Managing Stress and Wellness
Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffi c jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.
Charlotte Joko Beck, Zen teacher and author
Managing Stress and Wellness
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Did this story “put life into perspective” for you? Certainly it is true that fewer health, fi nancial, family, work, or social problems would make life more secure and satisfying. However, not having any problems or any stress would leave you with no choices in life, which would be dull and uninteresting. A certain number of problems and stresses can be stimulating. While some stress is good and necessary, excessive stress can create physical problems and/or behavioral changes.
Do you know that you have the power within yourself to modify both the amount of stress in your life and your reaction to it? Some of you may need to make only a few minor adjustments in your daily life for stress to become more constructive and manageable. Some of you will have to make some radi- cal external changes (for example, change jobs) or internal changes (such as change some of your social requirements and/or attitudes).
Most people, who with courage and support undertake such changes, have only one regret: Th ey did not do it sooner. We would like to encourage you to begin considering what adjustments you may need to make in your daily life for stress to become more constructive and manageable.
Let’s begin by discussing what stress is and what causes it.
What Is Stress?
Even though there is no widely-accepted defi nition of stress, the following viewpoints are worthy of consideration. Hans Selye (1978) studied stress for over 40 years. He considered stress to be the demand made on an organism to adapt, cope, or adjust. Selye defi nes stress as the rate of wear and tear within
S tress is like spice—in the right proportion it enhances the fl avor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you. The trick is to fi nd the right amount for you.
Think about this Management Consultant Ken Blanchard (1995) frequently uses the following story, originally told by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, to “put life into perspective.”
One day I was walking down the street when I saw my friend George approaching. It was evident from his downtrodden look that he wasn’t overfl owing with the ecstasy and exuberance of human existence, which is a high-class way of saying George was dragging bottom.
Naturally, I asked him, “How are you, George?” While that was meant to be a routine inquiry, George took me very seriously and for 15 minutes he enlightened me on how bad he felt. And the more he talked, the worse I felt.
Finally I said to him, “Well, George, I’m sorry to see you in such a depressed state. How did you get this way?” Th at really set him off .
“It’s my problems,” he said. “Problems—nothing but problems. I’m fed up with problems. If you could get rid of all my problems, I would contribute $5,000 to your favorite charity.”
Well now, I am never one to turn a deaf ear to such an off er, and so I meditated, ruminated, and cogitated on the proposition and came up with an answer that I thought was pretty good.
I said, “Yesterday I went to a place where thousands of people reside. As far as I could determine, not one of them has any problems. Would you like to go there?”
“When can we leave? Th at sounds like my kind of place,” answered George.
“If that’s the case, George,” I said, “I’ll be happy to take you tomorrow to Woodlawn Cemetery because the only people I know who don’t have problems are dead.”
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the body. Stress has also been defi ned as the anxious or threatening feeling that comes when we interpret or appraise a situation as being more than our psychological resources can adequately handle (Lazarus 2006).
Which of the following would you call stressful?
1. Building a new home 2. Being audited by the IRS 3. Getting a promotion 4. Sitting in a dentist’s chair 5. Getting married 6. Taking an exam
All of these six life events are stressful because they require us to adapt and change in response to them, which taxes our mental and physical adap- tive mechanisms. Because positive or pleasurable events, such as getting a new home, can require as much adaptation on our part as negative or painful events, like being audited by the IRS, they can be equally stressful.
Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel says, “Living a stress-free life is not a reasonable goal. Th e goal is to deal with it actively and eff ectively” (Cowley 1999). Is there a diff erence between good stress and bad stress?
Types of Stress
Hans Selye (1974) has described and labeled four basic types of stress:
1. Eustress is defi ned as good or short term stress that strengthens us for immediate physical activity, creativity, and enthusiasm. It is characterized as short-lived, easily identifi ed, externalized, and positive. Two examples would be an individual who experiences short-term stress by psyching up for the hundred-yard dash and an individual who is really excited about beginning a new project at work. Th e secret of positive stress is a sense of control. When we can make choices and infl uence the outcome of a situation, we meet the challenge successfully and return to a normal level of functioning relatively quickly. Th is is the happy feeling of “I did it!” 2. Distress is negative or harmful stress that causes us to constantly readjust or adapt. Distress occurs when we feel no control over outcomes; we see few or no choices; the source of stress is not clear; the stress is prolonged over a period of time, or several sources of stress exist simultaneously. However, not all negative events cause psychological distress. According to Richard Lazarus (2000), distress arises only when the stressor makes demands on the individual that exceed the individual’s ability to cope. Th erefore, distress is accompanied by feelings of tension, pressure, and anxiety rather than the concerted energy of eustress. 3. Hyperstress or overload occurs when stressful events pile up and stretch the limits of our adaptability. An example would be an individual who goes through a divorce, loses a parent, and then has a serious illness, all in the same year. It is when we have to cope with too many changes
S uccessful activity, no matter how intense, leaves you with comparatively few “scars.” It causes stress but little distress.
10 , S
Even positive or pleasurable events can be very stressful.
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at once or adapt to radical changes for which we are not prepared that stress can become a serious problem. 4. Hypostress or underload occurs when we are bored, lacking stimulation, or unchallenged. Th is type of stress frustrates our need for variety and new experiences. For example, having a job that does not have new challenges can cause constant frustration. Th is is considered negative stress. Hans Selye (1974) believes that people who enjoy their work, regardless of how demanding it may be, will be less stress-ridden than people who are bored with a job that makes few demands or is too repetitive. It is not the stress itself that is enjoyed but instead the excitement or stimulation of the anticipated rewards. If you are involved in something you like, you are much more likely to handle frustration, pressure, or confl ict eff ectively. Th is kind of stress is just not as “stressful.”
We have seen that some stress is necessary to give our lives variety and to challenge us to grow and expand our abilities, but too much stress, or the wrong kind, or at the wrong time, becomes debilitating.
As important as it is to understand what stress is, it is even more impor- tant to understand where the stress originates. When you determine what stress means for you, you have a choice of dealing with it more eff ectively or eliminating it completely.
Causes of Stress
Is it other people, your job, too many things to do, your fi nancial situation, pressure, illness? Stress consists of an event, called a stressor , plus how we feel about it, how we interpret it, and what we do to cope with it.
Common stressors include:
the setting in which we live other people places we go our daily routine family members our job time—too little, too much money school dating our given health condition a spoken word a certain event a simple thought
What about college students and their degree of stress? In early 2008, the Associated Press commissioned a survey of 2,253 undergraduate students, ages 18–24, and randomly chosen from 40 four-year schools around the country. Th e results of the survey conducted by Edison Media Research showed plenty of sources of stress, led by the seven in 10 students who attributed it to schoolwork and grades. Financial problems are close behind, while relationships and dating, family problems and extracurricular activities all are named by half as adding pressure.
S tress is like a violin string. If there’s no tension, there’s no music. But if the string is too tight, it breaks. You want to fi nd the right level of tension for you—the level that makes harmony in your life.
ALLEN ELKIN, MD
The daily routine is a common stressor.
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Th e results of the survey also revealed some gender and cultural diff erences. From schoolwork to dating, women were more likely than men to say they experienced pressure from virtually every potential source of distress in the survey. Six in 10 women and just four in 10 men indicated family issues caused problems, though the diff erences between the sexes in most areas were slimmer. And, whites reported more stress than blacks and Hispanics. What do you think about these results?
LIFE EVENTS. Two words best relate to the actual cause of stress: change and threat. Either or both can disturb the psyche. When workers lose their job, that is a signifi cant change and usually a threat to their ego, self-esteem, and even the material aspects of their life. Similarly, the loss of a spouse is a major change and may pose many diff erent threats.
On the other hand, there are positive events such as marital reconciliation and retirement which can also create changes and threats that must be faced. Th e changes that result from positive events, however, are generally not as diffi cult to cope with as the changes that result from negative ones.
Changes and threats oft en fall into three possible categories (Taylor and McGee 2000):
1. Anticipated Life Events. Examples might be graduation from high school and entering college, a job promotion, marriage, birth, and retirement.
2. Unexpected Life Events. Some examples might be a serious accident, separation from a spouse or someone we love, sudden death of a loved one, divorce, and fi nancial problems.
3. Accumulating Life Events. Th is would include a dead-end job, traffi c, deadlines and pressures, and on-going confl ict with friends or family members.
As you can see, some of the changes and threats above are major and some may be described as just the everyday circumstances of life. What about the daily hassles of living?
DAILY HASSLES. Some health psychologists believe information about daily problems provide a better clue to the eff ects of stress than major life events (Bottos and Dewey 2004). Richard Lazarus (2006), a leading psychologist who studies emotions and stress, calls these irritating and frustrating incidents that occur in our everyday transactions with the environ- ment—d aily hassles .
What about your own life? What are the biggest hassles? Are any of the following everyday problems or nuisances stressful for you: misplacing or losing things, having too many tasks to do, wasting time, or worrying about meeting high achievement stan- dards? Review Table 8.1 for a list of common hassles.
While traumatic life events, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of one’s job, are stressful and exert adverse eff ects on health, the minor hassles of daily life—perhaps because of their frequent, repetitive nature—may sometimes pile up until they eventually overwhelm you (Almeida 2005). Whatever their relative importance, both traumatic life events and daily hassles are important sources of stress for many individuals. Remember, stress eventually adds up.
H ave you ever felt that it’s the little things in life that get you down? Daily hassles may have a greater effect on our moods and health than do the major misfortunes of life.
