Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stress Management Part 1

I am doing this "health thing" at work and it has articles you have to read, so I thought I would post it here too.  Why not?

Source:  Cigna Health & Wellness program

Stress: Strength & Resilience

Are you a type A or a type B?

Do you show type A behavior? Are you competitive, impatient and ambitious, or are you relaxed, patient, and easy-going? Take a quick test to find out:

Read the statements below and circle the number that most closely represents your behavior.

(Source: Cooper's adaptation of The Bortner Type A Scale, 1969, Cooper et al., 1988)
Casual about appointments 10  11    Never late
Noncompetitive 10  11    Very competitive
Good listener 10  11    Anticipates   what others are going to say (nods, attempts to finish for them)
Never feels rushed (even under pressure) 10  11    Always rushed
Can wait patiently 10  11    Impatient while waiting
Takes things one at a time 10  11    Tries to do many things at once, thinks about what to do next
Slow, deliberate talker 10  11    Emphatic in speech, fast and forceful
Cares about satisfying self no matter what others think 10  11    Wants good job recognized by others
Does things slowly 10  11    Does things quickly (eating, walking)
Easy going 10  11    Hard driving (pushes self and others)
Expresses feelings 10  11    Hides feelings
Many outside interests 10  11    Few interests outside work/home
Not ambitious 10  11    Ambitious
Casual 10  11    Eager to get things done
Add up the circled numbers to figure out your total score.
Determine where your score fits on the scale below. Are you an A or B, or somewhere in between?
   14                           84                          154
Type B                                                    Type A

Type A? Type A people are characterized by competitiveness, perfectionism and a sense of urgency. However, many studies have shown that type A behavior is more likely to lead to stress-related illness and heart disease1. If you are a strong type A, you should look at the areas where you scored the highest and think about what steps you can take to reduce the pressure on yourself.
Type B? Type B personalities tend to be relaxed and easy-going. Some people may find you too relaxed, but long-term, this slower, gentler pace of life has its benefits. Studies have found that type B's are less likely than type A's to develop coronary heart disease.
In the middle? Many people are type A's in some situations and type B's in others - think about how you behave at work and at home. You may like competition, but you don't feel you always have to win. If there are particular areas where you scored a strong type A, you may want to take a look at these and see if you can reduce these sources of pressure.
Look at your scores in the questionnaire and see where you show the most type A tendencies. Take each of those areas in turn and challenge yourself to act in a more type B way, even if it is just for 30 minutes a day. Do not allow yourself to become stressed during these exercises!

Challenge your Type A traits

Never late? - Take an event, such as meeting friends (something that is not absolutely time critical) and force yourself to be 5 minutes late. If this really isn't your style, at least try and be forgiving of others who are late for non-critical events.

Very competitive?
- Next time you play a game, do not focus on winning. Instead, enjoy the experience of playing and let someone else enjoy winning.

Anticipate what others are going to say? - Stop interrupting people! Really listen to what others have to say without saying a word until they have finished.

Always rushed? - Slow down. Allow enough travel time, learn to say no or renegotiate time-frames.

Impatient while waiting?
- Next time you go to the supermarket, choose the slowest checkout line and do not allow yourself to become stressed about waiting.

Stressed out stuck in traffic?
Getting wound up by the situation will not help. If you are heading to a meeting, phone ahead and let them know you're stuck. Most likely, it won't be a problem, and if they need to start, ask them to conference you in while you are on the way (only try this if you have a hands-free kit). Getting frustrated will not help you move any faster.

Try to do too many things at once?
- Learn to manage your time effectively. Prioritise your activities and build in relaxation time. Focus on the task in hand rather than worrying about the next task on your list.

Emphatic in speech, fast and forceful?
- Breathe slowly and deeply and slow down your speech. Studies have shown that type B personalities may be better managers and communicators.

Need recognition?
- Feel a sense of achievement from knowing that you have completed your tasks/ met your targets and reward yourself. Don't rely on others for commendation.

Always at speed (eating, walking)?
- Slow down. Eating fast impairs digestion: chewing is vital for stimulating gastric juices, and when you are stressed, blood is diverted from your digestive tract (further impairing digestion). Think about how fast you walk - do you really need to push past people? Slow down and use the time to take a few deep breaths and look around you.

Hard driving (pushing yourself and others)?
- Set realistic targets for yourself and for others. Manage your time effectively to relieve some of the pressure of meeting the targets.

Hide your feelings?
- Become more aware of your feelings, write them down, or express them to others. Suppressing emotions can be a significant cause of stress.

