STRESS MANAGEMENT WORKSHOP
What is stress?
Stress is an everyday fact of life, you can’t avoid it.
For instance, getting a new home or a promotion brings with it the change
of status and new responsibilities. Falling in love can be as stressful for
some people as falling out of love.
- While we usually think of stressful events as being
negative, such as the injury, death or illness of a loved one, they can
also be positive.
- All stress is not bad. Stress is not only desirable,
but also essential to life. Whether your stress experience is a result of
major life changes or the cumulative effects of minor everyday hassles,
it is how you react to stressful experiences that can create a stress
YOU EXPERIENCE STRESS FROM THREE BASIC SOURCES:
Your environment; bombards you with demands to adjust. You must endure
weather, noise, crowding, interpersonal demands, time pressures, performance
standards, and various threats to your security and self-esteem.
Physiological; the rapid growth of adolescence,
menopause in women, aging, illness, accidents, lack of exercise, poor nutrition,
and sleep disturbances all tax the body. Your reaction to environmental threats
and changes also produce body changes, which are themselves stressful.
Your Thoughts; your brain interprets and translates complex changes in
your environment and determines when to push the panic button. How you interpret,
perceive, and label your present experience and what you predict for the future
can serve either to relax or stress you. Interpreting a sour look from your boss
to mean that you are doing an inadequate job is likely to be very anxiety provoking.
Interpreting the same look as tiredness or preoccupation with personal problems
will not be as frightening.
You first ask yourself what is happening and why (causality). Then, to
determine the situation’s significance for your well being, you ask yourself
how dangerous it is and what resources you have to cope with it. Anxious,
stressed people often decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult or
painful and (2) they don’t have the resources to cope. CHRONIC STRESS AND
DISEASE Primitive man used stress to trigger the "fight or
flight" response they needed in order to cope with physical dangers in
their lives. During this "fight or flight" response, their bodies
experienced a series of biochemical changes that enabled them to take care
of dangers such as saber-tooth tigers.
- Stress researcher Richard Lazarus has argued that stress
begins with your appraisal of a situation.
Some effects prolonged stress can have on people are:
- These days, when social custom or other limitations
prevent you from fighting or running, stress triggers a mobilizing response
that is no longer useful. In fact, the chronic fight or flight response
can cause physical and/or emotional damage.
Therefore, some very important bodily functions that
normally keep you feeling healthy, shut down. But, if you are aware of and are
able to use effective methods of turning off your fight or flight response,
your brain can return to normal within a few minutes and perform it’s primary
function of keeping your body healthy. Since we all experience stress as individuals,
we all cope with that stress in our unique ways. We are going to attempt to
define our own sources, symptoms and behaviors that may be stress-related. As
individuals, we are likely to find we require a variety of methods to cope with
stress in a healthy, affordable manner.
- High blood pressure
- Digestive problems
- Immune deficiencies
- Sleep disorders
SCHEDULE OF RECENT EXPERIENCE
(Adaptation of schedule) Prepared
by Thomas Holmes, M.D.,at the University of Washington School of Medicine,
Part A Instructions: Think back on each possible life
event listed below, and decide if it happened to you within the last year. If
the event did happen, check the line next to it.
- A lot more or a lot less trouble with the boss. _______
- A major change in sleeping habits (sleeping a lot more or a lot less, or
change in part of day when asleep) _______
- A major change in eating habits (a lot more or a lot less food intake, or
very different meal hours or surroundings). _______
- A revision of personal habits (dress, manners,
associations, etc.) _______
- A major change in your usual type and/or
amount of recreation. _______
- A major change in your social activities (clubs, dancing,
movies, visiting, etc.) _______
- A major change in church activities (a lot more or
Less than usual). _______
- A major change in number of family get-togethers
(a lot more or a lot less than usual). _______
- A major change in financial state (a lot worse off
a lot better off than usual). _______
- In-law troubles. _______
- A major change in the number of arguments
with spouse (a lot more or a lot less than usual regarding child- rearing,
personal habits, etc.). _______
- Sexual difficulties. _______
personal injury or illness. _______
- Death of a close family member (other
than spouse). _______
- Death of spouse. _______
- Death of a close friend.
