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Sources of stress and how to manage them

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Stress is nowadays part of many people’s everyday lives. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you know what puts you under pressure and how you can replenish your energy reserves, you can reduce negative stress and cope better with stress.

In this article, you’ll learn how to identify your sources of stress as well as strengthening resources so that you can take good care of yourself even in challenging times.

The three-level model of stress

Stress is unavoidable, so dealing with it in a healthy way is essential.

With the following three-level model, we want to help you recognize and reduce stress. There are three levels involved:

 

  1. Identification of stressors
  2. Methods of stress management
  3. Identification of your sources of strength

Stressors and their origin

Stress can arise in a variety of ways. In addition to physical sources (e.g. noise, heat, sleep deprivation, sensory overload), social stressors (e.g. conflicts, competition, time pressure) often occur in everyday life. An equally important aspect are demands on the own person coming from within (e.g.: perfectionism, pressure to perform, not being able to say no). Try to identify situations and events that trigger stress in you. Pay attention to your own thoughts: Do you have particularly high expectations of yourself and are you only satisfied with your best performance? Only if you know the triggers for negative feelings can you change the situation. 

Once you have identified a source of stress, you have two different coping strategies at your disposal.

Action-based coping

If you can influence the situation, then act actively. People often err in believing that they are at the mercy of their environment, their fellow human beings and the structures, or that routine and comfort simply prevent them from tackling problems proactively. Your colleague two desks away keeps having loud conversations that annoy you and disrupt your concentration? Explain your situation to him and ask him to be a little more considerate. Or use headphones and listen to suitable background music to avoid the disturbing factor and sharpen your focus. In case of problems, ask yourself if you can change something yourself and if so, how you can best proceed.

Emotion-based coping

Sometimes it’s out of your hands. If a problem leaves no room for maneuver, you can try to change your attitude and feelings about it. You have just been told that you have to give a presentation next week and just thinking about it makes your heart beat faster? Try to get a new perspective on the situation. Keep in mind that although it’s an important date for you, your colleagues usually only listen with half an ear in meetings anyway. So if you make a mistake, very few people will even notice, and even if they did, would you scoff at someone who didn’t give a perfect presentation? Of course not – why should your colleagues do it differently? Maybe you can even see it as an opportunity and an exercise to rise above yourself. A lot is just a matter of perspective.

And if nothing helps, the only thing left is acceptance. Some things in life you simply cannot change. The only thing that helps is to accept the circumstances and remain calm.

Sources of strength

Everyone has certain sources of strength which help to recover. Resources on an individual, social and societal level help you to be more resilient in the face of stressors and to not let yourself become too unbalanced. Become aware of which aspects of your life give you joy and strength and replenish your reserves. You can include sources of strength from the following categories:

Individual resources: walking, drawing, sleeping in on weekends, time in nature, swimming, cooking, reading, meditation, …

Social resources: friendships, neighborhood support, good conversations, time with family, club activities, …

Meaningful resources: spirituality, faith, volunteer activities, climate activism, …

In stressful times, you can draw on these sources to counterbalance stressful factors. Try to constantly take time for the things that really do you good. This way, you can master life’s challenges in the long run without feeling permanently overwhelmed and stressed. However, make sure that your beneficial balance does not become a stressor itself: Yes, regularity is important. But don’t set a schedule so that you end up frustrated because you didn’t go jogging three times and see friends twice during the week as planned. That would be counterproductive and you don’t want to lose the fun in the process. 

Stress is part of life, but it shouldn’t rule your life. Selfcare helps you to take care of yourself. Give yourself and your needs the necessary priority when everyday life challenges you. You alone are responsible for your well-being, so be good to yourself and take care of your well-being. 

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