by ed2go instructors, Becky and Tony Swaim
(More about theses instructors below)
Some people say that like death and taxes, stress is an unavoidable part of life and can’t be eliminated. Perhaps you can relate to the stress that goes along with a salary negotiation, meeting an important deadline, the first time your son or daughter takes the family car out for a solo drive, or the stress of having a sick family member. In its most extreme form, stress is a leading cause for health problems that are difficult or nearly impossible to diagnose.
Even if you can’t escape stress, effective management strategies increase your chances of enjoying a fulfilling and rewarding life. Your health, happiness, and success depend on how well you adapt to stressful situations.
What exactly is stress?
Interestingly, stress is closely related to “distress,” defined as being in great difficulty or danger. Some people are in denial when it comes to the effects of stress. But no one can escape stress. It even affects us while we sleep (as nightmares or insomnia).
Some people are affected by stress more than others as research indicates that your personality type has a great deal to do with your ability to manage stress. Perception also has a strong relationship to stress. If you perceive a small problem as being large (making a mountain out of a mole hill), you become stressed. On the other hand, if you downplay a disaster (“let’s use it as a learning experience”), you experience less stress.
Stages of Stress
You experience stress as a result of three stages of stress called the General Adaptation Syndrome, shortened as GAS. Stage One: your body experiences changes because of exposure to a stressor. If this continues, you enter Stage Two: feeling anxiety or fatigue. Finally, you move to Stage Three: losing your ability to cope. You then enter the classic “fight or flight” mode.
Strategies for Managing Stress: Retreat, Refuse, and Release (The 3 R’s of Stress Management)
Each of us has different responses to stress but to successfully cope with stress, you’ll need to identify the signals (sweaty palms, neck tension, fatigue, headache, stomachache) and spring into action. Strive to create a low-stress lifestyle by following these strategies to create a balance between work and play, exercise and rest, and discipline and self-indulgence.
Retreat from stressful situations when appropriate. When stress becomes too much to handle, take a giant step backward. Go out for lunch after a heated meeting or tell a salesperson that you’d like to “sleep on it” before you make a decision. If you can avoid stress by delaying a decision, do it!
Refuse to let people and situations give you stress. Suppose that your boss is prone to flying off the handle. (You know the type, always screaming and making personal attacks.) Avoid personalizing these tirades and becoming stressed. Realize your boss is likely under a lot of pressure and probably is not too happy. Consider telling your boss, “I will be happy to talk to you when you are calmer. It is difficult to understand you when you scream at me.” If this does not work, listen for the constructive content of what your boss is saying and ignore the yelling and screaming.
Find ways to release stress constructively each day.
Take a long walk, hit a tennis ball, lift weights at the gym, or play Frisbee with your dog.
Learn Acceptance and Maintain a Positive Attitude
It is a real benefit for you to accept that stress will be present and maintain the right attitude.
Impatience and the discomfort that accompanies it is a major cause of stress. Regardless of how much you try to rush things, you must learn to wait. Learn to accept things that you cannot change and also, remember the saying, “Rome was not built in one day.”
Striking a balance between persistence and acceptance comes with experience. Once you learn to recognize and accept constraints and obstacles, you’ll be amazed by the increase in the number of stress-reduction alternatives you can choose from.
About our ed2go instructors
Becky and Tony Swaim have helped thousands of clients, colleagues, and students reach organizational and personal goals. Working in the medical, manufacturing and education fields, the Swaims manage a successful consulting firm in southern California. Starting her career as a medical administrative assistant, Becky provides assistance as a program manager to various medical practices and has managed a large staff in the medical reimbursement field. Becky earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Speech Communication from California State University, Long Beach. Tony Swaim has been an accomplished online instructor since 1998. His industry experience includes twenty years of medical device manufacturing management. Tony’s consulting areas are project management, customer service, total quality and supply chain management. He earned an MBA from California State University, Long Beach and holds professional certifications in five disciplines.