Stress Management

Stress Management

What is Stress?

Stress is your reaction to circumstances, to reality. Stress can be stimulated by events, interpreted by us as either good or bad. Our bodies interpret stress as synonymous with change, i.e. changes in your life, no matter how large or small, cause stress. Believe it or not, even thinking about changes can cause one to stress. In this form it is called worrying. The important thing is to recognise the trigger factors. You can do one of two things – you either change the reality in which you live or change your mind-set to ensure that you cope.

Our minds interpret changes as threats, tell our bodies to run away or get ready to fight. This syndrome is called “Fight or Flight”.

What are some of the symptoms when an individual is overstressed?

Here are some of the indicators which should be taken note of:

  • Headaches.
  • Indigestion.Stress
  • Backache.
  • Frequent or long colds or infections.
  • Worry.
  • Disturbed sleep.
  • Loss of interest.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Tense muscles.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Skin problems.
  • Irritability.
  • Restlessness.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Depression.

Do you know what some of the main causes of stress are?

Stress Causes

  • Time pressures – have you ever felt that the days aren’t long enough to get everything done?
  • Insufficient feedback on Performance Appraisals – Ever worried about how you were performing in your role within an organisation? Well inadequate feedback on your performance can cause you to stress.
  • Unrealistic expectations – You want to be a “Winner” and are not willing to accept “Second Place”. Have you looked at your capabilities and skills realistically?
  • Lack of goals – we all need direction and to set goals. Without goals we often waste time and don’t achieve outcomes.
  • Career changes – either through retrenchment or making the conscious decision to try a new career direction – can make us feel like a rudderless ship with no control over our lives.
  • Financial pressures – caused by retrenchment, lack of career planning or lack of sound financial management.

What can you do about changing your mind set?

Now remember the “fight or flight” syndrome is a reaction to change. You need to either change yourself (i.e. your reaction to life, to circumstances) or change your lifestyle.

  • Be realistic about your capabilities. It is imperative that you don’t take on more than you are able to cope with.
  • Positive affirmation – list your positive accomplishments each day and be proud of what you have achieved.
  • Understand what failure means – list the actual consequences of failure not your perception of it.
  • Realistic Importance – look at issues realistically, assessing their importance and your role. Don’t over-dramatize your role.
  • Physical exercise is one of the best and most natural ways of relieving stress. Exercise at your physical training level for twenty minutes at least three times per week.
  • Relaxation techniques are a good way of unwinding at the end of the day or even during the day. These can take the form of meditation or relaxation techniques.
  • Visualisation techniques are ideal for handling difficult situations without getting stressed. Just close your eyes and visualise yourself being less stressed.
  • Get sufficient rest and sleep.
  • Follow a well-balanced diet

By changing yourself and your reaction to circumstances you will be better able to deal with career transitions and the challenge life presents to you from time to time.

But what about our environment?

How can we change that to reduce our stress levels?

  • Organise your day efficiently – this is where time management, setting priorities and goals and utilising a “To Do” List will assist you.
  • Make sure you take breaks.
  • If someone complains, re-state the complaint and acknowledge it. Don’t react first. Stay calm.
  • If you are having difficulty solving a problem or your anger is building up due to stress, find someone to talk to. Some call this debriefing. In any event, if you have been faced with a difficult situation and are not dealing with it well, find someone you can trust and talk it through.
  • Rotation of work can aid in stress management. So if you have a number of complex jobs to undertake, try and break them up with more easy mundane tasks.
  • Above all, don’t be a workaholic. Don’t endeavour to do everything yourself or take on responsibility for everything. You know by doing that, you may be preventing fellow team members from learning new skills or extending their capabilities.

How do we control stress?

Here are some techniques which will assist you:

  • Stress Inventory – list everything which causes stress and then discuss it with a trustworthy person who can advise you how best to approach the problem.Change it
  • Take control of your life – time management, goal setting, “To Do” lists and learning to say “NO” will all assist here.
  • Improve communication with yourself – listen to your inner voice. Make it work for you not against you.
  • Look at your expectations – are they realistic? You need to accept that there are some things you can’t change and that you need to change your reaction to them. Concentrate on what can be changed.
  • Be more assertive – this is about improving your communication skills, being positive, being able to honestly express your opinion and communicate in a clear and concise manner
  • Fitness and Diet – If your body is in shape through a good fitness and diet regime then so will your mind be.
  • Adapt to change – Try and see change as a means of growth, a challenge. It is not a threat.

