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WHAT IS STRESS?....................................................................................................................................................3 WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT STRESS? ....................................................................................................................10 HOW MUCH STRESS DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR LIFE? ..................................................................................15 HOW TO MAKE A CHANGE ................................................................................................................................21 ANALYZE AND HANDLE YOUR STRESS..........................................................................................................30 TOP TEN WAYS TO MANAGE STRESS .............................................................................................................32 USING NATURAL STRESS REDUCING TECHNIQUES ..................................................................................37 DO I NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP?...................................................................................................................41 CREATING YOUR ‘PERSONAL STRESS MANAGEMENT PLAN’ ...............................................................42 SUMMARY................................................................................................................................................................45
What Is Stress?
We have all heard about stress! Reports, articles and news stories bombard us with news about the increased stress in our societies and families and warn us of the dangers of long-term stress. There are many different definitions of stress. Books by psychologists, health care professionals, business managers and social workers talk about stress and its effects, and all of them take a different approach. You might think that the definition of ‘stress’ would be obvious, because anyone over the age of twelve has probably experienced enough of it to identify it readily when they feel it. That is not necessarily true. The inability to recognize stress is twofold. First, you may have been under stress for so long that your body and mind have stopped trying to remind you of your condition and accepted the state. You learn to take stress for granted and not recognize the effects if it begins and increases gradually. You adjust to the new constraints and stress and just keep going, thinking this is what life is supposed to be! Secondly, stress doesn’t just come from one source. It can exist in every aspect of your life and in your responses to situations that others may handle without batting an eyelash. You may find a visit to your doctor very stressful, while your friend, Jim is able to handle that quite nicely, yet he gets apoplectic in heavy highway traffic. Different people have different definitions of what is stressful and different people handle stress differently. Therefore, the definition of stress is not quite as easy as one might think. Richard S. Lazarus once defined stress as ‘a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize’. In other words, the ‘stress response’ of an individual occurs when we feel we cannot control, handle or resolve a situation, yet we are unable to leave or get away from the thing that is causing our stress. Consider Jill's situation.
She is 37 years old, a successful financial analyst with a solid background and lots of experience at handling rush projects. Jill receives a project on Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m. She is asked to complete this project no later than 5:00 p.m., preferably sooner if possible. The project requires her to get information from other people in her office. Jill knows that it will be difficult, at best, to gather all the information she needs and get the report to her boss by 5:00 p.m., much less earlier. She begins to make phone calls to gather the information she needs and discovers that Doug is out of the office for the day and that Anne will not be back at her desk until 4:00 p.m. Pat tells her that her piece of the information might be available in the morning, but right now their system is down and she can’t retrieve the archived files Jill needs to complete her report. Jill is a normally calm, industrious soul who always finds a way to get things done. But these obstacles seem insurmountable. She calls Doug’s assistant and asks if she can come up to his office and go through the files herself. She knows this will take much longer than if Doug were to produce the files, but she has no choice. Before she goes to Doug’s office, she leaves a voicemail on Anne’s cell phone, asking her to call if she gets the message before she gets back. By noon, she has what she needs from Doug, but she has not heard from Anne. She calls Anne again and this time Anne picks up the phone. Anne tells her that her files are locked and she is the only one who has the key but she says she will definitely be back by 4:00 and she promises to get the files to Jill no later than 4:30. With a little luck and a lot of fast work, Jill figures she can incorporate the information into her report and still get the report to her boss by 5:00 p.m. But what about Pat? While she is gathering the information she obtained from Doug’s files, she calls Pat back to see if she can borrow the hard copy files from the most recent archive printout. Pat promises to bring them up. It is now 2:00 p.m.
She takes a deep breath. 5 . with her heart in her mouth. She puts the finishing touches on the final page and runs the totals just as her boss walks in her office at 5:05. and needs the reports NOW! He stands over her desk as she prints the report and prays that she has gotten all the numbers he needs. glances at her watch and realizes she hasn’t eaten or visited the rest room that day – and then she dives in! By 4:00 when Anne calls to say she is back in her office. Anne’s numbers go in easily and she goes back to the archives from Pat. late for a meeting. and that the numbers are right! At 5:08. trying not to make any mistakes or typographical errors. spinning through the remaining pages at record speed. and Jill realizes that she will have to sort through several inches of reports to find what she needs. had lunch and even taken a break to go to the bathroom. it wasn’t the work itself that was stressful.. rather than the same day? She probably could have handled that. and nearly abandoning all hope of getting finished by 5:00. Anne brings her the files at 4:30 and Pat dives in. or the fact that she didn’t know how to do the job. By now. Jill is only halfway through the archives Pat dropped off.m. She hopes she won’t miss any critical data in Pat’s files. knowing she doesn’t have time to incorporate what Anne will bring her and what she still has to finish in Pat’s reports. or the fact that no one had the information. as she tries to focus and skim the pages she has yet to finish. Do you think this day was stressful for Jill? What if she had been given the project and told she needed to have the report finished by Wednesday at 5:00 p.At 2:30. her head is pounding and she is watching the clock. having lost her focus on Pat’s files. She begins to browse the files. her boss leaves her office and Jill breathes a sigh of relief. In Jill’s case. she records numbers in the spreadsheet on her computer screen. Feverishly. Pat arrives with the printouts. He is unhappy.
you may still feel tired. mental and emotional health. But.It was the fact that her boss gave her a task on a short deadline while people were out of the office. looking forward the event and thriving on the endless list of things to do. Long-term stress can damage our physical. but he still gets nervous. because this kind of event or stressor is temporary. The answer is that stress can be positive. with stress coming from your family on one day and from work or school on another day. In a moment. You may wonder if stress can ever be good for you. emotional or mental stress reactions. and it is something you really WANT to do. we should note here that these harmful effects are rarely. So what is Positive Stress? Positive stress can occur when you are planning a wedding. it is not likely to cause major physical. So. stress can come from many sources and it can change as the days go by. you see. and tasks to accomplish. THAT was what created the stress. and you should certainly take breaks occasionally and to try to manage the stress. we will talk about the harmful long-term biochemical effects of stress. cause us to lose sleep. observed with Positive Stress. The stress of doing something you find pleasurable. If your positive stressor is causing you to work hard or to work long hours. if ever. and the way you HANDLE stress can make even negative stress less harmful. interesting or exhilarating is not harmful. Yet. Another example of Positive Stress might be an actor who gets nervous before going on stage every night. make us depressed and angry. 6 . give us ulcers. even make us lose our appetite or overeat. This is a career of choice. But he finds that the nervous energy keeps him sharp and on his toes. He knows how to handle the stress and anticipates a successful conclusion to the performance and a reward at the end of the road – in the form of applause and audience appreciation. and he may love performing in front of an audience.
while thousands of years passed.In short. and it is as ancient as man’s presence on earth. and must be supported totals sixty billion dollars per year. Positive Stress is good. and these sufficed for another two thousand years. Negative Stress is usually a response to a situation you cannot control. The simplest answer is to say that negative stress is caused by RAPID CHANGE – in other words. Did you know that one in ten people today suffer the long-term effects of stress? Some choose to ‘medicate’ the problem and ignore the source of the negative stress. using basically the same tools and survival techniques for thousands of years. It has a natural. And the pace of those changes allows us no time to adjust and absorb our new surroundings. Archeological ‘digs’ in the United States and other countries. new information and new responsibilities every hour of every day. Stress. Right now. In all of our history of human experience. When at last our ancestors settled in areas and began to till the earth. they developed new and different survival techniques. It is estimated that the cost of health care. performance-enhancing affect on your body and heightens your abilities and performance in the short term. and the cost to society to support those who drop out. humankind has not had any experience to prepare us for the demands of this century. accidents. Fast forward to the late 1800s and early 1900s. let’s talk about the CAUSES of stress. reveal a culture that lived in basically the same way. and the industrial revolution! 7 . So what causes this Negative Stress? We will talk about how your body reacts to negative stress and the affects of untreated stress on your health a bit later. Others burn out or drop out at a young age because they cannot handle the pressures of everyday life and society. Our ancestors learned survival techniques from the revered elders of their villages and they passed these techniques down from generation to generation. We live in a rapidly changing society. the unexpected – or the constant need for people to adjust to new demands. lost work and productivity.
