High Strung Personality: Definition, Signs & How to Relax More

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While sitting at the vets recently, I had a discussion with a fellow pet owner about her high-strung dog and what signs the pup had that indicated she was excitable and reactive.

As we looked at the whippet puppy salivating over the people in the waiting room, I wondered how wonderful it would be if we had a chart to tell us exactly how high-strung people could be identified

A high strung personality may not be the same as a dog’s breed characteristics, but there are a few signs and ways to spot when someone is high-strung and excitable. 

So, while you can’t put a choker or harness on a highly excitable person (like you do on a high-strung puppy), you can learn how to spot signs and relax more. Find a comfortable space, and let’s get into it.  

What Is a High-Strung Personality? 

Being high-strung is when you are sensitive to the world around you, but instead of thinking, interpreting, and then choosing mindful action, you just react instead. 

It’s a little like when you tune a violin (or any string instrument), and if you tighten the pegs too much, the strings can snap or damage the body of the instrument. There’s a very fine line on how much to tighten the strings before they go from being taut and producing the perfect sound to damaging the instrument. 

Strings that are tightened for the perfect note may snap when pulled even a little too much. People are the same

Someone who is very creative may be exceptional at their tasks, but when the pressure is tightened too much, they snap and end up damaging the situation.

Environmental stress, people, pressure to perform, and more can all add up to fray your strings (or feelings) and cause you to snap, resulting in anger, terror, hysteria, and more. 

A high-strung person may not have the emotional stamina to manage situations that pragmatic people manage with ease.

Ironically, a high-strung person is often characterized by perfectionist tendencies, which just adds more pressure. These people are incredibly driven, often set unrealistic goals, and push themselves to meet ridiculously high standards

The result is a person who’s on the verge of a breakdown at all times, like the whippet puppy that drooled all over the floor because it felt so overwhelmed by all the people who wanted to touch it. Its anxiety was typical of a highly strung canine. 

Likewise, people who are high-strung also verge on mental and emotional collapse, which increases anxiety, increases the tension on their emotional string, and forms a cycle of disaster. When the pressure is too much, they snap.

Causes of a High-Strung Personality

Are you born with it, or is it “maybe learned?” There are a few causes of a high-strung personality. 

If you are high-strung or have high-strung tendencies, you are influenced by:

1. Genetics

Your genes may influence your predilection to anxiety, reactivity, and different types of stress. 

2. Nurture

Your home and family circles create an environment that may result in you developing a high-strung personality. It becomes your default setting, even if you are genetically predisposed to being more calm.

Your fuse becomes short because you have learned to react and not act.

3. What You’ve Been Through

Our lives write the book of who we are via the events we experience. So if you've experienced substantial trauma and stress, your defensive instinct is quickly triggered, which results in being high-strung. 

4. Mental Health

Anxiety disorders create a high-strung nature, while being high-strung further makes for an anxious mental state. With certain mental health conditions, you are sure to be more emotionally reactive. 

5. What You Believe and How You Cope

Our beliefs influence how well we cope in stressful situations. If you haven’t developed healthy coping strategies, you will hinge toward being more high-strung and reactive. 

7 Signs that You Have a High-Strung Personality 

Being high-strung comes with a couple of signs that people can watch out for, but these signs also help you realize when you’re about to lose control and become reactive.

These signs may not be as dramatic as the earthquakes that precede a volcanic eruption, but the end result is the same, if you don’t take steps to relax more

To start, here are the basic signs that indicate you are high-strung and likely to erupt. 

1. Quickly Stressed 

If you go from calm to losing your mind with stress in 0 to 9 seconds, you are a high-strung person. Even minor issues completely freak you out. You are the proverbial “make a mountain out of molehill” person.

Since you also expect the worst to happen, you are already “ready” for disaster to strike, which heightens your resting tension levels.

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Hysterical screaming, crying, swearing, and trying to physically fight someone are all examples of how you pop and react. 

Before the race even starts, you’re out of the starting gate, expecting the worst. You don’t run just because of events right now, you are running from what happened in the past too. 

Being stressed all the time quickly drains away your self-control, which leads to outbursts and even psychological and physical illness.