Minor daily hassles can pile up and overwhelm you.
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Now, consider this question: What causes some people to be devastated and others motivated by the same event? Aft er all, change by itself does not necessarily lead to stress reactions in all individuals (Nairne 2008).
COGNITIVE APPRAISAL. Modern stress theory agrees that what causes us stress is not what happens, but how we perceive or appraise the situation. To feel stress, it is necessary to 1) perceive there is some kind of demand or threat present, and 2) conclude that you may not have adequate resources available to deal with that threat (Lazarus 2000). For example, your fi rst reaction to potentially stressful situations, such as waiting in line, dealing with sloppy roommate, making a public speech, taking an exam, seeing a vicious animal, or being in a car accident, is to appraise the situation in terms of whether it harms, threatens, or challenges your physical or psychological well-being.
Remember, identical environmental events can lead to two very diff erent stress reactions, depending on how the event is interpreted. Consider an upcoming exam: everyone in the class receives the same test, but not everyone will feel the same amount of stress. Th ose people who are prepared for the exam—the people like you who studied—are likely to feel less stress. Again, you are perceiving the threat, but you have adequate resources to deal with it.
Oft en, our greatest source of stress is the tremendous pressure and anxiety that we create internally with our thoughts and feelings. Do you oft en worry about situations you cannot control? Do you oft en feel power- less and fail to see your available choices?
Since the way we interpret and label our experiences can serve either to relax or stress us, you will learn how to deal with stressful thoughts and feel- ings later in this chapter. However, one helpful technique seems appropriate to discuss at this time.
We can control our thoughts, so we would be wise to practice thought- stopping techniques in stressful situations. Th ought stopping , developed by Joseph Wolpe (1992), a noted behavior therapist, involves concentrating on
I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
M an is not disturbed by events, but by the view he takes of them.
Table 8.1 Common Daily Hassles 1. Anxiety over tests and grades 2. Troubling thoughts about the future 3. Diffi culty relaxing 4. Concern about health 5. Not getting enough sleep 6. Concern about physical appearance 7. Misplacing or losing things 8. Not enough time to do the things you need to do 9. Being lonely 10. Interpersonal relationship problems 11. Traffi c delays 12. Financial status 13. Home maintenance chores, shopping, and preparing meals 14. Job dissatisfaction and/or concerns about job security 15. Wasting time in lines at the store, restaurant, or for appointments
Which one/s are hassles for you? What else represents a hassle for you?
I f you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fi re—then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.
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I Am Your Master I can make you rise or fall. I can work for you or against you. I can make you a success or failure. I control the way that you feel and the way that you act. I can make you laugh . . . work . . . love. I can make your heart sing with joy . . . achievement . . . elation. . . . Or I can make you wretched . . . dejected . . . morbid. . . . I can make you sick . . . listless. . . . I can be as a shackle . . . heavy . . . attached . . . burdensome . . . lost forever unless captured by pen or purpose. I can be nurtured and grown to be great and beautiful . . . seen by the eyes of others through action in you. I can never be removed . . . only replaced. I am a THOUGHT Why not know me better?
Consider this . . . Consider this . . .
Internally Created Pressures
Do you expect problem-free living? Are you pessimistic and expect the worst from life? Do you compare your achievements, or lack of them, to those of others? Do you worry about situations you cannot control? Are you a perfectionist? Do you expect too much of yourself or others? Are you competitive and seem to turn every encounter into a win/lose situation? Are you a victim of “hurry sickness” and constantly expect yourself to perform
better and faster? Are you self-critical? Do you focus on your faults, rather than your strengths? Do you expect others, rather than yourself, to provide your emotional security? Do you assume you know how others feel and what they want from you, instead
of asking them? Do you feel powerless and fail to see your available choices?
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
the unwanted thoughts and, aft er a short time, suddenly stopping and empty- ing your mind. Th e command stop is generally used to interrupt the unpleas- ant thoughts. Th en, it is time to substitute thoughts that are reassuring and self-accepting. Th is technique, called cognitive restructuring , can turn off some of the negative chatter (Jacobs 2004). For example, you say, “I know I am going to survive this divorce,” rather than, “I will never make it without Joe.” One positive thought at a time can gradually shift the balance of your thinking from negative to positive.
Now, let’s see what happens to the body when stressful events and thoughts arise.
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The Effects of Stress
Dr. Hans Selye (1997), in his years as a stress-researcher, found that the body has a three-stage reaction to stress: Stage 1—Alarm; Stage 2—Resistance; and Stage 3—Exhaustion. He called these stages of chain of reactions to stress the general adaptation syndrome . We will discuss each of these reactions.
THE ALARM STAGE. Your body recognizes the stressor and prepares for fi ght or fl ight, which is done by a release of hormones from the endocrine glands. Th ese hormones cause an increase in the heartbeat and respiration, elevation in the blood sugar level, increase in perspiration, dilated pupils, and slowed digestion. According to Dr. Walter B. Cannon of the Harvard Medical School, you then choose whether to use this burst of energy for fi ght or fl ee.
THE RESISTANCE STAGE. Th is is a period of recovery and stabilization, dur- ing which the individual adapts to the stress. Consequently, the individual does what he or she can to meet the threat. Although it is true that the level of bodily arousal is not as high as it was in the alarm stage, it does remain higher than usual. Th is is nature’s way of giving us greater protection against the original stressor. Coping responses are oft en strongest at this point. Because the individual attempts to do what is necessary to meet the threat, the most eff ective behavior of which the person is capable of oft en comes forth. Oft en, people are so overwhelmed in the alarm stage that they simply cannot function. However, if there is eff ective functioning, it occurs in the resistance stage.
THE EXHAUSTION STAGE. Stress is a natural and unavoidable part of our lives, but it becomes a problem when it persists and becomes long term. Continu- ous stress will not enable the important resistance step to take place, and you will go from step one, alarm , directly to step three, exhaustion . When you remain exhausted because of continual exposure to stress, you become more receptive to physiological reactions and behavioral changes.
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM. Th e immune system is the body’s defense and surveillance network of cells and chemicals that fi ght off bacteria, viruses, and other foreign or toxic substances (Plotnik 2008). Have you ever gotten a cold, strep throat, or some other bacterial viral infection aft er a stressful period, such as when fi nal exams are over? Th is rather common experience of “coming down with something” illustrates how prolonged stressful experi- ences can decrease the eff ectiveness of your immune system. Th e primary weapons of the immune system are lymphocytes , which are specialized white blood cells that attack and destroy most of these foreign invaders. Stress can lower the immune response by either decreasing the number of lymphocytes in the bloodstream or by somehow suppressing the response of the lympho- cytes to foreign substances that have invaded the body.
It is important to note that short-term stress, under most circum- stances, actually boosts the immune system, functioning as an adaptive response for injury or infection. “It’s extreme, constant stress over a long period of time that impairs the immune system,” explains Monika Fleshner, a neuroimmunopsychologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder (Raeburn 2006).
Y ou go where your thoughts take you.
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Physical Effects of Stress
In various ways, stress takes a heavy toll on our well-being. For example, more than three out of every fi ve doctor’s offi ce visits are for stress-related problems, and up to 90% of reported illnesses and disease is stress-related (Duff y and Atwater 2008). Furthermore, absenteeism and turnover in the workplace continue to rise at very high rates, and it has been reported that one of every three Americans has seriously considered quitting their jobs because of stress (Schultz 2005).
Chronic stress can contribute to higher risks for heart disease, increased progress of cancer and increased speed at which cancer may return, more susceptibility to develop a prediabetic condition, memory problems and Alzheimer’s, irritable bowl syndrome, peptic ulcers, etc. (Hall 2008).
Yet, before these more serious health problems can develop, your body has a natural way of telling you there is too much stress and tension in your life. Furthermore, most of us have a special physical organ or target area that lets us know when the stress is too great. Do you know what your special tar- get is? Once you have learned to tune into your own signals, you will be able to recognize stress when it starts, before it takes a toll on your body. Review table 8.2 for some of the physical eff ects of stress.
Behavioral Effects of Stress
Another measuring tool for you to help recognize excessive stress in yourself and others is through behavioral changes. Review these changes in Table 8.2 , Eff ects of Stress.
Table 8.2 Effects of Stress PHYSICAL
Headaches Rapid heart rate Vaginal discharges Dermatitis Impotence Dizziness Ulcers Indigestion Muscle spasms Asthma Diarrhea Hypertension Colitis Stomach aches Blurry vision Common colds Fatigue Burning stomach Skin rashes Aching back and limbs Vomiting Allergies Neck and shoulder tension Delayed menstruation Hyperventilation Excessive sweating
Nervous tics Clammy skin Nail biting Door slamming Withdrawal Grinding of teeth Fist clenching Depression Temper tantrums Insomnia Irritability Apathy Tears Acts of violence Changed smoking habits Frowning Impatience Worry Hair twisting Changed eating habits Boredom Jaw tightening Changed drinking habits Visible fears
Miller and Smith (1994); Davis et al. (2008).
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Evaluate this list in relationship to your own life and add any other behavioral changes you may experience that are not included here. Th is list can help you recognize imbalance and disharmony within and without, and that recognition is necessary if you are to eff ect a positive change for yourself.
Now that you know how to recognize physiological and behavioral eff ects of stress, is there anything else you need to be aware of?
Are you a stress seeker or a stress avoider? How do you perform under pres- sure? Is it possible to respond to the normal pressures and stress of life with vitality, meaning, and joy? What kind of lifestyle do you prefer to live: rushed, relaxed, or somewhere in between?
