• 5 min read

Stress Management for Work

4 strategies for conquering stress and burnout

by Raymond Lim

The past two years have impacted many people in one way or another. Stress levels have been on the rise, as people are concerned about their health, livelihood, job security, etc. Even stress relief activities like traveling, working out at the gym, or having a good meal with friends are impacted by health and safety restrictions. Moreover, as more people work from home, the line between personal and work time continues to fade, adding to the ever-increasing stress level.  

What Exactly is Stress?

Stress occurs when individuals face situations where demands—social, environmental, physical, work, or personal—exceed the resources (both internal and external) they have available to respond in a healthy way.

Stress triggers our instinctive “fight or flight” response to either face a situation head-on or run from it. While this response served our ancestors well in terms of survival, stress is now often caused by situations that don’t pose an immediate threat to our lives. However, our reactions can be quite similar. When people are stressed today, it may be because they feel their resources are threatened. And when stress grows or resources are frequently threatened, the state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion increases—which can lead to complete burnout.

It’s about Perception

It is important to note that the way we perceive stressful situations impacts the effect stress has on our overall well-being. This perception is generally controlled by three moderators: personality, locus of control, and social support.

Personality

We’ve often heard that personality can be categorized into two types. Type A personalities are ambitious, competitive, and put an emphasis on using time efficiently. This also means that they have a tendency to be impatient and constantly rushing to get things done. They may too often hold themselves to high expectations and prioritize work over their own well-being. Type B personalities tend to be more relaxed, carefree, and take an unstressed approach to work and life in general. Most people, however, will exhibit elements of both of these personality types, depending on the situation and environment around them. Knowing your dominant personality traits and understanding how you instinctively react to certain stressors will help you better manage your stress.

Locus of Control

The second important moderator of stress is locus of control. It refers to the extent to which people feel that they have control over the events that influence their lives. People with a good internal locus of control feel less stressed and happier; they believe they have control over what happens, and that outcomes are in their hands. These people are likely to take actions to improve situations.

People who rely on an external locus of control believe otherwise. They will not take any action; they believe their fate is out of their hands, and they have no control over what happens in their life. Their situations will not improve, and their stress level may continue to mount.

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Social Support

The last important moderator of stress is social support. Talking to friends and family about your problems is a great way to relieve and reduce your  stress level. Sometimes, even just knowing you have available social support is sufficient to help confront the stressful situations.   

4 Strategies for Conquering Stress

Now that we understand the basics of stress, let’s look at some coping strategies to reduce the impact of stress on our health.

1. Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring has to do with the way we appraise incoming stress. The key is to look at a situation in a positive light and take up the challenge. We can do this by engaging in positive self-talk and doing social comparisons that show us there are others who are in the similar or worse situations who have been able to overcome this type of challenge. In an interesting TED talk, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that it may be possible to change our reaction to stressors by training ourselves to think of stress as a way to learn and grow—a positive experience that elicits a physical response similar to joy.

2. Problem-Focused Coping

In problem-focused coping, we do something constructive to resolve the stressful situation. The strategy consists of identifying the root cause and what needs to be done to reduce or eliminate the stressors. This strategy works well if we know that we can control the source of the stress, like preparing ourselves well for a sales pitch or presentation.

3. Emotion-Focused Coping

Emotion-focused coping is how we respond to stress by addressing our emotional reactions. We can engage in activities like meditation, journaling, or doing something that keeps our mind off the issue. Unlike the problem-focused strategy, emotion-focused coping works well for situations that are beyond our control.

4. Physical Coping

The physical coping strategy is basically doing exercise to burn off the stress hormones the body creates. Exercising will increase endorphins, which are neurotransmitters (a type of chemical in the brain) that will reduce stress level.

With a basic understanding of stress and these coping strategies, we should be able to build internal resources that help us address our own stress management for work—as well as other areas of our lives—to improve work/life balance and make it easier to work through current and future stressful scenarios. 

Build Resilience and Improve Stress Management for Work

For more insights on stress, resources, and building resilience, visit our Resilience webpage, where you can access our eBook, white paper, and more.

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