Stress can be defined as the tension and pressure that builds up in ones body until the body cannot handle it anymore. It is not always negative and can be beneficial as when stress can cause one to do a better job of something than if one had not been stressed. An example is of a woman whose child was run over by a car. The stress caused by the situation enabled her to lift the car up and remove her child from under it, something which she would not normally have been able to do.

"Stress is simply the adaptation of our bodies and minds to change; and change, as we noted, is about the only constant left in the workplace."
Peter G. Hanson, M.D.


A stressor is something that causes stress and disturbs one's equilibrium. Stressors affect different people in different ways, depending on one's genetic make-up and personality. People who are highly anxious, perfectionists and type "A" personalities are more prone to stress. Typical stressors are financial problems, work, crime and family issues.

The importance of managing stress

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of stress so that you can manage it before it manages you. Examples of emotionally induced symptoms are migraines, constipation, insomnia, ulcers and high blood pressure. Physical diseases caused by stress include heart attacks, ulcers, strokes and sugar. Mental symptoms are the inability to think, concentrate and remember things. Social effects include overeating, drinking, and marriage breakdowns.

"How we perceive a situation and how we react to it is the basis of our stress. If you focus on the negative in any situation, you can expect high stress levels. However, if you try and see the good in the situation, your stress levels will greatly diminish."
Catherine Pulsifer, from My Story

What happens when we're under stress?

The body undergoes a process called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). The first stage of this process is the "Alarm" stage which is the body's reaction to the stressor. Adrenalin starts pumping and other probable reactions are faster heartbeat, sweating, a dry mouth and "butterflies" in the stomach. The second stage is the "Resistance" stage which is manifested in a short-term physical surge of energy and resistance to the stressor. The third stage is the "Exhaustion" stage when the body's resources are now depleted and the body is unable to maintain its normal function.

"Stress is not what happens to us.
It's our response TO what happens.
And RESPONSE is something we can choose."
Maureen Killoran

Long –term goals

In the long-term,

  • You should aim to create a stress free working environment.

  • You should be able to identify your Stressors and your reactions to stress.

  • You should be able to analyze the causes of stress in personal life and work situations.

  • You should know how to apply strategies to manage stress in personal life and work situations.

  • You should learn to manage your workload.

  • You should learn to manage your time

  • You should design and implement your own personalised stress management programme

  • You should relax and de-stress.

"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened." Winston Churchill

Short-term goals

How to manage work stress

  1. Plan the day before. Make a list of everything you are going to do. Prioritise the items on your list and place time frames next to them. Complete one task before going to the next one.
  2. Have regular short breaks to give your mind a rest and to refresh yourself.
  3. Delegate whatever you can.
  4. Confront and analyse your problems and solve them.

Proven techniques for dealing with stress


  1. State the problem.
  2. Identify the cause.
  3. Get the true facts.
  4. List possible solutions
  5. Choose the best one
  6. Act on your decision

"Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one." Dr. Hans Selye

Three-stage Magic formula by Willis A. Carrier

  1. Ask yourself, "What is the worst that can possibly happen?"

  2. Prepare to accept it if you have to.

  3. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst (and make it more bearable).

"When you find yourself stressed, ask yourself one question:
Will this matter in 5 years from now?
If yes, then do something about the situation.
If no, then let it go."
Catherine Pulsifer

Daytight compartments

Live in "daytight" compartments. The term "daytight compartments" was first coined by Sir William Osler. The idea behind it is to never look more than 24 hours ahead or behind. Live for today, put your energy in today and tomorrow will take care of itself.

"The time to relax is when you don't have time for it."
Author Unknown

Other methods of reducing stress

  • Exercise – Exercise causes the body to produce endorphins which make you feel good. It also stimulates deep breathing.
  • Deep breathing – stimulates the flow of oxygen to the brain which relieves stress.
  • Use a stress ball or stress-relief toy to relieve short term-stress in a stressful situation.
  • Relaxation – Treat yourself to a spa treatment or a massage.
  • Be assertive and learn to say no especially to people who take advantage of you.
  • Keep busy. People who are bored tend to worry about trivial matters.
  • Take up a hobby, which de-stresses you, e.g. scrapbooking, needlework, knitting.
  • Use the law of averages-if there's a small chance of something happening then don't worry about it.
  • Count your blessings. Visit a hospice or similar organisation to make you more grateful for what you have.
  • Accept the inevitable. This will allow you to move on.
  • Don't worry about ingratitude.
  • Pray – regular prayer has been proven to relieve stress.

As Dr. Alexis Carrell said -"Those who do not fight stress die young." So beat your stress before it beats you.