Dealing with stressful situations – the 4 A’s.

Change the situation                Change your reaction

Avoid the stressor                    Adapt to the stressor
Alter the stressor                     Accept the stressor

Stress management strategies.

1: Avoid unnecessary stress.

Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

•    Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept extra responsibilities when you’re close to reaching them.

•    Avoid people who cause you stress – If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t change the relationship, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.

•    Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less busy route. If going shopping is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.

•    Avoid controversial topics – If you get upset over religion or politics, avoid talking about them. If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.

•    Reduce your to-do list – Analyse your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you have too much to do, distinguish between the “should” and the “must.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.

2: Alter the situation.

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Work out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.

•    Express your feelings instead of bottling them up – If something or someone is bothering you communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will probably remain the same.

•    Be willing to compromise – When you ask someone to change their behaviour be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.

•    Be more assertive – Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you have work to do and someone insists on interrupting, say that you only have five minutes to talk.

•    Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself you can alter the amount of stress you’re under.

3: Adapt to the stressor.

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

•    Reframe problems – Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than being anxious in a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and refocus, listen to your favourite radio station, or enjoy the time alone.

•    Look at the bigger picture – Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.

•    Adjust your standards – Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”

•    Focus on the positive – When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.


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