What's your "Stress Personality"?

Mar 31, 2024

This week, we are exploring the 5 different Stress Personalities!

These personalities were created by Dr. Lauren Hodges, a researcher who focuses on physiology, neuroscience, the science of learning, behavioral psychology, and more. 

In this blog post, we outline all 5 types: The Fighter, The Runner, The Worrier, The Freezer, and The Pleaser.

For each personality type, we also share stress-busting strategies that will work best for your unique strengths and weaknesses.

Read on to figure out your Stress Personality (and how to work with it… 💪🏽)

The Fighter

When dealing with stress, do you find yourself getting angry, irritated, or aggressive? Do you feel it in your body? Maybe your face flushes, your heart races, or your body is shaking.

If this sounds like you, you might be a Fighter.

If you have a Fighter-type stress personality, then your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are probably turned outward towards the people and things around you.

One thing is for sure: you don't run from stress. You face it, but sometimes not mindfully, or with as much compassion as you would like.

In moments of stress, it can become hard to practice empathy, compassion, active listening and understanding for others on your team (or in your family 😅).

Your thoughts tend to be very self-protective in nature. You might think things like: “It's not my fault. It's yours, and here's why...” or “Why does this always happen to me?” 

Fighter personalities tend to expend large amounts of energy — often followed by an energy crash and feelings of guilt, regret, or exhaustion.

Being a fighter is a learned reaction. If you are a fighter, past experiences may have taught you to fight to protect yourself and those around you, which is not always a bad thing.

Typical Fighter stress responses:

  • Faces stress head-on

  • Feels anger, irritation, aggression

  • Struggles with empathy, compassion, listening, and understanding

  • Focuses on self-protection

  • Expends negative energy

  • Experiences energy crash, negative feeling

But it's not all bad — Fighters have strengths:

  • Go-getters

  • Fight for their needs

  • Often quick on their feet in a confrontation 

Stress Reset Tips for Fighters:

🚶 Tune into your body with deep breaths, walking, and "clench-and-release" stretches

⏱️ Create a "time-out" for yourself — to find calm, reflect, and redirect negative energy

🤗 Seek feel-good triggers like humor, upbeat music, or hugging a pet

💆 Practice grounding exercises like the '5-4-3-2-1' technique

The Runner

Have you ever had an "I'm-over-it-all" kind of day, where you fantasize about quitting… maybe even fleeing the country and assuming an alternate identity? 🥸

Do you hear your inner voice using hyperboles like "always" or "never" to describe yourself? When you're stressed, do things feel impossible?

If this sounds like you, you might be a Runner.

Unlike our Fighter friends, the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of a runner are focused internally instead of externally. Runners feel overwhelmed, panicked, anxious, and often question their abilities.

Runners can experience negative thought loops that are self-deprecating, unsure, and insecure. 

There is often a high external locus of control with runners — meaning that when they are stressed, they feel that the world happens to them, not the other way around.

Runners often want to avoid, procrastinate, retreat, and be on their own when stressed. Runners don't want to lean in, talk things through, or argue right away.

Even feedback, positive or constructive, can be tough because in the moment… Runners can be so hard on themselves.

Typical Runner stress responses:

  • Focuses emotions, thoughts, behaviors inwardly

  • Experiences panic, anxiety, insecurity

  • Flight-focused negative thought loops

  • Feels at the mercy of external factors

  • Experiences avoidance and procrastination

  • Dislikes feedback

But it's not all bad — Runners have strengths:

  • Thoughtful

  • Careful

  • Humble

  • Considerate

  • Non-Confrontational

Stress Reset Tips for Runners:

😊 Try positive self-talk to combat negativity bias

🗣 Affirm your emotions, and retell the story. For example: “I feel unsure, but I am capable”

↪️ Reframe to put stressful situations into perspective

👨‍⚖️ Put your negative thoughts on trial — ask yourself: “Is this negative thought true or accurate?”

💭 Carve out intentional "alone time" to process

🤔 Make a list of what’s in your control, what's not, and what’s possible

The Worrier

Have you ever worried about something so much that it was hard to think of anything else or go about your daily routine?

If this sounds like you, you might be a Worrier.

You can probably relate to getting stuck in a cycle of rumination, fear, and uncertainty.

That worry could be inwardly-focused — maybe about your health, your capabilities at work, or feeling antsy about an upcoming meeting. Or it could be outwardly-focused, such as worrying about your family's future, or how you will meet your quarterly sales goals. 

Here are some thought loops you might recognize if you're a Worrier type. 

  • "If I just think this through, I can figure out a solution and let go,"

  • "If I let my guard down, I'll make a mistake,"

  • “Remember, the last time I did this? I totally messed up. I'm KNOW I’m going to mess up again. " 

If you are a Worrier, you probably love to talk things through and weigh all options. You might also catastrophize or replay past failures. Worriers can become distant, distracted, and disconnected when they feel stressed. They struggle to shut off their mind and stay in the present moment, and often feel foggy-headed and easily distractible.