- Gaining a new family member (through birth, adoption,
oldster moving in, etc.). _______
- Major change in the health or behavior of a family
- Change in residence. _______
- Detention in jail or other institution.
- Minor violations of the law (traffic tickets, jaywalking,
disturbing the peace, etc.). _______
- Major business adjustment (merger, reorganization,
bankruptcy, etc.) _______
- Marriage. _______
- Divorce. _______
separation from spouse. _______
- Outstanding personal achievement. _______
- Son or daughter leaving home (marriage, attending
college, etc.) _______
- Retirement from work. _______
- Major change in
working hours or conditions. _______
- Major change in responsibilities at work (promotion
demotion, lateral transfer). _______
- Being fired from work. _______
Major change in living conditions (building a new home, remodeling, deterioration
of home or neighborhood). _______
- Wife/ husband beginning or ceasing work
outside the home. _______
- Taking on a mortgage greater than $25,000. (purchasing
a home, business, etc.) _______
- Taking on a mortgage or loan of less than $25,000
(purchasing a car, TV, freezer, etc.). _______
- Foreclosure on a mortgage or loan. _______
- Vacation _______
to a new school. _______
- Changing to a different line of work. _______
Beginning or ceasing formal schooling. _______
- Marital reconciliation with
a mate. _______
- Pregnancy. _______
Add your responses to get your total score.
The higher your score, the more likely you are to get sick.
Stress can be cumulative. So, the higher your score, the harder you should work
to stay well.
Rate the stress-related symptoms below for the degree of discomfort they cause
you. 1= Slight discomfort 10= Extreme discomfort.
- Anxiety in specific situations; _______
- Tests _______
- Deadlines _______
- Interviews _______
- Other Anxiety in personal relationships _______
- Spouse _______
- Parents _______
- Children _______
- Other Anxiety, general – regardless of the situation
Or the people involved; _______
- Depression _______
- Hopelessness _______
- Powerlessness _______
- Poor self-esteem _______
- Hostility _______
- Anger _______
- Irritability _______
- Resentment _______
- Phobias _______
- Fears _______
- Obsessions, unwanted thoughts _______
- Muscular tension _______
- High blood pressure _______
- Headaches _______
- Neckaches _______
- Backaches _______
- Indigestion _______
- Irritable bowel _______
- Ulcers _______
- Chronic constipation _______
- Chronic diarrhea _______
- Muscle spasms _______
- Tics _______
- Tremors _______
- Fatigue _______
- Insomnia _______
- Sleeping difficulties _______
- Obesity _______
- Physical weakness _______
- Job stress _______
Physical symptoms may have purely physiological causes. You should have a medical
doctor eliminate the possibility of such physical problems before you proceed
on the assumption that your symptoms are completely stress-related.
BODY AWARENESS EXERCISES
The following exercises promote body awareness, and
will help you identify areas of tension. Awareness
- First, focus your attention on the outside world. Start
sentences with, "I am aware of _______." (E.g. "I am aware
of the cars going by outside the window, papers moving, the coffee perking,
the breeze blowing and the blue carpet.")
- After you become aware of everything around you, shift
to focusing your attention on your body and your physical sensations, your
internal world (e.g., "I am aware of feeling warm, my stomach gurgling,
tension in my neck, nose tickling, and a cramp in my foot.")
- Shuttle back and forth between internal and external
awareness (e. g. "I am aware of the chair pushing against my buttocks,
the circle of light from the lamp, my shoulders hunching up, the smell of
- Used at free moments throughout the day, this exercise
allows you to separate and appreciate the real difference between your inner
and outer worlds.
- Close your eyes… Start with your toes, and move up your
body… Ask yourself, "Where am I tense?".. Whenever you discover
a tense area, exaggerate it slightly so you can become aware of it…. Be aware
of the muscles in your body that are tense… Then, for example, say to yourself,
"I am tensing my neck muscles…. I am hurting myself…. I am creating tension
in my body"..
