Stress factors and coping techniques
What happens when one experiences distress?
There are numerous physiological changes in a full-scale stress response which may induce mental, emotional and behavioural changes. The individual may become more alert, angry or aggressive. The body will be energised by sugars and fats being released from the liver into the bloodstream so that quick bursts of energy are available. Respiration will become faster to bring more oxygen into the blood. The heart will beat faster to distribute the oxygen and blood pressure will increase so that muscles can react to demands for action.
This response was appropriate in the stone age when we were routinely vulnerable to predators. It is less often appropriate today, although some occupations, such as military personnel in combat situations require it.
When a stress response is generated routinely in sedentary occupations it can lead to ailments such as hypertension, coronary thrombosis, migraine, peptic ulcers, and colitis. It is therefore important to recognise distress in yourself and those around you to prevent these illnesses because the body cannot maintain the alert state for long without short- or long-term harm.
In this article, we will look at stress factors and coping techniques for managing stress. Look out for 2 more articles on this subject:
Stress management strategies using EI (coming 2nd of December)
..It is important to recognise distress in yourself because the body cannot maintain the alert state for long without harm.
stress factors and coping strategies
How can we avoid distress?
We cannot. However, we can learn techniques to keep distress to a minimum by increasing our coping strategies. We can also use eustress appropriately in our occupations to improve our performance and inspire others.
Avoiding excess stress
There are a number of strategies which have a preventive or moderating impact on stress becoming extreme in an individual:
- Learning to be more dynamic under pressure regulating mood and energy
- Better ability to optimise what is urgent and a priority
- Learning to negotiate with others
- Improving self-awareness to learn when to say ‘no’ more often
- Setting boundaries in the day
Coping with stressful situations
Spend some time thinking about the situations which you find personally stressful. These can be either at work or at home. Once identified, consider ways in which you could make these situations less stressful. For instance, would being better prepared or more assertive reduce the level of stress you experience?
Would practicing some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing help you cope more effectively? Consider the use of aromatherapy and planning in ‘me time’ into your busy schedule to wind down and reflect after a busy day. You may have to negotiate with members of the family so that they understand your needs as much as you understand theirs. Being clear now will really help when you are faced with this situation again.
stress factors and coping techniques
Identify from the list (which is not exhaustive), which are the sources of stress for you now and reflect on your coping strategies for each:
- Relationship with boss
- Relationship with colleagues
- Insufficient work
- Work overload
- Making mistakes
- Feeling undervalued
- Time pressures
- Promotion prospects
- Being relocated
- Taking work home
- Policy administration
- Lack of power and influence
- Lack of consultation and communication
- Job ambiguity
- Top management being remote
- Lack of rest breaks
- Lack of meal breaks
- Corporate culture
stress factors and coping techniques
Stress management strategies using EI
There is always a pay-off for unproductive behaviour (getting to be right, making someone wrong, playing victim or victimiser, dominating someone or being dominated and not responsible, invalidating the feelings of others, being invalidated, etc.). The cost of the bad behaviour is also all the self-negating behaviours – low self-esteem and so on.
Review your self-observations and create a model of your behaviour. Describe in your own words what transition you need to make to eliminate your stress-inducing behaviour. Think of words to illustrate the beneficial and positive pay-off for you in making the change. You need to make the transition steps as achievable as possible. You also need to be sufficiently dissatisfied with the status quo.
Think of the stress-related illnesses that could result from continuing your present pendulum swings over a long period of time. Note the disadvantages that would result. What might you have to stop doing that you enjoy? Replace those things which you enjoy now that are bad for you with things that give you joy and are good for you.
Like risk, stress is a perception and therefore highly personal. You need to differentiate between eustress and distress (good and bad stress). Distress is created through repeated negative behaviours. A pressure that is commonplace to one individual may be a huge source of stress for another. Here are a series of checklists of stress management measures which, by managing what we cannot avoid and by eliminating what we can, will lead to better health … leading you to take an EI approach to reducing stress.
- Manage your relationships
- Manage your environment
- Manage your lifestyle
- Manage your attitude
- Use an EI approach to reducing stress
We will look at these strategies in detail in our next article.