Stress from a Perfectionist’s Perspective

This article, unlike others, is going to be focused more on the mindset behind stress rather than an endless list of what to do to overcome it because being honest is how we own our emotions and progress.

As this is my first blog post, I decided to write about something I’m currently feeling. I’m presuming that if you clicked on this you are one of the following:

  1. Stressed
  2. A perfectionist
  3. A stressed perfectionist
  4. My mum

Either way, you’re probably a little stressed. If you’re like me (and like reading how other people struggle) then you probably have stumbled across countless tips and sayings to overcomes stress. However, the tips are repetitive and the sayings are often a little passive (or a little shallow to how I actually feel). So, I’ve decided to develop common sayings for fellow stressed perfectionists…

Number 1: ‘It is absolutely normal to feel anxiety…’My anxiety and how I process is absolutely okay…

My personal experiences from the two schools that I have been to, which were comically bipolar (despite being across the road from each other), taught me this lesson. I’ll try and restrict myself to only speaking about attitudes to learning from these two schools which, honestly, were iconic enough.

In School 1, an all-girls school, I remember waiting outside the ‘special’ room (hell yes to dyslexia) for my GCSE’s and one girl in the corner having a panic attack. Another girl doing her robotic voice reciting all the poems backwards for our Maths GCSE. And finally, a girl looking like she needed much needed sleep and an injection of serotonin. (I am girl. Girl is me).

In School 2, a predominantly all boys school, I remember leaving one of my A level exams and asking if everyone felt okay. This guy (and I still can’t get over this) shrugged, said that he only answered two of the four questions and walked away laughing to himself. I really can’t remember how he did, but he’s at university so it all worked out. But my god. The bafflement.

The point is, even though some people may differ in anxiety levels about the things that you stress about doesn’t mean your feelings are inadequate. You could be my friend going up the wall because she wrote about Macbeth when the play, we actually studied was Romeo and Juliet or the one who decided to only revise 50% of the material and take a gamble. You are allowed to feel stressed. You are allowed to process that anxiety in any coping mechanism that you deem necessary: even if it is crying, eating, napping, watching TV, eating, ranting or hitting up spoons.

Number Two: ‘Stress is good for you…’Let’s be real the only good part is the adrenaline rush that you get after crying for 2 hours.

At university, I’ve met such a range of people who stress from unbelievable varying degrees: whether that’s not getting a first in their first paper, or if it’s because they dropped their VK for the second time in a row. For me, it is important to get across the message that all feelings are valid (especially when you’ve dropped  drink in the club) and to recognise that there are unknown negative impacts on people who suffer from anxiety (like having to buy 3 new drinks just to get to the £5 minimum card). Overall though, I am a strong believer that the adrenaline caused from anxiety is not necessarily bad. However, I am going to refrain from using ‘stress’ but rather ‘nervous energy’. Because, Karen mate, getting grey hairs at 13 is definitely not ‘good’ for me. However, this ‘nervous energy ‘that I’m discussing is what you get when you sit an exam, before a sports match or even a music exam. I believe that there is a process of using this energy and putting it to good use. 

I once said to my mum that for me anxiety is like a sea-wave. As it draws back it has all this tension (anxiety) creating more and more anxiety the further it pulls back. If it pulls back too far then it creates a tsunami (an anxiety attack). But when the wave is released – this ‘nervous energy’ has so much adrenaline in it. That adrenaline gives me the urge to do anything:  cook my dinner… (the much needed) practice of Japanese … create a blog…. Anyway, the point is that this adrenaline can be put to good use. Because when you can do, you can also progress.

This ‘putting to good use’ is subjective, I understand. But it’s a skill I have been focusing on for the last couple of years. I try and use this outlet to allow myself to do the following:

  1. Remove problematic distractions. Create helpful solutions.
    • Remove or immediately stop doing the things that causes undue stress.
    • Create a mind-picture: jot down everything that is coming to your head. Once you’ve written it down. Let. It. Go.
  2. Take a breath
    • Mindfulness. I cannot stress this enough. Whether it is some boujee sound clips from Spotify. Or a guided 5 min meditation.
  3. Break it down.
    • A little bit like the mind-picture, you can’t possibly believe revising 13 chapters is doable in one go. Break that down into chapters. Break that down further into themes/characters/pages.
  4. Create confidence.
    • Fuck the ‘believe in yourself’ because this will not happen overnight.
    • ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ however it has some truth value.
    • ‘If you smile for long enough’ yet again does hold some truth value.
    • But really what these sayings are doing is try and exert a confidence that shows that you are the boss of your own mind and body. Because you are. Saying ‘you can, and you will’ with little hope is more likely to create self-believe then ‘I can’t’.

Overall, I feel that stress is an increasingly more understood topic within a small group of people because it is so subjective. It is so personal. It can be incredibly difficult to create a conversation about it in a light-hearted manner without bringing up personal stories. However, my intention is to not only let non-stressed out people understand but mainly to try and help like-minded people not feel pressured into thinking there is a correct way of processing stress or that they are being overly emotional. Because I believe the depths of feeling frustration at yourself cannot be properly understood and become too much of a personal topic to talk about. However, this is a way of reaching out and saying – your feelings are adequate and how you process it is good enough. We can use the nervous energy for our own advantage and empower ourselves to come together and move together.


Published by lizziemurrayxo

I am a BA linguistics undergraduate at Newcastle University. I am a tutor and absolutely love talking. Education is power

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