- Note that all muscular tension is self-produced…. At
this point, be aware of any life situation that may be causing the tension
in your body and what you could do to change it.
Letting go of Your Body
- Lie down on a rug or firm bed and get comfortable…
- Pull your feet up until your feet rest flat on the floor…
- Close your eyes …
- Check yourself for comfort …
- This may require shifting your body around …
- Become aware of your breathing …
- Feel the air move into your nose, mouth and down your
throat and into your lungs …
- Focus on your body and let all of the parts come into
your awareness spontaneously …
- What parts of your body come into awareness?
- What parts are you less aware of?
- Become aware of which parts of your body you can easily
feel and which parts of your body have little sensation …
- Do you notice any difference between the right and left
side of your body?
- Now, become aware of any physical discomfort you are
- Become aware of this discomfort until you can describe
it in detail..
- Focus and be aware of what happens to this discomfort.
It may change
- Let your body do whatever it wants to do …
- Continue this for five to ten minutes … Allow your body
to take over
STRESS AWARENESS DIARY Some parts of your day are
more stressful than others, and some stressful events are more likely to produce
physical and emotional symptoms than others. Certain types of stressful events
often produce characteristic symptoms. It is useful to keep a record of stressful
events as well as symptoms that may have been a stress reaction. Keep a stress
awareness diary for two weeks. Make note of the time that a stressful event occurs
and the time you notice a physical or emotional symptom that could be related
to the stress The following is an example of a Monday for a department store clerk:
TIME STRESSFUL EVENT SYMPTOM 8:00 Alarm
doesn’t go off, late slight headache rushing 11:00 Customer is rude & insulting
Anger, tightness in stomach
FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND USE IT AS YOU NEED
- As you can see, the diary identifies how particular
stresses result in predictable symptoms. Interpersonal confrontations may
characteristically be followed by stomach tension. Rushing may be causing
vasoconstriction (tightening of the blood vessels) for this individual,
and therefore results in irritability and headaches.
- You can use your stress awareness diary to discover
and chart your stressful events and characteristic reactions.
- After using the body awareness exercises, you will
recognize where your body stores muscular tension. When you allow yourself increased
awareness, you can find ways to let go of the tension you discover.
- Along with the release of tension, you will experience
increased energy and a sense of well-being
- After your stress awareness diary has helped you identify
your reactions to stress, you should continue to record your progress with
other relaxation techniques.
If your reaction to stress involves physical symptoms such as frequent headaches,
stomach problems or high blood pressure, get a check-up first. Tell your doctor
that you intend to practice relaxation techniques, and ask him/her to determine
whether your physical symptoms are caused entirely by stress, or if there are
physiological causes as well. Once you start, consult your physician if you
experience any prolonged physical ill effects.
From the book "Progressive Relaxation",
published by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in 1929.
This technique is based on the premise that the body responds to anxiety-provoking
thoughts and events with muscle tension. This physiological tension, in turn,
increases the subjective experience of anxiety. Deep muscle relaxation reduces
physiological tension and is incompatible with anxiety. The habit of responding
with one blocks the habit of responding with the other
Four major muscle groups will be covered:
- Progressive relaxation provides a way of identifying
particular muscles and muscle groups and distinguishing between sensations
of tension and deep relaxation.
Can be practiced lying down or in a chair; each muscle grouping is tensed
or flexed from five to seven seconds and relaxed from 20 to 30 seconds. This
procedure is repeated at least once, but if an area remains tense, you can practice
up to five times. You may also find it useful to use relaxing expressions when
untensing: E.g. Let go of the tension Throw away the tension –
I am feeling calm & rested Relax and smooth out the muscles Let the tension
- Hands, forearms and biceps
- Head, face, throat and shoulders, including concentration
on forehead, cheeks, nose, eyes, jaws, lips, tongue & neck. Considerable
attention is focused to your head, because from the emotional point of view,
the most important muscles in your body are situated in and around this
- Chest, stomach and lower back.
