Stress Management Workshop Online
In this online workshop, you will learn about what stress is, what it can do to you, and how you can manage it more effectively in your life.



Online Relaxation Exercises
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How to Handle Stress

By: Jodi K. Caldwell, Ph.D.

Stress is something that we commonly talk about in our society. However, we rarely take time to define Stress. What is Stress? What causes Stress? How do we experience stress? Most importantly, what can we do to manage our stress? Stress is a fairly universal experience for all of us. Regardless of how our personalities vary in terms of intensity, at one time or another, we will all be confronted with a situation that we find stressful.

STRESS is the result of our need to adapt to change. The sources of change, stressors

  • Environmental stressors (e.g., weather, pollution, noise)
  • Social stressors (e.g., job interviews, examinations, daily responsibilities, family demands)
  • Physiological Stressors (e.g., illness, menopause, injuries, poor nutrition, sleep disturbances)
  • Cognitive Stressors, i.e. your thoughts. (e.g., need to be "perfect", interpretation of others' reactions)

While stress is often discussed in terms of negative impact, it can be beneficial. A healthy level of stress is necessary for optimal performance. However, it is when stress interferes with our functioning, rather than optimizing our functioning, that we begin to experience harmful effects. Consider the example of having a project deadline at work. This is a social stressor that necessitates adaptation. The resulting level of stress can be beneficial: it may cause an end to procrastination, faster work, a sense of accomplishment, etc. However, if adaptation is resisted then the stress can harmful: leading to feelings of helplessness, failure experiences, etc.

The first step to handling stress is to recognize how vulnerable you are to stressful reactions. The second step is to determine how you experience stress. Stress can be experienced in 4 ways:

  • Physical symptoms: headaches, stomachaches, sleep problems, hypertension, etc.
  • Emotional symptoms: fear, anxiety, tension, anger, irritation, etc.
  • Behavioral symptoms: withdrawing from others, increased irritation with others, etc.
  • Cognitive symptoms: irrational thoughts such as "I can't do anything right", "I'm a loser", etc.

The third step is to devise a healthy strategy to manage your stress. There are several resources you can access: Self-help books, web sites, your own imagination, a counselor or psychologist, etc. The following are just a few suggestions for healthy ways of managing your stress. There is also a list of unhealthy ways people often use to unsuccessfully manage their stress. How many of the unhealthy ways have you used? What healthy stress management tools can you begin to substitute for your unhealthy behaviors?

Healthy Ideas for Managing Stress

Unhealthy Behaviors

Exercise
Proper Nutrition
Time Management
Clear Communication
Relaxation Techniques:
    Deep Breathing
    Yoga
    Taking a hot bath
    Reading a good book
    Listening to relaxing music

Smoking
Overeating/under eating
Procrastination
Becoming Irritable with others
Withdrawing from others
Escape Techniques:
    Drugs
    Alcohol
    Recklessness (driving, etc)
    Self-injury

The possibilities are endless! Be creative. If you would like more information on how to effectively handle stress, please call the Counseling Center at (402) 280-2735.

References

Davis, M, Eshelman, E. R., & McKay, M. (1995). The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.


Books

  • Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook (Eshelman & McKay)

Internet Resources

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