The Sneaky Source Of Stress In Your Life, Based On Your Enneagram Type

mbg Contributor By Jay Martynov
mbg Contributor
Jay Martynov is an ICF-accredited mindset and life coach from Sydney, Australia. He holds a master's degree in Information Technology Management from the University of Sydney.
Young woman meditating enneagram

The Enneagram is a personality profile system with nine main types that can be used in many different ways, from improving your relationships to spiritual development. One particularly useful application? Understanding what stresses us out, based on our unique personality type.

While some stress factors are outside of our control, others are fostered internally as a result of our own thinking and behavioral patterns. As individuals, we have minimal influence on the downturns of the economy, pandemic, or bad weather, but there are other sources of stress in our lives that are more under our control. The Enneagram can help raise our awareness of which areas we ought to focus our attention on relieving avoidable stress. Here are the types:

1. The Reformer: Feeling irresponsible.

Equipped with a set of uncompromising moral standards, Ones see world events as right or wrong according to their internal moral compass. In their quest to make the world a better place, this polarizing mindset does not allow for anything in between. This type can't rest until everything is just the way it should be. A One's stress is triggered by a feeling of being surrounded by irresponsibility. This type's inner critic is a strong voice berating them for slacking off or making mistakes every waking hour. 

To cope with this type of stress, Ones need to prove to themselves that the sky does not come down crashing if they misspelled a word on their social media or take time for themselves to rest amid everything they're fighting for. Ones need to rewire the critic to become an encouraging influence by recognizing and replacing chastising moments with seeing a positive aspect of the same action. Try a self-love practice to help build a different relationship with your inner critic.

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2. The Helper: Compulsive self-sacrificing.

Twos try to attend to their needs by helping others in hopes that they return the favor. When reciprocity does not always occur, they end up sacrificing their own needs and desires until there is no gas left in the energy tank. A Two's secret source of stress is their compulsive self-sacrificing.

Learning to say no and express what you want in a direct way can help Twos to preserve their vital resources. To make it practical, write a self-care plan with exact details, and communicate to people that you are not available while you are looking after yourself. This idea may feel a little foreign and selfish at first but will eventually become a new healthy habit.

3. The Achiever: Not getting approval.

One of my friends who's a Three once told me, "I strove to be somebody until I realized that all I wanted is to be somebody that was loved." This type has one mission in mind: accomplish tasks that will get the recognition of others. Goal-oriented and brilliant at it, a Threes' stress builds up when something gets in the way of completing their goals or when their victories have not been acknowledged.

Threes need to recognize their inherent value and remove reliance on others for approval. Finding the internal flow of emotional energy will help this type to focus on what is important to them as an individual rather than what's important to other people in their life. This will allow Threes to be authentic in their actions and reconnect with their inner core. The Achiever type will benefit from practicing meditation as a tool to tune into the emotions and feelings, as well as stepping outside of the never-ending hamster wheel of action.

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4. The Individualist: Being misunderstood.

Fours are familiar with a saying "It's lonely at the top." Often successful in their area of expertise, this type feels misunderstood by the rest of the world. This misunderstanding often leads to isolation. Humans are social creatures, though, and being deprived of people who get them can take a serious toll on a Four's well-being.

The truth is that we have a part of each Enneagram type personality in us. An ability to recognize yourself in others will create a sense of unity. Encourage yourself to leave the house and practice observing sameness in others. Connect with others using the similarities in any shape or form—music preferences, way of speaking, or favorite clothing brand. By making these little steps toward breaking out of the shell, Fours will see that we are not that different after all.

5. The Investigator: Not enough alone time.

Fives value privacy and feel compromised if their personal boundaries are not respected. While this type can become highly social, during stress they, in fact, feel drained by too much interaction with others. This is not, however, obvious to an outside observer. The Investigator type may be engaged in an active conversation with you while mentally checked out.

The solution for Fives is to recognize when they need to recharge their batteries and take time to reflect on external events. In the long term, this type needs to learn from their feelings rather than factual information. Fives should spend some more time on their own to become familiar with their emotions.

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6. The Loyalist: Anxiety about the future.

Experts of preparation, Sixes are always on a lookout for what could go wrong. The Loyalist type of stress can be triggered by the anxiety about an upcoming event or a situation that they have not encountered before.

While preparing for the situation is useful, it has to be coupled with a mantra: I will do my best to prepare, and the rest is up to the universe. In other words, Sixes need to define their readiness criteria so it does not become a moving target; otherwise, it will lead to exhaustion. This type will also benefit from a circle of trusted friends who can ground and reassure them in challenging moments.

7. The Enthusiast: Overcommitting.

Filled with everlasting joy, Sevens know hundreds of ways to keep themselves away from pain and boredom. As a result, sevens get involved in many projects at the same time. Equipped with high energy, this type can keep up with the flow of new ideas and exciting things...until they can't. These countless projects will eventually leave Sevens feeling fatigued. On top of that, the pressure to complete unfinished tasks combined with overly optimistic estimated completion dates can trigger external stress factors—e.g., your boss or loved ones chasing you with reminders.

A solution for Sevens is to focus on just two to three projects at a time. Investing in daily routines will help with completing tasks on time when initial motivation runs out.

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8. The Challenger: Refusing to slow down.

This strong-willed type's biggest fear is to appear weak. Eights go through challenges in life like an unstoppable steam roller. Unfortunately for this type, the human body has its limitations, and it will eventually start breaking down. Eights must recognize that we are all made from the same material and that our need to rest is universal.

Finding strength in becoming vulnerable is a slow process, but it will pay off in all areas of this type's life. Start small by showing vulnerability in a safe environment and schedule self-care activities. Remember that even the most powerful machinery needs pit stops to refuel.

9. The Peacemaker: Making decisions.

Nines are positioned at the top of the Enneagram symbol for a reason—this type is able to understand and see reality through the eyes of all types of the system. Because of this innate ability, they are the best mediators in any kind of situation. But this comes at a dear price, as Nines lose themselves in others' wants and desires, not knowing what they themselves really want.

A Nine's stress is triggered when they are pushed into a corner by someone asking to make a decision or take an action. Nines can alleviate the stress by asking the requester to limit their decision selection to a small number of choices and working on strategies to alleviate their indecisiveness.

Stress is a normal part of life that can be managed as long as we are adequately skilled to deal with it. Understanding your type will help with building resilience and overcoming your personality's challenges.

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