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  • Writer's pictureAphrodite Beidler

From Stress to Success!

How to cope with stress in 4 steps



What is stress? How do we define coping with stress? What are some interventions for stress reduction? Psychologists think about these questions all the time. Some of the most helpful ways to deal with stress come from the work of Lazarus and Folkman two psychologists in the 80s, who thought that "psychological stress is a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being”.


Here is some defining terminology:

Stress: When a demand exceeds the resources available it causes stress. Coping: Behavior that helps respond to the demand. Intervention: Proactive planning for preventing a stressor from happening again.


Mike is stressed all the time because his plate is full with too many demands and too little time to finish his project and pick up his suit from the dry cleaner before they close.


To deal with stress he has to make an appraisal of the situation:


1. Primary appraisal: How big are the stakes? Mike needs to evaluate how much threat is involved and how important is the outcome. Both the report and the suit are required first thing the next morning for an important presentation.


2. Secondary appraisal: How many resources? Mike needs to determine the resources he needs and the amount to meet the demand. He needs skills, knowledge, attention to detail, to complete the report, and time to pick up his suit.


3. Self-efficacy: Do I have skills? Mike needs confidence in the ability to know what to do. Mike is using a new database but he can apply his skills and knowledge to figure out what is needed to finish the report if he can focus. He may not have enough time to pick up with suit and he will need to make a plan.

4. Reappraisal: Am I on track? Evaluating whether the plan he made was effective so far. Mike is doing well with the report but he will need to ask a friend to pick up with suit to make sure he has both problems under control! Mike's stress is gone!




Mike enjoys presenting in front of a group but his coworker Steven who will talk after him doesn't' handle presentations well. Although Steven is very smart and well prepared he has low self-esteem, he feels self-conscious, and when he talks he gets flustered and sweaty.


Stressor: Steven speaking in front of the group.


How 4 steps that can walk Steven through the stress of speaking in front of the group to a more calm internal state:

1. Primary appraisal: Steve takes things personally and catastrophically. He fears that he will make a fool of himself. He feels sweaty and wants to run away. In his mind, this presentation could ruin his career.


The resources needed are internal/emotional. Steve needs a positive attitude to help with the reality check. This presentation is nothing out of the ordinary. It is a routine presentation of a project that he is interested in. He can ask for feedback from his coworkers which will be of great help for the next step of the project.


2. Secondary appraisal: That's a reaction to the primary appraisal: "I will make a fool of myself". Steve is depleting his emotional resources by being so reactive, taking it personally, judging himself, and scaring himself. "I will forget everything", "everyone will be laughing at me".


Steve needs a quick boost to his self-esteem. Positive self-talk can help: "I have done this before. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t the end of the world either". "If they don't understand something they will ask. I like explaining".


3. Self-Efficacy: Steven is a good engineer and he has the skills necessary to present his work. His fear of forgetting is not a deficit and can be corrected with some problem-solving. He can write down an outline and use some flashcards, so he doesn’t rely too much on memory.

4. Reappraisal: Steven can check if he is on track with what he prepared on his outline and flashcards. He can include a couple of questions for his audience to keep the presentation meaningful for both him and his coworkers because he respects their expertise and shows it in real-time.


Now it's your turn!


Exercise:


  1. Your stressor: ……………………………………………………………………………………………

  2. Your Primary appraisal - what is at stake? ………………………………………………………………………………………………

  3. Your secondary appraisal - how do you react to the primary? what is so personal? …………………………………………………………………………………………………

  4. Self-efficacy - do you have the skills and resources required? …………………………………………………………………………………………………

  5. Your reappraisal - are there areas for development? …………………………………………………………………………………………………

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