Stress Also Changes Our Personality

Stress also changes our personality. You, who used to be so optimistic, confident, who responded to everyone with a smile and never stopped placing illusions on your horizon, now you perceive yourself very differently. Everything bothers you, you lack patience, you are always in a bad mood, you have become more cynical and there is no day when you can shake off that apathy …

Does this feeling sound familiar to you? It is a reality of many, it is a state that, without a doubt, completely affects our quality of life. Now, the most striking thing of all is that in these cases, the person is fully aware of their own change. His way of reacting to his surroundings creates a high dissonance . “I don’t recognize myself. Why am I acting this way? ”  are often asked.

However, they cannot help but look at the world with fatigue, with that veil of darkness where everything is annoying, where what not long ago encouraged and filled them with energy, now is exhausting and lacking in motivation. Also, that difference between what we were before and how we behave now because of stress, is something that intensifies the suffering even more.

Now, as the psychotherapist Carl Rogers pointed out, the mere fact of being aware of this discomfort and knowing that we are not okay with what we do and what happens to us, is in itself a good step. It is then that we have the opportunity to tackle the problem clearly and courageously. The only thing missing is to use the right resources.

“There is no reason to seek suffering, but if it comes and tries to get into your life, fear not; look at him in the face and with his forehead well raised ”.

-Friedrich Nietzsche-

Stress also changes our personality, how does it do it?

Stress also changes our personality and it does so in many ways. Someone who used to define himself not long ago by motivation, dedication and kindness, can turn into someone irritable after months.

We can see something like this not only in ourselves, but also in that co-worker, in that friend or partner who no longer seems to enjoy our company. They become reticent, they answer in a bad way, they get frustrated easily and they always see problems where before only solutions were possible.

Why happens? What is happening inside us, in the mind or the brain so that we change in this way?

Stress makes us pessimistic

Until not long ago, experts thought that personality, at a certain time in our life, becomes a stable factor, in a dimension that does not change easily over time (Costa and McCrae, 1988). Now, studies like the one carried out at the University of California by Dr. Grant Shields, shows us something very striking.

  • Our personality fluctuates and undergoes changes. It does so especially in the face of adverse events or experiences from which we learn and that make us see the world (and ourselves) in a different way. Something like this is a positive thing because it allows us to grow and progress as human beings.
  • Now, on the other hand, there are also those less encouraging experiences where chronic and long-lasting stress generates various changes that are more than evident in us. 

Chronic stress (not punctual) changes our personality because it makes us pessimistic. The state of helplessness and psychological exhaustion is so deep that emotions as adverse as pessimism, negativity and that anguish that flood everything exude.

Stress changes our neural circuits

Stress activates a brain network made up of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal cortex. All of this causes the release of several compounds very similar to cortisone, such as glucocorticoids. The best known and the one that has the greatest impact on the brain and our body is cortisol.

In this way, if stress also changes our personality, it is basically due to the effect of this hormone. We are more exhausted, we cannot focus our attention, we have memory lapses and we also experience what is known as “hypersensitivity to the environment”. Any stimulus is experienced intensely. Hence, patience is lacking, that we magnify the little things and that any circumstance surpasses us.

What can we do to reduce the impact of stress?

Stress, like anxiety, are part of our lives. The purpose is not therefore to make them disappear, but to place them in a middle point where they can be handled, where they have full control over these psychological realities. Thus, and in case our stress is chronic, it is highly recommended without a doubt to go to specialized professionals.

Let’s see, however, some basic and simple keys that we should think about to generate changes.

  • Set priorities. As far as possible, it is advisable to simplify and organize our day to day.
  • Practices like minfulness are very effective in reducing stress.
  • There is a very elementary rule that we should use on a daily basis: start one thing at a time and finish it. It is forbidden to think and do various activities at the same time.
  • Set positive goals throughout our days: sign up for a course, have two hours to ourselves, a walk …
  • Take care of our internal dialogue. That talk with ourselves must always be in our favor, it must be kind and skillful in turn to detect negative and disabling thoughts.
  • It is highly recommended to be able to rely on significant people.
  • Identify your stressors and work on them.

To conclude, given that stress also changes our personality, let us keep this fact in mind to apply appropriate strategies. Let us not allow these conditions to turn us into someone we are not, into a person in whom we do not recognize ourselves.

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