Research has indicated that there are basically three personality types in relation to stress, with each type diff ering in their abilities to eff ectively han- dle stress. Th ese types are Type A, Type B, and a combination of Type A and Type B . What behavioral characteristics do these types have?
TYPE A. Th ere has been a tremendous amount of research directed toward determining the correlation between heart disease and emotional stress. Among the fi ndings is evidence that there is an association between coronary artery and heart disease and a complex of emotional reactions which have been designated Type A Behavioral Pattern (Friedman and Rosenman 1982). Th ese researchers found that almost all of their cardiac patients had in com- mon a competitive, aggressive, ambitious, and stressful lifestyle.
Research on the link between Type A behavior and coronary disease indicates that the lethal core of the Type A personality is not time urgency. Attention is focusing on hostility and anger-prone tendencies , which fuel an aggressive, reactive temperament (Smith and Ruiz 2002; Rayl 2007).
Here are some other characteristics of the Type A behavioral pattern (Kleinke 2002):
A drive to succeed, coupled with impatience, irritability, and aggressiveness Trouble relaxing and is restless Perfectionist and seeks results now Feelings of pressure even when relaxed A constant clock watcher Ignores fatigue while doing strenuous work Th rives on stress; his or her work is never done
Only happy with a vigorous, fast-paced lifestyle Time pressures frequently create frustration and sometimes hostility
May appear nervous, scattered, and hyper Eats fast, walks fast, and talks fast
Furthermore, Dr. James Blumenthal (1999), professor of medical psy- chology at Duke University Medical Center, suggests that Type A people have a strong need to control events in their lives, including the behavior of people around them. Dr. Blumenthal also indicates that one reason Type A people
O ne striking thing we have discovered is that there are two main types of human beings: “racehorses” and “turtles.”
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suff er so much from life stress is they have diffi culty accepting what they can and cannot control.
TYPE B. Th is behavior pattern (Friedman and Rosen- man 1982) is the opposite of the Type A. Type B peo- ple are seldom harried by the need to be involved in an ever-increasing series of activities in a continually decreasing amount of time. Here are some other char- acteristics of Type B people (Kleinke 2002):
Serious but easy going Patient and relaxed Enjoys leisure and opportunities to experiment and refl ect
Prefers a peaceful, steady, quiet, and generally tran- quil lifestyle
Not easily irritated Are less competitive than A’s Slower paced; feels no need to hurry May appear lethargic, sluggish, and bored Is a stress avoider; may avoid new challenges Speaks slowly, walks slowly, eats slowly Sometimes lacks the excitement, enthusiasm, and dynamism needed to
perform at peak levels under pressure
Type B people may have a tremendous drive, but they may not take the risks necessary for big rewards. When they do take the risks, their drive is coupled with time to ponder leisurely and weigh alternatives. It may sound like Type B people do not have a lot of stresses. However, if they are in a Type A environment that requires a great deal of structure, this can be very stressful to them.
Are you . . .
or somewhere in between? What kind of lifestyle do you prefer to live: rushed, relaxed, or a balance between the two?
How do you perform under pressure?
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WHICH TYPE ARE YOU? Most of us are either Type A or Type B, with varying degrees of Type A and B. It is estimated that about 40 percent of the popula- tion is Type A and 60 percent is Type B (Paulus et al. 2000).
You will be given an opportunity to complete a personality type inventory at the end of this chapter. Like most stress inventories, this one is somewhat fl awed because it does not give enough weight to individual diff erences. Be sure and take this into consideration when you look at your scores.
Actually, each of us is really the best judge of ourselves, and we can gradu- ally develop an instinctive feeling that tells us whether we are running above or below the stress level that suits us best. Do you know what your normal stress endurance level is? We encourage you to examine your own behavior in relation to stress, because the key to eff ective stress management is recog- nizing when stress becomes more debilitating than stimulating.
In the following section, we will discuss some negative and debilitating techniques of coping with stress.
Negative and Defensive Coping
Coping refers to active eff orts to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands cre- ated by stress (Weiten and Lloyd 2009). When we cope, we consciously think and make a decision to deal with the problems we face. However, we may cope in negative ways. We may drink too much, eat too much, worry too much, or even abuse medication and drugs.
Sometimes the stress, frustration, and confl ict of dealing with these prob- lems interferes with our ability to maintain a healthy self-concept. We become extremely sensitive to threats to our ego. We will do almost anything to avoid, escape, or shield ourselves from the anxieties elicited by these threats.
In order to protect our feelings of self-esteem and self-respect, we may unconsciously resort to various distortions of reality, frequently referred to as defense mechanisms (Freud 1936).
Defense mechanisms do not eliminate the problems that are the cause of anxiety, but they help us to hide or disguise our feelings and temporarily deal with anxiety or stress. Defense mechanisms have two primary characteristics. First, they distort and deny reality. Second, they operate unconsciously, so that we are unaware that we are using them . See table 8.3 for some examples of commonly used defense mechanisms.
Defense mechanisms are designed to help us escape the pain of anxiety in stressful situations. Most of us would have diffi culty maintaining our mental health without resorting to such defenses. However, the trouble is that these defenses can become common patterns of behavior for reacting to problems and stress.
Do you have a habit of using any of these defense mechanisms? Th ink of it like this: the more aware you are of the defense mechanisms you use and why you use them, the more likely will be your attempts to face your stressful situations in an open and honest manner. It is important for you to remember that although defense mechanisms off er you short-term relief, your discom- fort quickly returns. Why? Your problem has not been solved!
Speaking of problems for a moment, is there a diff erence in how men and women cope with problems and the normal stresses of living? Does cultural background have any infl uence in what events are perceived as most stressful? Let us look further at these two questions.
T he time to relax is when you don’t have the time for it. THE BEST OF BITS & PIECES
T he best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.
T he world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken place.
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Gender, Culture, and Stress
As we have already discussed, individuals have diff erent levels of tolerance for stress. Some seem to thrive in situations in which others feel uncom- fortably stressed. Also, some individuals actually seem to seek out stressful situations. As a result of these diff erences, methods of coping with stress vary accordingly.
GENDER AND STRESS. One of the major diff erences between men and women is how they cope with stress. Researchers have found that while men are more likely to fi ght or fl ee when stressed, women show a diff erent response to stress, called tend and befriend , which involves nurturing and seeking social support (Taylor 2004). Also, men tend to become increasingly focused and withdrawn, while women tend to become increasingly overwhelmed and emotionally involved. Th ese diff erences in coping styles can lead to friction in relationships. Review Gender and You below for a classical example of diff er- ences in coping styles.
Without understanding their diff erences, Mary and Tom will grow further apart. When a man has problems, or is under stress and cannot fi nd a solution, he copes by doing something else to disengage his mind from the problems of the day, like reading the newspaper, playing a game,
Table 8.3 Examples of Commonly Used Defense Mechanisms DEFENSE MECHANISM DEFINITION
Rationalization When the explanations offered are reasonable, rational, and convincing, but not real reasons.
Projection When we attribute our own feelings, shortcomings, or unacceptable impulses to others.
Reaction Formation When impulses are not only repressed, they are also controlled by emphasizing the opposite behavior.
Denial When we refuse to recognize or acknowledge a threatening situation.
Repression When we exclude painful, unwanted or dangerous thoughts and impulses from our conscious mind.
Sublimation When we direct our basic desires toward a socially valued activity.
Regression When we psychologically return to a form of behavior characteristic from an earlier stage of development.
Displacement When we redirect strong feelings from one person or object to another that seems more acceptable and less threatening.
Adapted from Pastorino and Doyle-Portillo (2008); Nairne (2008).
When Tom comes home, he wants to relax and unwind by quietly reading the newspaper. He is stressed by the unsolved problems of his day and fi nds relief through forgetting them.
His wife, Mary, also wants to relax from her stressful day. She, however, wants to fi nd relief by talking about the problems of her day. The tension slowly building between them gradually becomes resentment.
Tom secretly thinks Mary talks too much, while Mary feels ignored. How do you deal with the problems of your day?
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or tinkering with his car. He will focus on solving his problems at a later date, and during this time, he temporarily loses awareness of everything else. However, when a woman becomes upset, or is stressed by her day, to fi nd relief, she copes by seeking out someone she trusts and then talks in great detail about the problems of her day or whatever potential problems she may see on the horizon. Th rough exploring her feelings in this process, she gains a greater awareness of what is really bothering her. Although she would like to talk with her husband, she frequently fi nds that he attempts to help her fi nd a solution to her problems. Aft er all, that is what he would do, solve his problem himself.
In You Just Don’t Understand , Deborah Tannen (2001) suggests that men just listen to women’s problems, without giving advice. Remember, talking is a woman’s natural and healthy way of reacting to stress, and if she feels she is being heard, her stress will seem much less. On the other hand, women need to let men disengage and ponder their own problems, and when they have discovered the solution for themselves, they will then share some of “what has been going on with them” and possibly even report their personal solution(s). Remember, quiet concentration, without an immediate need to talk, is a man’s natural and healthy way of reacting to stress.
Getting back to Mary and Tom, do you think Mary can learn to let Tom have a little time to unwind from the day before she tries to talk with him? Do you think Tom can learn to just listen and try to understand Mary’s problems?
