Stress can be seen as our body’s way of responding to threats or demands. These demands could be imposed on us by ourselves or by others. We could also impose demands on others, and feel stressed when things are not done properly. Factors such as unrealistic expectations, uncertainties and changes can contribute towards stress. Of the different stress triggers, work is steadily becoming one of the biggest sources of stress in today’s modern society.
When his company was going through a re-structuring process, a client – Keith (not his real name) – got increasingly concerned about his job security. Thoughts about becoming unemployed, and remaining unemployed, flooded his mind. Being the sole bread-winner of his young family, he could not afford to go without an income. Furthermore, he had grown to love the work he was doing. Keith eventually remained in the company, albeit with an increased workload – he was given additional duties which were previously managed by colleagues who had left. Determined not to drop the ball, Keith devoted more time and energy at work. Sleep and leisure became a luxury. In the little time he had with his family, his mind was constantly stressed about work. On the verge of a burnout, Keith knew he had to start making changes to his hectic lifestyle.
You see, stress can be positive or negative, depending on the situation. Moderately stressful events can be good for us. They keep our brains more alert, making us perform better. Our brains respond by adapting and growing. On the other hand, negative stress, like what Keith was experiencing, can make us overwhelmed and distressed, leading to health problems and exhaustion.
Stressful situations are part and parcel of work (and life!). While external events can cause us stress, the stress can be induced by our own mental perception of those events. Thus, the same event experienced by different persons can result in very different responses. For example, when tasked by a boss to make a public presentation, the employee who sees it as a growth opportunity might spend extra time preparing and rehearsing, while another who perceives it as fearful or embarrassing might be frozen with distress.
If you’re overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, anger or other emotions, you’re certainly not alone. Among adults in the United States:
• Nearly 29 percent will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.
• As many as 25 percent will experience major depressive disorder during their lifetime. (Gillihan 2018)
Tips on managing stress
The good news is that there are things we can do to keep stress in check. They include:
- Get moving: Build exercise into your weekly routine, even if it’s a short stroll.
- Get mindful: Practice mindfulness. Do deep breathing exercises.
- Get rested: Have ample sleep. (Having insomnia? We can help.)
- Get connected: Reach out to others and share with them your concerns.
While these things may sound simple, they have scientific underpinnings to do with how your brain and body works. At Personality Matters, we have journeyed with many who, perhaps like yourself, are going through a challenging or stressful situation. We recognise that stress management techniques that work well for one person may not be as effective for another. Our innate personalities can contribute to this.
Different personality types have been found to respond to stress differently. For example, while most introverts are normally reserved and calm, depending on their specific MBTI type they could become vocal and expressive (or even explosive) when stressed – unleashing their pent up emotions and thoughts. Conversely, under great stress, some extroverts may find themselves withdrawing into their room, and unable to share their struggles with others.
Through coaching, you can better understand your unique stress-related responses and receive customised stress-management approaches based on your personality type. Connect with us today to find out more.
Adapted from DEMS: Keeping Depression, Anxiety and Stress at Bay (J. Peter, 2021).
Dr. J. Peter is a specialist in psychological type and cognitive-behavioural sciences. He helps clients build better emotional, psychosocial and relational well-being.
Gillihan, Seth J. (2018) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Made Simple. Althea Press.