There is no ancestral knowledge to teach us how to adapt to changing technology and to a lifetime that may encompass four or five career changes and the acquisition of reams of new knowledge and skills every decade. we must first understand what happens to our bodies when we don’t use those ‘fight or flight’ chemicals our brain releases. 8 . The well-known ‘fight of flight’ response. In fact. This visceral response existed even in our cave man ancestors. if the ‘fight or flight’ response is so good. allows a human being to recognize danger or a threat and to make a decision to stay and fight – if they feel they can succeed – or to flee if the odds are against them. to run faster. And in the blink of an eye. This rate of change would make a Civil War soldier’s head spin! Yet that soldier’s lifetime was not so long ago when compared to the full tapestry of human history. cloning techniques. to jump higher. it seems only to accelerate as the years pass! THAT IS NEGATIVE STRESS! To understand negative stress. And the pace shows no sign of slowing. doesn’t it? So. In the days of our cave man ancestors. and why it is harmful to us. it is easy to see how our ‘elders’ would be unable to keep pace – unable to develop and pass on the secrets of survival in this new age. your brain releases certain chemicals into your body – you have certainly heard of the ‘adrenaline rush’ someone gets when their child is trapped beneath the wheels of a car. medication to treat and eradicate many diseases and even new ways to fight wars and kill other people. These chemicals give you the strength to lift objects heavier than you might normally be able to lift. this temporary strength allowed them to outrun beasts or other cave men. and your body enters the ‘right or flight’ mode. Horse drawn carriages delivered milk in bottles and the radio was invented.There are people alive today who remember gas stress lamps. spacecraft. That sounds like a good thing. When you consider this rapid change. and the iceboxes that preceded our modern refrigerators. why is stress so harmful? When you are under stress. and allowed them to make split second decisions about survival. and to fight harder in a very real physical battle to the death. we advanced to develop automobiles.
what would happen to Joe if he was tied to a rock and was unable to run or right? He would still know he was in danger. to cool his muscles and his body and keep things operating efficiently. For now. He would be tied to that rock. and revisit him in a little while. and sent more oxygen and blood sugar to his muscles. Then. we’ll teach you how to handle the stress so that it does not cause major damage to your body and mind. We’ll leave Joe tied to that rock for now. to remove it from your life or at least reduce the stress. excluding all other extraneous surroundings or events. before we talk about how to manage stress. unable to move. so they didn’t upset the balance for normal organic and bodily function. we can talk about how to manage stress. and the chemicals would continue to swirl in his body.In so doing. But. Let’s find out just why stress is so BAD FOR US. and fight harder. His focus was clear and targeted to the threat or danger. and as a result. They increased his heart rate and blood pressure. let us discuss and understand what happens to your body when you are under stress and that stress is not relieved by ‘fight or flight’. 9 . he would! His brain would still release the same chemicals in preparation for ‘fight or flight’ but he wouldn’t be able to use them. Cave Man Joe ran off the chemicals his brain released and neutralized them in his body. He began to sweat. he was able to fight and survive the threat or danger. What happened inside Joe’s brain when the ‘fight or flight’ response kicked in? The chemicals released by the brain helped him run faster. wouldn’t he? Of course. His blood migrated away from the surface level skin and into the core of his body so that he would not lose as much blood if he were injured. If you can’t do either of those. jump higher.
our brains do not understand that we can’t get out of the situation. Without release and neutralization. We continue to work the long hours. very real. In short. The difference is that when we can’t get out of the stressful job or choose to stay in a dysfunctional relationship.What’s So Bad About Stress? Maybe we don’t have those furry mammoths or tigers chasing us down city streets. is ironically the one that will damage our health over time. version of stress includes: Long hours at work Too much responsibility Too many things to do in too little time Traffic jams Information overload Divorce Elder care and child care issues Competition Lost spirituality Overcrowded cities and communities Dysfunctional families and relationships Credit card debt Economic strife Downsized companies Lost pensions No health care benefits Drug addiction Alcoholism Much more And our bodies respond as if we were faced with life or death in the jungles or plains of an ancient world. and our brains are locked in a cycle of trying to provide us with the ‘strength’ we need to fight or flee. Our new. upgraded. we don’t FIGHT OR FLEE! We stay in the situation. those chemicals will damage our organs and bodies. We don’t use or neutralize those ‘fight or fight’ chemicals released by our brains and the very mechanism nature gave us to save us. but we do have our own. version of stress and that stress still causes the ‘fight or flight’ response. and do the work of three people. But. and slowly our bodies break down. the stress continues. 10 . if we are overwhelmed and overloaded and we don’t press the ‘OFF’ button.
the stress does not have to be life threatening. they keep producing the stress response chemicals. Firefighters. And. they ‘burned out’. frustrating. and even Wall Street traders are all in high-stress jobs and often experience stress burnout. during which resistance to the stressor declines as the body is unable to fight the stress. work or talk with others while we are in this stressed out state we find ourselves irritable. when our heart is pounding and our hands are shaking. The Resistance Phase. but eventually progressed to humans and was continued with World War II bomber pilots. the targeted focus that comes with the ‘fight or flight’ response makes it difficult to use small motor skills and to concentrate on longer-term issues or to make quick decisions about other things. when we try to function normally. during which the body reacts to the perceived threat. hoping we will use them to win the battle or get the heck out of town! Unfortunately. 11 . In this state. However. The response may not be as severe as that which occurs when your life is threatened. Often. during which resistance to stress increases as the body adapts and copes with the stress. and experienced the onset of fatigue and neurosis – in other words. jumpy and excited. trauma nurses. the pilots entered the exhaustion phase. so you may not even notice your response. It is hard to focus and work effectively and calmly. but your body and mind DO RESPOND! Studies with animals reveal three phases of response: The Alarm Phase. challenging or upsetting can trigger this response. the pilots settled in and performed well. and to have more accidents. The Exhaustion Phase. neurosurgeons. Research was initially done with animals. Anything unexpected or uncontrolled.Instead. Research with these individuals found that after a few missions flown over enemy territory. This phase will last as long as the body can sustain heightened resistance. police officers. just as the World War II pilots did many years ago. after completing many missions. we are likely to make bad decisions.
When a person faces long-term stress. the amount of stress you feel in any given situation depends greatly on how much danger you face and how well you feel you can handle the situation. This does not mean that the threat is to life and limb. etc Colitis and stomach cramping Heart attack Migraines and severe headaches Memory problems Thyroid problems Depression Ulcers Diabetes Constipation Menstrual cramping and frequency Arthritis High blood pressure Stroke Skin disorders and dermatitis Shortness of breath Fatigue Anxiety and panic attacks Alcohol or drug abuse When you are under long-term stress. the long-term effects of stress can include the following health problems: Allergies Indigestion and appetite problems Sleep disruption and insomnia Asthma Depressed Immune System and more frequent illness. virus. do they have enough authority or control or resources to meet the challenge or danger. your appetite. and your body clock. the levels of certain brain chemicals decrease. self-esteem or a relationship. Secondly. What can stress do to your body if it is not defeated or mitigated? What happens if you can’t get rid of the stress. prestige. they decide if they can handle and/or resolve this threat. These brain chemicals help to regulate your sleeping patterns. So. It could be a threat to income. he or she makes two critical decisions: First they decide if they feel threatened or endangered by the situation. Are they competent and capable enough. or at least learn how to handle stress in a positive way? Without relief. 12 .
