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Need stress relief? Try the four A's
Expand your stress management tool kit by mastering these four strategies for coping with stress: avoid, alter, accept and adapt.By Mayo Clinic staff
When we feel the effects of stress weighing us down, it's like lugging a backpack that's becoming heavier by the minute. Too much stress can make life a difficult journey. When your stress level exceeds your ability to cope, you need to restore the balance by reducing the stressors or increasing your ability to cope, or both. Try using one of the four A's: avoid, alter, accept or adapt.
Changing the level of your stressors
Attempt to adjust the sources of stress in your life by avoiding or altering them.
A lot of needless stress can simply be avoided. Plan ahead, rearrange your surroundings and reap the benefits of a lighter load.
- Take control of your surroundings. Is the traffic insane? Leave early for work, or take the longer, less traveled route. Hate waiting in line at the corporate cafeteria? Pack your lunch and eat at your desk.
- Avoid people who bother you. If you have a co-worker who causes your jaw to tense, put physical distance between the two of you. Sit far away at meetings or walk around his or her cubicle, even if it requires some weaving.
- Learn to say no. You have a lot of responsibilities and demands on your time. At a certain point, you cross the line between being charitable and being foolish. Turn down the neighborhood sports league. Pass on coaching T-ball. Those around you will appreciate more time with a relaxed you. And you'll have time to enjoy them, too.
- Ditch part of your list. Label your to-do list with A's, B's and C's, according to importance. If it's a hectic day, scratch the C's from your list.
Just remember: A certain amount of avoidance is healthy, but some problems can't be overlooked. For those situations, try another technique.
One of the most helpful things you can do during times of stress is to take inventory, then attempt to change your situation for the better.
- Respectfully ask others to change their behavior. And be willing to do the same. Small problems often create larger ones if they aren't resolved. If you're tired of being the butt of your wife's jokes at parties, ask her to leave you out of the comedy routine. In return, be willing to enjoy her other jokes and thank her for humoring you.
- Communicate your feelings openly. Remember to use "I" statements, as in, "I feel frustrated by shorter deadlines and a heavier workload. Is there something we can do to balance things out?"
- Manage your time better. Organize your day so that like tasks are lumped together — group your phone calls, car errands and computer-related tasks. The reward of increased efficiency will be extra time.
- State limits in advance. Be proactive. Instead of stewing over a colleague's nonstop chatter, politely start the conversation with, "I've got only five minutes to cover this."
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- Miller LH, et al. The Stress Solution: An Action Plan to Manage the Stress in Your Life. New York, N.Y.: Pocket Books; 1993:86.
- Patel C. The Complete Guide to Stress Management. New York, N.Y.: Plenum Press; 1991:233.
- Stress management: How to reduce, prevent, and cope with stress. HelpGuide.org. http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_management_relief_coping.htm. Accessed May 20, 2010.