Your unique personality is made up of thoughts, behaviors, and emotional patterns that can affect the way you respond to stress.
Everyone experiences stress, but we all handle it a bit differently. If you’re seeking ways to better manage stress, you may wonder how personality affects a person’s response to stress.
Certain aspects of personality can cause you to react differently to stress than others.
Some traits may help you cope in a healthy way. This may include reaching out to others for support or having a positive outlook. Other personality traits lead to avoidance, which may not resolve stress’s emotional and physical symptoms.
Your main personality traits change throughout your life. So, the way you manage stress can also change over time.
Read on to find out more about the connection between personality and the stress response.
There are five main personality traits.
Your personality can include all or some of these traits. However, some may be more dominant than others.
This is known as the five-factor personality model.
- Neuroticism: emotional instability, self-consciousness
- Extraversion: seeks out excitement and social interactions
- Openness: creative, aesthetic, looks for new experiences
- Agreeableness: tends to be cooperative, trusting, gets along with others
- Conscientiousness: dutiful, competent, has a sense of purpose
These traits may, in part, determine how you respond to stress.
How does personality affect the stress response?
Your personality may inform your stress tolerance level.
For example, neuroticism has the biggest association with a negative stress response. And people with this trait may have a lower stress tolerance level.
However, just because a person can handle stress doesn’t mean they don’t experience it at all.
Experts don’t know exactly why personality influences a person’s stress response, but research offers some clues as to how:
- Environment. Some environments, like busy workplaces with high social interaction, cause stress for some but complement the personalities of others.
- Happiness and positivity. Some personality traits, like extraversion and openness, result in more happy events over the course of a lifetime, which can mitigate stressful experiences. Additionally, extraversion and openness may lead to a positive outlook on life events.
- Conscientiousness. Having this trait may provide you with the capacity to overcome daily hassles.
- Neuroticism. This trait is associated with coping strategies like withdrawal.
- Extroversion and introversion. If you’re extroverted, you may be more likely to seek social support when experiencing stress compared to an introvert.
No matter what personality traits you identify with, it’s possible to adopt healthy and effective stress-coping strategies.
Stress can affect you emotionally and physically, regardless of your personality type. It’s a natural reaction designed to keep you safe from danger.
During stressful moments, you may experience:
- increased pulse rate
- rapid breathing
- muscle tension
- increased oxygen use by the brain
Over time, chronic stress can lead to the following physical symptoms:
- disruption of the body’s systems, like immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems
- sleep disturbances
- memory loss
- change in eating habits
Stress can also affect you emotionally. Some things you may feel when you’re experiencing stress include:
Stress may also cause you to think differently about yourself.
You may find you engage in negative self-talk, saying things about yourself you would never say about a friend or another person. Negative self-talk can also become a coping mechanism, especially when you feel isolated.
Stress can also make it harder to concentrate or engage in your favorite activities.
One way researchers know how personality traits impact the stress response is by studying coping strategies.
Some strategies can help you cope as you experience a stressful period or event. Others may not be as healthy.
People who were open and conscientious also were more likely to engage directly with what was causing stress. Similarly, extroverts and those with agreeableness as a trait were better able to reinterpret situations and grow from them.
There are many things you can do to relieve some of the emotional and physical symptoms of stress.
- Remember, you are resilient.
- Challenge your worries and negative self-talk.
- Give yourself permission to feel stress.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Get proper sleep.
- Stay active.
If you’re experiencing physical symptoms of stress, consider trying stress-reducing techniques like deep breathing:
- Stand or sit with your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose and fill your belly with air.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth.
- Repeat several times, or for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Talking through stress can help reduce negative thoughts and emotions for some people. If you feel comfortable, reach out to someone you trust and share your feelings.
You may also find it helpful to talk with a therapist or counselor. They can help you identify your current stress coping mechanisms and teach you healthy coping strategies.
Stress can have short- and long-term physical and emotional effects. Research has shown that some personality traits can lead to active coping strategies to deal with stress, while neuroticism leads to avoidance and withdrawal.
You’re in charge of choosing healthy coping methods for managing stress, no matter your personality type.
To learn from other people’s stories, consider checking out The Mighty, where people share their personal experiences with health challenges, including mental health conditions.
You may also find it helpful to scroll through uplifting Instagram feeds like Hannah Daisy’s. The artist and mental health occupational therapist posts her “boring self-care” drawings to celebrate everyday victories over health challenges.
If stress is taking over your life and making it hard to perform your typical routine, you might also find it helpful to talk with a mental health professional.
Whatever next step you choose, you have the freedom for it to be the one that’s right for you.