CULTURE AND STRESS . Who you are is a factor in what you may fi nd stress- ful and how stressed you feel. For example, Judith Pliner and Duane Brown (1995) surveyed 229 students (123 females and 106 males) from four ethnic groups (white, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American) who were asked to estimate how stressful they would expect to fi nd events in three dif- ferent domains: academic, fi nancial, and personal. Responses to the survey, summarized in Focus on Diversity, indicate that an individual’s ethnic back- ground is associated with what that person appraises as stressful.
Four ethnic groups—Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American— estimate how stressful they would expect to fi nd events in three different domains:
Older African Americans and Hispanics perceived more stress than older Asian Americans. Older Hispanics perceived signifi cantly more stress than older Caucasians.
Both African American and Hispanic individuals felt more stress in meeting events than did either Caucasian or Asian American individuals.
African American men perceived greater stress in the personal domain than did African American women. Young Caucasian women perceived more stress in this domain than did older Caucasian women.
Pliner & Brown (1995).
I f women resent men’s tendency to offer solutions to problems, men complain about women’s refusal to take action to solve the problems they complain about.
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Does ethnicity-related stress have harmful eff ects on individuals’ mental and physical health? Researchers are showing increased interest in exploring the stress experienced by members of various ethnic groups in at least the following areas: (1) discrimination or perceived discrimination, (2) concern that their behavior might be interpreted as characteristic of derogatory stereotypes, and (3) pressure to not abandon their cultural heritage. (Weiten and Loyd 2009).
Perhaps it is now time to answer this question: How can I cope when I have so many problems and so many stressors?
What Affects the Way Individuals Cope with Stress?
It seems that some individuals are stress resistant and others are more suscep- tible to the harmful eff ects of stress. What accounts for the diff erence in the way diff erent individuals cope with stress? Dr. Lyle Miller and Dr. Alma Smith (1994) give an interesting view in their book, Th e Stress Solution:
People are quite diff erent from one another in their susceptibility to stress. Some are like horses, and some are like butterfl ies. Th e horses tolerate great amounts of stress without faltering or breaking stride; the butterfl ies fall apart under the slightest demand or pressure. Whether you’re a horse or a butterfl y depends on several ingredients: your physi- cal constitution, how well you take care of yourself, and your resources for coping with stress. Th e tougher you are, the more you can take. If you have a stress-prone constitution, are lazy about exercise, eat poorly, abuse stimulants, don’t get enough sleep, or don’t use your coping resources, you don’t stand much chance against stress.
HARDINESS. One characteristic that seems to distinguish stress-resistant people from those who are more susceptible to its harmful eff ects is known as hardiness . Actually, this term refers to a cluster of characteristics rather than just one. Stress researcher Suzanne Kobasa’s (1984) fi ndings suggest that hardy people seem to diff er from others in three respects:
Commitment (rather than alienation)—they have deeper involvement in their jobs and other life activities.
Control (rather than powerlessness)—they believe that they can, in fact, infl uence important events in their lives and the outcomes they experience.
Challenge (rather than threats)—they perceive change as a challenge and an opportunity to grow rather than as a threat to their security.
While some studies have replicated Kobasa’s fi ndings (Ouellette 1997), others have questioned whether or not all the characteristics of hardiness identifi ed by Kobasa are important in helping people to resist stress reactions. For example, researchers Floriane et al. (1995) believe that commitment and control are more important than viewing life as a challenge. Which of these three elements is important to you in resisting stress? You may recall in chapter three that an optimistic outlook was discussed as a major ingredient for achieving success in various personal endeavors.
O f all the forces that make for a better world, none is so indispensable, none so powerful, as hope. Without hope people are only half alive. With hope they dream and think and work.
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One thing seems fairly certain: stress-hardy people manage their lives by managing themselves—they control their own attitudes and coping tendencies. Without a doubt, there are resilient individuals who bounce back from stressful experiences quickly and effectively. As a matter of fact, they use humor, positive emotions, cognitive flexibility, cognitive reap-
praisal, social support, and optimism to cope with adversity (South- wick et al. 2005). It is important to remember that individuals can and do experience personal growth during adverse times (Duffy and Atwater 2008).
While there may not be complete agreement with Kobasa’s research fi ndings, there is little doubt that such research has stimu- lated further studies on how personality aff ects people’s health and their tolerance of stress. Some of these fi ndings point to the role of an optimistic outlook in stress tolerance (Nairne 2008).
OPTIMISM OR PESSIMISM. Optimism is defi ned as a general tendency to envision the future as favorable. In contrast, pessimism may be defi ned as a general tendency to envision the future as unfavorable. Research suggests that optimists cope with stress in more adaptive ways than pessimists (Carver and Scheier 1999). For example, optimists are more likely to engage in action-oriented, problem-focused coping. Th ey are more willing than pessimists to seek social support, and they are more likely to emphasize the positive in their appraisals of stressful events. For the person who expects to achieve success, stress may be viewed as an obstacle to be overcome rather than as an obstacle that cannot be
hurdled. Consequently, pessimists are more likely to deal with stress by giving up or engaging in denial. Studies show that optimists are better at coping with the distress associated with everything from menopause to heart surgery (Newman 2000).
Are you a horse or a butterfl y? Do you believe you can infl uence impor- tant events in your life and the outcomes you experience? Do you perceive change as a challenge or a threat to your security? What choices do you have when confronted with stressful events and situations?
P essimists calculate the odds. Optimists believe they can
How can I cope when I have so many problems and so many stressors?
C . F
10 , S
10 , S
Are you a horse or a butterfl y? . . .
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THREE COPING OPTIONS. Actually, we have three diff erent options when we are confronted with stressful events and situations. According to Taylor and McGee (2000), we can:
1. Change Environments. We might choose to move to another city, change jobs, separate from our spouse, and so on.
2. Change the Environment. We can oft en work to improve the situation that is causing us so much stress.
3. Change Me (Improve My Coping Skills). William James once said, “Th e greatest discovery of our generation is that men can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their mind.” Th is is especially important to remember in relation to stress because, as we stated earlier, it is not really the event that causes stress, it is our reaction to it—our attitude.
Our reaction to any event, stressful or not, depends on our thoughts and feelings about what happened or what should have happened. Earlier in this chapter, we stated that most oft en, the greatest source of stress is the tremen- dous pressure and anxiety we create internally with our own thoughts and feelings. We also indicated that we would discuss how to deal with stressful thoughts and feelings. We are now ready to do this.
Dealing with Stressful Thoughts and Feelings
Have you ever said, “I can’t help the way I feel?” You want to feel calm when taking tests, but you still get butterfl ies in your stomach. You want to feel confi dent when talking to your teacher about a “bad” grade, but you still feel nervous. You do not want to be afraid of heights, but you cannot keep your- self from feeling scared. It is almost like you have no control over your feel- ings. Th ese feelings are just automatic responses to certain stressful events and people in your life.
Consequently, you may say that these events or people cause you to feel the way you do. Aft er all, touching your hand to a hot burner causes pain, so why can’t people and certain events cause you stress? Let us diagram two events and see what is happening.
ACTIVATING EVENT CAUSES CONSEQUENCES OR FEELINGS
Touching your hand to a hot burner Causes Physical pain
Talking to your teacher Causes Stressful, tense feelings
By now, you are still convinced that certain events and other people cause you to feel the way you do. Th e author will not argue with you that touching your hand to a hot burner really does cause pain. However, I cannot agree that talking to your teacher really causes you to have tense, stressful feelings. Here’s why!
The Power of Self-Talk
Rational emotive therapist Albert Ellis (2001) indicates that the event of talk- ing to your teacher does not cause you to feel tense and stressed. Instead it is your beliefs, or what you say to yourself (self-talk) about talking to your teacher that causes you to feel tense, nervous, and stressed.
I n the middle of every diffi culty lies opportunity. ALBERT EINSTEIN
I n a real sense, through our own self-talk, we are either in the construction business or the wrecking business.
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P eople feel disturbed not by things, but by the views they
take of them.
Ellis (2001) believes that a great deal of our stress is unnecessary, and that it really comes from faulty conclusions we have made about the world. It is really our interpretations, what we say to ourselves about our experiences, that creates the debilitating emotions of anxiety, anger, and depression, as discussed in chapter four.
Let us examine the theory of Dr. Ellis by looking at an example he frequently gives at the Institute for Rational-Emotive Th erapy in New York:
Assume you walk by your friend’s house, and he sticks his head out the window and calls you a bunch of nasty names. You would probably become angry and upset with your friend.
Now let’s imagine that you were walking by a mental hospital, rather than your friend’s house, and your friend is a patient in the hospital. Th is time, he yells at you, calling you the same ugly names. What would your feelings be? Would you be as angry and upset now that you know he is not normal and does not live in his house? Probably not!
Actually, the activating event (being called nasty names) was identical in both cases, but your feelings were very diff erent because you were saying something very diff erent to yourself.
In the fi rst example, you were probably saying things like, “He shouldn’t call me those nasty names! Th at’s really awful! I’ll pay him back!”
However, in the second example, you might be telling yourself something like, “Poor sick John. He can’t help what he is doing.” Instead of feeling angry, you were probably feeling a degree of sympathy for your friend.
It is easy to see that your diff erent beliefs (interpretations and thoughts) about the events determined your feelings. Let us look at the diagram of your two emotional experiences: A + B = C.
A + B = C
ACTIVATING EVENT + THOUGHTS OR BELIEFS = CONSEQUENCES OR FEELINGS
Being called names
Being called names
My friend shouldn’t do this
My friend must be sick
Ellis (2003) and cognitive therapist Aaron Beck (2006; 2003) stress that our extreme, debilitative and stressful emotions are due largely to our irrational beliefs —what we say to ourselves.
