The stress-response is a normal, sometimes life-saving, physiological change in your body, designed to energize you to cope with perceived threats or stressors. You make thousands of internal adjustments (adaptations) each day of your life. You usually learn your “coping mechanisms” early, and with time and practice, they become “automatic.” Coping automatically with the stressors in your life is essential to smooth functioning and adaptability. Coping mechanisms that are automatic, are called “unconscious adaptations.” Each of us requires and uses a variety of unconscious adaptations and most people cope successfully with 98% of their stressors.
Every one of your coping mechanisms works…or you wouldn’t use it again. What’s more, you have always coped with the stressors in your life. But some unconscious adaptations have a high cost. These are known “negative coping mechanisms.” For example, smoking, doing drugs, eating or drinking alcohol do bring rather immediate relief from stress-related tension or pain. But the positive effects of negative coping don’t last very long and the negative effects are often quite serious.
Stress is not all bad; it only becomes a problem when it goes off when not needed; when it stays on longer than is useful; or when you can’t turn it off. Stress can also be used to motivate and empower us to accomplish tasks, to sharpen our thinking, and to maintain a high level of energy. The key is to learn to control and manage stress to maximize performance and avoid burnout.
Here are 5 tips to creatively manage stress.
- Know that stress does not exist outside you. You are in charge of your stress level, and can learn to manage it to your advantage. Discover and exercise your strengths. Consistently seek more efficient and effective ways to deal with stress and accomplish what you want.
- View change and “problems” as challenges, not as loss or threat.Keep in mind that everything changes. Allow yourself to “float on the river of life.” Search for the opportunities, not the obstacles, inherent in change. Convert the stress of change into excitement for meeting a new challenge.
- Have a continuous positive orientation and outlook for yourself and others.William Arthur Ward once wrote, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” Give attention to what you find most valuable. Set priorities. Be consistent. Focus on the present moment. Spend your time and energy in ways that meet your values and standards.
- Develop flexibility, agility and tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. Ensure flexibility in your approach by being willing to quickly modify what isn’t working. Explore new roles and possibilities. Learn conflict-resolving skills which lead to “win-win” solutions. Intend your conflicts to result in everyone getting what they want. Forgive easily and readily.
- Use language to create meaning and context for change, achievements and solutions. Everyone needs to feel important. Use a vocabulary that recognizes and appreciates others. Nobel laureate, Hans Selye, in his groundbreaking research on stress said that “gratitude is the most stressless emotion.”
Source: Dr. Patrick WIlliams, MCC, BCC