How can I optimize the way in which I cope with stress in my daily life? In practice, few are the people who actually ask themselves this question or know a suitable response to the type of stress they are experiencing. Thus, developing an awareness to the different possible coping styles and strategies can be the starting point for individuals who are seeking to lower their level of stress and manage it in an optimal way.
COPING STYLES / STRATEGIES
In general, when individuals come into contact with a stressful environment (or one that they perceive as such), they tend to design and then try to implement a strategy to reduce their level of stress. This strategy may emerge in different ways: some will tend to analyze the situation (assessment), while others will rather take action. The notion of "coping" may be defined as a strategy that individuals adopt in order to mitigate - or even eliminate - their stress. There are different types of stress "coping" strategies (illustration), as you can see in the attachment:
1. Problem-focused coping with the cognitive method: This tactic is to use the mechanisms of thinking to address / deal with stressful situations.
- Personal control: plan, organize and prioritize tasks (to deal with stressful work)
- Avoidance: try not to take into account the difficulty of a task voluntarily focusing on something else (denial, repression)
2. Emotion-focused coping with the cognitive method: This tactic is to use the mechanisms of thinking to reduce or eliminate anxiety about the stressful situation.
- Personal control: Thinking of the situation in a positive way; the individual sees him-/herself as a winner who is able to face the situation
- Problem avoidance: Thinking of the difficulties as minor problems that are manageable, and saying that we don’t need to stress over such situation
3. Problem-focused coping with the behavioral approach: This tactic is to use action to address / deal with the stressful situations.
- Support-seeking behavior: sharing your problems with other people (social support)
- Problem engagement: acting and doing what needs to be done, one step at a time
- Personal control: taking the necessary arrangements to defer or abandon a part of the problem
- Problem avoidance: quickly engaging in other actions to forget about the problem
4. Emotion-focused coping with the behavioral approach: This tactic is to use action to reduce or eliminate anxiety in stressful situations.
- Support-seeking behavior: expressing irritation with others in order to "decompress" (social support)
- Problem engagement: spending time doing your hobbies (sports...)
- Personal control: not showing the emotional reaction to anyone
- Problem avoidance: moving to other kind of activities like taking some kind of drugs (psychotropic) or start smoking
Here are some tips that can be applied to everyone facing stress in their professional life:
- Identify the causes of your stress: Initially, try to identify the real cause of your stress so as to determine, for example, whether these causes are objective, or whether they are simply the result of some ideas you keep at the back of your mind. The way in which we deal with stress will vary from case to case. Indeed, only by concretely getting to know what is stressful to us can we then develop a strategy to face such stress factors.
- Get to know yourself better: A good understanding of your personality and the way you work can help you a lot when dealing with stress. This can indeed allow you to change your way of thinking and of responding to your environment's pressures. You can thus work on replacing negative thoughts with positive perceptions, regaining confidence in your capacities, keeping things in perspective, etc.
- Find a new reference framework: You may need to renounce the very things that made you successful and give your life a new meaning by letting go of the past. Stress that is related to material constraints may, in some cases, be largely offset by spiritual or personal development actions that allow rediscovering one's true values.
- Do not get isolated amidst your difficulties: Stress often leads to a sense of loneliness. Expressing your feelings to people whom you trust and are close to can have significant anti-stress effects. For example, we note that many executives who consult a psychologist do so because they have lost their friendships. Being trapped by their work, their sense of guilt and the fact that they do not take enough time for their families, they simply forget to ask for help. In such cases, having a good coach around can prove beneficial.
- Learn to manage your time: A good management of your time can help you avoid doing too much extra work. However, this is not as simple to learn and apply as it sounds. Thus, perfectionists who are always trying to make things even better may constantly feel overwhelmed and unnecessarily stressed. Indeed, this self-defeating demand for perfection represents a good way of always feeling frustrated.
- Restore your work-life balance: Workaholics all end up cracking! Indeed, staff members and managers who can withstand long periods of stress are those who know how to maintain a proper balance between work and private life.
- Adopt a healthier lifestyle: There are no miracles. Staff members and managers who can best deal with their stress when facing difficult situations are those who are in excellent physical health. The regular practice of physical activities, the use of relaxation techniques (relaxation therapy, autogenic training, yoga...) or a balanced diet significantly contribute to liberating people of their tensions, whether they are of professional origins or not.
STRESS ASSESSMENT QUESTIONNAIRE
The following stress assessment form (questionnaire), based on the book Adrenalin and Stress by Archibald Hart, allows you to make a quick assessment of your current level of stress. You may answer the questionnaire using the following scale:
- 0: I have never experienced this symptom
- 1: I suffer from it sometimes (about once per month)
- 2: I have suffered from it more than once per month but not more than once a week
- 3: I often suffer from it (more than once per week)