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8. What Are Your Stress Response Tendencies?

Take a look at your stress response tendencies, or the way you, as an individual, tend to react to stress. Do you reach for food or nicotine or alcohol whenever life gets difficult, or are you more likely to withdraw, sleep too much, or lash out in irritation at friends? Maybe you seek out friends to talk to, or perhaps you practice relaxation or meditation. Maybe you react in one way when it comes to your areas of greatest vulnerability, another for the kind of stress you find easier to handle. Through stress awareness, conscious tracking of stress triggers, commitment to managing the stress in your life in a personalized manner, experimenting with stress management techniques to find those that work for you, and creating and implementing your Personal Stress Profile, you can handle the stress that is sapping your energy and draining your brain power.

9. Learn about Yourself

The following quiz will help you to uncover the details of the stress in your life. From this quiz, you’ll develop your Personal Stress Profile. Now, don’t let this “test” stress you out. It isn’t graded! Instead of stressing, use this as an opportunity to reflect on yourself, your life, and your personal tendencies. Also, keep in mind that your answers and your entire stress profile will probably tend to change over time. You can take this quiz again, later in time, to assess how well you’ve implemented your Stress Management Portfolio. For now, answer the questions as they apply to you today.

10. Record the Results

In a journal or a notebook set aside for stress management work, record the results from your personal stress test. Date it, then try the test again in a few months. Look over your results and write a few paragraphs about your overall impression. How much stress can you take before you start to feel bad? What triggers stress for you? What are your vulnerable areas? How do you respond to stress? An awareness of your stress profile will help you to choose the stress management techniques that will work best for you, and to schedule your stress management in a way that makes sense in your life.

Part I: Your stress tolerance point

Circle the answers that best apply to you:

1. Which of the following best describes your average day?

A. Comfortingly regular. I get up, eat, work, and play at about the same time each day. I like my routines and orderly life.

B. Maddeningly regular. I get up, eat, work, and play at about the same time each day, and the boredom is killing me.

C. Regular in essence but not in order. I get up, eat, work, and play most days, but I never know when I’ll do which thing, and if something new happens, then hey, great! I like to go with the flow.

D. Highly irregular and stressful. Every day, something throws off my schedule. I long for routine, but life keeps foiling my efforts.

2. What happens when you don’t eat or exercise regularly?

A. I get a cold, the flu, or an allergy attack, bloat, feel fatigued, or there is some other little signal that my good habits have lapsed.

B. I don’t pay much attention to my diet or exercise regimen but seem to feel fine most of the time.

C. Eat well? Exercise? One of these days, maybe I’ll try that, if I ever have the time or energy to work it into my packed schedule.

D. I feel thrilled and emotionally heightened. I enjoy changing the routine and throwing myself into a different physical state.

3. When criticized by someone or reprimanded by an authority figure, how do you tend to feel?

A. I feel panicky, hopeless, anxious, or depressed, as if something terrible and beyond my control has just happened.

B. I feel angry and vengeful. I obsess over all the ways I could have or should have responded. I plan elaborate revenge scenarios, even if I don’t intend to carry them out.

C. I feel irritated or hurt for a little while, but not for long. I focus on how I could avoid another situation like this.

D. I feel misunderstood by the masses. I know I was right, but, ah, that’s the price of genius!

4. When preparing to perform in front of people for any reason (a concert, a speech, a presentation, a lecture), how do you tend to feel?

A. I feel like throwing up.

B. I feel stimulated, thrilled, a little nervous, but full of energy.

C. I avoid situations where I have to perform because I don’t like it.

D. I feel aggressive or boastful.

5. When in the middle of a crowd, how do you feel?

A. Exhilarated!

B. Panic-stricken!

C. I feel like causing trouble. Wouldn’t it be funny to pull the fire alarm?

D. I feel okay for a while, but then I’m ready to go home.

Part II: Your Stress Triggers

Circle the answers that best apply to you. If none apply (for instance, if you are perfectly satisfied with your work life and it doesn’t cause you stress), don’t circle any of the answers under a given question:

6. When it comes to where you live, by what do you feel the most stressed?

A. I feel stressed by city pollution/indoor allergens.

B. I feel stressed by frequent quarreling with someone in my home.

C. I feel stressed by sleep deprivation. My living conditions (new baby, noisy roommates) don’t ever allow me to sleep as much as I need.

D. I feel stressed by a sudden change in the people that live in my home, either due to absence (someone moved out, passed away) or presence (someone moved in, a new baby).

