Stress affects all walks of people, and people of all ages. We are all concerned about stress. It is a key issue at workplace where managers have to think about how the jobs they assign people affect their coworkers in terms of stress. It is widespread in schools, where teachers think about designing programs to help students cope with stress, in combination of teaching them usual subjects. There is certainly plenty of evidence showing various types of problems linked with stress including mental health, emotional illnesses such as anxiety and depression. The impact of stress should not be taken lightly and should be given enough consideration and attention. Stress is a reality and we all must know how to deal with it for adequate functioning in life.
There are studies done on this subject and it has been found that stress is also very closely linked with the personality type. There are certain traits in one’s personality that make them vulnerable to having more stress in life. There are different reactions that people exhibit in a given situation. There are different kinds of triggers for stress. On the one hand, stress is caused by the genuine physical demand that certain tasks place on our bodies. On the other hand, stress is caused by social and emotional triggers. Although personality cannot change the physical triggers of stress, it is like the filter through which our brain sees the world. Personality can influence how likely we are to put ourselves in situations that will prove to be stressful.
Now the question is what type of personality traits make a person more vulnerable to stress?
Number one is perfectionism. Perfectionism is something linked with a lot of negative health outcomes- mental and physical. Perfectionist people push themselves too hard and can be very demanding on themselves in order to achieve what they want. They are also very high achievers which often leads to several health problems. Athletes, successful business people are some of the examples of perfectionist personality types. Research indicates that perfectionist people often develop conditions like anorexia, Obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD), hypertension, and cardiac problems. The key is to do something about this kind of mindset otherwise it can lead to problems. Stress stimulates adrenalin, which make us feel more anxious, and very soon it becomes a vicious cycle. The checking behaviors of people with OCD make them feel that they are in control and begin to feel less anxious when they are given the control. But if you are a perfectionist, you probably live with a belief that everything has to be done perfectly and with a certain high standard. Their brain is constantly running through the checklists of things they need to do and e mails they have to send. Some people might transfer their stress to other areas and start to push themselves very hard, perhaps in sport or other areas of life. They become obsessed with achieving a certain type of quality in the work they do and feel anxious if they don’t get it. They expect the best and push so hard because they know if they don’t, that fear might become overwhelming. This kind of mind set can lead to problems like work holism, and eating disorder.
Another factor that plays a big role is self esteem. If the perfectionist people build up their self esteem on their achievements etc. and they don’t get it, they begin to see themselves as worthless and failures because the results did not meet their expectations. On the contrary, if we are someone who is very intelligent and tends to achieve very highly, we can easily see our self esteem might become based around that. So we grow up with a belief that we are valuable because we are good at things. After all, self esteem is built from the messages about themselves that children get back from adults around them. If the parents and care givers constantly give messages related to how well they have achieved, children get the message that they are valuable because they achieve well. When the child grows and becomes an adult, he becomes a high achiever and is constantly functioning on the high gear. Type “A” personality use their perfectionist tendencies to try to make up for or disguise a problem with low self esteem.
However, ultimately, these tendencies are counterproductive because they place so much weight on something that just is not possible. They lead us to make rules in our mind that are hard to achieve. So we say, “I must always get things right”, “I must be accepted by others, and “ everyone must like us”. Such thoughts lead to stress and have an emotional impact. No matter how hard we try, no human can ever manage to be totally perfect. They try to be super humans. With enough work, enough brains and some good luck, we can manage the illusion of perfection for a while, but in the long run, it can be very detrimental to our self esteem.
Now the question is how do we know that we have the perfectionist personality? The answer is in your thought process. What kinds of thoughts you entertain in your head? Chances are if you are perfectionist, you will be using a vocabulary full of demanding terms, like, “I must”, “I should— or else, I am no good”. Writer has written blog posts on this topic and I would recommend the readers to read blog posts entitled, Are you a perfectionist—–?”Automatic self talk”, and “Challenging irrational Beliefs using Rational Emotive Therapy”. When you live with a belief that good enough is not good, it has to be perfectly right with no flaw or shortcomings. Once you begin to challenge these irrational thoughts, and come up with rational thoughts, you will be able to reduce your stress level. Perfectionist people suffer from the feelings of let down, disappointment more easily and then their self esteem is affected negatively. When you relax your attitude and enjoy life, you will be having better relationships with others, family members, and friends. Perfectionist people are also people pleasers and live with a belief that everyone has to like them, a very hard and impossible goal. There will always be few people who have a different way of perceiving things and they might disapprove you. If you accept this as reality, you will have less problem dealing with difficult people around you. Once you adopt your newly formed beliefs, you will be able to live with slight imperfections and not feel so emotionally distraught with failures and setbacks.
In summary, we increase our stress level by having perfectionist type of thinking and this affects our self esteem adversely. It is a good idea to be realistic and become more reality oriented than having a dream which is impossible to achieve.
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Reference: Stress; How to De-stress Without Doing Less by Katie Middleton