A sign of being a stressed high-strung person is health challenges like inflammation, ulcers, and respiratory conditions, such as asthma. 

2. Can’t Relax and Let Go

Being able to relax is what helps you defuse tension and unwind from stress. Experiencing difficulty in relaxing is a clear sign that you’re high-strung.

In fact, you probably think the idea of “relaxing and kicking back” is a waste of time. After all, you’re stressed enough already without “losing time,” right?

The result is that you’re probably always doing stuff, and just sitting breathing is enough to drive you into a bout of anxiety. Your anxiety levels constantly spike, especially when you are forced to do nothing, such as during meetings or at social engagements.  

3. You Snap, Crackle, and Pop

In a way, you’re like a puffed rice grain, and when you get hit by milk (aka the day’s tension), you simply snap, crackle, and pop. There’s no stopping it, you just lose it, and you become reactive

Oh boy, do you pop! 

Even the slightest insult or perceived trigger is enough to send you off the bat with a serious over-reaction. Hysterical screaming, crying, swearing, and trying to physically fight someone are all examples of how you pop and react. 

While you may seem quite mad, it’s often because you care so much about the things you’re doing that you react so suddenly when that which you love is being threatened.

Your snapping isn’t always malicious, and often, it’s because you carry more responsibility than you should, such as arranging a huge social gathering, catering to a small army, or needing to decorate a venue for a friend’s wedding. 

When you calm down a little, you show a remarkable ability to empathize with others. You snap, but you also show incredible empathy to others. 

4. Mad Rush

When you’re a high-strung person, you are always rushing everywhere. Since you carry too much responsibility, you always have things to do, so you rush about, trying not to lose your sanity, but meet your deadlines

Your awareness of time is as sharp as a knife, which is why it cuts you to be late or to run behind schedule. Feeling so rushed means you get intense and become hypersensitive about little details.  

5. Perfection Problems

“It has to be perfect,” says the little voice in your head, urging you to keep pushing and exceeding any reasonable expectations.

Perfectionism is an exercise in futility, as we’re all flawed (which is actually where our beauty comes from), but you believe you have to be perfect. 

The quest for perfection can literally drive people mad. You keep trying to be better, never satisfied with who or what you are.

Setting up such massive expectations is a recipe for disaster, and when you realize you’re not perfect, it leads to more emotional fireworks

6. Chewing It Over in Your Sleep

While the rest of the world is snoozing away, your mind is busy rerunning events (some even happened years ago) when you should be sleeping.

High-strung personalities and insomnia walk hand-in-hand. Your stress levels are so high that you can’t relax enough to sleep. 

You have such an anxious nature that you are busy fighting, arguing, and ruminating when you sleep, which causes insomnia and bad sleep patterns.

7. Your Goals Are Fixed

Reality means that you adjust your goals to achieve the best result. However, when you are super anxious and highly strung, your goals don’t flex at all, which causes further anxiety and tension.

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While the rest of the world is snoozing away, your mind is busy rerunning events when you should be sleeping.

High-strung people are so inflexible that they often cause needless suffering because they won’t compromise. 

Since they want to be perfect (one of their goals), they hold themselves to their own standard of excellence, which is often unattainable. The result? More anxiety, tension, and reactivity

How to Relax More When You Are High-Strung: An Action Plan 

Being high-strung is how you are, and it can help you achieve your goals, solve problems like a boss and get a lot done… but there are a few negative consequences too (as you are likely aware). 

As a high-strung person, you may be chronically stressed and unable to relax, which impacts your quality of life and places strain on your relationships.

Your perfectionistic and overthinking tendencies can also result in procrastinating being your best friend, and this reduces your productivity.

So what now? 

The great news is that you can learn to relax, but understand that it’s something you need to be mindful of and constantly work at

Here’s a step-by-step action plan to get you more chilled: 

Step 1: What Kind of High-Strung Are You & Does Your Lifestyle Add to Your Stressors? 

