Do You Know Why You Get Stressed?
Who isn't under stress these days? While many used to ignore it, the importance of actively alleviating stress in our everyday live's can not be over-rated as the incidence of people suffering and even dying from stress related conditions reaches epidemic proportions. No-matter what industry profession or walk of life you are from, learning about stress management can assist yourself, clients, family and friends to combat this increasing health concern.
WHAT STRESSES YOU?
Crowds, Work, Lack of Sleep, Money, Relationships, or something else?
Everyone has a different personality. Most of us conform to certain well indoctrinated patterns of behaviour. However, no one person can claim to have the right type of personality; we all have different idiosyncrasies that go to complete our complex make-up.
Your personality has a large bearing on the way that stress can affect you. Individual differences have been shown to influence stress and health through:
- the motives the individual pursues
- the way that the individual appraises circumstances (are they easily riled or depressed?)
- coping mechanisms (do they turn to alcohol or drugs or do they repress their emotions?)
Some of the most well documented studies of personality and health are those that have linked the ‘type A’ personality and heart disease. Type A individuals as identified by Friedman & Rosenham (1959), are characterised by impatience, competitiveness, ambition and hostility. Type B personalities are viewed as being more relaxed, easy going and less easily angered.
Evans et. al. (1987), found that type A personality bus drivers in both North America and India reported greater stress levels, were more likely to have accidents and had more sick days than type B drivers. The Indian type A drivers also honked their horns, overtook and braked, more frequently than their type B counterparts. Other studies have demonstrated that various subdivisions of the type A personality may be linked to heart disease. Contrada et. al. (1990), found a link between hostility, or the combination of negative affect, defensiveness, and disavowed hostility, and coronary atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries leading to the heart).
Other Personality Traits and Stress
McClelland (1993), found that power motivation in individuals (and those that tried to suppress it) was more likely to lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). Scheier et. al. (1989), found that coronary artery bypass patients who were optimistic (as opposed to those who were pessimistic), recovered more quickly. It would seem that people who are more pessimistic do not take as good care of their health, do not cope as well as others and have a depleted immune system, thus being more prone to illness (Lin & Peterson, 1990) Other studies have shown that ‘hardiness’ (commitment to one’s undertakings, belief in control over powerlessness, and seeing tasks as challenges and not threats) is a good indicator of lower stress levels in an individual.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE IDEAL FOR YOU?
Another important notion is that of the ideal self. Each individual has a projected image of who they would like to be. Much personality behaviour is motivated by an attempt to reach this ideal, or by despair when one behaves in conflict with this ideal. Rogers’ definition of anxiety is based upon the disturbing discrepancies or differences that you perceive between:
- Self image and other people’s image of you
- Self image and ideal self
- Your behaviour and your self concept
- Your behaviour and your ideal self.
Rogers’ notion of the healthy personality is one where there is relative coherence between reality, self concept and ideal self.
The main criticism of the phenomenological approach is that it is difficult to validate its concepts. How do we prove, for instance, that individuals do have a natural tendency towards self growth? Also, the phenomenological theorists do not always distinguish between a person’s attitudes and his behaviour, but assume that these two operate as one, yet changes in one’s beliefs do not always lead to changes in one’s behaviour. Finally, while Rogers successfully describes aspects of human personality, he fails to explore the environmental influences on the individual’s self concept or their chances of reaching goals or not due to environmental influences.
Trait and Type Approach
These are approaches to classifying personality according to distinct psychological characteristics. There is no sound theoretical foundation for such classification, and such classifications have not generated much insight into human personality. This approach is more appropriate for industrial psychologists who might need to allocate certain types of jobs according to basic personality traits.
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