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