Do you have some of the irrational beliefs outlined in Table 8.4 ? What is the diff erence between rational and irrational beliefs? Perhaps we need to examine this further.
What Is the Difference in Irrational and Rational Beliefs—Self-Talk?
Sometimes, self-talk , what we say to ourselves about an event or situation, is irrational. It does not even make sense, but we believe that it is true. Th e ingredient that makes a belief irrational is that it cannot be scientifi cally verifi ed. Th ere is no empirical evidence or proof to support the belief.
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Table 8.4 Rational and Irrational Beliefs Albert Ellis (1998) has identifi ed some common irrational beliefs. The rational belief is listed next to the irrational belief.
IRRATIONAL BELIEF RATIONAL BELIEF
It is a dire necessity for me to have love and approval from peers, family, and friends.
It is desirable to win the approval of others for practical purposes. It is productive to concentrate on giving rather than receiving love.
I must be competent, adequate, achieving, and almost perfect in all that I undertake.
It is better to accept oneself as a fallible human being who makes mistakes. It is more important to do your best than to be perfect.
When people act badly or unfairly, they should be punished or reprimanded. They are bad people.
Individuals may engage in inappropriate acts. It is useful to try to help them change or to just accept them as they are.
It is awful, horrible, and catastrophic when people and things are not the way I want them to be.
It is too bad that life isn’t always the way I’d like it to be. It makes sense to try to change those things that can be changed and to accept those things that can’t be altered.
Human unhappiness is caused by external events; and individuals have little or no ability to control their unhappiness.
Emotional disturbance is caused by our attitudes about events, and we can reduce our misery by working hard to change our irrational beliefs.
I should be anxious about events or things in the future that are unknown or dangerous.
One can neither predict nor prevent unknowns in the future. It is better to change what can be changed and accept the inevitable when it is beyond our control.
It is easier to avoid than to face life’s diffi culties and responsibilities.
The easy way out is usually more diffi cult in the long run.
Human beings must be dependent on others and have someone strong on whom to rely.
Although it is helpful to turn to others for advice or feedback, making your own decisions is ultimately the better path toward accomplishing your aims.
My present problems are a result of my past history. Because I have this past, my problems must continue to endure.
Just because something affected me in the past, there is no reason that it must continue to affect me in the future. I can learn from past experiences.
There must be a perfect solution to this problem, and it is awful if I can’t fi nd it.
Some problems are insoluble. Even where solutions exist, it is likely that no solution will be perfect.
The world should be fair. We live in an unfair world. It is more productive to accept what we can’t change and to seek happiness despite life’s inequities.
I should be comfortable and without pain at all times. Few things can be achieved without pain. Although pain is uncomfortable, it can be tolerated.
Y our most important irrational pathway is musturbation—or
you’re devoutly following the tyranny of the shoulds.
Irrational beliefs (self-talk) result in inappropriate emotions, behav- iors, and more stress. Inappropriate emotions and behaviors are those that are likely to thwart an individual’s desired goals. As we discussed in chapter four, when annoyance turns into anger or disappointment turns into depres- sion, an individual is likely to be unsuccessful in achieving his or her goals. Consequently, the individual feels stressed.
On the other hand, rational beliefs (self-talk) are those beliefs that result in appropriate emotions and behaviors. Appropriate emotions and behaviors are those that are likely to help an individual attain desired goals. Conse- quently, the individual feels less stress. It is important to remember that even negative emotions (such as disappointment, concern, etc.) can be appropriate. Th e ingredient that makes a belief rational is that it can be scientifi cally verifi ed. Th ere is empirical evidence or proof to support the belief.
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We will now examine the characteristics of irrational and rational self-talk: What makes sense and what doesn’t? What objective evidence can be provided to support your self-talk—your beliefs?
Characteristics of Irrational and Rational Self-Talk
As you can see from Table 8.4 , almost all irrational self-verbalizations include Should Statements, Awfulizing Statements, and Overgeneralizations. David Burns (1999) refers to these irrational self-verbalizations as a twisted form of absolutist thinking. We will now look at these individually.
SHOULD STATEMENTS. Th ese are absolutistic demands or moral imperatives that the individual believes must occur. Individuals tend to express their shoulds in three areas: I should, you should, and the world should. Should state- ments also contain words such as ought, have to, and must.
Have you ever made statements similar to the ones below?
Helen should not be so inconsiderate. John should be a better teacher. People ought to be at meetings on time. I have to (must) make an “A” on the next test.
Th ese statements all imply that other people and things in your world need to be as you want them to be. Th is is really unreasonable.
True, it would be more pleasant if Helen were more considerate; it would be helpful if John were a better teacher; it would be benefi cial if people were at meetings on time; it would be nice to make an “A” on the exam.
Th ink about it like this: Does it really make sense that a person should or should not do something? Where can you fi nd objective proof that a person should or should not do something? Is not it reasonable that people can actually do or choose not to do whatever they want. What evidence or proof can you provide that you must make an A on the test? Are you going to die if you do not make an A?
It is perfectly rational for us to wish that people would behave diff erently and that things in our world would be as we want them to be. It is even okay to change what can be changed and accept those things that cannot be altered. It is unreasonable, however, for you to expect that other people or the world will ever meet your unrealistic expectations. Reality is reality! Failure to accept this reality can result in your life being fi lled with disappointments and more stress. Albert Ellis (2003), author of How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything—Yes, Anything, has an interesting insight:
You mainly make yourself needlessly and neurotically miserable by strongly holding absolutist irrational beliefs, especially by rigidly believ- ing unconditional shoulds, oughts, and musts.
AWFULIZING STATEMENTS. Generally, when we say that the world, ourselves, or someone should be diff erent, we imply that it is awful or terrible when they are not diff erent. Have you ever made any of the following statements? If so, ask yourself, “Where can I fi nd the proof or evidence to support these beliefs?”
L ong ago I made up my mind to let other people have their
T he way one interprets and evaluates reality is the key to one’s emotional and mental health.
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R emember, the real question for you to answer is: What
did you think to feel that?
O ur real blessings often appear to us in the shapes of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience, and we soon shall see them in their proper fi gures.
What she did to me is just awful! It is just terrible. . . . I just can’t stand it. . . . I can’t bear it. . . .
It is true that things in our world could be improved and that events that happen to us are unfortunate. However, when you consistently talk about how terrible or awful something is, you will eventually convince yourself that what you are thinking and saying is right. Th is kind of self-talk causes you to feel angry, depressed, and, therefore, stressed.
In some instances, something is so terrible or awful that you convince yourself that “you can’t stand it” or “you can’t bear it.” As cold and callous as it may sound, if you are alive and conscious, you are “standing it,” “you are bearing it.”
Would not it be far less stressful and certainly more rational for your self-talk to be:
“Th is situation is going to be diffi cult for me, but I will work hard and use my positive attitude and abilities to be as successful as I can be.”
OVERGENERALIZATIONS. We oft en make overgeneralizations based on a single incident or piece of evidence, and we ignore everything else that we know about ourselves and others. Cue words that indicate you may be overgeneralizing are: all, every, none, never, always, everybody, and nobody. Overgeneralizations frequently lead to human worth statements about our- selves and other people. And, these statements do not even make sense. Th ink about these statements!
You Were Fired: I’ll never get another job—I’m a complete failure. Your Spouse Left You: No one will ever want to marry me now—I
must be unlovable.
First of all, never and ever mean a long time. Just because you lost your job, does that prove that no one else will ever hire you and that you are a com- plete failure? To be a complete failure, you would have to fail 100 percent of the time. Th is is unrealistic. Oh yes, have you forgotten that you have had other jobs besides the one you just lost? Just because your spouse left you, does that prove that you are unlovable? Th ink about it: Who else in your life cares about you? Surely, someone else does.
Sometimes we use overgeneralizations when we exaggerate shortcomings of others. For example:
You never listen to me. You never do anything for me.
Th e chances are highly probable that “they” can remember and prove to you at least one time they listened and at least one time they did something for you.
Statements such as these lead to anger, resentment, alienation from other people, and more stress. Would not it be more accurate to say:
Sometimes you do not listen to me. You have done some nice things for me.
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Disputing Irrational Beliefs
How do you avoid these irrational beliefs that create feelings of stress? Ellis and Harper (1998; Ellis and MacLaren 2005) recommend these steps:
1. Monitor Your Emotional Reactions. Try to describe what you are feeling as accurately as possible. Say, “I feel angry, depressed, fearful, hurt, jealous, sad, worried.” Because it is possible to experience more than one negative emotion at the same time, be sure and write down all the unpleasant feelings that you are having.
2. Describe the Activating Event. Write down your perception of the event or whatever seemed to trigger the events that led to your unpleasant feelings and your present stressful condition. It may be something that someone did; it may be something you need to do but are afraid of doing; it may be a series of several small unpleasant happenings, and you have just had too much!
3. Record Your Self-Talk. What are you saying to yourself that is causing you to feel angry, depressed, and so on? What are you thinking or what is going through your head? What are you worried about? When you think about . . . (the activating event), how do you make yourself depressed or angry? Becoming aware of your self-talk may be diffi cult at fi rst, but with practice, you can learn to do so.
4. Dispute Your Irrational Beliefs. It is now necessary for you to go back to step 3 and do three things: 1) decide whether each statement is a rational or an irrational belief; 2) explain why the belief does or does not make sense; and 3) write some diff erent statements that you can say to yourself in the future to prevent yourself from having such debilitative emotions and experiencing such stress. For example, let us say that you are the type of person who overgeneralizes about the consequences of failing a test. You think such irrational thoughts as:
“Why do I always mess up?” “Th is is going to be terrible.”
