How to Cope With Stress: Personality Types and Bible Verses

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Since stress is an important contributing factor towards all kinds of diseases, knowing how to cope with it is a major key to good health. Therefore, it is important to learn the different methods that can be used in order to reduce stress or even eliminate it altogether. In order to do this, one must get acquainted with the different ways stress affects people as well as know its symptoms and the principles to use to be victorious over it. Here we will examine how to cope with stress, the essay analyses some studies that can give explanation about this topic as knowing how to cope with stress is a major key to good health.

Stress can affect people's physical and mental health, and their emotional well being as well as their ability to socialize and communicate with others. Robert Sapolsky wrote a book in which he proves that stress increases the risk for certain types of physical diseases such as those affecting “the circulatory system, energy storage, growth, reproduction, the immune system, and so on”. He examines the connection between stress and all kinds of mental disorders, as well as how it may affect the aging process.

Brian Luke Seaward has an interesting section in which he studies how a person's personality type influences how stress affects them, positively or negatively, and identifies some that are very dangerous to one's health, such as having a Type A personality, which he defines as having “a rushed or hurried life-style”. Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman identified this for the first time, and called it the “hurried sickness” . According to their research, having this trait “was a greater predictor of heart disease than all other risk factors combined”. These cardiologists also identified “type D personality” or depression as a major cause of “many chronic diseases”. Co-dependency, feeling of helplessness and hopelessness are other personality traits that negatively affect one's health, according to Seaward. On the other hand, resiliency, having a “survival personality trait”, being a “sensation-seeker”, and having good self-esteem are all predictors of good health.

Stress affects people in different ways, depending on their personality. Type A and D personalities have a harder time coping with stress, while people with different personalities are able to cope with it better, and enjoy better health. From this it is deduced that some people know how to cope with stress, while others do not. People's personalities affect their level of stress, as well as their ability to cope with it, which affects their physical and mental health, which, in turn, affects their emotional well-being (or lack of), which turns this into a vicious cycle.

In view of this, it becomes evident, as stated at the beginning of this essay, that knowing how to cope with stress is vital to someone's health. Therefore, the methods for coping with this emotion need to be examined. Out of the sources chosen, the ones that give more time and offer the most descriptive and useful help are also the most updated: Seaward's and Folkman's works.

Folkman's is an Oxford anthology that uses the best scholars on the subject, and includes an article that discusses how gender and age affect not only the type of stress experienced, but the way an individual copes with it. In general, men suffer high stress from achievement stressors (school, college, job, finances), while women cope well with these stressors. However, women tend to experience high stress from problems derived from interpersonal relationships, while men are affected very little by them. The way men and women cope with stressors is also different: men deal with stressors by distracting themselves with an unrelated activity, while women use rumination (thinking over the cause, development, and effects of the problem causing the stress) and co-rumination (same as rumination, but interacting with another person) to cope with them. Men's coping mechanisms seem to work well for them, but women's coping mechanisms tend to lead to depression or further depression.

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In consideration of age, boys tend to have more traumatic and stressful events before age 12 than girls do, while girls experience much more stress than boys starting at this age because of their exposure to sexual advances or assault by boys or men. The conclusions from these statistics are that males benefit from counseling regarding emotional stressors, while females benefit from counseling about achievement stressors they might be encountering. Social support seems to be beneficial for women, but not as much for men.

According to Seaward, the main emotional symptoms of stress are anger and fear. He then questions whether depression is a product of anger or fear, but this issue will be discussed in the next section, which is devoted to depression. Sadness and hopelessness are also symptoms, but these lead to depression, which will also be discussed in the next section of this paper. Focusing on the emotion of anger, there are several degrees of it, ranging from mild to aggressive anger, which may lend itself to hostility, which may express itself in verbal terms or, in worst scenario, act out by means of acts of violence, which, again, have a wide range.