Few interests outside home/work?
- Make time to pursue outside interests. Focusing on something new such as getting involved in a new sport or learning a language can be a great way to meet new people as well as giving you more perspective on your day to day activities.

- There is nothing wrong with being ambitious. However, it can be a significant source of stress if you are setting yourself unrealistic targets.

Eager to get things done?
- Again, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with being eager to get things done. Try to keep your priorities in pespective though. For example, is meeting that deadline more important than spending time at home with your family?


  1. Friedman M, Rosenman R. Association of specific overt behavior pattern with blood and cardiovascular findings. JAMA 1959;12:1286-96.
  2. Whiteman MC, Fowkes FGR, Deary IJ. Hostility and the heart. British Medical Journal. 1997; 315: 379-80.


Who is in control? - What kind of person are you?

Do you believe your life is guided by fate or external circumstances, or do you feel you are responsible for your personal decisions?

How you perceive the control of events in you life is an important part of your personality and can affect your resistance to stress.

In the 1960s, psychologist Julian Rotter proposed a theory that is now widely used called the "Locus of Control."

"Locus of Control" refers to your perception of what the main causes of events in your life are.

To see whether you have an "internal" or "external" locus of control, try this quick test:

Look at the following statements and record the number that best reflects your attitude (if you prefer, print the article out and circle your answer).

  Strongly disagree Disagree Uncertain  Agree  Strongly agree
Our society is run by a few people with enormous power, and there is not much the ordinary person can do about it. 1 2 3 4 5
Success is determined by 'being in the right place at the right time'. 1 2 3 4 5
There will always be industrial relations disputes no matter how hard people try to prevent them. 1 2 3 4 5
Politicians are inherently self-interested and inflexible. It is impossible to change the course of politics. 1 2 3 4 5
What happens in life is pre-destined. 1 2 3 4 5
People are inherently lazy, so there is no point in spending too much time in changing them. 1 2 3 4 5
I do not see a direct connection between the way I work and how hard I work and others' assessments of my performance. 1 2 3 4 5
Leadership qualities are primarily inherited. 1 2 3 4 5
I am fairly certain that luck and chance play a crucial role in life. 1 2 3 4 5
Even though some people try to control events by taking part in political and social affairs, in reality most of us are subject to forces we can neither comprehend nor control. 1 2 3 4 5
Add up your total score, and plot it on the scale below:

10______________30______________ 50
Internal                                                              External

(From: Palmer S, Cooper C, and Thomas K. Creating a balance: Managing stress. British Library Publishing. 2003.)

Also, think about how you attribute your successes and failures. Do you say things like: "I was just lucky," or "it was someone else's fault"? Or do you attribute it to your own hard work, or lack of? These kind of statements can help you identify how you think about the controls on your life.

So what does your score mean?

Researchers have found links between how you perceive control and behavior patterns in a number of areas.

People who feel in control are less likely to suffer from stress. People who have an "internal" locus of control, tend to cope with high pressure situations better, as they feel they have the ability to control the outcome of events.

Researchers suggest that "internal" people are inclined to take more responsibility for their actions and are not easily influenced by the opinions of others. Researchers also found that "internal" people tend to do better at tasks when they can work at their own pace1.

If you don't feel you have control, or have a more 'external' score, you may find that situations 'stress you out' quite quickly. 'External' thinkers are more inclined to pay attention to other people's opinions. This is a positive thing if it helps you resolve conflict, but if it stops you doing what would make you happy, you may want to think about why it matters so much to you what others think.

These differences in the way people think can help explain why people react quite differently to different events, and how they explain the causes of those events to themselves and to others.

Changing your perception of control

Your locus of control is largely learned and, as a result, can change. You may even find you have a different perception of control in different environments, for example, at work or at home.

Being in control the whole time, and blaming yourself for things that you genuinely have no control over, is not good for your health. Being over-controlling and anxious can be as stressful as feeling you have no control. If this sounds like you, try to go let go a little more and relax your control.
Tips for relaxing control:
  • Think logically. Does it really matter if the train is delayed/you are stuck in traffic/that someone else has a different plan for what to do?
  • Don't beat yourself up. Don't blame yourself for things you can't control.
  • Let go of responsibility. Let someone else take charge, and don't criticize them just because you would have done things differently.

    On the other hand, feeling as if you have no control, that someone else dictates everything you do, or that everything is fate, can also affect your stress levels. Taking responsibility for things that happen to you can help you feel more in control and can improve your stress profile.

