There are many stress management techniques that will successfully help you lower your level of stress but not all of them address every stressful situation that you may find yourself in. So here are the four A’s of managing stress: avoiding the stressor, altering the stressor, adapting to the stressor, and accepting the stressor. One or more of these can be helpful to you no matter what situation you are dealing with.
Avoid the Stressor
Sometimes you just have to say no. If you know that you are dealing with as much responsibility as you can handle, then taking on more will stress you out even further. And you will not be able to do your best. You will be doing yourself and the other person a favor by saying no and explaining why.
Limit your exposure to stressful people and situations. You know who the energy drainers are in your life and you know which situations cause you stress. If you can’t avoid these people and situations entirely, at least limit your exposure to them as much as possible.
Avoid ‘hot-button’ topics. You know that there are certain topics that get under your skin or are hot buttons for others. If possible, avoid talking about them.
Delete and delegate. Is it necessary for you to do everything? Do you believe that things will get done right only if you do them? Decide which things on your to-do list don’t need to be done perfectly and which don’t really need to be done at all. Delete the things that don’t need to be done and delegate the others.
Alter the Stressor
Create “hot-button” rules. If there are topics that you absolutely have to talk about, establish ground rules with the other person such as agreeing to take a time-out if things become too heated.
Change goes both ways. If you expect things to change to lower your stress, be prepared to change and accept the new situation.
Be proactive. Do not wait until you are feeling stressed. If you know that someone or something causes you stress, plan a more appropriate way of reacting.
Time management. Prioritize your to-do list so that you are dealing with the most important and urgent things first. That way, if you run out of time, the consequences are not so bad.
Adapt to the Stressor
Reframe your situation. Try to view your situation from a different perspective. Look for the silver lining and try to find something positive in the situation.
Use hindsight. This is not the first stressful situation that you have ever had to deal with. Looking back on past stressful events, how important are they to you now?
Be reasonable. Life is not perfect. You create more stress for yourself by expecting it to be and then measuring your experiences by that standard of perfection. Some amount of stress in life is normal.
Turn lemons into lemonade. How can you turn this situation to your advantage? For example, increased responsibility can lead to a promotion or a better job if you can tolerate doing more work with little resources for a while.
Accept the Stressor
Let go of control. You cannot control everything that happens to you nor can you control other people’s behaviors. Sometimes you just have to accept that things are the way they are. Some people cope by surrendering to a higher power.
Draw upon your resources. Accepting stressful people or situations force us to dig deep and find resources within ourselves we did not know existed. For example, taking on additional responsibilities at work may bring out leadership qualities in you that you did not know you had.
Connect with others. You are not alone in experiencing stress. Share your feelings with trusted family and friends. Isolation exacerbates stress so even if they can’t do anything about the stressor, sharing your feelings and having them acknowledged will go a long way in helping reduce your stress level.
Forgive. Let go of anger or resentment. People are who they are and life is what it is. You can choose to go through life angry and resentful or you can choose to experience that same life without anger and resentment. No matter what your situation is, this choice is all yours.
Using the right technique for the right situation is the key to managing stress successfully. Keep the four A’s in mind the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation.
This article was inspired by The Four A’s: Avoid, Alter, Adapt and Accept by HelpGuide.org.