Learning how to deal with stress is a key skill for building resilience and maintaining your mental health. In this article, we are going to talk about one of the key ways to manage stress: being able to adapt to all sorts of different stressful situations and not let the stress get to you.
What you’ll learn:
- Techniques to adjust your attitudes and expectations to better deal with stress
When stressful situations arise, we usually have several options at our disposal to help us to deal with the stress.
One option is to try and avoid the stressful situation altogether, or if that’s not possible, perhaps we can alter the nature of the situation somehow to reduce the stress factors. But what if the stressful situation cannot be changed? Well, it may be time to change yourself! By learning to change your own expectations and attitude, you can adapt successfully to stressful scenarios and regain a sense of control. In this session, let’s look at how you can do this.
The first technique to consider is called reframing the problem.
Change your brain and try to view potentially stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Ok, so you’re stuck in a traffic jam. But you’re safe, comfortable, and warm and listening to your favorite radio station –there are worse places in the world to be! It’s a chance to pause, reflect and have some alone time. You might be late for something, but you’ve let people know and they understand your predicament –you’ve done all the right things.
Also, you may be wondering about the cause of the jam, and then you hear sirens and watch as the police car, fire engine, and ambulance speed by –there’s been an accident. There you were getting all bitter and twisted because you’ll be 10 minutes late for your meeting, but up ahead somewhere, someone is having a far worse day than you. Perspective can be a wonderful thing!
Sometimes you just need to zoom out and look at the big picture. Consider the stressful situation you are facing. How important will it be in the long run? One month from now, will it really matter? How about in a year? Just a distant memory? Will anyone even remember it? Is it really worth getting stressed out over?
The answer is probably a resounding ‘no’, so focus your time and energy elsewhere on more positive things. Sadly some people either cannot or will not do this –they choose to focus their time and energy on things they can do nothing about –they do love a good moan. Often referred to as emotional vampires, or mood hoovers, or fun sponges –you may know a few of them –these people prefer to wallow in their trough of self-pity, blaming you and the rest of the world for their miserable predicament.
Don’t forget that behavior breeds behavior, so whatever you do, don’t let their behavior breed yours, because they’ll drag you down with them. Instead, use your positive behavior to breed theirs. They might whine because it’s raining again, so help them to reframe the problem. After all, there’s plenty to do inside and it’s good for the garden!
You might simply need to adjust your standards.
For example, many people claim to be perfectionists, which is a major source of easily avoidable stress. If you always aim to achieve perfection –which of course doesn’t exist –then you are setting yourself up for failure and stress every time. Set reasonable standards for yourself and those around you, and work to the business need. Learn to be ok with ‘good enough’!
One final tip to implement when stress is getting you down is to practice gratitude.
This means taking a moment to reflect on all the elements in your life you are thankful for, including your own qualities and talents. This simple approach can really help you to keep things in perspective –some people have a lot to be grateful for, and if they’re taking it for granted, or have lost sight of the good things in their life, then perhaps they need a reminder from time to time!
So, let’s recap: some stressful situations cannot be changed, so it’s time to focus on what we can change –ourselves! It’s really all about changing your own expectations and attitude towards the stressor. Adapt and regain some sense of control! The useful techniques we’ve discussed are reframing the problem, looking at the big picture, adjusting your standards, and practicing gratitude.
Points to Note
- Reframe the problem
- Look at the bigger picture
- Adjust your standards
- Practice gratitude
- When a stressful situation arises, what options do we have to help us deal with it?
- Tell me about a situation where you managed to reframe the problem.
- Apparently ‘ behavior breeds behavior’ – explain what that means, please?
- Give me an example of a stressful situation that you feel cannot be changed.
- Why is it so important to retain a sense of perspective? Probe for more detail.
- I like to think I’m a perfectionist – is this a problem? If yes, why?
- You want me to ‘change myself’? What does that involve exactly?
- What do you mean by ‘looking at the big picture? Give examples.
- How will I know what ‘good enough’ look like? Probe for more information.
- How do I ‘reframe the problem’? Give examples of how you could do this.
- I like the expression ‘mood hoover’ but I’m not sure what it means – please clarify?
- Help me to practice gratitude – what does the process involve exactly?
Action 1: Stressful situations
Thinking of your own organization, can you identify stressful situations in the workplace which simply cannot be changed? Why is this do you think? Make a list of your ideas.
Action 2: Adapting to the situation
Using your list from Action 1, now try and come up with ways that people in your organization could adapt to the situations you have identified. Share these ideas with your line manager.
Action 3: Adapting to your stressors
Think of 3 stressors in your life which you feel cannot be changed. These can be work or home-related. What can you do to adapt to these stressors?