Some eff ective coping statements might include:
“I’m not going to think about failing.” “I’m going to concentrate on being successful; that’s better than
getting nervous.” “I’m going to take three deep breaths, relax, calm down, and practice
positive thinking; then I’ll start to work on the exam.”
Now that you know how to identify and dispute the irrational beliefs that have been causing you stress, we will now discuss some additional ways of managing stress.
20 Tips for Managing Stress
Following is a list of several suggestions that may help you live with stress, whether it is an occasional mild upset, which most of us experience, or one that is more lasting and severe.
1. Work Off Stress. If you are angry or upset, try to do something physical such as running, gardening, playing tennis, or cleaning out the garage.
A man is hurt not so much by what happens, as by his opinion of what happens.
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Working the stress out of your system will leave you much better prepared to handle your problems.
2. Have Fun. Part of the zest for life that minimizes the adverse eff ect of stress is enjoyment. Do something each day that you really enjoy, whether it is reading your favorite book or magazine, having lunch with a friend, watching your favorite TV program, taking a walk, playing your musical instrument, or having fun with some kiddie-toy collection. Authorities agree that people who preserve their sense of fun are better equipped to solve problems, think creatively, and manage stress (Fox 1999).
3. Talk It Out. When something is bothering you, talk it out with someone you trust and respect; such as a friend, family member, clergyman, teacher, or counselor. Sometimes another person can help you see a new side to your problem and, thus, a new solution.
4. Give in Occasionally. If you fi nd yourself getting into frequent quarrels with people, try giving in once in awhile instead of fi ghting and insisting that you are always right. You may fi nd others beginning to give in, too.
5. Do Something for Others. If you fi nd that you are worrying about yourself all the time,
E xperience is not what happens to a man. It is what
a man does with what happens to him.
Afterward: If I Could Live It Over If I had to live my life over again, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take more chances. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I’m one of those people who live seriously and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments. And if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments, each after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would travel lighter than I have. If I had to live my life over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.
Nadine Stair (This delightful perspective of life was written at age 85.)
Work off your stress with some physical activity!
10 , S
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try doing something for somebody else. Th is helps get your mind off yourself and can give you a sense of well-being.
6. Have Some Real Close Friends. Having true friends that you do not need to fear criticism from, and whom you can talk freely to, is important. Friends who are accepting are not a threat to your ego. Without at least one such friend, a person is forced into emotional isolation, which in itself is a stress, and one that usually produces adverse responses.
7. Eat Sensibly. Try to have balanced meals and pay close attention to the habit of eating “junk foods.” Do not starve yourself to lose weight. Watch excessive sugar and caff eine. Th ink of your body as a car. If you do not put oil, gas, and water in your car frequently, it will quit running. So will your body if you abuse it with improper eating habits.
8. Get Organized. Plan, schedule, take notes, and keep good fi les. Organizing the daily nitty-gritty of life reduces stress. Save your memory for more creative and pleasurable things (Dembling 2006).
9. Rehearse. When you are facing a situation that you know will be stressful to you, rehearse it. Either mentally or with a friend, anticipate what might occur and plan your response. Being prepared reduces stress.
10. Do It Now. Do your most diffi cult or most hated task at the beginning of the day when you’re fresh; avoid the stress of dreading it all day. Procrastination breeds stress!
11. Learn to Say “No.” Say no when your schedule is full; to activities you do not enjoy; to responsibilities that are not really yours; to emotional demands that leave you feeling drained; to other people’s problems that you cannot solve.
12. Learn to Accept What You Cannot Change. If the source of stress is beyond your control at the present, try your best to accept it until you can change it or it changes itself. Th is is much better than spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
13. Avoid Self-Medication. Th ere are many chemicals such as alcohol and other drugs that can mask stress symptoms, but they do not help you adjust to stress itself. Also, many are habit-forming and can cause more stress than they solve; consult your doctor before you decide to use them. It is important, too, that the ability to handle stress come from within you, not from externals.
14. Live a Balanced Life. Make time for what is important to you. Work and school are important, but they are not the only important areas in your life. What about time with your family and friends? What about time for a hobby? Stop and ask yourself, “Am I spending too much time on one important area of my life and forgetting the others?”
15. Get Enough Sleep and Rest. Lack of sleep can lessen your ability to deal with stress by making you more irritable. If stress continually prevents you from sleeping, you should inform your doctor.
16. Write in a journal or diary. Studies confi rm the value of expressing stressful thoughts to others or getting them down on paper—even if you never tell anyone (Stone at al. 2000).
17. Shun the “Perfect” Urge. Some people expect too much from themselves and are in a constant state of worry and anxiety because they think they are not achieving as much as they should. No one can be perfect in everything, so decide which things you do well and put your
G od grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
K eeping in good physical shape is an important
antidote to stress overload, but it’s not the cure.
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main eff ort into these. Next, give the best of your ability to the things you cannot do as well, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you do not excel at these tasks (Basco 1999).
18. Develop a Regular Exercise Program. Like most things, including stress, there is an optimal amount. A sensible exercise program can begin with a short daily walk that is gradually increased. To avoid excess physical stress, you need to develop your own program gradually and then maintain it constantly. Th ere is increasing evidence that regular, sensible exercise causes a number of important chemical changes in the body. It helps to eliminate depression. It helps to alleviate anxiety. Sensible, enjoyable exercise is nature’s antistress reaction remedy. Experts consider aerobics to be an excellent release.
19. Take Care of Yourself. If you do not, no one else will. Don’t say, “I don’t have time.” You have got all the time there is—24 hours a day—so begin today by choosing some stress reduction techniques that will divert your attention from whatever is causing you stress. Take a leisurely day off from your routine.
20. Learn to Relax. You can learn to counteract your habitual reaction to stress by learning to relax. Relaxation gives you more energy and normalizes your physical, mental, and emotional processes. Consequently, you are more equipped to handle the stresses in your life (Underwood 2005). Consider having a relaxing massage .
The Relaxation Response
Would you like to try a deep breathing and relaxation exercise now? One of the best studied stress relievers is the relaxation response, fi rst described by Harvard’s Herbert Benson, M.D. more than twenty years ago (Carpi 1996). Its great advantage is that it requires no special posture or place. You can use this relaxation response even if you are stuck in traffi c, when you’re expected at a meeting. Or, you can use this response if you are having trouble falling asleep because your mind keeps replaying over the events of the day. Are you ready?
Sit or recline comfortably. Close your eyes if you can, and relax your muscles. Breathe deeply. To make sure that you are breathing deeply, place one hand on your abdomen, the other on your chest. Breathe in slowly through your nose, and as you do you should feel your abdomen (not your chest) rise.
Slowly exhale. As you do, focus on your breathing. Some people do better if they silently repeat the word one as they exhale; it helps clear the mind.
If thoughts intrude, do not dwell on them; allow them to pass on and return to focusing on your breathing.
Although you can turn to this exercise any time you feel stressed, doing it regularly for 10 to 20 minutes at least once a day can put you in a generally calm mode that can see you through otherwise stressful situations.
Was Dr. Benson correct? Do you feel more relaxed? Obviously, not all of these coping strategies and stress-management
techniques are applicable to everyone. So take a long, hard look at your own personal life style, and try to make a good evaluation as to what factors are adding stress to your life, particularly negative stress. Perhaps you will even fi nd yourself falling into the category of Type A behavior. Th en, select the
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374 Chapter 8 Managing Stress and Wellness
specifi c strategies that fi t your personal situation and make a commitment to do whatever is necessary to reduce the negative stress in your life or at least learn to better cope with it eff ectively.
Perhaps the words of actor and activist Christopher Reeve are worth remembering:
All of us have a voice inside that will speak to us if we let it. Sometimes it’s easy to hear; sometimes we have to turn down the
volume of the distracting noise around us so we can listen. Th at voice tells us if we are on the right rack. It lets us know if we give
as much as we take, if we welcome the opinions of others, and at least accept diversity even if we are not able to embrace it.
T hings usually turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.
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Even if it were possible to go through life without stress, we really would not want to, because stress is what prepares us to handle things we are unfamiliar with, or things that appear to threaten us. Without a doubt, some stress challenges us to think creatively and to fi nd innovative solutions to problems.
■ Stress is the rate of wear and tear within the body. ■ Th ere are four basic types of stress: eustress (good or short-term stress), distress (negative or harmful
stress), hyperstress (overload), and hypostress (underload). ■ Stress consists of an event, called a stressor, plus how we feel about it, how we interpret it, and what we
do to cope with it. ■ Two words best relate to the actual cause of stress: change and threat. Changes and threats oft en fall
into three possible categories: 1) anticipated life events, 2) unexpected life events, and 3) accumulating life events.
■ Daily hassles—irritating and frustrating incidents that occur in our everyday transactions with the environment—may sometimes pile up until they eventually overwhelm us.
■ Modern stress theory agrees that what causes us stress is not what happens to us but how we perceive what happens to us.
■ Prolonged stressful experiences can decrease the eff ectiveness of your immune system. Various illnesses can result. Short-term stress generally boosts the immune system.
■ Th e body has a three-stage reaction to stress: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Th ese stages of chain of reactions to stress are called the general adaptation syndrome.
■ Stress can be a problem because it is linked to a number of illnesses. Th ere are both physical and behav- ioral eff ects of stress.
