What Exactly is Stress?
Stress, by definition, is the inability to cope with a threat (real or imagined) to your well-being, which results in a series of responses and adaptations by your body. Stress can lead to poor health and even injury.
Stress vs. Challenge
• Unlike stress, “challenge” is an important ingredient for healthy and productive work.
• Often confused, challenge energizes people psychologically and physically. It motivates people to learn new skills and master their jobs.
• When a challenge is met, people feel relaxed and satisfied.
Stress in America Today
• With increasing time spent on the job, job stress is becoming a painful reality for many workers.
• 40% of workers reported that their job was very often extremely stressful.
• 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.
• 75% of employees believe that they have more on-the-job stress than the generation before them.
• 26% of workers said they were, “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work.”
• More than one-third of workers say their jobs are harming their physical or emotional health.
• 42% of workers say job pressures are interfering with family and personal relationships. •
50% of workers say they have a more demanding workload this year than last year.
So Why Should You Be Concerned?
• Chronic stress may be the ultimate risk factor.
• Some experts think stress is a major cause of 50% of all disease.
• Research indicates that stress has a dramatic effect on your immune system.
• Stress has been linked to the nation’s two leading causes of illness—heart disease and cancer.
• Heart disease: Research over the past decade has documented that mental stress is as potent a trigger of heart disease as strenuous exercise or overexertion.
• Cancer: Although not conclusive, some studies have indicated an increased incidence of early death, including cancer death, among people who have experienced major life stress factors.
The Benefits of Stress Management
By employing strategies to help you manage stress, you’ll be taking big steps in improving your health and overall quality of life. • Managing stress will help…
• Improve how your immune system functions.
• Prevent illnesses like the common cold, or physical complaints such as back aches.
• Increase your energy level, allowing you to spend more quality time with friends and family.
• Improves the quality of your sleep; allowing you to wake up well-rested and ready to go.
• Improves your digestion.
• Keeps you calm when the going gets tuff.
• Allows you to be on your game—more focused, more positive.
Barriers to Managing Stress
1. “I just ‘deal’ with my stress, it’s not a big issue.”
2. “It’s just stress, I don’t need counseling”
3. “Stress is just a part of my job.”
4. “I don’t have time to deal with my stress.”
5. “I thrive on stress.”
6. “People who are stressed just can’t cope with reality.”
7. “If I just make it through these next few weeks I’ll be OK.”
8. “I’m so stressed, I don’t even know where to start.”
9. “Dealing with my stress would just be too expensive.”
10. “I’m always stressed, it hasn’t made a difference so far.”
In order to make stress management a priority, it’s important to understand the process of how people change. When changing behaviors, like those associated with reducing stress, most people go though a cycle known as the “Stages of Change.”
Stage 1: Nope…Not interested in dealing with my stress right now.
People in this group have no intention of dealing with their stress, and frankly may not even see stress as something they should address.
Stage 2: Hmm…I’m seriously considering stress management.
These people understand that finding ways to manage their stress would be good for them, but they aren’t making concrete plans to manage their stress.
Stage 3: Yep…I’m getting ready to start dealing with stress.
These individuals understand the benefits of stress management, and are looking at employing stress management techniques in the very near future.
Stage 4: Let’s go…I’m managing my stress.
People in this stage have started to find ways to manage their stress. They’re actually incorporating stress management strategies as part of their daily routines.
Stage 5: Old news…I’ve been able to cope with my stress for a long time.
These people are successfully managing the stress in their lives. The new strategies they’re using to deal with and address stress have become a normal behavior for them.
To find out what stage you’re in, pick the statement that most accurately describes you:
1. I’m currently stressed, and I don’t intend to find ways of coping within the next six months.
2. I’m currently stressed, but I’m thinking about dealing with it in the next six months.
3. I’m currently stressed, but have, on and off, tried to gain some control over it.
4. I’ve managed to reduce my stress within the last six months.
5. I’ve been successfully managing my stress for more than six months now.
6. I’m currently stressed, and I don’t intend to find ways of coping within the next six months—you’re in
7. I’m currently stressed, but I’m thinking about dealing with it in the next six months—you’re in stage two. 8. I’m currently stressed, but have, on and off, tried to gain some control over it—you’re in stage three.
9. I’ve managed to reduce my stress within the last six months—you’re in stage four.
10 I’ve been successfully managing my stress for more than six months now—you’re in stage five.
Strategies for Change: Stage 1
• Read, Coping With Stress.
• Create a list of reasons why managing your stress will benefit you.
• Create a list of why managing your stress will benefit your family.
• Watch the movie, Falling Down.
• Make a list of the people pressuring you to better manage your stress.
• Write about two situations in the last year where you defended your inability to deal with stress.
Strategies for Change: Stage 2
• Read, Who Moved My Cheese? by Ken Blanchard.
• Describe how your stress makes you feel emotionally.
• Write down your five biggest stressors.
• Speak with a friend who’s experiencing negative health effects as a result of high stress.
• At least one time per day, make sure to spend 15 minutes doing something you find relaxing (reading, talking with friends, etc.).
• Take a stress self-assessment.
Strategies for Change: Stage 3
If available, meet with an EAP counselor at your place of work.
• Create a written plan to incorporate a moderate amount of physical activity into your routine to help you deal with stress.
• Tell your friends and family about your plans to reduce your stress level.
• Find a friend who will help you manage your stress. Make sure to develop a plan on how this relationship will function.
• Mark a date on the calendar when you will begin a new, less stressed way of life.
• Purchase relaxation CD’s and videos to use at home and in the car.
Strategies for Change: Stage 4
• Enroll in a stress management class to help you achieve your goals.
• Regularly update your friends and family on your efforts to reduce stress.
• Begin a regular walking program to help you reduce stress.
• Create a list of responses that you can use as substitutes to getting stressed out
• Take on a new activity like golfing, joining a walking club, or bicycling.
• Learn and utilize a stress management technique like yoga or meditation.
Strategies for Change: Stage 5
• Celebrate accomplishing your written stress management plan.
• Continue to develop healthy habits in your life beyond exercise and stress management.
• Offer yourself as a testimonial to others about the benefits of stress management.
• Create a list of all the benefits you’ve been experiencing since beginning to manage your stress—be sure to review previous lists and write down how things have changed.
• Identify what has been the most helpful resource on your road to managing stress and incorporate more of it into your life (i.e., books, relaxation CD’s, etc.).
General Tips for Managing Stress • Regular exercise is a great way to reduce the effects of stress. • Lead a healthy lifestyle—proper nutrition makes a big difference. • Take one thing at a time. • Go easy with criticism. • Be realistic in what you can accomplish compared to what you want to accomplish. • Shed the “superman/superwoman” urge—realize that no one’s perfect, you will make mistakes.