When faced with stress, your mind deploys coping strategies based on what has worked in the past. Over time these become imbibed as a trait. Displaying helplessness is also a trait that people use to get out of tricky situations. People will use aggression, dominance or develop a personality where they feign ignorance and avoid getting into conflict with others.
Stress is actually a part of life.
Life cannot exist without external pulls and pressures. In fact, change itself is a form of daily stress. It is therefore, not an actual situation. It is just the perception that something can cause you some harm or change your present comfortable situation. If we feel that a particular situation can change our present circumstances, we get stressed. We also get stressed if we do not get what we desire or want. This includes looks, body, possessions, relationships and so on.
Since most of the times we remain stressed, our body continues and maintains activation of stress responses for long periods of time. This causes mental, physical and internal fatigue. In addition, there are long term metabolic and hormonal changes. Homeostasis is lost and this adversely affects our body systems leading to various minor or major diseases. In most cases, even though we do not get diseases, age related problems start early.
How Does The Body Deals With Stress
It is basically the mind which deals with stress. The body is just the means to deliver the instructions and understanding of the mind. There are different types of strategies the mind can use. These are known as ‘coping strategies’ or simply, coping with stress. These coping strategies are developed unconsciously or subconsciously and based on many factors; some of which are:
- Perception and their analysis
- Memories, whether real or imagined
- Experiences observed from others and inferences drawn
- The basic nature and mental constitution of the individual
- Past experiences and results obtained
- State of the mind at the time of the perceived stressful situation
- Ability to genuinely and consciously relax
A combination of all the above is processed within fractions of a second and the body starts reacting or responding. This process is known as coping or deploying a strategy to counter the perceived threat or stress.
How We Deploy Or Launch These Coping Strategies
When there is a perceived threat or stressor, the mind does the following very quickly (minuscule fraction of a second):
- The mind will process the information received from the senses and analyze the situation.
- Based on its analysis, the mind will either pull out a response (or reaction) which worked previously or devise a new one (if it finds the situation to be different or new)
- It will then implement the ‘decided’ stress response or reaction. It does this by sending out various signals to the whole body.
- The body will then follow this decision by making super quick changes to actions as well as by making rapid physiological alterations. These alterations are so rapid that in many situations, physiological changes occur within a fraction of a second. Most of the times we are not even aware that such a thing has happened.
- The action and changes are supposed to counter the perception, threat or stressors almost instantly. The whole idea is to engage the entire body in coordination to bring about a positive result which fits in with the ‘decision’ taken by the mind.
- ‘It is crucial to note that from a coping point of view the actual action or performance is not important. What matters is the perception of being able to cope that reduces stress’. So if we feel, we can easily manage a situation, we hardly get stressed even though the actions involved could be difficult. If we feel that we cannot manage, we continue to remain stressed even though the actions required could be very simple and short in duration.
Coping Actually Makes Or Changes Your Personality
As we have seen, over a period of time (right from early childhood), patterns are being built up. The mind will always tend to deploy those strategies that have worked in the past. More often than not, the mind will also ‘force fit’ these same strategies on different kinds of situation even if they do not seem to work all the time. The more the mind does this and even if it gets some success rate, the same strategy will get ingrained. This is like a ‘hard coding’ process.
Very soon, this may become a generalized coping strategy for an individual. This coping style then becomes relatively stable and starts appearing as a ‘personality trait’ or ‘nature’, for that person.
Traits That Build Up Due To Coping Strategies
Aggression, Anger Or Dominance
We may have come across many individuals who get angry fast or always react in an aggressive fashion. They may also try to dominate or ‘bulldoze’. If a few times in the past (including as a child), the individual gets his or her way by being aggressive, it gets ‘stored’ in the mind. For such people, the standard response is to get irritated, get angry or insult others. The cycle is now set up and becomes part of that person’s personality. We view such individuals as ‘hot headed’, dominant or egoistic.
Being Timid Or Meek
At the other end of the spectrum are individuals who respond or react by trying to ‘submit’ or ‘avoid’ in the hope that the situation will get resolved. This is a classic avoidance strategy. Avoid conflicts and difficult situations. Such individuals may come across as meek or timid, even though they may be very diligent or intelligent.
Many a times, indifference as a strategy is deployed. This is genuinely deflecting or ignoring a situation assuming it will get resolved over time. Indifference also occurs when we feel that most situations are not too important. Such individuals build up personalities which may come across as aloof, indifferent or worse, uncaring.
Helplessness Or Hopelessness
This is a condition or analysis where the mind perceives (correctly or incorrectly) that most responses will most of the times reach a negative result. This means that the person is convinced that whatever be the effort or response from their end, there will be no improvement in the existing and undesired situation. This is also used in the hope that someone else will do something for them.
A prolonged deployment of this strategy may lead to depression. Many of these individuals are the sad or ‘serious about life’, looking ones and may have a fatalistic outlook. Alternatively, they could also be very lively but with an uncaring approach about life as anyway ‘nothing is in your control’.
These are just four obvious examples. However, there can be various other personalities and combinations of traits which get ‘shaped’ by stress and how we react or respond.
Change Your Personality
If you do some honest analysis of yourself, you will get to know your personality type and how much of it has been impacted by dealing with various situations or stress. Once you figure out you have some strong negative traits, you can change them. This is because you can change the way you think as well as your perceptions. This is done in two ways:
- Undertake a great stress management program based on Yoga and practice it regularly.
- Manage your lifestyle by sleeping well and have a great balanced diet plan.