Remember. But when you consider long-term stress. exercise and do all the other things you want to do in your life Most of us think of stress as coming from external influences like overwork. can create enough long-term stress to cause other physical problems. enjoy pleasurable activities. eating and energy patterns and get through your day – get your work done. In short. etc) Alcoholism Drug Addiction (prescription OR illegal drugs) Eating Disorders (anorexia. work. And in that case. 13 . carbon monoxide Extreme heat or extreme cold Pre-Menstrual Syndrome Post-Partum Depression Impotence Menopause Long-Term Illness or Hospitalization Immune System Disorder or Dysfunction (HIV. get enough rest and enough nourishment to sustain good health. mood and many other conditions that make you feel NORMAL on any given day. hormone levels. your life is disrupted. etc. Dopamine. and the stress involved with dealing with that heart condition. sleep. calm and a sense of well-being. Cortisol. socialize. feel happy. When the balance is upset. or financial stress. family problems. The normal 24-25 hour cycle of chemical processing is what gives your body the rhythm it needs to maintain sleep. a pre-existing heart condition. Endorphins. These chemicals also help you maintain a balanced body temperature. stress becomes a vicious cycle. you have to try to reduce it or at the very least learn to handle it. Melatonin. bulimia. they are responsible for keeping your body and mind synchronized so that you can focus.Brain chemicals like Serotonin. you must also consider physical factors like: Smoking Changes caused by puberty Environmental exposure to toxins like mold.) Existing Heart or Lung Disease Existing High Blood Pressure Let’s put this another way: if the stress from external factors (like overwork or relationship problems) has not already CAUSED your heart disease or other illness. and Noradrenalin provide balance. if you can’t get rid of the stress in your life.
trembling. migraines. inability to enjoy otherwise pleasant activities and interests 14 . you quickly see how health problems escalate. facial tics. you will experience other physical. anger. frustration. and focus and concentration problems Long-Term Stress Your Mood and Emotions Stress More Stress Long-Term Stress Serious Concentration and myopia. and thinking becomes clearer and focused Headaches. or to handle the stress you are under. Here are some examples: Your Brain Stress More Stress Blood supply increases The brain kicks into high gear. focusing ONLY on the stressor Increased anxiety.We will show you how to do this later in the book. memory problems. depression. If you don’t take steps to reduce or eliminate the stress. bitterness. When you break down the effects of stress over the long term. mental and emotional problems because of these long-term stress factors.
it is time to evaluate the stress in YOUR life and decide whether your health is in danger from long-term stress. If you don’t address the stress in your life. immune system depression. chest pain. some of these problems may be difficult to solve. ulcers.Your Body and Your General Health Stress Increased blood supply to muscles. menstrual dysfunction. prostate problems. you will experience physical. impotence. High blood pressure. you may be surprised at the results of these tests. indigestion. blood supply decreased to organs. joint pain and deterioration More Stress Long-Term Stress Now that you understand why long-term stress is bad for you. frequency of urination. we’ve give you several ways to approach the analysis and measurement of the stress levels in your life. decreased blood supply to sexual organs. In this book. increased heart rate. stomach and bowels. chronic fatigue. dry mouth. sleep disorders. increased consumption of sugar and fat within the body Improved performance of muscles. respiration. abdominal pain. heart and lungs. heartburn. urination and blood pressure. respiratory problems. 15 . reduce or learn to handle stress more effectively. don’t take long-term stress lightly and feel you can ‘handle it’ without at least considering how you might eliminate. or whether you face average or less than average stress. If you are one of those people that accepts and tries to adjust to the stress. including asthma. and by the time you decide there is a problem. decreased appetite. How Much Stress Do You Have in Your Life? There are numerous ‘stress scales’ to measure your stress levels. back and muscle pain. and if this stress is long-term. Whatever you do. sexual dysfunction and menstrual cycles. increased energy and frequency of urination. diarrhea. emotional and mental effects. no matter how much life piles on your plate.
children. or suffering persistent back pain or other chronic pain Points 75 50 50 50 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 25 25 25 25 25 20 20 Total your score. 16 . brother. injury or hospitalization Work termination or retirement Working 50 or more hours per week Getting married or moving in with a significant other Reconciling with spouse or old mate Pregnancy or adding a new family member (adopted child. boss. and consider these factors: Remember that everyone handles stress differently. father and family members deal with stress. mortgage or a repossession of property Change of job. put that aside for a moment. puberty. co-workers. graduating school or looking for a job Insomnia or getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night on average Long-term visitors. spouse gets a new job or changes job Death of close friend. or a co-worker or associate with whom you were close Persistent arguments with spouse. or significant other Incarceration. Record scores for each of the events that apply to your life during that time: STRESSOR Death of a Spouse. change of school. impotence Serious illness. lawsuit Menopause. new loan. remodeling or renovating house. new responsibilities at work. Father Death of other family member (sister. new roommate. post-partum depression. Mother. significant other. friends Starting school. working longer hours.Look at this chart. Significant Other. and think about your life over the past 12-24 months. Some of your stress tolerance is ‘learned’ behavior that relates to how you saw your mother. moving to new house or residence Suffering from persistent pre-menstrual syndrome.) Divorce. neighbors. or night shift. significant legal problems. or cramping during periods. separation with spouse. family member moving in) Hospitalization or significant illness or spouse or family member Impotence or sexual dysfunction Financial troubles. etc.
and your sister died more than a year ago. if you are already juggling a lot of stress in your job and your wife has a difficult pregnancy. The stress you experience over 12-24 months may not be continuous. but for those larger. So. reduce and better handle stress a bit later. While you may not see the value in keeping this diary at first. If you want to confirm your stress levels. while your 70-hour workweek happens every week. or dig a bit deeper to figure out WHAT is causing the stress in your life. change in eating habits. Usually.Much of how you deal with stress relates to your own personality and how positive or negative you are in your thinking. the effects of both of those stressors are still with you today. Remember that stress does not have to come from just one source – in fact it rarely does. then your stress tolerance is probably lower. If you feel your results are inconclusive. and some of your stress tolerance relates to how much OTHER stress you are under. let’s look at another way you can track and analyze your stress levels We will talk about ways you can combat. Obviously. If you find that you are unable to tolerate much stress without sleep loss. your total stress becomes unbearable because there are lots of things pulling on you. many people find that these diaries give them surprising insight into where their stress is coming from and how it causes symptoms they have otherwise been unable to explain. and you should consider yourself overstressed if your total is 150 or more. Keeping a Diary to log your stress is just like keeping a regular diary. irritability and depression. Now it is time to look at your totals. more significant events in your life – like the loss of a spouse – the effects of the event are longer-term and must be considered as long-term stress. months or even years. and these multiple stress factors continue over a long period of weeks. you are well over the average stress limit. If your total stress points for the 12-24 month period is 200 or over. recurrent headaches. you will find it hard to tolerate the new stress on your schedule and on your emotions. 17 . try keeping a Diary.
Make as many copies of this page as you need to track your stress levels. Date 9/03 Time 10:00 Profile Comfort Rating (on a scale of 110) 4 5 8 Comment (This is your overall comfort level at the time you record your thoughts in your diary) Sample: My back is killing me. the MOST stressed. When he said I HAD to do it. we’ve completed a sample version (each of these rating scales is based on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the MOST relaxed. I wasn’t sure I could get it done by noon. The reason for that is simple. Symptoms Reaction 7 7 (What symptoms did this stress cause you?) Sample: My back is tense. and it is hot in here 18 . You may feel you already know the answer to that question. This diary will also help you to understand how you handle stress. Comment Sample: My back is better. Throughout the day. You don’t typically take the time to analyze your feelings and understand that the headache you are getting is coming from your boss yelling at you. and I’m getting a headache. you are trying to function and do your best. but people are often surprised to find how upset they get and how much stress affects them. But he never told me I had to do the report. Now he wants it by noon. you are more likely to remember all the things that cause you stress.You will also find this diary a valuable way to capture and remember the stress for later analysis. and you can then use the diary to analyze and understand your stress. but I have a headache now. By keeping a diary. eliminate or better handle the stressors in your life. (What did you do when you became stressed? How did you react INTERNALLY OR EXTERNALLY?) Date 9/03 Time 11:00 Profile Comfort Rating (on a scale Sample: I tried not to get angry with my boss. Most of us are very busy during the day and something that causes us stress is handled to the best of our ability and then put behind us to be forgotten by day’s end. I told him that I didn’t know I had to do the report. I got knots in my stomach and started fuming but I didn’t say anything to him. To get you started. the MOST happy. I have to take some aspirin Mood Stressors (This is your overall mood at the time you record your thoughts) Sample: I am feeling frustrated and angry (What stressors have you endured since the last time you recorded an entry in your diary?) Sample: My boss came in to tell me that I was late with a report he said was due last Friday. Later. we will use the diary in your plan to help you reduce.
