The Enneagram is unique to other personality models because it operates on the principle of “conscious change” in rewriting your mindset in different situations, to help you grow as an individual as you journey through life. As such, it suggests specific areas for self-development and growth. One area the Enneagram tackles is stress. One promiment theory, popularized by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, proposes that each Enneagram type "disintegrates" under stress, leading them to behave like another type—in its most dysfunctional incarnation. This dynamic can be one way to explain the shifts in your normal behavior that you undergo when you're stressed. 

Stress can hit at almost any time: during a heated meeting, on the bus (and realizing your keys/phone/wallet is missing), when the kids are crying, or as you begin to get accustomed to a new neighborhood. The common theme is not feeling like your usual self. You may feel like a self-imposed fish out of water, and according to Riso and Hudson, that’s because you’ve pushed your natural type behaviors to the limit and have started to act like another Enneagram type.

How does this play out for each of the nine types? Let’s find out.

Enneagram Type 1 (The Perfectionist)

When events go against your tightly-held principles, your internal sense of balance ultimately faces the tipping point. You may break down in private as you face the discrepancies between your idealistic moral code and reality.

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 4 (The Individualist) and fall into spells of melancholy, longing and feeling misunderstood. You may suddenly become aware of art and how it relates to your personal life. Sappy or angsty lyrics and films begin to make sense. You also become more attuned to the beauty (or lack thereof) in nature. 

How you can beat stress:

  • Spend quality time with fun-loving siblings or friends and learn to nurture the inner child within you.

  • Schedule a day (or chunks of hours) to simply relax and reflect.

  • Watch a humorous show or read a comic to lift up your mood.

  • Take numerous planned breaks between work to beat burnout.

  • Investigate which activities made you genuinely happy during childhood, and revisit some of them.

Enneagram Type 2 (The Giver)

Since your sense of well-being is tied to the relationships you have with others, any type of conflict or people giving you the cold shoulder is going to leave you feeling lost in the dust. 

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 8 (The Challenger) and may get pushy in the pursuit of securing love and affection. You become tyrannical and controlling, to the point where everyone in your circle may feel like they’re walking on eggshells. Under dire circumstances, you may corner people into making harsh decisions about your relationships.

How you can beat stress:

  • Try art or music therapy. Better yet, explore your (perhaps dormant) artistic side and let your feelings unleash themselves. 

  • Read into self-discovery and learn more about your personal identity.

  • Go on a shopping spree or two to develop your own unique style.

  • Let others know you’re taking time off to heal and grow on your own for a while.

  • Take time exploring your cultural background by chatting with relatives all over your family tree.

Enneagram Type 3 (The Achiever)

After long hours of blood, sweat and tears you’ve hit a dead end, and that’s a major source of stress for you. You need to achieve to feel good about yourself, and if you cannot do that then you may get caught in a downward spiral where everything begins to tumble in the opposite direction at record speed. 

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 9 (The Peacemaker) and fall down the rabbit hole into procrastination, lethargy and chronic daydreaming. You may adopt a lax and easygoing attitude. This seems nice on the surface, but you’ll stress out further due to the heaps of unfinished work and glare of blank checklists. 

How you can beat stress:

  • Try out new and interesting activities outside of your career. Ask friends, join meetup groups and travel around.

  • Write out a list of qualities you admire and appreciate in each friend—and let them know.

  • Keep and regularly update a gratitude journal to remind yourself of the many wonderful gifts life has given you and how much you have actually achieved.

  • Help others discover their own identities and offer to be their personal motivator or advisor.

  • Adopt a pet or purchase houseplants to learn patience and the joys of watching a companion grow. 

Enneagram Type 4 (The Individualist)

Whether it’s your first or your seventh existential crisis of the week, you’re once again trapped in a funk without a clear self-concept or identity to distinguish yourself from others. When your sense of self is called into question, so comes the inevitable stress situation for Type 4s. 

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 2 (The Giver) and see non-existent needs from others to be filled and attended to. You may begin a slew of new friendships and volunteering commitments to fill your large, dark void within. This is actually a great move, but not if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. 

How you can beat stress:

  • Explore novels, art and films by authors of different ages, nationality, race, ethnicity, culture, and background to widen your perspectives.

  • Volunteer and lend a helping hand in situations you’ve yet to encounter and experience.

  • Book a getaway in nature and immerse yourself in the great outdoors.

  • Share your personal experiences in the form of creative writing or storytelling to people around the world.

  • Keep up to date on global philanthropic efforts and read up on the personal journeys of humanitarians.

