We can’t avoid stressful situations, but we have the power to choose how we deal with that stress. Sometimes our coping mechanisms actually create more stress for us.
I created this quiz to help you discover your personal inclinations when it comes to dealing with stress. It’s only by identifying your current coping style that you’ll gain the awareness necessary to adopt healthier coping mechanisms. For each question, please choose the answer (a, b, c, d, or e) that best describes you:
1. When I have a disagreement with my romantic partner, I often:
a. Argue until my partner relents and agrees with my point of view.
b. Leave in the middle of the argument.
c. Don’t hear or understand most of what my partner is saying.
d. Agree with whatever he/she says, in order to keep the peace.
e. Discuss the issue in an adultlike way until we reach a solution that’s good for both of us.
2. If I experience a disappointment such as not reaching a goal, I frequently:
a. Wonder who’s to blame.
b. Second-guess the decisions I’ve made, worrying I’ve made the wrong ones.
c. Try not to think about it.
d. Question my worthiness to be happy or successful.
e. Face my feelings of disappointment, and then figure out a better way to approach the goal.
3. When a friend is upset, I usually:
a. Lecture her about being overly dramatic.
b. Feel stressed because I don’t know how to help.
c. Avoid her phone calls and emails, so I don’t have to deal with the drama.
d. Spend hours counseling her to help her feel better.
e. Feel compassion for her situation, help as I am guided, and know that struggles are a part of life that can help us to grow.
4. When faced with an unexpected financial bill, my usual reaction is to:
a. Try to argue my way out of the bill, to lower or eliminate the expense.
b. Worry so much that I lose sleep over it.
c. Stash the bill in a drawer, and hope it goes away.
d. Regret squandering my money on frivolous gifts for myself and others instead of saving money for the unexpected.
e. Determine whether or not the bill makes sense, and if it does, pay it with the emergency money I have stashed away.
5. If my romantic partner is angry, I usually:
a. Feel angry that he/she is ruining my bliss.
b. Wonder whether I chose the right partner in the first place.
c. Get really quiet and withdrawn, so the anger won’t be directed toward me.
d. Feel guilty, like it’s my fault that he/she is angry.
e. Have compassion for his/her anger, take responsibility for my own actions, and refuse to take on his/her anger for myself.
6. When I have an important work deadline, I tend to react by:
a. Feeling angry and upset that my boss gave me this project.
b. Thinking that I really want to quit my job.
c. Feeling stuck, like I can’t concentrate and can’t work on the project.
d. Doing whatever I can to please my boss, so he/she won’t be upset with me.
e. Planning ahead so that I efficiently complete the project on time.
7. When making a decision, I usually:
a. Impulsively decide with no information other than my gut feelings.
b. Have great difficulty in deciding.
c. Put off making the decision for as long as possible.
d. Allow others to persuade me.
e. Research and weigh my different options, and consider this information along with my feelings and the feelings of others involved.
8. In competitive situations, I consider myself:
a. Highly competitive, and willing to do whatever it takes to win
b. Someone who dislikes competition so much I won’t even participate in a competitive sport or situation.
c. So unable and unqualified to compete that I don’t even try because I assume I’d be unsuccessful.
d. Someone who is too nice to try to beat another person, so I end up allowing others to win.
e. Someone who can fairly win a competition based upon my talents and skills.
9. I find the holiday season to be:
a. Annoying and filled with family friction.
b. Something I wish I could skip and never have to deal with again.
c. A time when I drink too much and overeat.
d. All about everyone else’s needs, and not about mine.
e. An opportunity for me to put my stress-management tools into action.
Please add up the number of a, b, c, d, and e answers you chose, to see which letter you answered most often:
If you had mostly "a" answers: You have a fight response to stress. You tend to get angry when your plans or bliss are disrupted, and you push back. As you get angry, you get more stressed and this only hurts you instead of resolving the situation. Sometimes, you find that getting loud or upset results in others complying with your wishes, but it’s a hollow victory without real and lasting satisfaction.
To de-stress your life: Channel your passions and upsetting feelings into constructive activities, such as getting involved in activism for your favorite charity or causes. If you’d like to calm down, studies show that listening to meditative, soft music lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. Avoid activities and media that activate anger, and choose more peaceful options.
If you had mostly "b" answers: You have a flight response to stress, bordering on being conflict-phobic. You wish everyone and everything would be peaceful, but you feel too afraid of others’ anger to step into leadership. You also get stressed because of your indecision and difficulty in committing to one specific relationship or career path. You get stressed because you can’t seem to hear your inner truth or follow it.
To de-stress your life: A daily meditation practice will help you hear your inner thoughts and feelings, so you can have a foundation of being true to yourself. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and sugar, which add to anxiety, confusion, and indecision. Instead, choose calming chamomile tea and organic foods to help clear and focus your mind.
If you had mostly "c" answers: You have a freeze response to stress, meaning that you dissociate your awareness of upsetting situations. You turn to alcohol, drugs, overeating, overworking, or other addictions to escape from stress. Unfortunately, ignoring stressful situations (like bills piling up instead of paying them) usually increases your stress levels.
To de-stress your life: Practice grounding yourself so that your consciousness is always in your body, instead of floating above your body. This will help your relationships with yourself and others. To ground yourself, try walking with bare feet on sand, grass, or soil, or get a foot rub! Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and potatoes also help you to feel grounded, so you’re more aware and focused on the present.
If you had mostly "d" answers: You have a fawn response to stress, meaning that you are afraid of others’ disapproval, so you circumvent your own happiness and needs in order to please others. You tend to blame yourself for problems and take action from a sense of guilt and obligation instead of desire. Because you overgenerously give away your time, money, and other resources to others, you are often taken advantage of and have no time or resources for self-care and stress management.
To de-stress your life: Commit to daily self-care as a way of balancing all of the giving that you do. Each day, do one or more nice things for yourself. At first, you’ll feel selfish and undeserving, but with practice you’ll see that you deserve happiness as much as everyone else. You can also benefit from counseling with a codependency specialist, or attending the free support group Alanon (see alanon.org for a meeting near you).
If you had mostly "e" answers: You have a healthy response to stress, meaning that you approach it in a responsible (including self-responsible) and mature manner. You don’t waste time blaming yourself or others but instead focus on solutions. You look for win-win methods so that everyone’s needs are met (including your own). You have good boundaries, and don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Yet, you also have an open and loving heart and have compassion toward yourself and others. Keep up the good work!