Set an alarm on your watch. afternoon. This will give you more detailed information. This will give you a better idea of both your short-term and long-term stressors.Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction of 110) 5 7 9 8 Sample: I am feeling a bit calmer. Try to write in your diary a few times a day (morning. evening) and if you CAN. computer or other clock if you need to be reminded! Date Time Profile Comfort Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction Comfort Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction Comfort Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction Comfort Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction Rating Comment Comfort Mood Stressors 19 . once an hour. or once every few hours. (What symptoms did this stress cause you?) Sample: I have a headache and I feel very cranky Sample: I started yelling at the guy who delivered the mail to my office and I know it was just because I was stressed Try to use this diary for AT LEAST a week. If possible. try to track your stress levels for 2-4 weeks. but still frustrated and angry Sample: I am never going to get this report done on time.
listing the number of times you reported this stressor here: Describe the Stressor Number of Times Reported During Period 20 . sit down with your diaries and review all the pages. stop and enter the data anyway. Make a list of the stressors that seemed to occur with the most frequency. it is a good idea to keep this diary for 2-4 weeks if you can. Place the most frequent stressor at the top of the list and work your way down. while it is fresh in your mind. When you are ready to analyze the information.Symptoms Reaction Comfort Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction Comfort Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction Comfort Mood Stressors Symptoms Reaction If you experience new or significant stress before your next scheduled entry. As we said.
and rank the stressors by the level of stress (1-10 with 10 being the most stressful) Describe the Stressor Ranking (1-10) Notice whether the same items appear at the top of both your ‘most frequent stressor’ list and your ‘highest ranked stressor’ list. THEN. reduce and learn to handle stress. As you know by now. and assign these techniques to that stressor so you will know how to handle each of the items on your list. we will put your ‘personal stress management plan’ in place. Hopefully. to choose tasks and techniques for each stressor you identify. Put this information aside. reduce or learn to handle your stressors. many types of people and many ways to eliminate. VERY STRESSFUL! 21 . Rather than make your choices for you. and various ways to improve your stress management and the way you react to and handle stressful situations when they arise. How To Make a Change There are many types of stress. we’ll add a few suggestions for other stressors that may be less common.Now make a list of the stressors you reported. but nonetheless. We will focus on two major sources of stress because they are the most common. we’ve given you various ways to analyze and work on your stress. this time putting the ones you found the MOST STRESSFUL at the top of the list. Later. We will use later to establish your stress management plan. stress can come from many sources. you will find something here that works for YOU! The first thing we will do is look at ways to assess and eliminate.
etc. they don’t work as a team. These are the things that you can most easily control. The roots of overwork can lie in poor time management. look at others who do the same job and see how they are handling things. and you won’t have to do things over again to correct these mistakes. or in the fact that you just plain have too much work to do! Or the problem may be in the fact that you do not have the appropriate skills to know how to do the job right the first time through. There isn’t time to give you every possible recommendation to address job-related stress. If you are scattered and running in different directions. preferably in your diary. Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything without thinking about the consequences. These may involve low pay. Let’s suppose your stress is because of overwork. It will pay off later in more hours for you to do your OWN work. negotiate for more time or ask 22 .Job Stress What kind of stress do you face on the job? Overwork – too much to do in too little time? Too many hours on the job – 50 or more hours worked. This will allow you to focus on what you are doing and you will make fewer mistakes. too much noise in the workplace – whatever they are. or perhaps you are just inattentive. and so you end up having to do it over again to correct mistakes. but you will find some very helpful tips here on how to identify the issues and work through them to reduce or eliminate your stress. If this work requires training. If it is hard for you to determine whether you have too much to do or whether you are just inefficient. be honest with yourself. If you have deadlines looming and a project can wait. invest in that training.? Write down as many job related issues as you may have. Is everyone complaining of overwork? Look at how you manage your work and your time. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Make your phone calls at the same time every day and don’t take calls while you are doing your heads-down work. get them on paper. try to set a schedule to work behind closed doors for 2 hours without distractions. As you assess your workload. they are too competitive. Delegate work to others if you have staff working for you. Poor environment – your boss or your co-workers are uncooperative.
but she will like it less if you don’t meet the deadline What if your stress at work is because of a poor environment? If you have been at this job for a while. If you find you have a lot of really urgent items on your list. But. consider getting out. If your problems can be resolved by staying in the job and talking to your boss. look at the historical data and figure out how long comparable projects took to complete before and then use that information to give new deadlines. Even if they are giving you the ‘party line’. Better to bring the project in early and look good than to bring it in later than you said you would! Prioritize your list of things ‘to do’ every day and stick to your action plan. if you ask the tough questions. The truth can be told without them actually saying the words.the person to give the project to someone else. If you are not good at estimating completion dates. Be honest about how urgent or how critical each item is and put the urgent items first (those that must be done first to meet a deadline). don’t put it off any longer! 23 . and have tried many things to improve your working relationships and nothing works. Be honest about the time you have available. DON’T be afraid to negotiate. share workload or call in favors OR negotiate with your boss to decrease the criticality or change the deadline on some issues. co-workers or to a human resources representative. If everything can’t get done at once…say so! Your boss may not like it. Can you go to a similar job in another company? If you have marketable skills and knowledge you may be able to jump to another place. be sure you give yourself wiggle room. If there isn’t a comparable project. If it is and you just can’t get it all done. Know what MUST be done on any given day and what can wait. and things always take longer than you thought they would take. go through it again and be sure the list is truly accurate. be careful not to end up in the soup again! Write down the things you want to know about the new company and/or job and don’t be shy in asking the interviewer questions and in asking if you can talk to other employees. you must delegate. you can tell a lot from their reaction.
Get your files. your calendar and your life in order so you aren’t forgetting appointments at work OR at home. base your requests on facts – how long it takes to do a good job and how much more productive things will be if you have the time to do it right the first time. By all means. Stick with the facts! Establish a periodic meeting with your boss or your team to talk about deadlines. There is nothing worse than going off on a tangent to work on things that no one else considers important. That method won’t get you a raise or reduce your stress! Here’s how to make sure you are on the same page in terms of your priorities and where you are spending most of your time: Look at your job description and be sure you are getting the things done that the description entails. point out how you always work the extra hours or take on more work when asked. If you want more money or less workload. Or. 24 . look at those and be sure you are focusing on what you and your boss agreed were the important things to accomplish and that you are tackling any improvement issues your boss has raised. the money you have saved the company by working in your capacity. Look at available training in your company and decide if you need to take courses inside or outside the company to give you more skill or knowledge in critical areas. Get organized. Talk about how things are progressing so that no one is surprised when things change in the interim. goals or performance appraisal forms. If your company uses objectives.Make a list of things you want to talk about and try to be as objective and rational about your approach as possible. Don’t get emotional or you will NOT BE HEARD! No matter how abused or misunderstood you feel your boss and/or company associates will always lend a more sympathetic ear if your points are well conceived and well rehearsed. Think about how and why the company gives raises or bonuses and be sure that your performance is aligned with these goals. be sure that the things you are working on are considered important by your boss and the organization. be sure you TELL someone that you have a new responsibility and that the deadline may slip.