Enneagram Type 5 (The Investigator)

Your stress alarm sounds when your personal space and privacy has been invaded one too many times. At this point, you may lapse into angry fits, tearful meltdowns and a general lack of concentration. And while you’re at it, you hit the “isolate” button faster than you can tell others to leave you alone.

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 7 (The Enthusiast) and partake in wild and outlandish activities to shut down your brain’s “thinking” side and rev up the “feel-good” pleasure centers. You begin to “live for the moment” and chase the next “high”. And yes, it’s a slippery slope toward a bucketload of intense addictions. 

How you can beat stress:

  • Make a conscious effort to reconnect with people and nature.

  • Read books and watch videos on emotional intelligence and apply them in your interactions with others.

  • Participate in groups such as Toastmasters or improvisation in your local area.

  • Incorporate healthier foods into your diet and make exercise a part of your daily routine.

  • Dare to try activities outside of your comfort zone—good news: it gets easier each time.

Enneagram Type 6 (The Loyalist)

Type 6’s tend to stress over becoming stressed itself. The chances are, you’ve devised multiple strategies to calm the jitters, yet stress still somehow manages to find new ways to come knocking at your door. 

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 3 (The Achiever) and fixate upon getting ahead and artificially exuding charisma out of anxiety. You become more competitive and focused on your outer appearance. If you use social media, you’ll spend hours trying to convince others that you’re living your best life—which couldn’t be further from the truth. 

How you can beat stress:

  • Keep a journal detailing your innermost thoughts and plans for self-improvement.

  • Meditate, practice spirituality, or dabble in various positive mantras to keep your spirits high.

  • Hang out around people who emit and radiate good, positive energy.

  • Deepen your existing relationships by openly voicing your concerns and empathizing with others.

  • Talk to a trusted friend who can offer practical advice and emotional validation.

Enneagram Type 7 (The Enthusiast)

What even happened last night, and where did this week go? Why is everything such a blur? Your stress levels rise when you’re pulled back into reality and realise it does not give you the high you were hoping for. 

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 1 (The Perfectionist) and adopt more rigid, black-and-white thinking. You become nit-picky with all of the injustices of the world and may develop a charged interest in larger social issues. The inner child is then replaced with a newfound anger and irritation with the current state of affairs. 

How you can beat stress:

  • Consult a friend who can bring you back to reality and offer practical solutions.

  • Break down important goals into small, actionable steps.

  • Make a list of areas you’d like to improve upon and share it with a friend who’ll encourage you to follow through with your commitments.

  • Explore subjects such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, ethics, and religion to learn about what your values are.

  • Inspire others to find their own joys through your boundless levels of positive energy!

Enneagram Type 8 (The Challenger)

Suddenly, you find yourself stuck in a situation where you have absolutely no control over power dynamics, and feel at a loss for words or actions. Whether that’s a domineering boss, raucous client or a friend who threatens to blackmail—you’re in a stress situation deep as quicksand. 

Under stress, you disintegrate to Type 5 (The Investigator) and spend more time alone with your (mostly pessimistic) thoughts. You may abandon projects and focus on absorbing more knowledge; more think, less do. As a result, you may develop tunnel vision and be unable to see the bigger picture. 

How you can beat stress:

  • Get in touch with your softer side. 

  • Focus on physical exercise to boost feel-good endorphins and clear your mind.

  • Make a long list of exciting activities to do when the blues hit.

  • Practice visualizing your worries dissipating into the air and positive self-talk.

  • Allow yourself space to process and validate your (seemingly foreign or useless) emotions.

Enneagram Type 9 (The Peacemaker)

Disharmony and discord stress you out and make you feel extreme apathy towards everyone around you. You may lose touch with your surroundings as each day blends into a large, indistinguishable, apathetic blur. 

Under stress, you disintegrate into Type 6 (The Loyalist) and blindly suspect vile or harmful intentions in others. You begin to read between the lines in everyday conversations and become  hyper-aware of ulterior motives or potential threats. Nutty and scattered, you can look into far-off conspiracies with legitimate concern.

How you can beat stress:

  • Take long nature walks in solitude, and make time for quiet reflection.

  • Consider a social media detox, and clean up your online presence.

  • Care for a plant or pet, and spend quality time nurturing it daily.

  • Read books on motivation with concepts and strategies to kickstart a game plan.

  • Ask a particularly ambitious or go-getting friend for advice and their personal story to seeking action.

Stress-Busting Tips for Each Enneagram Type: An Overview

After you’ve figured out how to combat stress for your own Enneagram type, consider helping out a friend or family member who may be confused on how to take action to live a more balanced life. You’ll be able to see the aspects of integration (growth) unfold over time—it’s a win-win situation.