Sample Stress Control Tips


COPING WITH CONFLICT. To manage conflict successfully, we need to change our expectations. If we can accept conflict as a natural part of life, we can free our energy to focus attention on how to cope with it. Often we perceive conflict as a challenge to our personal beliefs, opinions, actions, authority. Even when the conflict is minor we experience an implied criticism of our own position. To deal creatively with conflict, we need to feel powerful and competent. Instead of generating a stream of mental put-downs such as, “I failed again,” “I don’t measure up,” “This is terrible,” “He’s right and I’m wrong,” etc. — we need to focus on positive messages such as, “My worth doesn’t depend on being perfect,” “I can learn from this,” “This is upsetting, but I know how to deal with it,” “I have the same rights as others,” “I am valuable and capable,” etc.

CONSIDER THE MEDIUM WHEN COMMUNICATING. E-mail is good for sending documents and quick messages, but bad for conflict resolution. Telephone is good for discussion, but your voice has to make up for unseen facial expressions. Face-to-face is best for negotiation and difficult discussions.

TRY TO UNDERSTAND. Imagine what is behind the other person’s behaviour. Especially in a multi-cultural work force, behaviour that seems odd or even unacceptable to you may be perfectly normal for the other person. Don’t read too much into specific surface behaviours. Leave your preconceived notions behind and be sensitive to cultural and personal differences.

TEN-SECOND BREAK. Use the following stress relief technique whenever you are in a stressful situation (e.g., before a difficult or challenging task, during arguments, when irritated, when hassled, when anxious, etc.). It can also give you “breathing room” in conflict situations where you are trying to decide what to do or how to act. The basic routine includes: Step 1 – Smile as you think to yourself “My body doesn’t need this (irritation, anger or stress). Step 2 – Take a slow, deep belly breath. Count to 4 slowly on the inhale and 6 on the exhale. Step 3 – Take a second deep belly breath. Close your eyes at the top of the inhalation. As you exhale, imagine (visualize or feel) something warm entering your body at your head, and flowing down into your hands and feet. Heaviness and warmth are flowing in. Think the phrase, “I am calm.”

FOCUS ON THE SOLUTION. Whenever you’re faced with a difficulty, focus on the solution rather than on the problem. Think and talk about the ideal solution to the obstacle or setback, rather than wasting time rehashing and reflecting on the problem.

USE EMPATHY AS A STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY. Misunderstandings, misinterpretations, hidden agendas, unresolved conflicts, disagreements, often trigger our stress response. One way to handle such breakdowns in communication and de-stress ourselves in the process is to respond with empathy rather than anger or defensiveness. This response forces us to acknowledge the other person’s point of view which broadens our perspective at the same time it affirms the other’s experience. Empathy involves the following three step process: (1) Stop. Stop talking. Stop competing for attention. Stop worrying about your own feelings. Put aside your judgments and expectations about the person or the topic; (2) Look. Look at the other person and pay attention. Show your interest. Get involved. Observe, but don’t interpret. Explore, don’t judge; (2) Listen. Listen to what this person says. Listen to the words. Listen to the body language. Listen to the feelings; (3) Now respond – let the other person know what you’ve heard. Paraphrase (e.g., “Is this what you meant? Thought? Felt?”).

MUST YOU ALWAYS BE RIGHT? Do other people upset you – particularly when they don’t do things your way? Consider cooperation or compromise rather than confrontation. A little give and take on both sides may reduce the strain and help you both feel more comfortable.

CHOOSE TO EXPRESS YOUR ANGER IN A CONSTRUCTIVE WAY. Step out of the pathways of habit and try new, more helpful alternatives for managing anger. Use the acronym SAFER to practice using healthy behavioural alternatives for handling anger. S is for STOP: Stop and think. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Take a short time out. Think about what you are really angry about. A is for ACCEPT. Accept responsibility for your feelings. Own your anger. Don’t blame or judge others. Speak in the first person. F is for FIND. Find alternatives to bottling up or blowing up. Speak up. Describe the situation that is bothering you. Be specific. Adopt a problem-solving approach. Offer solutions. E is for EMPATHY. Empathize with the other person. Listen for their feelings and acknowledge them. Validate their perceptions. R is for RESPECT. Respond with respect. Respect for yourself and others is the basic ground rule of anger management. It is not okay to shame, belittle, or attack, verbally or physically.