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Module 1: Individual stress
There are three efficient strategies to prevent
stress. We can prevent stress by good time management, by an objective
viewpoint and by relaxing.
Preventing stress by time
One of the most important reasons for stress is "too
little time". Too many tasks need to be done in a too short time period. A
person expects a long-term goal to be reached in a short time. Other
people expect that this person has quite enough time for this task. It is
possible to eliminate part of this stress by time management.
If you plan some things, one after the other, foresee and include some
spare time. For example, you may include going shopping while your
children are at a sport lesson or you can benefit from your time by
having a tea in a café and reading a book.
What tasks need to be done now, urgently and what tasks can wait until
tomorrow or even next week? Make a plan, write down what needs to be
done, when it should be started and when it should be finished. Add
some extra time to what you have planned. You will feel better if you
are finished sooner than you had planned!
Making very tight schedules may again result in stress.
You can also delegate some work. Does everyone have household duties
in your family? Do your children also have some duties and do they do
them? Or does only one person do everything- the one who probably
It is also important that you know when you can say "No". Do not take
your children to their sport lessons by car every time if they can get
there perfectly well by bicycle or by public transportation. Do not
always clean up after the children. Both children and teenagers can
take responsibility. Take time for yourself and do not let yourself be
talked into anything you did not want to do.
Preventing stress by useful points of
Not only outside tasks and demands should be
considered, but also one’s thoughts, point of view and values. The way we
evaluate situations is what causes stress. Objective situation evaluation
is one of the most important points in the war against stress. The
following questions may help to recognize values and expectations in a
What stresses me so much in this situation?
What am I anxious about or afraid of?
What do I expect?
Are these expectations reasonable and
Is my assessment of the situation correct?
Must I really assess the situation?
Do others know what my expectations are in this?
What does my discussion partner expect from me?
What does it mean for me that this situation is
as it is, and not different?
How would it be if the situation were
Thoughts and feelings that come forth in a stressful situation should be
clearly identified. It must not necessarily be clear what the demands are
and what management strategies we need to employ, but instead where these
demands come from and if they are relevant and useful.
Exercise 1: What are the problematic thoughts which are most likely
to cause you stress?
Think about what problematic expectations you
yourself have and in which situations. Try to find a corresponding
positive expectation for the problematic one.
I must prove that I can do it well.
I must know it better than others.
I must show that I am the best.
Everyone must find me wonderful and love me.
I must not dishonor myself.
What will others think of me if I do not manage this?
It is not possible to allow myself to relax.
Samples of corresponding
Expectations that we have of others can also cause us stress. It is a
common situation when the other person has no idea of what our
expectations are and accordingly can not fulfill them. In this case it is
important to share your expectations with your discussion partner.
But before sharing your expectations ask yourself: "Are these expectations
objective, or are they irrational and exaggerated?" If these expectations
are irrelevant and wrong they should be changed (you will learn how in the
next link). Other people can not meet our expectations unless they know
The following topic concerns useless assertions. As a rule assertions are
quick, automatic, and unnoticed. If we react to something in an angry way
because we have taken it personally it shows we have assed the situation
negatively. Most probably our discussion partner will react in the same
way – with anger or negative remarks. Conflict is pre-programmed. It is
better not to assess the situation at all, because often such assessments
are useless. It is especially valid for negative assessments!
Why not see the situation in a positive funny way?
"I am not a lazy bone! I am a potential workaholic with highly
developed stress management skills!"
Preventing stress by relaxing
A very important issue in handling stress -
relaxing – again and again remember to plan a "time-out", take some time
for yourself and escape. Often we have very little time that we take for
ourselves. We do not indulge in a little "Alone time" any more. Nor do we
read a good book, or take a relaxing bath or go for a short walk.
"Time-out" should bring pleasure and joy and is a
very good escape from stress. "Time-out" should not be goal oriented,
targeted and should not be taken under time pressure. First of all we
should completely relax and have some real rest.
A very good way to relax is Progressive Muscle
Relaxation by Jacobson or Autogenic Training. But such activities as
jogging, walking, swimming, or cycling can also be very refreshing
Exercise 2: What is your best way to rest, relax
and calm down?
Prepare a list of
relaxation techniques and activities that you can easily integrate in
your daily life. Fix a certain time when you will indulge yourself in
a "time-out". Try to stick to your plan to have break within your
daily routine in the next few days and weeks.
Through practice of relaxation
techniques and activities it will become considerably easier for you,
in acute stress situations, to actively relax and to resist stress.
However it is important to practice these techniques before being
confronted with situations of severe stress!
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|© 2007 by Yves Hänggi, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.