■ Research has indicated that there are basically three personality types in relation to stress—Type A, Type B, and a combination of Type A and Type B.
■ Th ere are both negative and defensive techniques of coping with stress. Some commonly used defense mechanisms in coping with stress are: rationalization, repression, projection, reaction formation, sublimation, displacement, regression, and denial.
■ Although some events are inherently stressful for everyone, many other events are appraised as stress- ful or not according to an individual’s culture, gender, and conditioning.
■ Hardy people seem to deal more eff ectively with stress. Th ey are more likely to demonstrate the atti- tudes of commitment, control, and challenge when dealing with stressful situations. Optimistic people are more likely to cope with stress in more adaptive ways than pessimists.
■ Th ree options, when confronted with stressful events and situations, are 1) change environments, 2) change the environment, and 3) change me—improve my coping skills.
■ One of the most eff ective ways of dealing with stressful thoughts and feelings is to watch our self-talk— what we say to ourselves about our experiences or what is happening to us.
■ Self-talk can be irrational, resulting in inappropriate emotions, behaviors, and more stress. Self-talk can also be rational, resulting in appropriate emotions, behaviors, and less stress.
■ Almost all irrational self-verbalizations contain should statements, awfulizing statements, and over- generalizations.
■ Irrational beliefs that create feelings of stress can be improved by using a four-step process: 1) moni- toring your emotional reactions, 2) describing the activating event, 3) recording your self-talk, and 4) disputing the beliefs which are irrational.
■ Th ere are numerous strategies for learning to live with stress. It is important to select the specifi c strate- gies that fi t your personal situation and to which you can make a commitment for coping and dealing with the stress in your life.
Handled well, stress is a positive force that strengthens us for future situations. But handled poorly, or allowed to get out of hand, stress becomes harmful and can lead to physical, mental, or emotional problems.
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376 Chapter 8 Managing Stress and Wellness
Th erefore, it is extremely important not only that we recognize stress, but that we learn how to handle it, live with it, and make it work for us.
Test Review Questions: Learning Outcomes
1. What is stress? Give examples of the four basic types of stress. 2. Defi ne the term stressor, and explain what else stress consists of. 3. What two words best relate to the actual cause of stress? Explain the three categories that changes
and threats oft en fall into. 4. What were the main areas of stress experienced by college students in the 2008 AP poll? 5. Explain what your daily hassles consist of. 6. In relation to the power of our thoughts, what causes some people to be devastated and others to be
motivated by the same event? 7. Explain the three-stage reaction to stress. 8. Explain the relationship between the immune system and prolonged stressful experiences. 9. How does stress aff ect you physically as well as behaviorally? 10. Explain the relationship of stress to visits to doctors’ offi ces, reported illnesses and diseases, and the
eff ects of reported stress in the workplace. 11. Explain the characteristics of the Type A and Type B personality behavior patterns. Which
personality type are you? 12. List and defi ne some of the more commonly used defense mechanisms. What are the two primary
characteristics of defense mechanisms? 13. In relation to stress, explain the diff erent coping styles of men and women. 14. Explain the extent that Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American cultures
perceive stressful events which might be in the academic, fi nancial, and personal domains. 15. List and explain the three characteristics of hardy people. How do optimistic and pessimistic people
diff er in their reaction to stressful events? Explain resilience in relation to stress. 16. Explain the three options possible when confronted with stressful events and situations. 17. What is the diff erence in irrational and rational beliefs—self-talk? Name and give examples of the
three self-verbalizations frequently found in irrational beliefs—self-talk. How could these same examples be worded into rational beliefs—self-talk?
18. Identify and explain the four-step process for disputing irrational beliefs. 19. List at least ten tips, for managing stress. 20. According to Albert Ellis, what is the correct equation in relation to the cause of stressful feelings
Alarm Stage Coping Daily Hassles Defense Mechanisms Denial Displacement Distress Eustress Exhaustion Stage General Adaptation Syndrome
Hardiness Hyperstress Hypostress Immune System Irrational Belief Optimism Pessimism Projection Rational Belief Rationalization
Reaction Formation Regression Repression Resistance Stage Self-Talk Stressor Sublimation Th ought-Stopping Type A Type B
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Chapter 8 Managing Stress and Wellness 377
1. What is your personal defi nition of stress? 2. Discuss the types of situations that are most stressful to you. 3. What are some examples of daily hassles in your environment? 4. What can you do to alleviate some of the stress, as well as daily hassles, in your life? 5. Have you ever gotten a cold, strep throat, or some other bacterial or viral infection aft er a stressful
period? What do you think contributed to your getting sick? 6. How does stress aff ect you physically, as well as behaviorally? 7. Discuss this statement: Modern stress theory agrees that what causes stress is not what happens
to us but how we perceive what happens to us. 8. In relation to stress, how do Type A and Type B personalities create diffi culties in relationships
with others? 9. Discuss the diff erences in the way men and women cope with stress. 10. What techniques do you personally use to manage stress? 11. How do optimistic and pessimistic people diff er in their reaction to stressful events? 12. Which defense mechanism do you more commonly use? why?
www.youmeworks.com/optimisminterview.html Information on a healthy balance between optimism and pessimism.
http://stress.about.com / Various links on dealing with stress.
http://www.stress.org The site for the American Institute for stress.
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Where Does the Stress Come from in Your Life? Purpose: To discover where the sources of stress are in your life.
I. You need to keep track of any stressful event that occurs in your life for a one-week period of time. Each day at approximately 10:00 A.M., 6:00 P.M., and 10:00 P.M. write down each of the stressful events that occurred to you during the previous period of time.
II. Use the following form:
DAY TIME STRESSFUL EVENT
TYPE OF STRESS (INDICATE WHETHER THE EVENT INVOLVES CONFLICT, HASSLE, CHANGE, FRUSTRATION, OR SOME COMBINATION.) YOUR REACTION
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DAY TIME STRESSFUL EVENT
TYPE OF STRESS (INDICATE WHETHER THE EVENT INVOLVES CONFLICT, HASSLE, CHANGE, FRUSTRATION, OR SOME COMBINATION.) YOUR REACTION
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III. Complete the following questions at the end of the week:
1. Is there a specifi c type of stress that is most frequent in your life? Explain.
2. Is there a specifi c location or set of circumstances that produce a great deal of stress for you? Explain.
3. What specifi c reaction to the stressful events did you display? Give examples.
4. What could you do to reduce the amount of stress in your life?
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How Vulnerable Are You to Stress? Purpose: To assess how vulnerable you are to stress and to make specifi c lifestyle changes for coping with stress.
I. Score each item from 1 (almost always) to 5 (never), according to how much of the time each statement ap- plies to you.
________ 1. I eat at least one hot, balanced meal a day.
________ 2. I get seven to eight hours sleep at least four nights a week.
________ 3. I give and receive affection regularly.
________ 4. I have at least one relative within 30 miles on whom I can rely.
________ 5. I exercise to the point of perspiration at least twice a week.
________ 6. I smoke less than half a pack of cigarettes a day.
________ 7. I take fewer than fi ve alcoholic drinks a week.
________ 8. I am the appropriate weight for my height.
________ 9. I have an income adequate to meet basic expenses.
________ 10. I get strength from my religious beliefs.
________ 11. I regularly attend club or social activities.
________ 12. I have a network of friends and acquaintances.
________ 13. I have one or more friends to confi de in about personal matters.
________ 14. I am in good health (including eyesight, hearing, teeth).
________ 15. I am able to speak openly about my feelings when angry or worried.
________ 16. I have regular conversations with the people I live with about domestic problems, chores, money, and daily living issues.
________ 17. I do something for fun at least once a week. ________ 18. I drink fewer than three cups of coffee (or tea or cola drinks) a day.
________ 19. I am able to organize my time effectively.
________ 20. I take quiet time for myself during the day.
II. To Get Your Score : ________ minus 20 = ________ Total Your Score
III. Analyzing Your Results: Any number over 30 indicates vulnerability to stress. A score between 50 and 75 indicates serious vulnerability to stress. A score of over 75 indicates extreme vulnerability to stress.
“Vulnerability Scale” from the Stress Audit, developed by Lyle H. Miller and Alma Dell Smith. Copyright © Biobehavioral Associates, Brookline, MA. Reprinted with permission.
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Discussion 1. Specifi cally, what areas are causing you the greatest amount of diffi culty?
2. Specifi cally, what lifestyle changes are you willing to make in order to more effectively cope with stress?
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How Much Can You Take? Purpose: To help you become more aware of stress-producing events in your life, whether negative or positive, and to demonstrate the correlation between cumulative stress and major health changes.
I. Each participant is to individually fi ll out the Social Readjustment Rating Scale by transferring to “Your Event” column, the value of each stressful event you have experienced in the past 12 months. For example, if you have been fi red from your job, you would place 47 in “Your Event” column.
II. Total “Your Event” column.
III. Become aware of what your chances are of experiencing a major health change in the next two years:
0–150 points = 1 in 3 chance 150–300 points = 50–50 chance Over 300 points = almost 90 percent chance
IV. Divide into groups of four or fi ve to discuss the results of each individual’s scale.
Social Readjustment Rating Scale
LIFE CHANGES VALUE YOUR EVENT
Death of a spouse
Death of a close family member
Major change in health of family member
Addition of new family member
Major change in arguments with spouse
Son or daughter leaving home
Trouble with in-laws
Spouse starting or ending work
Major change in family get-togethers
Holmes, T. H. and Rahe, R. H. “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale,” from Journal of Psychosomatic Research, No. 227. Reproduced by permission from Pergamon Press Ltd., Headington Hill, Oxford, England.
