There are many definitions of stress. Generally, we can say that stress occurs when a person encounters an event that they perceive as threatening their physical or mental well-being. We call these events stressors and the response to them - stress. The stressor may be physical (e.g. an animal attacking me) or just mental (e.g. thinking about an upcoming presentation).
Eustress and Distress
There is a difference between eustress, which is a term for the „good“ stress, and distress, which refers to the „bad“ stress. Eustress motivates us, helps us to focus our energy, feels exciting, and improves performance. On the other hand, distress causes anxiety, is perceived as beyond our coping abilities, feels unpleasant, decreases performance, and can lead to mental and physical problems. Chronic distress may also cause burn-out syndrome.
At work, we may encounter many stressors. The most common are workload, responsibility, social status, decision-making, conflicts, uncertainty, organizational changes, difficult relationships, conflicting roles, unrealistic deadlines or goals, etc. However, the work stressors are not the only stressors in our lives. From a personal aspect, we may perceive it as stressful: relationship troubles, health problems, changes in our environment, financial difficulties, etc.
Stress management is a wide spectrum of techniques aimed at controlling a person's level of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of and motive of improving everyday functioning. There are different strategies to deal with stress. I will elaborate on the strategies below.
Once we define our stressors, then we can take direct, specific action to solve the problem, find the necessary information or seek support from the social circle of friends, relatives, etc.
In case the situation cannot be changed (e.g. inefficient processes, company culture, health problems, etc.), then the best approach in order not to feel frustrated is to accept the situation as it is. It is also helpful to express emotions in a safe environment, relieve stress (e.g. in sports), or perceive the situation with humor. Various cognitive strategies (re-framing, changing perspective, perception of positive aspects, etc.) are also useful.
Physical relief strategies
Very efficient in decreasing stress are various relaxation techniques (e.g. autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, etc.).
The key to stress management is developing mindfulness – a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness can lead to less intense stress responses. Mindfulness can be developed by various techniques (e.g. body scan, mindful eating, breathing, walking).
When handling stress, it is important to realize, that we cannot influence everything in our lives. But we can influence how we react.
This article is a foundation for our webinar Stress Management led by our lecturer Olga Lošťáková.
Literature and additional sources on Stress Management
Online free Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program: https://palousemindfulness.com/
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Full Catastrophe Living, Revised Edition: How to cope with stress, pain, and illness using mindfulness meditation
Martin E. P. Seligman: Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being - and How To Achieve Them
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee: The Stress Solution: 4 steps to a calmer, happier, healthier you
Shamash Alidina: Relaxation For Dummies (Book & CD)
Your body language may shape who you are | Amy Cuddy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc
How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU&t=701s