Tips for increasing control:
  • Realize your impact. Think about how your behavior affects situations. Did you get that promotion because you are good at your job or because you were lucky? Chances are is was the former!
  • Take responsibility. If you don't leave enough time to get somewhere and are late, it is not the train that is to blame!
  • Think about your needs. What do you want to achieve and how are you going to get it? Make a plan for how you are going to take control of what you want from life.
  • Be assertive. Learn to assert your needs and feelings.
  • Whatever type of person you are, it is important to recognize how you behave to certain situations, and to know that you have the ability to change your response.


1) Gayle Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence: Locus of Control. Gale Research. 1998. 


How do you cope under pressure?

There are some times in life when pressure builds up beyond what we can cope with. This is when we experience symptoms of stress. Personal relationships, financial commitments, moving, work, family problems, lack of sleep, and illness can all be sources of pressure.

Stress can have both physical and mental symptoms. How you respond, and how much you can cope with, varies from person to person.

Symptoms of stress

Symptoms can be divided into two categories - physical and behavioral. Take a look at the following list. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be stressed and should take time to address the sources of pressure in your life.
Physical symptoms Behavioral symptoms
Headaches Irritability
Fatigue Harsh treatment of others
Gastrointestinal (stomach) problems Increased smoking or alcohol
Lack of concentration Isolation
Sexual problems Disruptive eating patterns
(over eat or under eat)
High blood pressure Compulsive shopping
Insomnia Communication problems
Heart problems (palpitations, fast heart beating)  

Stress can cause physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, which can affect your health, peace-of-mind, and personal and professional relationships. Too much stress can cause relatively minor illnesses like insomnia, headaches and backaches, but can also contribute to serious problems such as a nervous breakdown, or life-threatening diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Controlling stress

Learn how much stress you can live with and try and live within these limits. You also need to learn how to cope, or how to react to, stressful situations so they don't stress you out.
If you are trying to manage the stress in your life, try the following strategies:

  • Assess your priorities. What is the most important thing you have to do? What can wait until tomorrow? Create a list prioritizing your tasks from most important to least important. Write this down so you have a structure to follow, and you don't have the stress of trying to remember everything you have to do. 
  • Vulnerabilities. What are your vulnerabilities? What things do you know make you stressed-out? If you know that giving a presentation, or negotiating with your bank manager makes you nervous, don't wait until the situation arises to deal with it. Practice these events. By preparing for the situation and acting out your reaction to anticipated stressors, you can reduce your stress at the event. 
  • Expectations. What do you expect from yourself? Are your expectations realistic? Expecting too much from yourself or others can be disappointing if these expectations are not reached. Learn how to maintain a realistic perspective to offset misunderstandings.
  • Keep healthy! Make sure you incorporate a healthy level of physical activity (30 minutes a day), a balanced diet, and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. They will all help lower your risk of becoming over-stressed.

  • How much stress do you have?

    If you feel stressed, make time to look at the things causing you stress.
    • Write a list of all the current events that are causing stress in your life - make sure you think about all areas of your life.
    • Think about how you cope with stressful situations. What do you do when you are stressed? Does it affect your diet or sleep? Do you find you treat people differently? What effect does it have on your health?
    • Figure out which activities you find relaxing. Is it meeting with friends, going for walks, reading for pleasure, taking a bath, doing yoga, listening to music, having a massage, spending time with your family?

    Once you have identified your stressors and ways of coping you can begin to see how you can improve your stress management behavior.

    Address each stressor and figure out what you want the outcome to be, and how you are going to get to that point. Talk to other people and get their advice and support. Identify your effective relaxation techniques and incorporate them into your day or week. Learning how to control stress will not happen overnight, but you should work at it and try not to let stress build up. Some situations will be resolved easily, while others may require a lot of attention.

    If you think that you or someone you know may be under significant stress and not just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may be helpful to talk to a doctoror see a counselor. There are confidential services that can help you with all sorts of life events. Take time to address the stress in your life, before it has lasting effects on you.


    Managing stress in your life

    Not enough hours in the day? Feel like things are getting the best of you?
    It might help you to know that you’re not alone. As a nation we’re feeling increasingly under pressure and stress is becoming a major cause of sickness absence from work.
    There are many potential causes of stress, from moving house or an endless to-do-list to relationship problems or loneliness. Some stress can be a positive thing by helping to motivate us into action. But an overwhelming amount of pressure has negative effects on both our immediate and long-term health.1,2
    It’s important to remember that what causes stress for one person may have little effect on another and that we all deal with stress in different ways.