- Thighs, buttocks, calves & feet
We all breathe, but few of us retain full breathing experienced by an infant
or primitive man.
- Breathing is essential for life; proper breathing is
an antidote to stress.
Leads to proper purifying/ oxygenating of blood Aids in proper digestion &
nutrition for your entire body Therefore, aids in maintaining good physical
& mental health. Improves coping skills
- Breathing exercises have been found to be effective
in reducing anxiety, depression, irritability, muscular tension & fatigue.
- They are used in the treatment and prevention of breath-holding,
hyperventilation, shallow breathing and cold hands & feet
- While breathing exercises can be learned in a matter
of minutes, and some immediate benefits experienced, the profound effects
may not be realized until months of continuous practice have passed.
- After you try these exercises, you can easily include
them in your daily routine.
The Relaxing Sigh;
A sigh is usually a sign that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. Sighing/
yawning is your body’s way of remedying the situation. A sigh releases some
tension & can be practiced as a way of relaxing.
Tap Away Tension; This exercise will help you feel relaxed &
- Begin by sitting or standing up straight
- Inhale a complete natural breath
- Hold this breath for a few seconds
- Exhale a little air with force through a small hole
in your lips, as though you are blowing through a straw, stop, and then
exhale more air. Repeat till all air is exhaled in small puffs
- Stand or sit up straight
- Slowly, inhale tapping your chest with fingertips; constantly
move your hands around till you’ve tapped all areas of your chest. Women may
choose not to tap their breasts.
- When you’ve inhaled as much as feels comfortable, hold
your breath & pat your entire chest with your palms. Again, women may
choose not to pat their breasts.
- Exhale, using the purifying breath.
- Practice a few more purifying breaths, then repeat the
SOME PROVEN STRESS RELIEVERS
- Get up a few minutes earlier in the morning; the morning
mishaps will be less stressful.
- Prepare for your morning the evening before, set the
table, lay out the clothes you plan to wear, etc.
- Don’t rely on you memory; write important information
- Practice preventative maintenance, your car, your appliances;
home and relationships will be less likely to "fall apart" at
the worse possible moment.
- Eliminate or restrict the amount of caffeine in your
- Avoid procrastination
- Set up imaginary contingency plans in case anything
goes wrong with your original plans.
- Relax your standards if needed, the world won’t come
to an end if the grass doesn’t get mowed this weekend or the sheets don’t
get changed till Sunday
- Use "Pollyanna Power". For
every one thing that goes wrong, there are probably 50 or 100 blessings
or things that go right. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.
- Say "no" to extra projects, social activities,
and invitations you know you don’t have time for. Value yourself enough
to allow yourself quiet time to relax and be alone.
- Get enough sleep. If necessary, set an alarm clock
to remind yourself to go to bed.
- Create order out of chaos; organize your home and workplace
so that you always know exactly where things are. Put things away where
they belong, and you won’t have to go through the stress of losing things.
- Writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal or
on paper to be thrown away, can help you clarify things and give you a needed
- Inoculate yourself against a feared event. Just as
a vaccine containing a virus can protect you, if you expose yourself to
one or more of the dreaded aspects of an event beforehand, you can often
mitigate your fears.
- When the stress of getting a job done gets in the
way of getting the job done, diversion-a voluntary change in activity, for
a few hours, may be helpful.
- Learn to live one day at a time.
- Everyday, do something you really enjoy
- Talk it out. Discussing your problems with a trusted
friend can help clear your mind of confusion and help make problem solving
- Do something that will improve your appearance, looking
better can help you feel better.
- Become more flexible, some things are worth not doing
perfectly, and some issues are well to compromise upon.
- Eliminate destructive self-talk. "I’m too old
to…. "I’m too fat to…" etc.
- Learn to delegate responsibility to capable others.
- Don’t forget to take a lunch break. Get away from your
work area in your body and mind, even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes.
- Have a forgiving view of events and people. Accept
the fact that we live in an imperfect world.
J Benshoof 11/99