress about it because once i stressed about it, i won’t let it go. it will forever be a giant boulder that stopped my track and i will try my darndest to move it instead of just circling around. it’s a very bad habit of mine and i hate myself for it.

    but, in all, i think realizing and owning your stress are the first and foremost way, before everything. i wrote a lot in my monthly-weekly recap about my lows, that’s how i acknowledge that i have stress, and not be ashamed about it — albeit i don’t really reveal what’s it about. oftentimes after i wrote them down, they will evaporate just like that or at least become a bit lighter. you know that sometimes you only need a place to vent instead of trying to find solution. that’s what my blog is for. my blog is highly personal one because of that. i know internet somewhat forbid negativity (and i’m struggling whether i would continue to post highs and lows in the future) but owning your mental problems should be on the spotlight more often. the more people talk about it, more people could be helped into the light. and that should be encouraged. i really appreciate your honesty, for opening up about what’s bugging you, what’s weighing you down. sorry that you’ve been struggling a lot with things :( i wish i could offer an actual hug. and props, mad props for the courage to share it with me, with others on the net :) i hope as days go by, you find more about yourself, louise. and that you can find peace and joy but also acknowledging that stress and despair will always lurk in the corner, but you will have nothing to be ashamed or hide about. to be finally you.

    *sorry it has gotten so long T^T but i resonate with this post so so much!

    • Oh Tannya! Words in a comment cannot do justice to everything I want to say to you. I’m so sad and happy to read your comment. Not at all because it’s long (I love that it’s long!). But because it’s such a sad truth that at the same time comforts me to be me. I’m so so so so so happy that you’re still here to comment on my blog — and even though that may sound a bit shitty but it’s true. I’m so happy you’re here. And it saddens me to think you might not have been here anymore.

      I know it’s a bit dark to think about but, is it strange that I sometimes think about things like: what would happen if tomorrow I would get into an accident and I wouldn’t survive. Would anybody who reads my blog ever find out? I would want to know if someone whose blog I’ve been following for years was suddenly not there anymore. But how?

      Oh Tannya, I don’t think I can say a lot to you that would help, because I see you as a really intelligent woman who already knows how to deal with the things she has to deal with in some way or other. But if there’s anything I can say is, pleeease. Don’t give up on the silver lining. I know it’s damn hard. I used to think that “life sucks and then you die”. And I still have periods like that. But it gets better…sometimes? And I know that I’m living for those moments where it does get better.

      I adore your highs and lows, but I guess I see how you also struggle with them. To me it seems a therapeutic thing to do, but also hard to look back on.

      Anyway, these are all kinds of words that got out of my brain in a bit of a jumble. Expect a little e-mail in your mailbox soon as I feel like I want to write so much more to you. :)
      Thanks for your amazing comment.

      • oh sweet sweet louise T_____T i’m so sorry if you’re under impression that i forgot to check up on you lately. my march had been shitty and it bled into april. i’m still struggling to find my footing and trying to find out what to do, who to turn to, and in the process, forgetting things that made me happy, including looking at your lovely lovely blog. THE NEW LAYOUT IS SO BEAUTIFUUUULLL <3 very springlike, and i love everything. also, welcome to the hague! i'm sure there'll be tons of new, different things you'll see in your new life there. wishing you nothing but the best!

        i'm sorry that my comment was all over the place. because there's so much i want to say, and yet my brain misfired a lot. sending mixed messages. but i want you to know that we are not different. you and me. we struggled. we have highs, we have lows. and we are real, or at least progressing there. i hope your days are brighter over there and you only encounter things that make your life meaningful and lovely and precious. thank yo so much for your kind words. i will remember and treasure them forever <3

        i will expect a long ass e-mail in the immediate future! and do expect a longer ass reply in the future too! <333