Typical Worrier stress responses:

  • Talks things through

  • Weighs all options

  • Catastrophizes

  • Replays past failures

  • Experiences distraction and disconnection

  • Struggles to stay present

But it's not all bad — Worriers have strengths:

  • Risk-averse — aren't likely to make a rushed decision

  • Great at considering all possible outcomes

Stress Reset Tips for Worriers:

📔 Journaling

📆 Blocking time for worry

🙇‍♀️ Guided meditation

🧘‍♀️ Mindfulness

🗣️ Talking things through

The Freezer

When you're feeling stressed, do you feel drained and sluggish? Maybe you become glued to the couch, mindlessly scrolling social media rather than tackling your to-do list?

Does your brain feel foggy? Does focusing feel exhausting? Do your thoughts and heart race? Or maybe you feel numb, struggling to feel any emotion at all. You have trouble relaxing and you feel anxious, but you can't seem to take action.

If this sounds like you, you might be a Freezer.

This one's a little tricky because often freezers have trouble recognizing their own stress personality, and for good reason — they can't really feel it. They're simply paralyzed with inaction and often emotionally checked-out.

From the outside, freezers often seem like they don't care or seem disconnected. But it's not that Freezers don't care, or are avoiding taking action because they're unsure — they're just stuck.

Typical Freezer stress responses:

  • Emotional numbness

  • Indifference, apathy, disengagement

  • Lack of empathy and compassion

  • Racing thoughts and heart

  • Trouble relaxing

  • Anxiety 

But it's not all bad — Freezers have strengths:

  • Doesn’t rush into a reaction or response without thinking

  • Not quick to anger or outward aggression

Stress Reset Tips for Freezers:

💞 Find connection with others

🥹 Check in with your emotions (a feelings wheel can help)

🗣️ Practice stating how you feel, clearly and without self-judgement

🔋 Make time for recovery and recharge

📝 Make a mental list of what’s in your control, what's not, and what’s possible

The Pleaser

Do you ever respond to stress with saying “yes” more often than you have capacity for? Do you sometimes feel resentment or frustration about everything that piles up on your plate?

If this sounds like you, you might be a Pleaser.

You don’t fight, run, or freeze — you appease. You might feel guilt, fear, or eagerness to prove your worth. Pleasers inner voices might sound like:

  • "Saying yes shows them that I care." 

  • "Putting others before myself is more important than my own wellbeing." 

  • "I don't feel like I'm enough." 

More often than not, pleasing others leads to resentment, regret, exhaustion, overwhelm — and ultimately, burnout.

Pleasers are often "other-focused", measuring their success based on the reactions of others. They often seek positive reinforcement, and the antidote to their stress is someone celebrating their behavior. But that's not sustainable or healthy — being thanked for burning the candle at both ends only reinforces their actions…

Typical Pleaser stress responses:

  • Struggles with boundaries

  • Lack of self-care

  • Perfectionism

  • Fear of not being enough

  • Appeasing

But it's not all bad — Pleasers have strengths:

  • Often lovely to be around

  • Very giving

  • Often says “yes” to new opportunities, which can lead to growth

Stress Reset Tips for Pleasers:

🧠 Get to know your inner voice so you can catch yourself before overextending or overcommitting

🤔 Create some quick, easy go-to phrases like “I’ll get back to you on that”

🚧 Set boundaries — learn how to say no, really.

📆 Protect your time (blocking work time on your own calendar is a great tool!)

Bonus: Becoming a Thriver

As you read through these different stress personalities, have you been thinking that you actually handle stress pretty well?

If so, you might be a Thriver.

Thrivers are self-aware, reflective, present — and quick to reframe challenges as opportunities for growth.

There are many paths to becoming a thriver personality, like going through challenging times that offered a new perspective, having been taught positive stress responses from a young age, or intentionally training yourself to be a thriver. Usually, it’s a combination of all three! 

Thrivers aren’t perfect and still experience stress like the rest of us. They are just able to catch it and reframe it more quickly. Gratitude is also a common trait of a thriver. It’s hard to stay both stressed out and grateful at the same time!

Typical Thriver stress responses:

  • Self-Aware

  • Reflective

  • Present

  • Quick to see growth opportunities

Strengths of a Thriver:

  • Positive 

  • Encouraging

  • Doesn't internalize stress… seems to let it roll off like water 🌊

  • Rises to challenges

  • Resilient

Stress-Busting Strategies for Every Personality Type

In the sections above, I shared stress reset strategies tailored to each personality type.

But before you go, I want to leave you with a few strategies that work for every personality type:

💪 Maintaining physical health — practice good eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.

🧘‍♀️ Making time for meditation to improve well-being, memory, and mood.

🙏 Practicing gratitude.

💞 Finding connection with others.

⭐️ Having a clear sense of values — a true North Star to guide your decisions and behaviors.

I hope this article helped you better understand how you react to stress, so you can find the right strategies for your unique personality type.

See you around the sessions this week!

— Kaila

P.S. Our programs and resources are for informational purposes only. This website is not for emergency or crisis help. Our programs are not intended to provide mental health diagnosis, counseling, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.