When the balance tips into the distress zone (perceived demands outweigh perceived ability to cope), adjustments can be made to reduce demands (Figure 16) or to build up coping resources so that the balance swings back into the normal zone.
We will inevitably encounter situations in which demands outweigh our ability to cope. No matter how much our coping resources are increased, demands have the potential of being one step ahead. For example, it is certain that we will be confronted by novel situations as part of daily living. Furthermore, from time to time our ability to cope can be reduced by changes in our general state of health, allowing demands to get the better of us when we are not feeling so good.
Normally we would not have given these demands a second thought. Nevertheless, building up your coping resources so you have plenty of reserve will enable you to deal with extra and taxing demands without tipping your balance too far into the distress zone (Figure 17).
Building up your coping resources will make it easier for you to enter and operate in the eustress zone. Adjusting your balance in this way is achieved by preparing yourself to keep one step ahead of ‹“reasonable’ demands by learning skills to build up your coping resources. For most of the time this will keep you in the normal zone but with a season ticket to enter the eustress zone. However, additional and excessive demands will inevitably arise and tax our ability to cope. So increasing your coping reserves will help lessen the blow and keep you away from the depths of the distress zone; avoiding the bad and ugly!
Ironically, under some circumstances, thinking we have too much ability to cope can also cause distress. This can occur in two ways. Firstly, when the perceived demands may be too few and consequently do not balance our perceived ability to cope. We can then feel under-used: we feel we have the ability to do more and our skills and expertise are not being utilized. Clearly, it is not appropriate to say to someone in this situation, Go away and reduce your coping reserves to match your level of demand‚. The right balance is achieved by increasing demands (Figure 18).
Secondly, if we have unrealistic views of our abilities to handle demands, we may perceive that we can cope with more and more when in fact we cannot. To avoid tipping the balance into the distress zone we must be realistic about our expectations thus reviewing our ability to cope.
Adjusting the balance is a continuous operation of altering demands and coping resources. You are the only person who can adjust your stress balance. Keeping your balance right can be achieved by learning skills to reduce or increase demands and by building up coping resources.
‚ Keep count of life events
‚ Learn to say No‚
‚ Organize your life
‚ Work out your priorities
‚ Be realistic about what you can achieve
‚ Avoid perfectionism
‚ Seek help when the going gets tough
‚ Find a job which suits your personality and abilities
‚ Learn to work effectively
‚ Avoid uncertainty
‚ Take up a hobby or pastime
‚ Join an evening class
‚ Join a voluntary or community organization
‚ Reappraise your job/job role