Studies done by Albert Ax in 1953 concluded that “anger produces a flushed face”, while fear causes the face to become pale. Other studies not identified directly by Seaward “found that migraine headaches, ulcers, colitis, arthritis, and hypertension were a few of the ailments significantly associated with anger”. The most alarming discovery was that by Friedman and Rosenman, who found that “hostility was directly linked to the development of coronary heart disease”.

Regarding fear, Seawards identifies six kinds: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of isolation, and fear of the loss of self-dominance (loss of control over one's life). However, the author does not identify the physical or physiological effects of this feeling. Robert Sapolsky, in his influential book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, tends to put all emotions together as stressors and delves directly into how stress affects the body and results in different diseases. Sapolsky's conclusions are gloomy, and he concludes that sustained or repeated stress disrupts our bodies in all kinds of ways, affecting our metabolism, our immune, gastroenterological and coronary systems, our hormones and glands, our sexual health and reproduction, and can even shorten our lifespan. The hypothalamus and the brain are the main links to all kinds of disorders that lead to chronic fatigue.

Being able to recognize the symptoms of stress can help with being able to cope with them better. The main strategies Seaward proposes for coping with anger are: ecognize how you react to anger; write down how you deal with anger on paper; master methods to difuse your anger; find a way to use the energy of your anger by doing something constructive; recognize your feelings, and express with them in a healthy, mature way; when you foresee a potential conflict, plan ahead for it; find trustworthy friends who can support you; have realistic expectations of yourself; master techniques for solving problems; keep yourself in good physical condition; try to keep a balanced life; and forgive people for their wrongdoings. Of all of these methods that Seaward lists, the last one is, from a Christian perspective, the most important one. Regarding fear, if you are a Christian, trusting that God will protect you and praying about it should help.

Depression is the result of the way someone reacts to a given stressor. Some people react to an event with anger, while others react in a passive way by trying to keep their emotions in instead of reacting with anger to these dramatic life events. These people react with sadness or hopelessness. According to Sapolsky, these coping mechanisms lead to chronic diseases. The main symptoms of depression are a loss of pleasure, isolation, sleeping too much or too little, frustrstion, loss of control, and loss of appetite, or overeating. Sapolsky links these symptoms to “hormonal abnormalities”. He also thinks that women are more prone to depression than men while men are more prone to anger. The feeling of helplessness is another symptom of depression and a critical link to a worsening of health conditions that are already present. Feeling vulnerable also leads to depression. 

Folkman identifies traumatic events like physical/sexual assault, death of a relative or friend, or a serious illness as factors that may lead to depression. Old age is particularly prone to lead to depression, especially is the elder is isolated from family and friends. Coping with depression properly depends on the personality of the individual, and on the circumstances surrounding the individual. If the person is social by nature, intentionally seeking out socialization with loving people, should be helpful. If, however, the person is introverted, the individual will have to find mechanisms to help their outlook on life. Emotion regulation strategies become critical to the emotional well-being of the individual.

The conclusions of these studies are based on scientific research. However, these studies do not address how the Bible can and is able to change a person's personality traits, and the ways in which they deal with daily life. The Bible says in Phillipians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” It also says in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.”

There are many other verses in the Bible commanding us not to worry or be anxious about things happening in our lives and to trust in Him. So, if the Bible commands us not to worry or be anxious in several different places, worry could fall under the category of sin. Even though the Bible does not specifically say that worrying is a sin or that being anxious is a sin, we are commanded not to worry or be anxious, and if we do worry, we are disobeying His command, which is sin. The Bible also says that God loves and cares for us and that He will be our comforter. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.” This verse tells us that God comforts us in our tribulations. 1 John 4:8 says “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” This verse tells us that God IS love, and that He loves us. His love for us, together with His promise to care for us and His omnipotence should be sufficient for us to trust in Him that He will take care of our problems. Therefore, we should not worry, but trust in Him. Therefore, one can conclude that knowing how to cope with stress is a major key to good health.

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