Personal Effectiveness and Responsibility
Stress Management Skills
We all handle stress differently. But, not all stress is bad, and learning how to deal with and manage stress is critical to maximizing our job performance, staying safe on the job, and maintaining our physical and mental health. Infrequent exposure to some job stress poses minimal threat and may actually be quite effective in increasing motivation and productivity. Too much stress, and too prolonged exposure to pressure however can lead to a downward spiral — both professionally and personally.
Stress can arise from two sources; pressure that:
- Life can put on us from time to time, and
- What we put upon ourselves as we react to different situations
The small chart below shows the main causes of stress.
Some of these causes of stress are individual and quite short-lived events, like a death or getting fired, while others are longer-term or persistent situations, such as money pressure or health problems. Of course, not only do we have to cope with these normally occurring pressures in life, but many other sorts of stress that can be experienced arising from day-to-day events. In addition, toleration of stress and pressure tends to vary from one person to the next, largely because people cope with stress quite differently.
People typically feel very little in the way of stress or pressure when they have the time, ability and resources to manage a situation or event. However, they will frequently experience significant stress when they think they can’t handle the demands put upon them. Stress is therefore often seen to be a negative experience by many but it is not an inevitable consequence; it very much depends on people’s perceptions of a situation and their real ability to manage it adequately.
At the more positive end of the scale, we need to remember that in small doses, pressure can help give us increased energy and alertness, even helping to keep us focused on problems or issues that we may be facing. This type of stress can be beneficial, and people often describe this as feeling “energized”, “pumped” or “wired.” However, as the level of pressure gets too great, it surpasses our ability to cope with it in a positive way and people may quickly start to describe themselves as being stressed, or burned out. At this point, it is important to find positive and productive ways to deal with the stress and, more importantly, to address the person or situation that is causing it.
The best treatment for stress, of course, is to try to prevent getting into situations that are likely to overwhelm your ability to cope – not always possible on the job and in life but if our attitude is positive, more possible than we often imagine.