Stress occurs when the pressure exceeds our ability to cope. So, it’s not just external pressure such as reaching deadlines, that triggers stress, but whether you believe that you can cope with a situation that you perceive as important or threatening.
Research has shown that there is a physiological difference between pressure and stress. People experiencing stress have higher levels of the various stress hormones in their bloodstream than people who feel merely challenged.
Coping with Stress
There are many ways to cope with stress, but it is best to match your coping strategy with your stress response.
Physiological Coping Strategies for Stress
One way to reduce stress if you respond to stress physiologically is to use breathing techniques with muscle relaxation. When using breathing techniques, you want to inhale and exhale deeply. While inhaling, you can tighten the muscles that are typically tense when you are stressed.
When exhaling, relax those same muscles. Be sure to recognise the difference between the tense muscle and the relaxed muscles. Usually, it is best to do a consistent count for each inhale and exhale such as a count of two or three. This will help slow down your heart rate and breathing rate. It will also help relax your muscles and your mind as you are increasing the amount of oxygen to both.
Behavioural Coping Strategies for Stress
There are both positive and negative coping strategies that people use. Some people may drink or smoke because of stress but these are obviously negative coping strategies. Some positive coping strategies are writing goals to tackle the problem, writing “to do” lists, exercising, or doing the things that increase eustress (good stress).
Writing goals and lists help to organise thoughts and actions so that you know how to fix the problem or possibly remove the stressor if possible. Exercise increases endorphins in our body or gives us the “runner’s high” while also releasing the tension in our body and feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration.
Cognitive Coping Strategies for Stress
Along with using some of the previously stated coping strategies, you may want to use positive self-talk or give yourself reaffirming statements. It is very easy for people to tell themselves, “I stink!” and believe it when problems happen.
Instead, recognise the times that you use the negative statements that decrease your confidence and use a cue word such as “relax” or “stop” to remind yourself to stop saying these statements. Then use positive, reaffirming statements of aspects at which you are good to replace those negative thoughts. If you are struggling with your defence during a game, you may want to say that you are good at the offence while also reminding yourself about the good aspects of your defensive game.
Everyone experiences stress throughout his or her life. What you do with those stressors is what is important. Thus, you should recognise your sources of stress, realise how you respond to stress, and then use a coping strategy that matches the way that you respond to problems.
If you believe that there are high levels of stress at work that are not been dealt with, I’ve listed a number of interventions that you may want to consider.
- Investigate whether your organisation has a stress policy
- Consider how your organisation’s culture contributes to the levels of stress
- Check to see if other colleagues agree with you
- Speak to your supervisor, line manager or someone within the HR department
- Undertake a stress audit, engage with a professional consultancy or suitably qualified colleagues from within the organisation
Back to blog