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What's Your Stress Style And Why It Matters

In a culture that rewards productivity and busyness, stress is one of the most often overlooked lifestyle factors we can (and need to) change to improve our health.

While not all stress is bad, repeated exposure to moderate to high levels of stress over time increases inflammation in the body and brain, and can impact sleep quality, memory, focus, body weight, digestive health, immunity, mental health and can even increase the risk of heart and Alzheimers disease in certain individuals. (Learn more about all of that here:

If you're anything like me, you intellectually understand that chronic stress isn't healthy, and even though you're familiar with popular and effective stress management techniques, you just can't seem to implement or apply some of them consistently, or they flat out don't work for you. For me personally, meditation, journaling and deep breathing top that list.

I've had all of the following thoughts about these techniques at different points along my journey:

  • I'm pretty sure I'm doing these wrong.

  • How Is it possible that I feel even more anxious and stressed after trying these techniques?

  • Maybe I'm just not the (meditating/journaling/deep breathing) type.

  • Do these techniques actually work for anyone?

Sound familiar? You're not alone. Bottom line, not every stress management technique is going to land for everyone, and if you don't enjoy doing something after giving it an honest shot, you're just not going to stick with it. Consider this your permission to stop trying to make any technique that doesn't work for you work no matter how effective or "on trend" it is for everyone else.

[Side note: I'm happy to report that I've found techniques that do work for me. You can check out my list of "go-to" stress management techniques here. Spoiler alert, they don't involve deep breathing, meditation or journaling!]

Other times these techniques aren't as effective or flat out don't work, because they're just the wrong tool for the job. Have you ever tried eating soup with a fork? It works up to a point, but a spoon is so much more efficient and effective because it's a more preceise tool for the job. It's the tool you'd use to "get the job done".

Let's apply this same logic to stress management. If you're stressed about feeling crunched for time, meditating or going for a walk may provide some temporary relief, but may ultimately put more of a crunch on the remaining time you have to complete your task. However, brain dumping your tasks, estimating the time they'll take and prioritizing them on the other hand can help you directly cope with the specifc stressor at hand.

Knowing our "stress style" (being able to name the type of stress we're encountering and knowing what's most likely to stress us out) then, can help us be more prescriptive in selecting the best stress management tools and techniques for the job. This can be a game changer in terms of saving time, and ultimately sticking with a stress management habit because it actually works and helps us feel better.

Knowing Your Stress Style

According to Dr. Karl Albrecht, there are 4 types of stress. Each of us may be more likely to experience stress from one or more of these triggers, while we better tolerate others. We likely all have or will experience stress from each of these triggers at some point in our lives. In the table below, I've listed the 4 types of stress, what each look and feel like, and some techniques that specifically target each type of stress.

​Stress Style

What it looks & feels like

​Targeted Techniques

Time Stress

Tasks exceed time to complete them. Feeling rushed/pressured for time.

  • ​Brain dump your tasks, estimate the time needed for each, then prioritize

  • Break tasks into smaller tasks

  • Take tasks one at a time

  • Identify what you can you can cancel, re-schedule or say no to

Anticipatory Stress

Having stressful thoughts about an event or situation in the future. Example: feeling stressed about an upcoming presentation at work.

  • Grounding with your 5 senses: name 2 things you can see, hear, feel, taste & touch right now

  • Get physical (e.g. walk)

  • Practice/visualize the event or situation going well

  • Identify potential onbstacles and plan your responses

Situational Stress

​Something sudden and/or unexpected and out of your control occurs

  • ​Recognize where stress shows up in the body

  • Practice relaxation or grounding (counting, breathing, 5 senses, etc.)

  • Remove yourself from the situation if possible

  • Process it with someone

Encounter Stress

The stress you feel after a negative interaction with someone and/or when your interactions exceed your need for downtime

  • ​Know your limits and plan downtime accordingly

  • Plan or take breaks

  • Leave the situation if possible

Next time you're feeling stressed, refer back to this post. Take a few minutes to identify what type of stress you're experiencing, and pick the targeted technique(s) that work for you.

For even more ideas, check on out 30 days of 5-min. self-care calendar.

Talk to me in the comments:

  • Are there any popular stress management techniques that just don't work for you?

  • What is your typical stress style?

  • Which technique(s) did you try, and how did they work?


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