Goal Setting

Personal, Workplace and Career Goal Setting

Why have goals or objectives? What about personal goals? What about career goals?

How do you set yourself a goal?

Personal, work or career goals are important and should be seen as a valuable part of your life skills. If you haven’t set yourself any goals, it is time to do so now. What do you want to achieve over the next three years in terms of your career, your studies and your personal life?


Personal Goals

Your goal may be as simple as “to improve your attendance on the job”. An objective for this goal might be “to arrive at work 5 minutes early every day. This gives you something to assess (measure) your goal with, to check if you are attaining that goal.

Alternatively that goal might be to achieve a career change within say five years. In this case, you would work out the direction you wish to take, the skills required to achieve that goal and then set in place the additional training required. Your goal would be measured by your achievement of that career change within the stipulated time frame.

Workplace GoalsSuccess

For a team to function effectively they need to be aware of:

  1. The vision of the organization and its ultimate corporate goals.
  2. Exactly what their individual team goals are.
  3. How the team’s goals are devised from company goals.
  4. How their achievement will contribute to the realization of the overall company vision and goals.
  5. Where they fit in the overall structure of the organization.

Career Goals

Why do indivSmartiduals set career goals? They do it to maintain motivation, have something to look forward to and achieve success. Effective career goals follow the S.M.A.R.T. model. That is, they are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic and have a time line. Using a combination of 10 short-term and long-term career goals, you can get on the right track to your end goal — fulfillment in your career.

When you create a goal and then set in place strategies to achieve it, you will be much more likely to achieve those goals. To set goals for your career, establish where you want to be in say 5 or 10 years’ time. How do you go about this? Well, firstly you need to get clear in your own mind exactly what you want. The first step then is to establish what career goals you wish to make. A reliable tool in assisting in this process is a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) as it helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses, identify opportunities and any threats that you face. Once you have established the direction you wish to take, the next is to establish the steps needed to achieve this. This could include further training and development, some volunteer work within the industry or role you have in mind and networking. Create an action plan where each goal is followed by a number of action steps to help you achieve your desired career goal.

How are goals achieved in your personal and professional life?

This is achieved by understanding of the following:

  1. To define and be clear what has to be done to achieve desired outcomes.
  2. To compare actual outcomes with what was planned and predicted.
    This leads to a clearer understanding of just how successful you have been and to decisions about early corrective action and the need for new learning.
  3. To focus the whole organization or team in the same direction.
    Naturally the more the whole team is involved in setting their objectives the more they will be committed to achieving them.
  4. Participate in identifying team goals and determining tasks necessary to achieve them.
  5. Participate in allocation of responsibilities to team members to ensure designated team goals are met within agreed timelines.
  6. Complete agreed tasks to meet team goals and objectives.

There are six clear aspects of goal setting and they are:

  1. Small – Make goals manageable, both in terms of time and what you are going to do.
  2. Specific – Goals should be definite and detailed – something you can visualise yourself doing.
  3. Reasonable – Each goal should make sense. You should be able to see value in doing it.
  4. Positive – Decide what you will do rather than what you will not do.
  5. Repetition – Choose goal behavior you will be able to work at often.
  6. Independent – Try and set goals which are not dependent on the behavior of another person.

If you haven’t set yourself goals, now is the time to do so.


Problem Solving 1The approach to problem solving is dependent upon the nature of the problem and those involved.  Problems can be caused by a variety of things – both negative and positive.  For example:

  • You feel stressed – stress is always the result when problems are dealt with badly. 
  • But problems do not always result in stress.  Perhaps you have invented problems that may occur or cannot make a decision about something.

The interesting thing is that problems aren’t always negative.  For example, you are invited on a cruise and you feel excited.  The problems here are enjoyable – organising passports, time off work, what clothes to wear.  

Effective problem solving is vital when you are undertaking a career transition or attempting to establish a long-term career.

Read more