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LIFE CHANGES VALUE YOUR EVENT
Detention in jail
Major personal injury or illness
Sexual diffi culties
Death of a close friend
Outstanding personal achievement
Start or end of formal schooling
Major change in living conditions
Major change in personal habits
Changing to new school
Change in residence
Major change in social activities
Major change in church activities
Major change in sleeping habits
Major change in eating habits
Minor violations of the law
Being fi red from work
Retirement from work
Major business adjustment
Changing to a different line of work
Major change in work responsibilities
Trouble with boss
Major change in working conditions
Major change in fi nancial state
Mortgage or loan for major purchase (home, etc.)
Credit card dept. or loan of more than $5,000
Total Points __________________________________
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Discussion 1. Did you already have an awareness of the amount of stress in your life or were you surprised? Which area
(family, personal, work, or fi nancial) presented more stress-producing events?
2. What are some things you could do to lessen or control stress-producing events in your life?
3. Have most of these changes and threats been more positive or negative? Why?
4. Hans Selye has said that “all the stress inventories are fl awed because they fail to give enough weight to individual differences” (Epstein 1999). How do you feel about this statement as you review your score?
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Type A and Type B Behavior Purpose: To help you identify individual personality characteristics that would indicate Type A or Type B behavior.
I. Rate yourself as to how you typically react in each of the situations listed below by circling one response for each question.
II. Find your total score by adding together the circled number response of each question.
III. Determine whether your behavior is primarily Type A or Type B according to the following scale:
Extreme Type B
Both Type A and Type B
Extreme Type A
In general: a score greater than 120 is Type A and a score less than 120 is Type B
ALWAYS FREQUENTLY SOMETIMES SELDOM NEVER
1. Are you punctual? 5 4 3 2 1
2. Do you work under constant deadlines? 5 4 3 2 1
3. Do you indulge in competitive hobbies? 5 4 3 2 1
4. Do you like routine household chores? 5 4 3 2 1
5. Do you prefer to do a task yourself because others are too slow or can’t do it as well? 5 4 3 2 1
6. Do you work while you are eating, in the bathroom, etc.? 5 4 3 2 1
7. Do you walk fast? 5 4 3 2 1
8. Do you eat hurriedly? 5 4 3 2 1
9. Are you patient and understanding? 5 4 3 2 1
10. Do you carry on several lines of thought at the same time? 5 4 3 2 1
11. Do you interrupt others when they talk about subjects that don’t interest you? 5 4 3 2 1
Mirabal, Thomas E. “Identifying Individual Personality Characteristics.” Reproduced by permission from Synergistic Training Systems, Inc, Dallas, Texas.
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ALWAYS FREQUENTLY SOMETIMES SELDOM NEVER
12. Do you pretend to listen to others when they talk about subjects that don’t interest you? 5 4 3 2 1
13. How often does time seem to pass rapidly for you? 5 4 3 2 1
14. How often do you look at your watch? 5 4 3 2 1
15. Do you feel vaguely guilty when you relax and do absolutely nothing for several hours/days? 5 4 3 2 1
16. How often do you become exasperated when standing in line at movies, restaurants, etc.? 5 4 3 2 1
17. Do you ever fi nd that you cannot recall details of the surroundings after you left a place? 5 4 3 2 1
18. How often are you preoccupied with getting materialistic things? 5 4 3 2 1
19. Do you use a relaxed, laid back speech pattern? 5 4 3 2 1
20. How often do you attempt to schedule more and more in less and less time? 5 4 3 2 1
21. How often do you feel aggressive, hostile, and compelled to challenge people who make you feel uncomfortable? 5 4 3 2 1
22. Do you accentuate your speech, talk fast? 5 4 3 2 1
23. How often do you gesture by clenching your fi sts, banging your hand on the table, pounding one fi st into the palm of the other hand, clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth, etc.? 5 4 3 2 1
24. Do you prefer respect and admiration to affection? 5 4 3 2 1
25. Do you listen well and attentively? 5 4 3 2 1
26. Do you evaluate the activities of yourself and others in terms of numbers (e.g., minutes, hours, days, dollars, age)? 5 4 3 2 1
27. How often do you play to win? 5 4 3 2 1
28. How often do you stay up late to socialize? 5 4 3 2 1
29. How often are you angry? 5 4 3 2 1
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ALWAYS FREQUENTLY SOMETIMES SELDOM NEVER
30. Do you go out of your way to conceal your anger? 5 4 3 2 1
31. How often are you dissatisfi ed with your present position or promotional progress? 5 4 3 2 1
32. Do you daydream a lot? 5 4 3 2 1
33. Do you participate in numerous organizations? 5 4 3 2 1
34. Did you ever attend night school? 5 4 3 2 1
35. How often do you go to a doctor? 5 4 3 2 1
36. Do you ever “sigh” faintly between words? 5 4 3 2 1
37. How often do you come to work even when you are sick? 5 4 3 2 1
38. How often is your laughter a grim, forced chuckle? 5 4 3 2 1
39. Do/would you avoid fi ring people? 5 4 3 2 1
40. How often are you genuinely open and responsive to people? 5 4 3 2 1
41. How often do you go to bed early? 5 4 3 2 1
42. If you smoke, do you prefer cigarettes as opposed to a pipe or cigar? 5 4 3 2 1
43. How often do you salt your meal before tasting it? 5 4 3 2 1
44. How often do you exercise? 5 4 3 2 1
45. Do you ever combine vacations with business? 5 4 3 2 1
46. How often do you work late? 5 4 3 2 1
47. How often do you hum, fi dget, or drum your fi ngers while not involved in an activity? 5 4 3 2 1
Total Points _________________________
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Discussion 1. Did the results of this exercise make you aware of any Type A behavior pattern in your own personality?
Were you surprised?
2. What are some of the dangers of Type A behavior?
3. Is it possible to change from Type A to Type B? How?
4. Would you want to change your behavior patterns if you could?
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Irrational and Rational Self-Talk Purpose: To focus on how irrational and rational self-talk can be used in common, practical events and situations.
I. For each situation below, consider how you would feel and what you might say to yourself. Then, write an irrational and a rational belief about each situation.
II. Be prepared to share your responses in a class discussion or in small groups of four or fi ve students.
SITUATION IRRATIONAL SELF-TALK RATIONAL SELF-TALK
1. You have to give a 5-minute speech in your college class (Example)
1. This is terrible. I just can’t bear having to give this speech.
1. This is going to be diffi cult. I will work hard and be as successful as I can be.
2. You didn’t meet a very important work deadline.
3. A friend cancelled a date with you.
4 . You are criticized publicly in class or at work.
5. You’re having a fi nal exam in your most diffi cult class.
6. You have just had a major “blow-up” with your fi ancee.
7. You were laid off from your job. 7. 7.
8. Write your own situation. 8. 8.
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Discussion 1. Was it easier for you to write the irrational or the rational self-talk and beliefs? Why?
2. How many times did you use should, should not, must, ought, have to?
3. How many times did you write awfulizing statements?
4. How many times did you make overgeneralizations?
5. How do you think irrational self-talk contributes to a common situation becoming more stressful?
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Coping With Stress Inventory Purpose: To analyze how you currently manage your stress.
Instructions: Listed below are some common ways of coping with stressful events. Mark those that are characteristic of your behavior or that you use frequently.
___ 1. I ignore my own needs and just work harder and faster.
___ 2. I seek out friends for conversation and support.
___ 3. I eat more than usual.
___ 4. I engage in some type of physical exercise.
___ 5. I get irritable and take it out on those around me.
___ 6. I take a little time to relax, breathe, and unwind.
___ 7. I smoke a cigarette or drink a caffeinated beverage.
___ 8. I confront my source of stress and work to change it.
___ 9. I withdraw emotionally and just go through the motions of my day.
___ 10. I change my outlook on the problem and put it in a better perspective.
___ 11. I sleep more than I really need to.
___ 12. I take some time off and get away from my working life.
___ 13. I go out shopping and buy something to make myself feel good.
___ 14. I joke with my friends and use humor to take the edge off.
___ 15. I drink more alcohol than usual.
___ 16. I get involved in a hobby or interest that helps me unwind and enjoy myself.
___ 17. I take medicine to help me relax or sleep better.
___ 18. I maintain a healthy diet.
___ 19. I just ignore the problem and hope it will go away.
___ 20. I pray, meditate, or enhance my spiritual life.
___ 21. I worry about the problem and am afraid to do something about it.
___ 22. I try to focus on the things I can control and accept the things I can’t.
Evaluate your results: The even-numbered items tend to be constructive tactics and the odd-numbered items tend to be less constructive tactics for coping with stress.
From Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 6th edition. Reprinted by permission of New Harbinger Publications.
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Congratulate yourself for the even-numbered items you checked. Summarize or list those below.
Think about whether you need to make some changes in your thinking or behavior if you checked any odd-numbered items. Summarize or list below.
Discussion 1. Of the even-numbered items you haven’t tried before, which ones do you think might be options for you to try?
2. What other positive ways of coping with stress do you think might be an option for you?
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Managing Stress and Wellness Learning Journal
Select the statement below that best defi nes your feelings about the personal value or meaning gained from this chapter and respond below the dotted line.
I learned that I . . . I was surprised that I . . .
I realized that I . . . I was pleased that I . . .
I discovered that I . . . I was displeased that I . . .
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