Have you ever noticed that you feel stressed in a situation where someone else does not? How you experience stress is unique to you. That means that how you manage your stress is also unique to you. You may know people who relax through yoga, or meditation, or by listening to classical music. But perhaps those activities hold no attraction for you. Will you find the same relaxation as they do by these means? Probably not.
Your constitution (the various physical, psychological, developmental and environmental factors that make you who you are) can enter into determining the efficacy of any given stress management technique you choose to try.
Just as there are different personality types, studies have found there are different stress types. Five basic categories of stress management skills have also been identified. These findings might help explain why some people seem to handle stress better than others and why some people are more successful at stress management than others.
Richard Earle, PhD, Director of the Canadian Institute of Stress, defines six “stressotypes”: 1) the Speed Freak – a borderline workaholic, perfectionist; 2) the Worry Wart – with frequent anxiety or tension headaches; 3) the Drifter – who tends to spread his energy across too many options; 4) the Loner – who feels alone in carrying his burdens or worries; 5) the Basket Case – who feels most activities are too much to do; and 6) the Cliff Walker – who has high blood pressure, smokes, gets no exercise, and usually appears tired and worn-out. These stressotypes are extremes; they are not absolute, and an individual may exhibit varying degrees of the characteristics of any or all types.
The basic sills used in holistic stress management fall into five categories: 1) clarifying your personal values and daily satisfiers; 2) developing your ability to relax at will; 3) developing rewarding relationships; 4) nutrition; and 5) exercise. Within each category a number of techniques are available; some will require practice, but others can provide a “quick fix” when needed. The idea is to become familiar with your options in each category so you are prepared in advance to deal with stressful situations.
It is important to know what stressotype(s) you are. No single stress management program will work for everyone. Even your own requirements may change over time. People who start their stress management program with the wrong skill for their stressotype may actually increase their stress (for example, telling the Speed Freak to slow down and relax may only feed his anxiety rather than motivating him, or giving the Worry Wart nutritional guidelines to follow may just provide more “food for worry”). Dr. Earle has determined that focusing on the two skills most important for your type will give you 65% or more of your stress management success. Researchers suggest that visualization, autogenic relaxation, and affirmations may benefit all stressotypes by re-programming body-mind habits.
Earle, R., personal communication, June 16, 2010.
Earle, R., & Imrie, D. (with Archbold, R.). (1989). Your vitality quotient. New York, NY:Warner Books.
Jardieu, E., (2011). Effects and affects: a constitutional approach to stress management. Unpublished dissertation.