Being high-strung isn’t a one-size-fits-all personality since there are different ways that being high-strung manifests. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Do I have a short fuse? How quickly do I lose my temper
  • Do I feel anxious all the time and like a panic attack is imminent? 
  • Is it the tiny things that “break the camel’s back”? Do I get agitated and worked up about the smallest of details? 
  • Do I jump out of my skin and overreact because of sudden movement or even soft but unexpected sounds? 
  • Am I a high energy bunny who doesn’t tire out easily (or at all)? Do I have way more energy than I know what to do with? 
  • Am I loud and talk fast? How often do people ask me to use my inside voice, to talk slower, and to tone it down? 

Once you understand in which ways you are high-strung, you can focus on calming the heck down in those specific areas.  

Of course, there’s also a benefit to identifying if there are specific stressors in your life that’s making you high-strung. 

Do you work in a toxic environment with a narcissistic boss, so you feel like you need to constantly walk on eggshells? And then when you get home, your nerves are totally fried?

What else is causing excitement or anxiety in your life that causes you to react instead of act?  

Once you know, you can work on eliminating or reducing those stressors to lead a calmer life

Step 2: Reciprocate the Energy around You 

Mirroring your environment and others around you can also help you relax and calm your high-strung tendencies.

For example, if you are in church or at a funeral, there’s a quieter energy compared to being at a party or networking event. 

So when you are in different environments, reciprocate the energy of the event and your family members, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances.

This means you need to modulate the energy or vibes you give off and also adjust your body language, how you speak, and your overall behavior. 

Imagine if the roles are reversed. You are the calm, reserved person and your colleague (with whom you share an office) is the high-strung one.

How would you feel sharing a space with a whirling, twirling Tasmanian Devil who’s high on crack? (Not literally high, but the energy they give off is on a next level). 

That’s how others around you feel when you overreact – because of anxiety or excitement.  

Step 3: Create Positive Coping Mechanisms

Tone down your energy and high-strung nature by including positive coping mechanisms in your daily life. When you feel anxious or excited, focus on

  • Healthy self-talk and positive affirmations  
  • Meditation, like the 5 senses meditation  
  • Breathwork, which helps refocus your attention and energy to something healthy, vital, and tangible 
  • Grounding (or earthing) so you can soak up the natural electric charge in nature to help calm and ground you
  • Exercise to get rid of pent up energy and release feel-good hormones
  • Self-care to love yourself, and practice self-kindness and compassion so you can more freely give yourself space to relax
  • Mindfulness to be aware of when and why you are high-strung and focus on taking a breath, releasing high-strung energy, and being more chilled 

Step 4: Learn to Laugh at Yourself  

When you have a high-strung personality, you are quite serious. You don’t easily (or ever) find the humor in a situation and you never laugh at yourself. 

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Exercise to get rid of pent up energy and release feel-good hormones

When you learn to laugh at yourself, you actually empower yourself. You own your mistakes, embarrassing situations, awkwardness, and your authentic self – who is flawed but perfectly imperfect. 

To laugh at yourself: 

  • Develop self-deprecating humor (but don’t run yourself down)
  • Learn who you are and practice self-acceptance 
  • Be humble

Step 5: Seek Professional Help 

While these steps to help you calm down are a good starting point, you may not be unable to calm down.

Perhaps there are past traumas that you have to deal with, or maybe you are going through deep waters at the moment, making it impossible to see the light of day, much less learn to laugh at yourself and implement healthy coping strategies. 

There is no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional who can help you uncover why you are high-strung and develop ways to deal with that.

You may need someone to hold your hand while you are on this journey to unlearn high-strung behaviors – and that’s 110% okay. 

Rather ask and get help when you need it. 

Final Thoughts about Having a High Strung Personality 

Being a high-strung personality type person isn’t easy. It may seem like you’re the only serious one in the world, and that everyone is against you. However, you’re seeing things from a tainted perspective because you are thinking reactively instead of seeing actively. 

So stop, pause, notice the signs of being a highly-tensed individual, and make the decision to empower yourself toward change.

You can change, you don’t have to be perfect, and you are enough. Need more help to calm down? Then learn about the 3-3-3 rule to calm your anxiety.

And if you're looking for more articles about different personality types, be sure to check out these blog posts:

Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.

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