Why do some of us cruise through the Christmas break in relaxed festive bliss without stress, emerging refreshed and cheery at the other end? Surely they’re bluffing, aren’t they? Possibly, but it could be that they’re a lot better at handling stressful situations than you are.
Genetics, upbringing, attitudes and expectations all come together to determine our stress personality according to a theory developed by Meyer Friedman and RH Rosenman, both cardiologists, after observing patients with heart conditions in their waiting room.
Initially, there were only two types – A and B. A third type – you guessed it – C, has more recently emerged to complete the ménage-a-stress.
You are typically intense, driven, often compelled towards multitasking and prone to shouting at the traffic. You are usually highly competitive and self-critical, and push towards a goal without really enjoying the process of getting there. You often over-react, become impatient with delays, are quick to anger and run the highest risk of high blood pressure and, eventually, other stress-related conditions. In the jungle, you would be a champion survivor; today you’re a health hazard.
You are generally tolerant of others and altogether more relaxed than type A. You are more reflective, rarely experience anxiety and tend to have a greater imagination and creative bent. You may occasionally lack focus and be frustrated at not achieving the success you probably deserve. According to Friedman and Rosenman, you’re far less likely to experience heart disease than a type A personality.
You have difficulty expressing what you feel and often suppress your true emotions, especially negative emotions such as anger. You tend to be agreeable to the point of pathological niceness, display incredible powers of patience and will avoid a conflict at all costs. You are at the greatest risk of depression compared to both type A and B.
How to cope with relationship stress
» the problem: You’re worried that you don’t spend anywhere near enough time with your partner, and Christmas isn’t going to help.
» Solution: Make some time for the two of you to sneak away from the crowd and spend some much needed time together. Plan a day, or a couple of days if you can, when you can get away from the chaos.
“Although it’s important to spend quality time on relationships, there’s no substitute for quantity,” says Dr Timothy Sharp, psychologist and author of 100 Ways to Happiness. “So make sure you call, email, text or, best of all, meet up with your loved one on a regular basis. Do this as often as you can and I guarantee the return on your investment will be enormous in the currency of happiness.
“Communicate. Even if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time and you know the other person very well, no one can read minds. Try to avoid that common pitfall of assuming your partner knows what you are thinking.”
“Find a happy medium by spending some time together and some time on your own.”
» the problem: Surprisingly, deciding to give everybody a jar of your homemade chutney doesn’t go down as well as you’d hoped.
» Solution: Be proud of your creations, know that it’s been in the best possible spirit and that everyone there is probably jealous of your idea – A, because it shows your individuality and creativity, and B, because you spent way less on their present than they did on yours.
“A judgemental friend may not focus on your strengths, and a pessimistic one will be unlikely to foster your self-esteem,” says Dr Sharp. “If someone seems to be ‘pulling you down’, you simply need to spend less time with them. It can be hard enough to remain positive without someone else emphasising the negative. If you do not receive the respect that you know you deserve, then do not give that person’s opinions any validity.”
» The problem: You’re stressed because your partner is stressed.
» Solution: Don’t take on board your partner’s stress. By doing so you’re probably compounding the problem or making his stress even more noticeable. Take a short break – go into the bathroom if you have to – and take some deep breaths, visualise yourself having a relaxed, bubbly time with your crazy family, go out and give your partner a hug and enjoy yourself.
“Find a happy medium by spending some time together and some time on your own,” says Dr Sharp. “Of course, quality time together as a couple is important in maintaining a satisfying relationship, but most people also require time to themselves. Find activities that you enjoy doing together, but don’t necessarily force your preferences on your partner when it may be much more enjoyable for you to engage in some activities alone or with another friend.”
Words by David Goding.