Stress and Personality

Stress is very personal as it depends on how you perceive events.  One of the factors that influences your perceptions is your personality.  Depending on your personality you may be more vulnerable to stress than some of your friends or colleagues.  It is important to understand this as many people wrongly think they are weak or at fault in some way because they feel stressed by something others appear to take in their stride.

There are in fact individuals who psychologists have termed ‘hardy’, because of their higher level of tolerance to stress.  A ‘hardy’ person has a particularly strong belief in their ability to control events, even when in reality they have limited control.  They also tend to believe that stability is unusual in life and that constant change is normal.  Having these kind of beliefs makes the ‘hardy’ individual more able to cope with excessive pressure and higher than normal levels of uncertainty.

Another personality type classification is the A and B personality.  Type As tend to have less patience than Type Bs and as a result appear to be more ambitious and competitive.  Type Bs on the other hand are much more laid back and accordingly tend to suffer less from stress.  For many years it was wrongly thought that you had to have a Type A personality to be a high achiever.  However, modern thinking is that the Type B personality has an advantage over the Type A personality.

The reason for this is that whilst Type Bs are more laid back, they do still get the job done, and because they are in less of a rush they create less stress for themselves and others.  Type Bs also tend to be more ‘emotionally intelligent’ than Type Bs which makes them better managers and leaders.

Bad habits can be changed

While there may be some aspects of your personality that are inherited, it is possible to take action to change your negative thinking habits.  For whatever reason some of us can’t resist being pessimistic, we always see the glass as being half-empty as opposed to seeing it half-full.  This is not healthy however, and makes you more likely to suffer from stress than if you had a more optimistic view of life.  Most of us, if we have a good enough reason, can change unhealthy habits such as smoking if we are motivated enough to do so.

The key to changing any habit is to be sufficiently motivated to do so.  For example, hostility is typical Type A personality behavior.  Unfortunately hostility raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart attacks.  The 50% of people who survive their first heart attack soon recognize that having a hostile personality could end up killing them.  Such knowledge usually provides them with sufficient motivation to change a long-term damaging habit.  Regardless of events and circumstances they decide that they will not respond in a hostile manner.  This is good all round as they find they can solve problems quicker, create less stress for themselves and those around them, and stop endangering their long-term health.

If you are aware of habits you have that cause you unnecessary stress, focus on the benefits of changing or stopping these habits.