or getting more exercise and time out of the office to burn off some of the stress. but that you could put the time in on a task at a different time of day – say on the train on the way home – and use the time you save in the office to get something else done. Think about whether you have the people. company vision statements and strategic documents and figure out where your job fits in – how can you make things easier on your boss and your organization? How can you help them make more money or spend LESS money? Think about the people in your company that are the most valued and respected? What do they do that makes them an integral part of the organization? If your company values underhanded business practices or creates infighting to get the job done. raising children. look elsewhere for a job and if you cannot do that. money and resources to do your job. This probably seems like a lot of work. you may not fit in that organization. you may find that the time you spend is necessary. Relationship Stress What kind of relationship stress do you face? Conflicting needs and values – do you disagree a lot about important things like finances. Track what you do every day for at least two weeks and pencil in the amount of time you spend on each activity.Look at things such as company mission statements. Those techniques may include changing organizations to get yourself into a position where you are not as close to the bad dealings going on. There is nothing that causes more stress than having all of the responsibility and NONE of the authority or control! If you are having trouble getting to the root of your stress or overwork. OR. and how you spend your time? 25 . consider ways to handle the stress better. or they may include changing the people you associate with in the organization. try keeping a task list. If this is causing you stress. but it will pay off! You will be surprised to see where you are spending most of your time and often people discover that the real time wasters are not things that are very critical in the grand scheme of things.
you may have a relationship problem that you cannot resolve. There isn’t time to give you every possible recommendation to address relationshiprelated stress. These may involve sex. trust. you will know that after you have tried to work through the problems and/or gotten professional help. but you will find some very helpful tips here on how to identify the issues and work through them to reduce or eliminate your stress. 26 . fighting. If you can work through your problems. in-laws.Not spending enough time together – are you or your spouse or significant other overworked or spending more time out of the relationship than your partner requires? Long-term goals – do you have a different timetable for things like changing jobs. neighbors or work? Write down as many relationship-related issues as you may have. Agree that you will establish ground rules and that both of you will compromise in order to achieve what you both want. you must learn to communicate without attacking or defending positions. Conflicting needs and values may be very fundamental or they can be things you can negotiate. Don’t try to control or convert your partner. opinions and values are VERY DIFFERENT at the core. outside influences or any number of things. Tell them how you feel by talking about how YOU feel…not by accusing THEM of doing things the wrong way or being in the wrong. Consider professional help before you give up on any committed relationship. If your ideas. If there is no option but to part company. moving to another city or having children? Outside influences – do you disagree or fight over problems with friends. but you MUST take some action or the stress will be unrelenting. but you certainly need to be objective and practical about what you can expect if you are two very different people on two very different paths. Write down your thoughts and organize them and try to stick to facts and be objective – don’t get into name-calling or allow the hurt or stress you feel to color your conversation or you will become too emotional.
and eating good meals together – so you can keep each other honest about what you are eating. you need to re-focus. light exercise and give you some time to talk. sit down to review it periodically to be sure you don’t have to make changes. 27 . you will need to sit down together and work through a timetable to be objective and clear about what you can accomplish in a certain time and the obstacles you may encounter. Be realistic about the finances required to do certain things – like going back to school or having a child. If you don’t do that. Once you have a mutual plan. If you have temporary setbacks and projects that pull you away. If your issues relate to long-term goals. What goals can you set that are mutual and how far apart are the differing opinions? If you are neglecting your relationship or your spouse or partner is neglecting you. but the foundation of your home life and happiness is more important than most other things and without balance there. Don’t let anything get in the way of the time you spend together and if there is an emergency. Address mutual stress in your lives by exercising together. just so you check in – or leaving each other notes. Have dinner or see a movie or play. Write these dates on the calendar and stick to them. be clear about when you will reschedule.Focus on what the two of you DO agree on and start there. make dates. you will lose the relationship. Talk a walk to get some good. If you find it hard to make the time for your spouse or partner. Stress from other sources may be pulling you away. your stress levels will sky rocket. Establish goals and work toward them together with an understanding of what compromises and sacrifices you’ll need to make to get there. Take a drive to a place you both love to go and walk around in the area. The only way to address this kind of stress is by making the time. KNOW what you will do if you have to go to Plan B so no one is disappointed. be sure you both know this is a temporary situation and stay in touch by talking on the phone for a minute or two – it doesn’t have to be long.
get one. If you need a professional debt counselor or an accountant. get yourself a good accountant. based on your income and your bills and STICK TO THE BUDGET to pay off your debts.. overcharged on credit cards or in debt up to your neck. See if you can refinance your home or take a second mortgage. These interest rates tend to be lower than the high rates charged by banks and credit card companies. Financial Stress – If you are behind on bills. look here for some ideas on how to plan for and handle these specific stressors in your life. Be honest with your family about the financial problems. but do go out occasionally to dinner or a movie to treat yourself. Look at your current pay scale in your current job and decide if changing jobs might get you better pay so you can pay off your bills Consider having your paycheck direct deposited and have payments taken directly from your checking account on a regular basis. etc.THINKING that you will miss the deadline for moving to California so your wife can be near her family. does not tell HER that you won’t make the deadline and you will violate the trust you’ve built if you don’t bring these changes to her attention as soon as you recognize the need to make the changes. death in the family. or other things you don’t need. lawyer or other professional counselor and work with them to be sure you are on target. this stress WILL NOT go away unless you deal with it. If you need help with long-term goals for things like meeting financial goals. so you aren’t tempted to get off track Look at your discretionary expenses and reduce them as much as possible. Don’t buy new clothes. Do not hide what is happening.000 in credit card bills. like $50. Work with a professional to establish a budget. If the debt is serious debt. Stick to your BUDGET! 28 . we will also give you some overall ‘tips and tricks’ to recognize and handle stress in your life. If you have checked off other stressors like financial problems. Later. That only ADDS to the stress. look for ways to reduce the interest payments on this debt.
It just means you are looking for perspective. be sure you get some professional help if you need it so that you can make the right decisions during this difficult time. co-workers and support network and let them know you need their support and understanding. friends. Everyone needs help sometimes and asking for professional help does not mean you have gone off the deep end or you will never feel any differently. Get the help you need. there are some standard techniques you can use to analyze and handle your stress. It will make you feel less like you have lost control of you life and more like you are doing ‘something’ to recognize the importance of the individual. job termination. DON’T TELL THEM. Don’t judge how well you should be doing and get depressed over the fact that you are not improving. It’s up to you. Keep things in perspective. If you are uncomfortable telling others. don’t be ashamed or judgmental. Be honest with your family. Other issues like divorce. Things like settling an estate or selling a house can be overwhelming when you’ve lost a loved one.Death in the family – There is very little you can do to speed the process of recovering from the stress caused by a death in your family. If you are the sole party handling all of it. 29 . – For all these stress issues and any others you have recorded as personal stressors. If you have a lot of paperwork and issues to resolve after this death. separation. Don’t let others put stress on you by telling you how to act when you are grieving or when you should be finished grieving. Get some help if you can and don’t try to take it all on yourself or do it all at once. significant illness. try to prioritize them so take them on in small bites so that you aren’t even more stressed out by trying to get it all done at once. especially if it is a spouse. The important factors you must face include giving yourself plenty of time to think about and deal with the death – don’t try to ignore it and just pretend you ‘are fine’ Find ways to honor the person that died. Everyone is different and you will finish in your own good time. If you get stuck and need professional help to get through this time. Know yourself and give yourself time. etc.
