Nov 18, 2022

Use the Enneagram to Manage Stress

Poop jokes all day long in my house this week. Not because we have babies or dogs, but because we’re in our mid-40s and our doctors prescribed a colon cancer screening. 

While I felt incredibly grateful for how much easier “poop-in-a-box” is than a colonoscopy, I still faced testing the most basic function of my humanity. And I was actually feeling the pressure.

I laughed at myself (because clearly I cope with humor) when I realized I was asking the same questions about my poop performance as my performance as a leader, a speaker, and a coach.

Will I do it right? Do I have enough information? Will it be enough? Why is this so uncomfortable? What will happen afterward?

I felt insecure, exposed, inferior, and a little revolted.

Who knew poop brought out so many emotions?

Because of Enneagram work, I recognized I was moving toward my stress number.

The Enneagram wisdom shows us some intuitive moves we make to take care of ourselves in times of stress. Each personality type starts to take on some of the characteristics of their stress number or their “take care of myself” number. When we experience stress, this other number is the place we go to try to manage the stress.

Eight moves to Five.

Nine moves to Six.

One moves to Four.

Two moves to Eight.

Three moves to Nine.

Four moves to Two.

Five moves to Seven.

Six moves to Three.

Seven moves to One.


Each personality type starts to take on some of the characteristics of their stress number or their “take care of myself” number.

When this move happens, it doesn’t begin consciously. But work to notice yourself is this other personality energy. This isn’t about behaviors exactly, but more unhealthy coping mindsets.

For me, a Seven who doesn’t like boring detailed things or feeling exposed and revolted, I was feeling stress. Noticing I was moving to One began with seeing the critical space I was in: Why am I doing this? This is stupid. Why can’t other people do their jobs? These directions are terrible.

After recognizing where I was, then I could expand from critical to grab some of the powers of One: There are clear steps. I can embrace a checklist. It feels so good to follow through and finish.

In-the-moment shifts for each Enneagram type


You might be tempted to say “peace out” of a stressful situation. Rather than just picking up your toys and going home or heading into a deep dive of all the research to prove you’re right, try intentional removal. Tell yourself, “I can step away to observe and get curious before I re-engage.” Use the focused, lower energy of Five to decrease your stress. 


You might start catastrophizing in your mind and get all tangled up before just complete disengagement, which will add to your stress. Instead, move to the preparation action of Six. Prepare with your actions rather than simply keeping it all in your mind. Use the active nature of Six to get you engaged and untangled.


Notice when you are thinking your feelings instead of feeling your feelings. Keeping them on a spiral down into criticism of yourself and others. Instead, try feeling the emotions in your body and then releasing them. Use the power of Four accepting all emotions and an experience rather than something to manage.


When you micromanage and try to control the situation, you are in a state of stress. Instead, ask yourself, “What is mine to do?” and set a boundary. Use the energy of Eight to know what is yours to do and not overfunction into someone else’s work.


Notice when you feel overwhelmed and as if all progress toward a goal is on you. You are likely numbing your feelings and vegging out, almost like a switch went off and Netflix is the only way to cope. Instead, use the lower energy of Nine to disengage from the expectations of others and check in with yourself. What are realistic expectations and what have you created in order to please or impress others?


You might be tempted to move into the space of the martyr. Look at how I’m helping all of you. See my sacrifices! Which is all based in shame. Instead, try using the other-referenced activity Two. Not pleasing others, but moving away from the extreme focus of being your feelings to activity that is focused and boundaried. 


When you move to scarcity and needing more information and so you ping pong to different thoughts, you are in stress. Instead, try an intentional activity break. Preferably something fun. Use the buoyant energy of Seven to release your brain from doing all the work in one way. The activity will reset your brain and pull you more into equilibrium.


Notice when you become more worried about winning and proving yourself and doing all the things to make sure it’s all taken care of. Instead, try focusing on the one next step. Use the Three energy of action toward a goal, even if it’s small to move you out of stress.


When you move to a space that is critical and biting sarcasm, you need to pay attention. Instead, try a top-three list. Use the One focus and power of creating order from chaos. You will move from overwhelmed to accomplished.

The questions you ask under pressure are probably similar to mine. That’s a great indicator of where you are. But each Enneagram personality type has a different path out of stress into peace. Try these small shifts. Grab something healthy in that space and see what happens.

I’m guessing you’ll feel more in control, more confident, and more peaceful. Would that feel great?

Want some help? Hop on a Spark Call with me.

A little bonus: A few of our poop jokes

“Poop-in-a-box” is just a work-aurant. 

It was a poop emoji to be my own lab tech. 

Let’s make this s*** happen. 

What if I got German constipation? Farfrompoopen.

Just call me Tigger looking for Pooh.

I’d love to hear yours! Comment below and tell me.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a reply