Stress Management

Stress Management is a basic life skill well worth developing. Successful stress management can improve almost every area our lives. It can ease workplace stress, build self-confidence and positive relationships, improve attitude, and make project completion simpler.

Stressful situations are an unavoidable part of life. Time, money and energy will always have limits. With a better understanding of stress and a little practice, however, the effects of stress can be lessened or eliminated.


Six Steps to Improve Stress Management

1) Recognize that Stress is Internal - Not External

Stress is not something that happens to us. It is our reaction to something. Person A may experience overwhelming stress with regard to a particular person, place or situation. Whereas Person B may encounter the exact same person, place or situation with minimal or no affect on his or her stress level.

Examples could include two children who lose a parent or two parents who lose a child; two people who lose their jobs under the same circumstances; or two people who lose everything as the result of the same natural disaster. In every case, each person decides how he or she will cope with the situation.

Generally speaking, a person’s personal strengths, relationship skills and project skills will determine his or her reaction to a potentially stressful situation. The ability to use their AREA of control (actions, reactions, emotions, attitude) can also be very helpful in diffusing stress. The more a person believes he or she can control stress, the easier it will be to develop effective stress management skills.

2) Anticipate Stress - Identify Your Personal Stress Triggers

When you think of lack of time, energy and/or money, what specific people, places and/or situations come to mind? Make a list of your stress triggers, then develop a personal strategy for lessening or eliminating the stress associated with each one.

In some cases, you may be able to eliminate stress entirely by avoiding a particular stress trigger all together. A “friend” who is too demanding or negative, a night at the casino or a family reunion might be examples.

With regard to people, places and situations you cannot avoid all together, controlling stress will be the goal. Stress management strategies in these cases could include setting personal boundaries and limiting the time you spend with each stress trigger. Planning ahead can also lessen stress. Being more prepared for an interview or monthly presentation, for example, will increase confidence that can result in a much calmer and less stressful situation.

3) Recognize and React to Unexpected Stressors

Potential stressors, such as a new boss, a sudden trip to the hospital or a natural disaster, can occur at any time. Stress management strategies for dealing with these scenarios would be to:

Keep perspective. Stay as calm as possible and take at least a minute to think. Even in emergency situations, haste and emotion can make the situation worse.

Take Control. Remember you’re AREA of Control and use decision-making / problem-solving skills to work through situations beyond your control.

4) Be Flexible

Focus on the goal and maintain principles, but be flexible with details. Stress can be lessened by keeping the big picture in mind and not wasting time on minor details.

Decide how flexible you can be in a given situation. Being too flexible – to the point of abandoning goals and principles – will not result in less stress. Letting people walk all over you will only make things worse and result in more stress.

5) Accept Change as Part of Life

Change happens (just like mistakes and setbacks.) Evaluate life changes, learn from them and move on. Plan for the future, but focus on the present.

Look for Opportunity in every change – even the negative ones.

Expect a domino effect: One change usually results in a series of changes.

Develop coping skills to anticipate and manage change: Self-confidence, goal-setting, decision-making, communication.

Evaluate and move on. After the effects of change are overcome or absorbed: reflect on the cause; determine if or how its impact might have been lessened; and consider how a similar change might be handled in the future.

6) Organize and Innovate

Saves time, money and energy. Organizing your life is not only an important tool in stress management, it also improves attitude and allows time for more important and / or enjoyable tasks. Think of how your attitude and stress level changes when you spend hours looking for something or when it takes two hours to do something that should only take half that time.

Logic, common sense and planning are the foundations. Logic and common sense dictate need. “If I don’t know where anything is, I can’t get anything done.”

Planning makes organization possible. “What will I need?” “How soon?” “What can I throw away?”

Find better ways of doing things. But don't sacrifice quality. Think “outside of the box” and look at old ideas in new ways.

Keep it Personal. Organizational strategies vary from person to person. How much structure do you need? Should you organize everything or just the main items? Can you organize mentally or do you need visual reminders?

Don’t overdo it. Being overwhelmed by your organizational plan defeats the purpose. Obsession leads to frustration and does nothing to reduce stress.

Organization Basics: Start small; include all stakeholders; re-evaluate plan in the future.