try to manage or organize it better (with the help of others if you need it) so that it isn’t as stressful. understand how you react to them and what you can do about them and ask for HELP if you need it. When something stressful happens. Don’t be the victim. LOOK AT your stressors. You’ll feel good that you have accomplished something and you can move on to the next item when you are finished with the first one KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE – Stress is often made worse by the immediate and visceral reaction we have to change. It will take time to ‘re-train’ your brain to think positively but you can do it with persistence and effort. change things or make things better. more often than positive people. try to focus on what you can do to improve the situation. alcohol or overeating) PACE YOURSELF – Try to take breaks. if you can’t do THAT. And. meditation. When faced with stress. or away from the person. If you can’t get out of a situation. Don’t try to change everything about your stressed out life at the same time. as opposed to medication. Your brain will take the cue! FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE – It may sound trite. Our bodies and minds perceive physical danger and our brains take it fro there. Take ACTION and KNOW that you can do it! 30 . but people that always assume the worst get sick more often and suffer from serious disease like cancer. so your body and mind have a chance to recover. yoga.Analyze and Handle Your Stress All of these tips can be used to help you with any kind of stress: Be AWARE – Don’t bury or cover up your stress. try to recognize what you are feeling and STOP…TAKE A DEEP BREATH…slow your breathing…consciously calm yourself and try to gain perspective. Prioritize the issues and address them one-by-one so that you have enough energy and time to focus on that one thing. Be REALISTIC – Assess what you can change and what you cannot change about your life and the stress you feel. Life isn’t a test or a competition that requires you to suffer in silence. get out of the place that causes the stress. learn techniques to reduce the negative effects (exercise.
you need to train like an athlete. 31 . Reach out to friends. AND. you can address and handle stress in the short-term and in the long-term. Actively pursue them! COMMUNICATE – Don’t expect people to read your mind or hide your feelings or thoughts when things are bothering you or when you have things you want to accomplish. hobbies. pasta. friends. If you are in a controlling relationship or in a job where you are being pushed around. biking or other activities are good. Know your limitations and tell people when you are overwhelmed. ESTABLISH A GOOD FOUNDATION – No one can make it through life alone. Get out of situations where you are the ‘door mat’ and start to think and act and think for yourself. In fact. Eat the right foods. Swimming. look carefully at the situation and try to break that habit. BE FIRM AND ASSERTIVE – Many people experience stress from keeping their mouths shut and not speaking up because they were taught not to make waves or to say ‘no’. Exercise 3-4 times per week (moderate walking is great exercise). don’t let others walk on you or control you. Develop outside interests. You will be much less stressed! If you follow these guidelines. Stress makes you want the comfort foods like chocolate. Get plenty of sleep. avoid smoking or masking your stress with alcohol or drugs. If you aren’t good at making friends. etc.STAY STRONG AND READY – If you are under a lot of stress. join an organization or association that will put you in proximity to others so you can find a friend or two and bond! Be sure you have some goals in your life and that you know what is important to you and don’t ignore these things. and activities to balance your life. All work is boring and one-dimensional and staying home alone to watch TV or play video games doesn’t exactly give you personal interaction or support. family and co-workers and keep them informed so they know where you are coming from and what is important to you. Whatever you LIKE to do and can sustain over a period of time. loneliness is its own form of stress and it is very real. vegetables and grains. even those with very little stress in their lives. Be sure to get enough protein.
Top Ten Ways to Manage Stress Keep to a Schedule When you are under stress. Plan at least one day during each week where you do something you really love to do. and shoulders and working your way down to your feet. Just turn out the lights and relax. If you can’t fall asleep after forty-five minutes or so. so you have a bit of time for yourself. pulling air down into your abdomen. Establish a healthy bedtime and a reasonable time to get up in the morning. Eventually. jaw. reading a book or taking a hike. Calmly get into your sleep position and again do some deep breathing and relax your muscles. Don’t do anything that is ‘stimulating’ (exercise. it can take three or four weeks to get your body back to a normal schedule. get a cup of coffee and chat with a friend. you NEED A BREAK! 32 . Try not to watch TV as you go to sleep. going to a movie. deep breaths and consciously tell your muscles to relax. watching an exciting movie or playing video games). it is important to keep your body on a schedule so that your daily rhythms aren’t disrupted. starting with your neck. go back to bed and try again. Try to avoid getting frustrated. Whether it is visiting with friends. but stick with it and you can do it. Take more forgiving breaks by planning a day where you can consciously reduce your stress by doing less. and stick to it. Get into a comfortable position and try to use the same position to go to sleep every night. If you are having problems sleeping. Whatever is on your ‘To Do’ list for that day. This will help your mind and body to adjust to the idea! Relax your muscles and breathe deeply and fully. get up and read for a while. Take Breaks Plan and give yourself several breaks per day. Take long. take off a few non-critical items from the bottom and move them to another day. After you ready for 20-30 minutes. They can be as short as five minutes to walk to the rest room. but DO IT. you will get your body back on track.
If you typically host Sunday dinner or that family birthday party. Let others share the load. so you can quickly see where you are overbooked. Try to keep all obligations on one calendar if you can. children. make them consciously. A lot of stress comes from that sense of lost control. Keep control of the things you CAN manage so that you are not overwhelmed. Don’t commit to things others can do just because you feel you are obligated to take on the task. Delegate small tasks or simpler projects to employees. 33 . and associates. see if someone else can do it this week or this month. The rest will take care of itself as long as you don’t feel you MUST say ‘yes’ to every request. and stick to those limits. If you don’t HAVE TO STAY at the office that extra hour. If you don’t have to look for a new car right now. don’t take on that task. don’t take on a coaching position for your son’s Little League team. Keep the BIG obligations foremost in your mind and be sure you have time for those larger or longer-term obligations. Don’t just let life run over you! Watch the Clock Set limits on the time you spent at work or in any activity that is demanding or stressful. try to limit the amount of major change in your life. Where you have choices.Focus on the Big Picture Be certain to consider all of your obligations and don’t get tunnel vision. Bring ‘store bought’ cookies to the potluck instead of baking two dozen cookies at midnight. Don’t schedule a move to a new apartment or house or to a new school if it isn’t absolutely necessary. and GO HOME. If you are getting a new job. Give yourself a chance to adjust to the changes you are already experiencing or to the new stressors and THEN decide what new changes you can take on and when. resist the temptation to finish that one last report. Limit Changes During times of stress.
noise or workplace discomfort makes you tense. rather than by medication or drugs. because your body is constantly trying to adjust so that you can function at peak performance. DO SO! If you can leave the papers in the briefcase. Get an air conditioner so you can sleep at night when the weather is sweltering. preferably one that focuses on a ‘stress formula’. Eat salads more often and add chicken or shrimp to get your protein. include vegetables (which help stimulate your brain’s production of Serotonin and keep you in balance. Eat balanced meals that contain grain. and can’t prepare and eat a large meal. Foods that reduce stress NATURALLY.Guard and schedule your time off blocks just as you would your meetings at work or your study time at school. Put plenty of blankets on your bed at night so you aren’t cold. Also include proteins from meat or fish (which contain L-Tryptophan. do that too! Remember that you will never run out of work to do. Take a good multi-vitamin. Feed Your Body and Mind Try to eat foods that will feed your mind and body. Environmental stress like temperature. but you WILL run out of time to watch your children grow up and to experience the good things in life. If you can leave the laptop at work. vegetables and protein and stay away from fast food restaurants. albeit UNCONSCIOUSLY tense. 34 . If you are really busy at work or at home. Just be sure that WHAT YOU EAT is healthy food. Try to avoid extreme environmental changes that will place undue stress on your body. and wear a sweater or jacket in the office or at home if you get cold easily. a natural brain chemical that helps to regulate your mood and your sleep). eating 5-6 small healthy snacks/meals per day is better for you anyway – so don’t get hung up on cooking a gourmet meal every night. and make you feel shaky and unfocused. Don’t nibble away at your off time by working on weekends while you should be enjoying time with your family. Remember that stress also affects the balance of blood sugar and low blood sugar can contribute to headaches.
