We all feel “stressed out” at times. What does this mean? What does it reveal about us? Stress arises from something in our lives that we believe we are unable to handle or are not handling well.

It could mean that too many things are coming our way and that we feel bombarded with too many things to manage. If a few things are requiring our efforts we could handle them. But if more things are piled on us that require our attention, management and decisions, we feel overwhelmed and stressed.

In this type of scenario people are attempting to deal with too much simultaneously. They are expecting themselves to manage all requests or life events regardless of the number or timing. I call these people High-Copers. They experience stress only when trying to do inordinate feats of coping.

Other people, whom I call Low-Copers, believe they are unable to handle events in their lives that appear rather lightweight or easy to do or are infrequent.

For example, let’s look at two different parents feeling stressed from caring for their children. The High-Coping parent has two children and a full time job. He (or she, the person’s gender doesn’t matter) gets the kids up and fed and off to daycare and school. This parent works a ten-hour shift and then returns home after picking up the kids from daycare, fixes dinner, gives baths, helps with any homework, reads bedtime stories and puts the kids to bed. This parent has one to two hours afterwards to pack lunches, have time alone and with spouse, if present, before going to sleep.

The second parent, a Low-Coper, feels stressed at the prospect of fixing breakfast for the children. This parent does not dress or bathe the kids or get them off to school and daycare. The only thing expected of this parent, as far as childcare is concerned, is fixing breakfast for them before school five days a week. This parent does not work away from home and does not run the house doing household chores like cleaning, cooking and laundry. And this parent is not depressed. Yet this parent feels incredible stress with fixing the children’s breakfast. This parent believes he or she cannot even handle this one activity of fixing breakfast.

The way people view and manage stressors tells us a lot about them. High-Copers expect themselves to manage a lot in their lives. They are stressed when they cannot do this satisfactorily and feel overwhelmed.

Low-Copers expect themselves to manage little in their lives. They become stressed when almost anything is asked of them. Two divergent coping styles, two types of people.

Which are you, a High-Coper, or a Low-Coper? What do you get “stressed” about?

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