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Module 1: Individual stress

Managing unavoidable stress

If the tasks cannot be managed anymore, stress can't be prevented – neither by good time management, nor by appropriate expectations or thoughts. The following section discusses the techniques that can help to reduce acute stress and prevent negative outcomes!  


Positive and negative management strategies

There is a great variety of possibilities to react to stress. There are favorable and less favorable management possibilities.

Test yourself: How do you manage stress situations?
 
 
Favorable management strategies include:
  • Cooling down your emotions by positive expressions ("I am absolutely calm!". "I have time!", etc. )
  • Cooling down your emotions by relaxation and rest
  • Thinking of adding some other meaning to the situation; see it positively
  • Positive self-conversation ("I can do it!", "I am good!")
  • Actively handling the situation, trying to influence it
  • Look for help and support of others
  • Humor
Management strategies with short- and long-term negative effects include:
  • Reproaching yourself or others
  • Obsession with the issue, depressive brooding
  • Negative self-conversation ("I can’t do it, I am a looser!")
  • Violent feelings‚ pressure, over reacting
  • Smoking, alcohol, other depressants
  • Avoiding the problem (it can not be solved)

Research data shows that negative management strategies are less efficient than positive ones! In addition it is clear that in many cases it's worthwhile to take action and not to brood over the problem for a long time.

 
Choosing the right management strategy

In order to be able to behave efficiently in stressful situations it is necessary to think about what kind of things help us best to reduce stress. According to the characteristics of a stressful situation some special management strategies can be recommended.

Three simple questions will help you to define what kind of a strategy is the best:

Question 1:


How important it is the situation?

It is necessary to find out if the situation really represents a problem and if it is actually worth spending so much time thinking about it.  You should only allow it to trouble you in the case of situations and problems which are important and relevant for you personally.

If you notice that you cannot stop thinking about the situation and cannot escape it, interrupting your thoughts helps. Shout out loudly within: "Stop!!!" and interrupt all thinking or brooding on the topic. You need to think about something else.
 

Question 2:
Can the situation be influenced?

If you can influence the situation you need to discover the best possibility of how this can be done. It could be that you must acquire new knowledge (Information search). If you are very troubled, and feel very severely stressed, then you should – before you try to handle your problem – relax (active relaxation). 

If it impossible to change the situation, then it is useless to try to influence it. In this case your perspect ve of the situation can be changed. Ask yourself if there is anything positive to be found in such circumstances. Try to see the situation in another light if possible or from an outsider's point of view. 
 
Question 3:


What is the chance that the situation will change for the better by by itself?

If the situation can improve itself, then you must not do anything, but merely wait until the situation changes for the better by itself!!
 

In situations where we have often chosen an inappropriate management strategy, we are not yet capable of assessing the situation accurately. Established perception patterns will automatically assess the situation and activate a problematic reaction. When we are confronted with this situation, or one similar to it, it is important to try to correctly assess the situation. If afterwards, we can perform a profound analysis of what happened then we can prepare ourselves for the next similar situation. This will help us to choose a sensible and rational management strategy in the future!
 

Example 

When a child, while playing, accidentally overturns a vase full of water many of us, grown-ups react with anger and reproach the child: "Why couldn't you have been more careful?" or "Watch out!" Ask yourself though: "Is it really so bad? Isn’t it possible to clean it up? Won’t it dry by itself?" The situation will then lose its drama and will become less stressful. A reasonable reaction to this is to stay calm and not to get angry. Remind the child about being careful and clean everything up.  



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© 2007 by Yves Hänggi, University of Fribourg, Switzerland. top


 

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  Module 1

Individual stress
Stress prevention
Managing stress
 
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