People - Top Tips - Dealing with stress

Dealing with stress

This document is designed as a quick reference guide to dealing with stress

This will enable you to gain knowledge of a particular skill, task or process.

This means you can quickly find the key information that you need and refer to it on an ongoing basis whenever you need to refresh your knowledge.

 

Introduction

It has become common for people to say they are ‘suffering from ‘stress’, or ‘stressed out’. Although some of these people may be stressed in a medical sense, the majority of people are using it as a convenient word to describe feelings such as tired, disappointed, pressured, etc.

 

Everyone is under a certain amount of pressure from sources at work, at home, and elsewhere, but a certain amount of pressure is good for us, and helps to raise our performance – many people say they do their best work under pressure. True stress arises when the amount of pressure on you exceeds your ability to control it, which results in unwanted physical, mental or behavioural effects.

People - Top Tips - Dealing with stress

What you need to know

 

Understanding what is causing you to feel stressed and knowing how to deal with that stress are essential tools for all of us.

Starting at the top are the sources of stress on you (you being X). It is often said that the most stressful events are bereavement, divorce, and moving house. However, any circumstance or event that has an impact on you can cause stress.

Many of these you can control – if you are given new targets that you believe you can achieve, this will create pressure, but not stress, as it is within your control. The same applies to pressure from other areas of work, from your partner, family, or social relationships, and from outside events such as a burst pipe at home, or a flat tyre in your car. If you can fix these later they will be inconvenient, but not necessarily stressful; they only become stressful when you cannot get a plumber or mechanic to fix them.

The level of stress you feel will also be influenced by how predisposed or prone you are to stress. If you are a generally calm person, the events above will not have such a strong or immediate impact on you, although the pressure will build up and may eventually ‘explode’ over the smallest additional cause. If however you are a generally emotional person, you may find that the slightest additional pressure may ‘tip you over the edge’. For some people, too little pressure can also be stressful!

Your brain, influenced by your own unique predisposition, is constantly appraising the sources of stress. You may not even be aware of this appraisal, but if you feel stressed as a result of this appraisal then you will respond in one or all of three different ways: Mentally, physically and behaviourally.

Some examples of mental responses are doubt, feeling anxious, difficulty concentrating and difficulty in making decisions. Examples of physical responses are muscle tension, sickness and butterflies. Examples of behavioural responses are being short tempered, disturbed sleep and increased alcohol intake.

Think about the last time you felt stressed and consider what mental, physical and behavioural responses you were suffering. Recognising these responses and understanding that they are symptoms caused by stress is essential to dealing with them.

We all have ways of coping with these symptoms; it’s just that some are better than others. Ways of coping with mental symptoms can include meditation, relaxation or simply doing something to take your mind off of things. Physical symptoms can be controlled by breathing exercises or taking prescribed medication. Behavioural symptoms are often controlled by the coping mechanisms for mental and physical symptoms. Others are often best controlled by you recognising them and changing your behaviour accordingly.

However, controlling the symptoms will only work in the short term if the cause of the stress is still in place. If the cause of the stress is long term or the symptoms are quite drastic then re-appraising or tackling the source of the stress are the best options. Re-appraisal can be done through various ways such as positive thinking or getting another perspective on the issue through a third party, e.g. a coach or someone else who you trust to challenge your thinking. Tackling the source of the stress is the most effective way of tackling stress but is often the most difficult. This can be achieved through several ways, one of the most successful being to carry out a demands, supports and constraints exercise. This involves identifying the demand being placed upon you (e.g. workload), then identifying the constraints you have (e.g. time) and finally the supports available to you (e.g. colleagues/technology). Finally, one of the most obvious ways to tackle the source of stress is often overlooked…. asking for help!