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How to respond to a high-stress environment?

You feel that you are overly-stressed, now what?

Most people don’t actually have a plan on how to respond to stress. We tend to react without thinking.

Common practices are to:
- avoiding the situation
- take our emotions out on others
- withdraw from the situation altogether
- confront the situation head-on

Largely, it may depend on the situation and potential consequences as to how you respond. It may be easier to confront a friend about his or her irritating tendency to borrow your clothes and leaving you nothing to wear when you really need it than confronting your mother about re-organizing your bedroom. Both may be stressful to you (e.g., lack of control over your belongings). However, the "power" structure is a little different. To determine your best strategy for a given situation incorporate the following outline in your decision process – assess what is important, determine what areas render you vulnerable to stress, and be clear about your expectations.

1. Assess Your Priorities – By knowing what is of primary and secondary importance, you can order your activities and expectations in light of your energy on a given day. A structure to follow makes it easier to engage in daily tasks. The stress of trying to remember what you should be doing is eliminated.

2. Stress Vulnerability – If you know that presentations make you nervous or know that negotiating a car deal petrifies you, do not wait until it happens to incorporate your ‘skills’. Practice is essential. By envisioning the stressful condition and acting out your reaction to anticipated stressors, you can become better prepared for the actual event.

3. Expectations - Align your expectations of yourself in a given situation with a reality-based view. For example, if you did not prepare adequately for a presentation or meeting, don't understand the product you are representing and have not made the necessary effort to understand your client, it is probably unrealistic to expect that you will make a sale. Expecting too much of yourself or others can be disappointing if those expectations are not realized. Maintain a realistic perspective to offset misunderstandings. A key problem in this area is perfectionism. Stress is highly anticipated if you feel a need to produce ‘perfectly’ on a consistent basis, try to be someone you're not, or become inflexible with your priorities.

4. Incorporate Healthy Practices Into Your Daily Schedule – By incorporating a healthy level of exercise, appropriate eating practices, and relaxation techniques (e.g. meditation, breathing exercises, listening to music that calms you), you lower your risk for becoming over stressed. These techniques have been found to lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles, and reduce tension in most individuals.

You should also consider starting a "recharge regime" (renourishes your emotional battery), accepting change as a part of life, developing a support network, and believing in yourself (you are your best advocate in this battle).

*Should you discover that you need assistance in managing the stress in your life, you should consult with a professional counselor in your area.

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