Self Help Skills

Stress Management: How To Reduce And Prevent Stress

Stress management

Stress management is the reduction and prevention of stress using healthier methods of coping.


I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.

- Lester Burnham, American Beauty


When stress gets you to do great work, it is good, when stress becomes a hazard to your health, it becomes bad.


1. The best stress management rule: Talk to someone. (friend, colleague, family, doctor)


2. The second best stress management rule: Breathe. (Try the 4-4-4 method: breathe in to a count of four, hold it in to a count fo four, and exale slowly to a count of four.)


3. When in duress, chant this: 'This too shall pass'. Nothing is permanent in this life.


4. What stresses us most: Look at the stress 'league table'.


Each cause has points attached to it. For anyone scoring more than 300, experts say a major illness can be predicted within one year for 80% of individuals. When you go through the list, all life events within the past two year qualify.


Death of spouse 100

Divorce 73

Marital separation 65

Jail-term 63

Death of close relative 63

Personal Injury or illness 53

Marriage 50

Dismissal 47

Marital Reconciliation 45

Retirement 45

Change in health of relative 44

Pregnancy 40

Sex difficulties 39

Gain of new family member 39

Business Readjustment 39

Change in financial status 38

Death of close friend 37

Change of job 36

Change in number of arguments with spouse 35

Mortgage over Rs. 200,000 31

Foreclosure of Mortgage 30

Change of responsibilities at work 29

Son or daughter leaving home 29

Trouble with in-laws 29

Outstanding Personal Achievement 28

Wife begins or stops work 26

Begin or end school 26

Change in living condition 25

Revision of personal habits 24

Trouble with boss 23

Change in work hours or conditions 20

Change in residence 20

Change in school 20

Change in recreation 19

Change in religious activities 19

Change in social activities 18

Mortgage or loan less than Rs. 200,000 17

Change in sleeping habits 16

Change in number of family get-togethers 15

Change in eating habits 15

Vacation 15

Main religious occasion 12

Minor violation of the law 11


5. Control the loudness in your life

Loudness is measured in decibels. Experts recommend that we use earplugs when exposed to 85dB and above.


Some common sounds and their approximate sound levels


20 dB Ticking watch

30 dB Quiet whisper

40 dB Refrigerator hum

50 dB Rainfall

60 dB Sewing machine

70 dB Washing machine

80 dB Alarm clock 2 feet away

85 dB Average traffic

95 dB MRI

100 dB Blow Dryer; Subway train

105 dB Power mower, chain saw

110 dB Screaming child

120 dB Rock Concert, thunderclap

130 dB Jackhammer, Jet plane (100 feet away)


A standard portable music player (ohone/dedicated) goes up to 120 decibels; the European version is limited, by law, to 100.


Use earbuds that limit the volume to 80 decibels, or 85 if bass or treble boost is turned on. At least use bigger headphones that cover the ear


6. Check if you are all burnt out: Look at the conditions of being burnt out, and tick all that apply.


I feel hopeless and trapped in my job.

I am constantly tired.

I am bored with my duties and co-workers.

I am easily irritated and have little patience with co-workers and customers.

I am cynical about my company and my profession.

I want change in my daily routine, yet I feel threatened by change.

I feel that I lack control over my circumstances.

I have difficulty concentrating on specific tasks.

I withdraw, because working at problem-solving seems futile.

I use alcohol and drugs too often.

I occupy myself with trivial activities to escape more important responsibilities.

I used to care about others, but now I'm too preoccupied with my own health, sanity and career.

I am restless and have difficulty relaxing or sleeping.

I doubt that I really make a difference to my customers, co-workers, friends or family.

I have lost my professional and personal confidence.

I hate to get out of bed and dread going to work.

I put off making decisions because they seem overwhelming.

I don't want to hear about anyone else's problems.

I feel I have nothing more to give.

I am just going through the motions - waiting for a shift change, a new job or retirement.

I've lost my sense of purpose or enthusiasm about my job.

I often use phrases such as, 'I don't care anymore', or 'Why bother?'

I am highly critical of others.

My self-esteem is low.

I use a lot of sick leave just to get away from work.

My social involvement has decreased both on and off the job.

I frequently complain and despair over problems.


(Source: Baptist Hospital East)


6. Forgive people and events. Accept that we live in an imperfect world.


7. Stop negative self-talk: 'I'm too fat, too old, etc...'


8. For every one thing that goes wrong, there are probably 10 or 50 or 100 blessings. Count them now.


9. Relax your standards. The world will not end if the grass doesn't get mowed this weekend.


10. Keep a stress diary: Identify short term stresses and long term stresses

- mention time/date, stress levels (on a scale of 1 to 10), and cause of stress.


11. Check if your job is stressing you out: Identify work overload and job stress

Look at the priorities at your job, review your formal job description, and review the completed forms of the periodic performance appraisal. How do you come up? Can you fill the gaps? if any?

Also look at the organization, at the top achievers - how are they where they are? Make a plan be at par with them or ahead. Or else, quit, find another job.


12. Plan your work: Plan ahead and reduce stress

- list the things to do - list all the resources and time you would do


13. Always set up contingency plans, 'just in case'.

'If for some reason either of us is delayed, here's what we'll do...' Or, 'If we get split up in the shopping center, here's where we'll meet.'


14. Use visualization: Imagine a scene, place or event where you feel at peace

- imagine yourself there

- how do you feel?

- how did you get there?


15. Visualize good things before a big event: Imagine a scenario where you have wowed them all.

- Now, how did you make it possible?

- Think about the people/kind of people who will be there and the steps you took to win them over to your side.

- Also go in to any event after doing the 'power pose' just before: Hands raised like a winning athlete.

- Also pen in the unusual things that can happen at the event and how you dealt with them.


16. Physical relaxation techniques

- Deep breathing: Like the 4-4-4 technique before, but doing it 10 times, for example.

- PMR (progressive muscular relaxation - first you tense up a group of muscles as tightly as possible, e.g. your fists, holding for a moment and then releasing the tension).

- Relaxation response (for 10-20 minutes, sit quietly, close your eyes, relax your muscles.

- Starting from the feet and up, focus on your breathing all this time, breathe in deeply and then breathe out, count your breathe ins and breathe outs).


Thank you for reading.
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