The Stress Habits of Each Enneagram Type, According to an Expert
Whether you're an "Achiever" or a "Loyalist," here's how you can chill out.
Ever feel lightheaded or flushed before a big presentation at work? Or, a pit in your stomach when you have to confront something that you’ve been putting off? This is your body’s fight-or-flight response in action, also known as stress.
Stress is a rite of passage for being human—it’s something everyone experiences. While some stress can be positive short-term motivators (think: acing a job interview), high levels of stress can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional wellbeing. As much as throwing on a face mask and an episode of The Great British Baking Show sounds like the perfect cure-all for a tough day, the more you avoid the root of the issue, the more it builds and sits with you. This is why understanding your triggers is the number one thing you can do for managing stress effectively—and the Enneagram is your best friend in doing so.
What exactly is the Enneagram, again? It’s a personality typing system made up of nine types, each with a core fear driving the way you think, feel, and act. With so many stress-relieving tips out there, you might have tried bullet journaling or lighting a candle before bed to no avail. Stress management isn’t one size fits all, and the Enneagram helps you understand what makes you tick so you can better manage your responses and align with the highest version of yourself.
Ready to find out the most effective stress-management tips for your type? As a certified Enneagram coach who is focused on wellness and self-development, I provided all the insights you need below. If you don’t know your type or are new to the Enneagram, press pause and take the official Riso-Hudson test here. You can also find a free test online, however, they’re not always the most effective, and it’s better to research the types on your own.
Type One: The Reformer
You’re driven by your strong values and moral compass to do the right thing and create a better world. When things lack order or something doesn’t meet your idealistic expectations, your internal balance is thrown off. You might find yourself becoming even more perfectionistic or feel misunderstood by others, resenting them for not pulling their weight. This tension bottles up and you experience a mean inner critic who hyper-focuses on what’s wrong with something rather than what’s right.
- Check-in with yourself. Where are you getting caught up in what you “should” do rather than what’s right for you? When is “good enough” better than “perfect?”
- Give yourself a compliment. It may feel silly at first, but recognizing the good balances out seeing the flaws, either in yourself or a project at hand.
- Talk things out with someone you trust. While you may be tempted to withdraw and deal with things on your own, verbally processing helps you filter information so you don’t obsess over every little detail.
- Relax your neck, shoulders, and jaw—you carry a lot of tension there!
- Schedule breaks where you can. Unplug and do something just for fun, expectation-free.
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Type Two: The Helper
Warm, nurturing, and empathetic, strong relationships are the foundation of everything to you. You have a need to be needed, and often prioritize others over yourself. Should you sense anything is “off” in your relationships, you feel completely gutted. Whether it’s being taken advantage of or the inability to solve a conflict, you might find yourself on either of two extremes: becoming even more people-pleasing or lashing out at others. The emotions you bottle up and ignore to focus on the needs of others are key to understanding yourself—and your source of stress.
- Enjoy screen-free solo dates with yourself doing something you love. It can be reading a book, cooking your favorite meal, or exploring your artistic side.
- Write down your feelings. Explore feelings of guilt and shame through a journaling practice to help you let go.
- Set boundaries. Do you need to turn your phone on silent during working hours? Do you need to minimize your commitments? What can and can’t you take on?
- Create a mantra that you hang up somewhere or repeat to yourself as a guiding principle. It may be as simple as: “I am important.”
- Think before you act. When someone asks for something, give yourself time to think through your decision before saying yes.
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Type Three: The Achiever
You are driven to succeed and be the best at whatever you set your sights on. When you hustle non-stop and don’t see any positive reinforcement though, your self-worth plummets. As a result, you might work even harder to prove yourself at the expense of your mental health. Being the social chameleon you are, you might even take on the characteristics of other people you admire in order to get praise and get ahead. While this might give you a temporary boost of self-esteem, over time, this leads to apathy, burnout, and a major identity crisis.
- Set boundaries with your work so you don’t go into overdrive. Schedule breaks into your day and time off where you can “be” without having to “do.”
- Engage in a non-competitive hobby. Take time for yoga, painting, gardening, or something else you love.
- Keep a gratitude journal. This will help you stay present and celebrate all that you have done.
- Cut out toxic words from your vocabulary. Avoiding using words like “achieve,” “results,” and “should” will prevent you from setting unrealistic goals and expectations.
- Do diaphragmatic breathing. This will help you reduce anxiety and stay grounded.
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Type Four: The Individualist
You carry one of the heaviest loads of the Enneagram types, being the sensitive person that you are. Identity crises probably feel like a normal part of life to you, as you’re always questioning who you are and what your purpose is. When you feel misunderstood or criticized by others, it adds salt to the wound of feeling like you’re not enough. Your inner world may feel like a tornado when you’re stressed, as you tend to internalize and focus on negative data about yourself. This may cause you to become more withdrawn and fully-absorbed in a spell of self-loathing.
- Try out some heart-opening yoga poses. They will help you to reconnect with your passions and purpose.
- Develop a positive self-talk habit and practice self-compassion daily. You are incredible and the world needs your intuitive gifts!
- Create a personal space that fits your vibe. Light candles, hang art, and add a personal flair to your home to feel most in tune with yourself.
- Use aromatherapy. This opens up your senses and can be especially calming when stress is heightened.