7. What habits should you change?

A. I shouldn’t stay inside too much. I know I should get some fresh air once in a while.

B. I shouldn’t constantly put myself down.

C. I shouldn’t smoke, drink, or eat too much.

D. I shouldn’t be too concerned with what other people think of me.

8. What could make your life so much better?

A. If only I could move out of the city/rural area/small town/suburbs/ this country!

B. If only I felt better about who I am.

C. If only I were healthier and had more energy.

D. If only I had more power, prestige, and money.

9. What do you truly dread?

A. I dread the holidays. All that holiday cheer everywhere gets me down.

B. I dread failure.

C. I dread illness and/or pain.

D. I dread having to speak in front of people.

10. How do you feel about your life’s work or career?

A. I feel I would be happier in a completely different work environment.

B. I feel dissatisfied. My personal skills aren’t being fully utilized.

C. I feel stressed. I’ve already used up all my sick days due to minor illnesses.

D. I feel pressure to conform to the work habits of my coworkers or the expectations of my supervisor, even though I’m not comfortable working in that way.

Part III: Your Stress Vulnerability Factors

Circle the answers that best apply to you:

11. How do you describe yourself?

A. I’m an extrovert, energized by social contact.

B. I’m an introvert, energized by alone time.

C. I’m a workaholic.

D. I’m a caretaker.

12. What makes you tense?

A. I feel tense when I think about my financial situation.

B. I feel tense when I think about my family.

C. I feel tense when I think about the safety of my loved ones.

D. I feel tense when I think about what people think of me.

13. While plenty of areas of your life are under control, where do you suddenly lose control?

A. I consume too much food and/or alcohol and/or spend too much money.

B. I worry obsessively.

C. I clean the house and/or organize constantly.

D. I just can’t keep my mouth shut! I often unintentionally anger and/or offend someone.

14. When it comes to work, how do you describe yourself?

A. I’m highly motivated and ambitious.

B. I’m a drone. Work is boring and unfulfilling.

C. I’m satisfied but glad I’ve got a life outside my job.

D. I’m deeply dissatisfied. I know I could accomplish something so much better than this if only I had the opportunity to try!

15. How are you in your personal relationships?

A. I’m usually the one in control.

B. I’m a follower.

C. I’m always looking for something I don’t have.

D. I’m somewhat distant.

Part IV: Your Stress Response Tendencies

Circle the answer that best describes how you would most likely react to each of the following stress scenarios:

16. What would you do if your life were really busy and you had too many social obligations and too much work, and it seemed as though your days consisted of nothing but frantic rushing around to complete your to-do list?

A. I’d feel overwhelmed, anxious, and out of control.

B. I’d gain five pounds.

C. I’d construct an elaborate and detailed system for keeping every aspect of my life in order, which I’d stick to for a few weeks before abandoning it.

D. I’d cut back on current obligations and say “no” to new ones.

17. What would you do if you awoke with a nasty cold—a scratchy throat, a stuffy nose, chills, and an allover ache?

A. I’d call in sick and spend the day resting and drinking tea with honey.

B. I’d take cold medicine, go to work, and try to pretend I wasn’t sick.

C. I’d go to the gym and try to sweat it out by going full power in a kickboxing class or by running a few miles on the treadmill.

D. I’d wonder how this could happen to me when I had so many important things to do. I’d worry about how many things in my life will be disrupted by my getting sick.

18. How would you handle a problem with a personal relationship?

A. I’d pretend there wasn’t a problem.

B. I’d demand that we talk about it, and talk about it now.

C. I’d get depressed and think that it must be my fault and wonder why I always ruin relationships.

D. I’d spend some time reflecting on exactly what I would like to say so as not to sound accusatory, then approach the other person about discussing some specific problems. If it didn’t work, at least I could say I tried.

19. If your supervisor told you that a client had complained about you, then advised you not to worry about it, but suggested that you be more careful of what you say to clients in the future, how would you feel?

A. I’d feel extremely offended and obsess for days about who the client might have been and how I might be able to get revenge for being made to look bad in front of my boss.

B. I’d feel indifferent. Some people are overly sensitive.

C. I’d feel aghast if I offended someone and wonder how it could have happened. I’d then act overly polite and accommodating to everyone but my confidence would definitely be deflated.

D. I’d feel hurt or maybe a little angry but would probably decide to take my supervisor’s advice and not worry about it. I would then make a point to notice how I spoke to clients.

20. If you had a big test or presentation in the morning and a lot depended on the result, how would you feel as you tried to get to sleep?

A. I’d feel a little nervous but excited because I’d be prepared. I’d plan to get a really good night’s sleep so that I’d be at my best.

B. I’d feel so nervous that I probably would throw up. I’d have a few drinks or cookies or cigarettes to calm myself down, even though that usually doesn’t work very well. I’d sleep restlessly.

C. I’d stay up all night going over my notes, even after I knew them by heart. My feeling would be that it can’t hurt to look at them again . . . and again.

D. Thinking about the test or presentation would make me nervous. I’d pretend nothing was going on and do my best to not think about it.

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