Monday, 10 July 2017

Effective approaches to stress management

I believe that there are three main approaches to dealing with stress. These are (i) resolving the issue that's causing the stress, (ii) learning new ways to cope with the situation so you perceive it as less stressful and (iii) improving your resilience so stress bothers you less generally. These are, of course, are pretty sweeping statements, so let’s have a look at them more closely now.

Resolving the issue that's causing stress

This is the hardest one to offer generalised advice, because what you should do, and even whether solving the problem is possible, will depend very much on what the situation is.

But there are practical steps you can take to see how far you can go in this direction. I'll use the example of someone who is stressed by an unusually large workload, and if your problem is something else, you'll have to brainstorm similar ideas that are appropriate.
  • consider whether you have practical answers you are not yet using that might be helpful, in our example could you speak to your boss? set aside less important tasks until the crisis is over? delegate? bring in a union rep? even change jobs?
  • consider whether the situation is avoidable - by this I don’t mean ignore or run away from your problems, which is almost never helpful. I mean whether you might be able to manage the situation differently so the problem doesn’t occur again, for example, negotiating longer deadlines, reviewing your time management skills or way of working, limiting the number of new contracts you take on when you are already busy
If you can't resolve the situation, or can only partly resolve it, then you need to think about how you can change what you're doing to make it easier to cope with.

Learning specific coping strategies

Again, to some extent what strategies are appropriate will depend on your situation.

Say, for example, that you have money worries. In step one you might have decided that the best way to resolve the situation was to see a debt advisor and negotiate easier repayment plans for your debts. But although this leaves you with a plan, you might need specific strategies to help you carry it out. For example:
  • improving your negotiation or communication skills to help you stay calm and get the best deals from your creditors
  • learning new ways of money management to avoid the problem recurring
  • learning ways to stop the worry and anxiety getting you down so you can focus on solutions, not problems
  • learning not to over-react or slide back into high levels of stress if you hit setbacks in clearing your debts
  • developing more positivity and perhaps self esteem: realising that having debt problems doesn't make you a bad person
  • learning to appreciate the good things you have in life, and feeling that it’s OK to do so
Again, if your problem isn't debt, you can brainstorm some ideas that fit for you. And once things are under control, you can move on to making sure you are more resilient to stressful situations in the future.

Improving Resilience

Resilience is the amount of 'bounce back' you have when life is challenging (in terms of my last blog, how big your bucket is). And the good news is that you can increase it if you are prepared to try. For ways to do this see my next blog.

If you are having trouble following this advice:

Stress can be enervating. It affects your ability to think clearly and plan, so get help if you need it. Your GP, friends and family may be able to support you but sometimes it helps to talk to someone who's not involved. Stress management coaching or therapy can help you see the best way out, both in practical and emotional terms. Please contact me if I can help.
Author: is a professional stress management coach, specialising in working with individuals and smaller employers to minimise stress and maximise feeling in control.
Debbie is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook both of which are available from Amazon.
Find out more about Debbie's services on  or phone 01977 678593

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