Did you know that studies done on people who exercised found that their focus and productivity increased by more than 30% after exercising? You can certainly afford to take that extra time to exercise if you are that much more productive afterwards! If you really dread the thought of exercise. biking. Work Off the Stress Many people resist the exercise suggestion because they don’t have time or the inclination to start a program. self-hypnosis and other techniques. you should work with your doctor to decide what is best for you. Set a timetable and a goal and stick to it. biofeedback. blow off steam and talk while you exercise and you may enjoy the activity more! Learn! Learn techniques to help you deal with short-term and long-term stress. When you are ready. Medications are sometimes necessary and they can offer some positive help through difficult times. Find the one that is right for you and learn these techniques to use when you feel stressed. Choose one that you like and try to stay on a regimen to exercise 20-30 minutes at least 3 times per week. No matter where you live. After awhile it will become a routine and you won’t have to force yourself. Remember that exercise does not HAVE TO BE an hour of jogging per day. 35 . and even when you DON’T feel stressed. In fact. get some friends to do it with you. make a conscious decision to use this as a temporary measure and to eliminate. but they also have side effects and should not be taken lightly. You can socialize.If you MUST take medication to deal with your stress. you can work with your doctor to reduce or eliminate your medication. Walking is great exercise. you are likely to have access to classes on meditation. reduce or learn to handle your stress in a better way over a period of time. but most doctors are perfectly happy to support your goals to achieve stress relief through natural measures. you’ll look forward to how you feel afterwards. as is yoga. Of course. swimming and many other activities. so don’t hesitate to share your objectives with your doctor and make him/her part of the solution. yoga.
Learning and stimulation are positive influences and will reduce your stress level and help you feel that you are growing and improving. Doctors who perform complex. and they will. Take a class on something that interests you like photography. but they will not drastically elevate your blood sugar and then send it plummeting 30 minutes later so you feel even more fatigued. Without appropriate rest you will make minor AND major mistakes. The natural sugars in milk or honey will still give you a boost. eight to twelve hour operations take breaks to rest their minds and their bodies so that they can remain clear-minded and perform at optimum efficiency. karate. think of mental AND physical rest. tobacco and other forms of ‘replacements’ are often used to soothe or mask the symptoms of stress. get in more accidents and miss important information. we often look for ways to boost our energy. coffees and sodas is also a ‘booster’. adversely affect your physical. but your mind also needs to ‘rest’ and have breaks during waking periods too. or having a cocktail with the office crew after work. horseback riding. as they will cloud your thinking so you will be unable to address the real root of the problems you face. Rest When you think of ‘rest’. or to reduce our stress by grabbing a candy bar to get energy in the afternoon. Avoid these. etc. You do need sleep. dance. Instead of eating that candy bar. 36 . The caffeine in teas. Avoid Substitutes When we are under stress. Alcohol. over time. running in ten different directions and expect you will be flawless in your performance. You can’t go through every day in a blur.We will give you some simple instructions here. prescription medication or even illegal drugs. Be sure not to overload on these. so you can get started trying some of these techniques right away. Read for pleasure. go for a glass of milk or a teaspoon of honey in your tea. mental and emotional health.
Start at the top of your head and work your way down. your neck. Focus on relaxing your shoulders.Your short-term memory will deteriorate and you will find yourself feeling mentally ‘fatigued’. 1. Some people like to use soothing music. 2. If you are in a position where you cannot totally eliminate or significantly reduce your stress. Very simply. video or audio tape and use these to help you learn the technique. and an appropriate environment. but in the beginning it may feel strange. consider these natural techniques. your jaw. Using Natural Stress Reducing Techniques Before you establish your ‘personal stress management plan’. chest level breaths – breathe deeply and fully. If thoughts intrude and you begin to think about what you need to get done or worry about things. sleep better and work at peak performance. consciously telling all of your muscles to relax and focusing on your breathing. meditation requires nothing other than a quiet space in which to meditate. or a CD or tape with the sounds of a babbling brook or soft rain. Take several deep. After awhile this will feel more natural to you. but if you’d like to give it a try on your own. And even if you CAN eliminate or reduce your stress. or sound effects like a fountain. Sit in a comfortable position (you should not lie down or you are likely to fall asleep). 3. Try to avoid taking shallow. you will need techniques like these to help you handle stress so that the stress you endure does not damage your health over the long term. keeping it slow and steady. try to clear your mind. Review these carefully and consider including them when you establish your ‘personal stress management plan’. and all your muscles. these techniques will give you a better quality of life and help you sustain a balanced mood. just let the thoughts 37 . cleansing breaths. Once you are relaxed. 3. and try to get your breath down into your abdomen. you can choose to buy a book. Meditation You can certainly take classes in meditation in your local community.
going deeper and deeper into the picture and feeling the peace and comfort of the spot you have chosen. When you are ready. or “I am calm and focused in my work and my life”. open your eyes and gently shake out your hands and arms and sit quietly for a moment before you get up. Keep it simple. 6. think of a relaxing location you like – it could be a clearing in the woods. add step 9 below: 9. 12. After you have ‘entered’ your relaxing location. the grass or wherever you wish to settle and soak in the surroundings for a minute or two. Don’t try to PUSH THEM away…just let them flow through and pass out of your vision. open your eyes and gently shake out your hands and arms and sit quietly for a moment before you get up. enjoying the peaceful surroundings for another 5-10 minutes. 11. Notice how you feel after every session and see if things are changing for you. After several weeks. relaxation and imagery.pass through your mind and drift away. 38 . 5. your sleep patterns and your sense of calm. 10. a beach or any other location you find peaceful or relaxing (real or imagined). Repeat this affirmation to yourself 5-10 times before you stop. 8. Use a positive and specific affirmation statement like “I am better and stronger every day” or “I will achieve my weight loss goal with ease”. 4. a spot by the side of a gently flowing stream. Stay with this meditation for 5-10 minutes if you can and then. you will see a positive change in your ability to focus. Now focus on a goal or an idea you wish to accomplish. Now just relax and stay in your meditative space. Notice how you feel and don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel any differently the first few times. 7. Picture the location in your head and try to feel. Try to practice this technique once a day for a week or two and when you are comfortable with the breathing. 13. hear and see the surroundings. sit on the rock. When you are ready. Keep your thoughts positive and don’t dwell on negative outcomes or fears or worries. Focus on your breathing. As you relax and get into a rhythm of breathing.
simply get to your ‘peaceful place’ imagining it in as much detail as possible. safe and protected in this space 39 . You can find them by performing on online search for ‘stress relief tapes’ or ‘stress management CDs’ or similar wording. and one in which your mind and body can mitigate the negative effects of stress. All you need is your imagination! Using the first five steps of the Meditation instructions above. and it is even used to treat sleep disorders. you can make your own tape or CD of your own voice to deliver the information and messages. you are strong enough to overcome your problems You can relax and rest. feel. without judgment or fear Though you may be afraid or under stress. so that you hear. Record your voice. Then give yourself the messages you wish to absorb and retain. in that it puts your mind into a different state. Guided Imagery is used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and all kinds of stress. There are also professionals who specialize in this area and you can find them in your local business directory or yellow pages. smell and experience your peaceful surroundings. Guided Imagery provides ‘patterning’ to your brain so that it can change the way you react to and handle stress and remove the negative blocks that keep you from making change or the triggers that make you react to stress in the way you’ve learned over time.If you can meditate more than once a day (perhaps morning and evening) that is even better! Guided Imagery Guided imagery is a bit like meditation. or listen to a stress management CD that will provide the following positive messages: You are safe and relaxed You are able to see and understand the stress. CDs and tapes are available if you wish to use these. If you’d like to try Guided Imagery on your own. so all you have to do is to relax and listen. the hurt or the problem. a more reflective and receptive state. Bring all your senses into play.
