Stress Reveals The True Person You Are

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson, and Ted Hagen
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Stress either brings out the best or the worst in most of us. If you’re going through a lot of stress, it pays to manage yourself well.

Tribune News Service

Want to know the true character or personality of someone? If so, watch how they respond to a stressful situation.

Stress casts a spotlight on who we are psychologically. How an individual copes with an unpleasant situation speaks volumes. It demonstrates the problem-solving skills you have, how much self-control you have, and how much respect you have for other people.

In fact, psychologists say that how you treat your worst enemy is likely the most telling aspect of your personality. And, how you react in an emergency, when fear is at hand, tells a lot about you.

“I once had my doubts about a young woman I’d hired,” says a CEO we’ll call Fred. “I felt uneasy about hiring her, because she was only 19 and still in college. She seemed rather delicate and not tough enough to be of value to our company.”

We’ll call this young woman Tina. When the office building they were in caught fire, Fred got to see a more mature side of Tina.

“She called 911, went through the offices telling everyone to hit the stairs, and practically carried me out of the building,” says Fred. “I’d sprained my ankle the week before, so this was a big deal.”

Stress either brings out the best or the worst in most of us. For example, a teacher we know who was in the midst of the Gatlinburg wildfires just recently saw a young boy hold up well under stress. We’ll call her Kathryn.

“Our community made national news, of course,” says Kathryn. “I knew some of the people trapped in a multi-story hotel when flames loomed outside. You could see the flames on TV coming near the building.”

She continues, “When it was over, and everyone was okay, a student of mine who’d been inside the hotel called me. He just wanted me to know he was fine. He’d received lots of texts from students, and he wanted me to thank them for staying in touch with him through the ordeal.”

Kathryn marveled at his poise: “How many people would stop to thank others when they had just been spared being burned to death?” she told us. “This boy is a person of class, that’s for sure.”

If you’re going through a lot of stress, it pays to manage yourself well. These tips can help:

-Speak your emotions versus acting them out. Say, “I feel extremely stressed, and I want to scream.” Or say, “I am trying to stay calm under all this pressure.” Acting out your pain will make you feel worse.

-Practice inventing solutions. If you work with a lot of complaining people, pretend you’re being paid to calm things down. For example, could you offer to update their computer software or install a new virus program if these issues plague your office?

-Always give respect to other people. Don’t hog the spotlight yourself, and don’t put others in a bad spotlight. For instance, if you pay a bill your spouse forgot to pay, quietly take care of it. Don’t mention the slip-up.

Keep in mind that other people judge us by how we make them feel. Try to reduce stress for others by calming things down and shedding a positive light wherever you go.

Being this type of person helps ensure you’ll stay married, keep your job, raise sane children, and strengthen your community.
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(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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