IDENTIFYING STRESS AT WORK

This questionnaire is a guide to help identify stressors at work. For each aspect of your job write the stress rating to indicate how much stress you experience. Add your scores and write the total in the box. For scoring and evaluation please turn to page 206.

Dealing with stress involves short-term ‹“fire-fighting’ by knowing what to do in the event of a stressor occurring acutely, and long-term prevention by adopting a lifestyle that will minimize stress. In both cases you need to have the knowledge and/or experience to draw upon, in order to cope with stress. There are many techniques of dealing with stress. The more techniques you know about, the more able you will be to deal with stress effectively. You will have a greater appreciation of what techniques are appropriate to deal with a particular stressor. Practising a variety of techniques will build up experience needed to tackle stress in the long-term. Planning what to do in advance can reduce potential distress. Practising a Stress Management Plan may enable you to avoid potential stressors. This preventative approach is the essence of effective stress management.

In this chapter you will be guided on how to prepare for a plan to manage your stress: your stress management plan. This plan, described in Chapter 15, is designed as a 12-week programme to deal with stressors in your life, using a variety of stress management techniques described in Chapters 9 to 14.

Summary of self-assessment

Having worked through Part Two of this blog and completed the questionnaires, you may find it helpful to summarize the results of your self-assessments as a starting point for your stress management plan.

Signs and symptoms

From your signs and symptoms questionnaire on page 62, write the score in Figure 8.1 below. Then identify your three highest scoring signs and symptoms and write these in the table.

Identifying the key signs and symptoms arising from the activity of your stress response will help you to monitor your reaction to the demands and pressures you encounter. These signs and symptoms will be an indicator of your ability to cope. Use these as a means of reflecting on what may be causing stress for you.

Monitoring your signs and symptoms can also provide you with a guide to show how effective your strategies are for dealing with stress. Reassessing your signs and symptoms can provide a useful stress level check for you, as described in Chapter 15.

Managing stress is a dynamic process since demands and pressures are continually changing. A good starting point for developing your personal stress management plan is to review your current situation by identifying your most significant stressors. Do this by looking back at the questionnaires you have completed, note the score and select three significant items from each questionnaire, as indicated in Figure 8.2 (p. 104).

Now identify your top three overall most significant stressors. From the summary of stressors that you have listed in Figure 8.2, identify the three stressors that you consider to be your key stressors. List these in Figure 8.3 (p. 104).

Your stress management plan (SMP) is designed as a 12-week programme to deal with three key stressors in your life. A week-by-week guide, which shows you how to work out and implement a SMP and how to assess your progress, is provided in Chapter 15. You may well identify several stressors you wish to deal with, however, to tackle stress effectively it is helpful to concentrate on dealing with two or three demands at a time.

It is also important for you to recognize that your stressors could, in fact, be due to your appraisal or perception of a situation. It may well turn out that through the SMP, you will use techniques to change your view of how you see your circumstances. As a result your beliefs and expectations may change so that the situation or event becomes less of a threat.

You have now completed the groundwork necessary to devise your stress management plan. Now comes the important part of managing stress; working out an effective plan to deal with your stressors. To do this you need to build up your knowledge of techniques to use in your plan. Keep your three key stressors in mind as you read and work through the following chapters on dealing with stress. Some coping techniques prepare you to handle general pressures and demands, whilst others are more appropriate for specific stressors. In Chapter 15 you will be guided further on how to work out and implement your SMP.

To deal with stress effectively you must adjust your stress balance to keep it in and around the normal zone. This means not going too far and too often into the distress zone and making it easier to enter and remain in the eustress zone when the need arises. Getting the right balance is achieved by adjusting the weight in the pans. Clearly there are two ways in which this can be done; either by altering demands or by improving coping ability (Figure 15).

Having read Parts One and Two of Teach Yourself Managing Stress you now know one of the most important ways of dealing with stress – being aware of it. You will know what is happening in your body when your stress response is activated. You should now be able to recognize physical and mental signs of overactivation of the stress response. You should have some insight into how this can affect your health and performance. Furthermore, you should be able to identify personal sources of stress.

You are now in a position to think about your own stress and learn how you can manage stress more effectively. There are many different techniques for doing this. Those described here are the ones we found most useful and effective in teaching our groups and individuals. There is inevitably much overlap between the contents of each and, because of this, there is some repetition of information and advice. However, we feel this will serve to emphasize the importance of the issues we describe, their relationships with one another and the holistic approach we advocate for dealing with stress.

To help you learn and practise the skills for dealing with stress, you can use biodots, self-adhesive hearts and a plastic heart paperclip. Biodots are devices which monitor the level of activation of the stress response and are used to help you learn to relax. The self-adhesive hearts and the clip are cueing devices. These are to remind you to practise the actions we advise you to follow for dealing with distress. We explain how and when these can be used at appropriate points throughout the text. These items can be obtained from Stresswise; see page 209 for details.

Before you start you can assess your current coping ability by completing the questionnaire on page 110.

Use these lists to focus your attention on developing appropriate and effective coping strategies as you read through the next five chapters.

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