or a professional counselor if the stress you are feeling is extreme. their minds and bodies FEEL as if they have had the chance to rehearse what will happen and so they are more confident and better prepared. you should consider the guidance and advice of a doctor. Other Techniques Biofeedback is a learned process. If you have significant health-related symptoms – whether they are physical. you can add other imagery statements to imagine: The stress flowing out of your body through your feet or your fingers Your breath bringing in a warm vapor that relaxes your muscles and makes you feel safe and warm Your stress or problems folded or put away on a shelf while you rest here in your peaceful spot As you master this technique. Self-Hypnosis and hypnotherapy can also accomplish this goal.To these statements. mental or emotional in nature – consider getting professional help 40 . SEEING themselves perform and feeling their bodies and minds working through the scenes to imagine and to help their minds and bodies create the positive reality. By tapping into the power of your mind and your imagination. Athletes use this technique to ‘rehearse’ and ‘practice’ their performance. While the stress management methods we offer here are very effective. Although they have not actually PLAYED THE GAME. It is based on the same principles as Guided Imagery and Meditation and teaches your mind to calm itself so that stress does not harm your body. you can use imagery to set a positive tone for upcoming events like a presentation or a big family event where you may feel stressed. your mind is calmer and you feel more balanced. whereby you control and calm your body so that your blood pressure goes down. you can send signals to your brain to release appropriate chemicals and relax the ‘fight or flight’ response so that you are not in a constant state of readiness even though there is no wooly mammoth to fight! Remember that stress can cause significant health problems.
Your goal may be to avoid medication completely. but will ALSO require medication on an ongoing basis. you will need a good support network to get you through these severe problems. your physician should perform a thorough physical evaluation to see if there are health risks that require immediate treatment (high blood pressure. investigate what would be best for you and ask her about exercise and how much physical activity you include to get you back on track. heart palpitations or chest pain or any symptom you can relate to your response to stress. can employ ‘cognitive therapy’ to teach you coping skills and how to recognize and handle stress when it occurs. heart problems. but you should understand that some people may require ongoing medication if they are under constant. extreme stress and have significant health-related symptoms to warrant this medication. tell her your goals for stress reduction and management. and if you are having severe symptoms like insomnia.) Counselors or psychotherapists. SOME people – though VERY FEW – cannot make the jump to self-maintenance and may learn valuable techniques to help them reduce and handle stress. If you feel you need someone to talk to. For starters. etc. you should see your physician.Do I Need Professional Help? When do you need professional help to combat stress? If your stress is significant. While they are not professionals. Do NOT ignore these issues. if you feel strongly about learning to handle or reduce your stress on your own. ulcers. IF you need medication as a temporary solution. so be sure you communicate with others about what is happening. but don’t discount the value of involving your family. If you are one of these people. your doctor may recommend a good counselor or psychotherapist. Talk to her about what is happening and what your options are for treatment and. friends and coworkers in these discussions. if appropriate. don’t be ashamed or upset! 41 .
we would strongly urge you to do so. not put more stress on yourself by setting stress management goals that are unrealistic. Create your own plan and execute it with confidence! Creating Your ‘Personal Stress Management Plan’ Now that you have read and analyzed the various techniques for stress management. it is time to put your own plan in place. As part of your earlier review and diary process. If you did not complete the diary. If you have not already done so. you may want to change everything at once. and/or record the number of stressors you have had in the past 12-24 months. everyone’s stress level is different and everyone has a different living and working situation. or learn how to manage conflict or anger better. you may have identified people or situations that cause stress and people or resources that can help you change or manage your stress. Don’t compare yourself to others or allow others to judge your decisions about how to handle your stress. keep a firm handle on reality.Stress is a very real problem in this world today and everyone has a different capacity to handle stress. Use this information to analyze where your stress is coming from and come up with ideas on how you can handle each of these stressors. As you create your plan. Don’t bit off more than you can chew! In your zeal to tackle your stress. 42 . That is probably not wise! Remember that your goal is reduce and handle your stress. complete your stress diary. You may also have decided you need training to help you do your job better. It will help you analyze and work on your stressors. Analyze the information you have compiled about the things that cause stress in your life. Consider the various techniques we’ve recommended to analyze and handle your stress and pick the ones that are best suited to you as an individual.
then decide HOW you will do this (time management. you are bound to find something that will address each of your stressors. exercise. you must be able to eliminate.Ask yourself: What stressors occur most frequently What stressors seem to cause you the most stress. Here are the instructions: Write your stressors in their order of importance. and the ‘Top Ten Ways to Manage Stress’. etc. Start by completing this form. 43 . so that you address the most stressful or most frequent stressors FIRST. like meditation and imagery. reduce it significantly or learn to handle it better? In order to develop a solid ‘personal stress management plan’. decide first what is reasonable (eliminate. For each stressor you have recorded. mental or emotional symptoms Since you probably can’t work on all the stressors in your life at the same time. o Consider the ‘Natural Techniques’ to handle stress. for specific tips. reduce or handle?). we would suggest that you select the ones that seem to give you the most problems either in terms of frequency or in terms of how you react and how the stress makes you feel. decide if you can eliminate the stress totally.) As you consider your options: o Review the suggestions in the ‘How to Make a Change’ section of this book to get ideas on how to handle each stressor. For each stressor. goal setting. and cause you to react in the strongest way with physical. reduce or learn to handle your stress better. Your ‘personal stress management plan’ may be comprised of numerous tasks. With all of these suggestions. actions and/or techniques to address each of the stressors you’ve identified in your life. and code the stressor accordingly (E= eliminate. R= reduce and H= handle). o Look at the ‘Analyze and Handle Stress’ section for general guidelines.
Review your plan periodically to see how things are going and whether you need to make changes. They are invaluable! Remember they can’t read your mind and you do not have to do this alone! Seek professional help if you need it and for as long as you need it. friends and support network in this plan and let them know what you are doing and why. Stressor Eliminate. If one does not work. Share your plan with your counselor or doctor and get suggestions from them. try combining techniques or more on to the next one and keep going until you find the solution for each stressor. Involve your family. write down all the techniques and suggestions that apply and prioritize them in the order you think you should try each technique.If you need to use more than one technique to address the stressor. as well. Reduce. or Handle? How? 44 .
Be sure you are eating right.Once you have your plan on paper. Change what you can about yourself first. DO THAT! If you are not communicating your issues to others. 45 . use guided imagery or other techniques to soothe your brain and body and help you sleep and manage your stress more effectively. if you have tried EVERYTHING to improve the situation at work or at home and nothing has worked. Summary As we reach the end of this book. For example. When you are in a difficult situation and you can’t change it – perhaps the care of an aging or dying parent in your home – use stress reducing techniques to mitigate the effects of stress on your mind and body. If you need to take a Conflict Resolution course or an Anger Management course. Tell people rationally and objectively – without emotion or passion – what the issues are and why you need help or change and ask them to help you figure out how to change things. Get the skills you need to make life run more smoothly. Get to the root of the problem. it is now your turn to implement your plan. Reducing your stress requires you to stand up for yourself and to be realistic about what you can accomplish in what period of time. you may be facing a life-changing event in the form of a new job or even a divorce. print it and read it often. This process will ensure that you remain focused. Be honest about what is happening. Remember to consider the big picture when you commit to new obligations and don’t be afraid to be assertive or to say ‘no’ if that is appropriate. It may also require you to make some difficult changes in your life. take a Time Management course. getting enough rest and enough recreation and social activity. Meditate. but with practice you will change your habits. Don’t mask your problems with alcohol or drugs or sugar or caffeine. It will take some dedication and you may have to work hard to orient yourself to thinking in this way every day. learn to communicate. If you are bad at managing your time. get organized and if that fails. It will also ensure that you consider your ‘Personal Stress Management Plan’ as you make new commitments and changes in your life. because that is something over which you have more control.
IT DOESN’T HAPPEN TO YOU…YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN. how you react to them. reduce or deal with the things that cause stress in your life. Start today. and how to eliminate. by learning what your stressors are. There is no time like the present! You CAN DO THIS! 46 .You don’t have to be a VICTIM OF STRESS! Stress Management is a PROACTIVE concept.
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