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.

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