Who We Are and How We Stress

Updated: Oct 8

Have you ever had one of those days (weeks, or months…) when you feel like it’s one step forward and two steps back? It can be so frustrating and confusing, leaving you wondering, “why isn’t life working for me??” Sometimes just when it feels like progress is being made we suddenly find ourselves back at square one, feeling frustrated and defeated. It is in these moments we have 2 choices, to rise up and meet challenge head on or to through our hands up and say “I give up!” What determines the response? Surprisingly many things, from our personality type to the environment we live in. While you may think that means you are either blessed or doomed, the good news is we have the ability to change and adapt a healthier perspective. Let’s explore!

Factors and considerations that shape how we see, feel and respond to stressors:

Environment. Do you have a support system? Are you able to recognize available solutions and resources? Are you stuck in the now or able to see the bigger picture?

Inner self. What are your strengths? How do you problem solve? Are you creative or a black and white thinker? Do you have confidence in your abilities? Do you recognize what is within vs. outside of your control?

Healthy coping mechanisms. What are your pastimes and/or hobbies? Do you engage in regular physical activity? Do you utilize a mindful practice (such as journaling, meditation or deep breathing exercises) that enable you to decompress, regroup, refocus and recharge? Do you seek out solutions? Do you turn it over to a higher power?

Now don’t misunderstand, it is only natural to feel an initial jot of, "ugh, why me?" or"why now?" and even, "I can't handle this right now!" when faced with big time stress. We are only human after all! However, it is how we choose to proceed after that initial response that determines how efficiently and effectively we will manage the problem and it’s potential influence to our health and well-being. Perhaps you have heard about the different personality types; Type A, Type D, Co-Dependent, Helpless-Hopeless, Hardy, and Survivor. Each of these personality types have their own set of unique traits and those qualities can make them more or less susceptible to negative influences of stress.

Personality types

Type A is typically concerned about time, constantly multi-tasking, ultra competitive, speaking quickly, loves control, and can be hyper aggressive.

Type D is associated with depression and high anxiety.

Co-Dependent is often thought of as the addictive personality due to their attention seeking, perfectionist, over achieving, rush to manage a crisis, devoted loyalty, self-sacrificing, manipulative, and over reacting ways.

Helpless-Hopeless tends to be driven by low self-esteem, fear of failure, poor motivation, emotional or cognitive dysfunction that leads to a distorted view of their abilities.

Hardy typically shows high levels of commitment to themselves, their work, and their family, has a great deal of self control, and sees challenges as adventures and opportunities for growth.

Survivor typically displays optimism, creative problem solving, acceptance, faith, and organizational skills.

Do you see your personality type somewhere in there? You might even recognize a few traits from more than one personality type. Whatever type you most identify with, it doesn’t mean it's all sunshine and flowers or all gloom and doom. It simply supplies you with the knowledge and a greater understanding of likely responses. The good news is we all have the ability to change our perspective and apply this knowledge in constructive and meaningful ways.

Now that you have the knowledge, it is up to you to decide how you will approach, interpret and manage stress. For example, have you ever trained an animal, taken care of a toddler, discipline a teenager, or had to figure out how to communicate with someone very different than you? Many of us practice redirecting and reframing behaviors every day and don’t even realize it! We typically use these skills at work, at home, and in our personal lives every day, yet when it comes to applying these same concepts to ourselves, we can feel challenged. How can you apply these tools in ways that empower your ability to healthfully move through stress? One step at a time. As you begin to implement healthy coping techniques you will provide yourself with opportunities to more healthfully manage stress, build confidence in your ability to efficiently and effectively problem solve and minimize negative impacts to your health.

Bottom line - if what you're doing isn’t working for you, then it isn’t working for you! Most of us are the way we are as a result of our experiences and environments, however we are not stuck there. We all have the opportunity to grow, develop and evolve as our life and needs change. We can appreciate new perspective, discover new approaches and hone in on strengths and skills. Whether you choose to see a problem as a challenge, adventure, or problem solving opportunity is completely up to you...and that is empowering! Choose to be grateful for challenge and the life lessons it may bring, for every struggle has the ability to offer us a reminder of our strengths, to discover our resiliency, be humbled and grateful, and choose compassion.

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