    Stress symptoms

    Stress can affect people in various ways - common symptoms include:
    • Breathlessness
    • Irritability, mood swings and frequent crying
    • Anxiety and low self-esteem
    • Poor concentration and memory
    • Dizziness
    • Tiredness and headaches
    • Muscle tension
    • High blood pressure
    • Sleeping problems
    • Digestive problems
    Sound familiar?

    Combat stress

    Recognize your stress
    The first thing to do is to take some time to identify the sources of stress in your life. How do they make you feel? Is there anything you can do about them? Perhaps you are expecting too much of yourself or others, which leaves you feeling frustrated.
    Once you know your stress triggers you can make a plan to reduce the number of stressors in your life. It also helps to learn to recognize your own symptoms of stress so you can react quickly when you see the signs.

    Physical activity
    Doing some activity, whether it’s walking, dancing, swimming or running, helps to lift your mood and beat stress.3
    Exercise outdoors if you can for a better mental boost. Aim to do at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week, but more if you can.

    Eat well
    When we are stressed we often don't eat properly, which in turn can add to the negative effects of stress.
    Eating a healthy, balanced diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber is a great stress buster.
    Swapping refined carbohydrates (like cookies or candy) for complex carbs (like wholegrain bread, brown rice and baked potatoes) will help to combat mood swings and keep you feeling full and energized for longer.
    Wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables provide your body with plenty of fiber and vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system and keep your heart healthy. The parts of your body that are often be victims of stress.
    Drinking plenty of water and cutting down on caffeine (found in tea, coffee and cola) are also good well-being moves.
    It’s important not to rely on props such as alcohol or tobacco when you’re under pressure. Although they may sometimes feel they are helping with your stress in the short-term, they’ll add to it in the long run.

    Find time to relax each day without feeling guilty. Do something you enjoy, that fits easily into your life. This could be reading, listening to music, or enjoying a warm bath. It doesn't have to take long, but it should be a regular part of your day.
    Try sitting somewhere quiet and practicing deep breathing. Take long deep breaths, focusing on each breath in and out, and nothing else. Feel your stomach and chest fill with air each time your breath in.
    Just this simple exercise can provide immediate relief from many of the symptoms of stress.

    Be proactive
    Don't be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker or professional counselor, talking can help you to cope with the stresses and strains of life.


    1. Greener M. The Which? Guide to Managing Stress. Which? Consumer Guides. 1996
    2. Eliot RS and Breo DL. Is It Worth Dying For? Bantam Books. 1989
    3. Gutmann J. The Stress Workbook. Sheldon Press, London. 1998

    Thinking positively

    If you work in an environment where you are under pressure, it can be easy to have lots of negative thoughts. So, how can you learn to think positively?

    Top tips

    • Replace negative "I can'ts" with positive "I cans"
    • Walk tall - stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and hold your head up
    • Don't let little things get you down
    • Motivate with encouragement not criticism
    • Don't be too hard on yourself
    • Learn from your mistakes

    Think positively, not negatively

    One of the easiest ways to start thinking positively is to stop thinking negatively. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Think about the following statements:
    • I can do this.
    • I can achieve my goals.
    • I am who I am, and people like me for being myself.
    • I learn from my mistakes. They increase my experience and help me draw lessons for the future.

    Instead of thinking about all the things you can't do, think about what you can do, and how you can improve your performance for next time. Don't let little things get you down.

    Thinking positively will help you improve your self-confidence, and behaving positively will increase the confidence others have in you. Positive thinking can improve your mood and general outlook on life. There are some very simple steps that can help you think more positively:

    Look at your posture. How do you hold yourself when you walk? Do you slouch and stare at the floor? Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, and look straight ahead as you walk. You will immediately feel more confident and more positive. It is difficult to feel negative when you have your head held high.

    Make the best of a situation

    Positive thinking allows you to see the best in a situation, and in yourself. It can be used as a technique for fighting stress and can also help you maintain a good working environment with your coworkers.

    Your behavior directly affects those around you. If you are miserable and grumpy, this often rubs off on your coworkers, and they either feel like they have to be extra careful when they speak to you, or they become grumpy in return. Being bright and cheerful will also rub off on your coworkers and make you much more approachable.

    Replace criticism with encouragement. Encourage yourself and your coworkers by giving them a compliment or a pat on the back instead of criticism1.

    Benefit your health

    If by improving your outlook you can reduce your stress levels, then you are also benefiting your immune system. Stress activates hormones, including cortisol, which can have an adverse effect on your immune system. If your immune system is depressed, you are more susceptible to infections. Reducing your stress levels benefits your health in many ways.


    1. Positive thinking vs. mental misery: empower yourself. McKinley Health center. Student Affairs/ University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.