When I ‘googled’ stress management I got over 53 million entries. On the one hand there is an enormous amount of information about stress today and on the other hand more and more people are suffering from stress related illness. We know so much about it, yet we appear powerless to deal with it. Many of the people I work with, not only feel powerless about their stress, they are not aware of the symptoms or signs of stress.
The Signs of Stress
1/ Improper self care – rest, diet, exercise
2/ Everything feels like ‘a big deal’
3/ Easily angered
4/ Physical Problems – headaches, upset stomach, colds, back and neck pain
5/ Isolation from other people
6/ Difficulty concentrating or remembering
8/ Racing through the day
9/ Constant dissatisfaction
10/ Substance abuse, addictions
Integrated Stress Management
I practice, what I term, an integrated stress management approach. This approach looks at the total picture of a person’s life in order to manage his or her stress. It takes into account not only the outer sources of stress, but also the inner sources. Through this integrated method the root causes of the stress are dealt with. I initially begin by doing a comprehensive analysis of the various stresses that the person experiences.
When I help people with stress management, I first analyze the origins of their stress. The stresses that people experience originate either from the outside or inside.
- Social Interactions – difficult relationships, work, friends, family
- Major life events – lost job, death of relative, birth of child,illness
- Mini-stressors – annoying or difficult daily events
- Organizational – work related, deadlines, rules
- Physical environment – noise, heat, confined spaces
- Negative self-talk – pessimism, self-criticism, over-analysis
- Lifestyle choices – overloaded schedule, poor diet, not enough sleep
- Mind traps – all-or-nothing thinking, rigid thinking, too high expectations
- Personality traits – perfectionism, workaholic, Type A, pleaser
The Key Stress Factor
A major American study looked at over 700 people who experienced similar levels of stressful conditions in their lives. They also had similar background, employment and family situations. The purpose of the study was to learn why certain people managed stress better than others.
The results showed that the group of people who successfully managed stress were those who dealt with the inner causes of stress. They realized that they needed to make real changes in their attitude towards their lives in order to bring about the needed reduction in their stress levels. In other words, stress must be dealt with from the inside out to be effectively managed.
Creating an Integrated Stress Profile
This stage involves helping a person to get an understanding of the relationship between inner and outer stress. Here I help the person see the part their attitudes and beliefs have played in determining their ability to manage stress. In this way the person can begin to see that they have the resources to control their stress.
Investigating the Root Causes of Stress
Here we explore deepen our exploration of the inner causes of the person’s stress. We look at their history, how their beliefs about themselves and their lives originated, early models of stress, underlying beliefs and personality formation. The object of this investigation is to show the person the underlying framework of their stress so that they can begin to transform it.
At this stage the person begins to alter their pattern of stress. Knowing how they play a part in creating their stressful environment helps them approach stress effectively. They not only make changes in their underlying beliefs, but they also begin to direct their lives in a more conscious and effective manner. Their stress management is successful because it is not cosmetic but internal. In this they can come up with creative strategies that work.