- Set intentions before approaching something or someone. This will help so you can take your time to assess if something is right for you.
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Type Five: The Investigator
You hate when your boundaries are pushed, right? You’re protective of your time and energy so you can enjoy a private space to explore your curiosity and deepen your understanding of the world. When too much is demanded of you, you feel foggy, scatterbrained, and disconnected from your inner world. This may cause you to impulsively jump to conclusions without taking time to process or only look at facts without checking in on what you want. This overstimulation has you craving quiet time and further isolating from others—or even cutting off contact.
- Take daily alone time. Whether it’s a morning routine or winding down with a book before bedtime, be sure to carve out those moments for yourself.
- Engage your mind in activities that satisfy your curiosity. You can do things like reading, taking a class, or watching a documentary.
- Help someone solve a problem of their own. This will reinforce your skills and bolster your connection with others.
- Go for a walk outside. Doing this will get you outside of your head.
- Know your limits and respect them. Being mindful of this will help you to avoid your fear of being drained.
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Type Six: The Loyalist
You long for security and stability through and through—and when that feels threatened, your stress alarm sounds. The irony of stress for you is that the more you try to avoid being stressed—through extensive planning and worst-case scenario thinking—the more stressed you feel. You’re always on the lookout for things that could happen, especially if you sense disorder in your environment or a lack of support. This may have you worrying more than usual or putting pressure on yourself to “do” and “achieve” to feel a sense of security. The more you look outwards for a sense of certainty, the more out of touch you become with your inner reference point.
- Engage in counter thinking. Notice when you start thinking about the “worst-case scenario” and counter that thought with the best-case scenario.
- Start a free-writing journal practice. You can explore and process your anxious thoughts without judgment.
- Consider cutting out caffeine. This might overstimulate your mind and produce more anxiety (there are tons of delicious caffeine-free drinks out there!)
- Create a morning routine you love. When things feel stressful, you at least have a sense of security you built for yourself.
- Audit your relationships. Are there people in your life who take more than they give? Is your anxiety heightened after hanging out with someone? Surround yourself with people who lift you up and encourage your growth.
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Type Seven: The Enthusiast
High-energy, optimistic, and adventurous, you want to live life to the fullest. Your way of dealing with anxiety is keeping your schedule full and chasing new, exciting possibilities. When you feel stuck or limited in any way, whether that’s through a dead end job or unexplored emotional baggage, you become jaded. Your usual open-minded thinking becomes black-and-white, and you may feel a new sense of anger and perfectionism towards yourself and others. You may even start rationalizing bad behavior such as overindulging in something because “you deserve it,” which can lead to unhealthy patterns.
- Make a list of your overarching goals. It’s okay if these change! Before committing to something, check in to see if it fits with your larger vision.
- Try a body scan meditation. Moments of stillness help ground you in the present.
- Commit to at least 20 minutes of movement per day. It can be yoga, walking, or getting on an exercise bike.
- Change up your environment. Whether that’s Feng Shui’ing your apartment or taking a staycation, changing your scenery can be just what you need to feel the energy flow again.
- Connect with a group of like-minded people who are passionate about the things you are. This sparks inspiration, new ideas, and opportunities for connection while also developing your interests.
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Type Eight: The Challenger
You’re a big advocate for social change and speaking up for the underdog on issues that matter. Under stress, however, you may feel completely powerless. You hate the feeling of being controlled by others and being told what to do, especially if it goes against your values. You may toughen your walls even more to avoid getting hurt and isolate yourself so you can deal with things on your own. On the other end of the spectrum, you might become more reactive, rebellious, and excessive in your behavior, such as pushing your body’s limits to see what you can do in order to regain a sense of control.
- Pay attention to your body’s needs. Keep hydrated, eat healthy foods, and move throughout your day, whether by taking walks or exercising.
- Engage in a comforting hobby. When you become intensely focused on what’s stressing you out, a comforting hobby will help you to disconnect.
- Take time and space to process your emotions and get in touch with your softer side. What are your emotions trying to tell you?
- Create a vision board so you can stay focused on what matters to you and your larger goals. If it helps, break them into chunks and delegate what you can.
- Slow down with deep breathing exercises and check in with yourself. When you feel the urge to take action, are you doing something to feel more in control or because it feels right?
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Type Nine: The Peacemaker
Others see you as chill and level-headed, but on the inside, it’s a different story—especially under stress. Conflict is the number one trigger for you, as your core fear is being disconnected from others. You’ll do everything you can to keep the peace, often putting your own priorities on hold. This self-sacrificial tendency may seem like a temporary fix, but over time, it causes you to lose touch with who you are and what you want. You might feel even more foggy and forgetful and find yourself “numbing out” with routine activities that give you comfort instead of addressing the root issue. You can also become increasingly stubborn and a ticking time bomb for anger to explode, much to even your own surprise.
- Take space for yourself. Time away from others helps you reconnect with yourself and explore your own passions.
- Explore repressed anger through journaling or breath-of-fire meditation.
- Spend time outside and tune into your senses to get inspired. What do you see, hear, smell, and notice?
- Commit to nurturing something. It can be a plant, a pet, or a passion project or club you start with your friends.
- Make the decision to make a decision. Even if it’s as small as deciding what to eat for dinner, notice how empowering it feels to make your voice and your choices heard.