Practice the 4 A’s of Stress Management

While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at expected situations such as meeting monthly work targets, driving during rush hours or taking a blood test. When facing such predictable situations which will cause stress, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When determining what to do in any given scenario, it’s useful and helpful to think of the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt or accept.

1) Avoid unnecessary stress

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It’s unhealthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be resolved, but there are a number of unnecessary stressors in life that you can eliminate.

  • Learn how to say “no”. Know your limits be it your work or personal life, taking on more than you can manage will cause stress.
  • Take control of your environment. If you’re stucked in a jam in the morning when you travel to work and that causes stress to you, try to leave home earlier to avoid jam.
  • Plan on your to-do list. List down your schedule, responsibilities, daily tasks and deadlines. If you’ve got too much on your plate, prioritize your tasks based on how urgent the task is.
2) Alter the situation

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Alter the situation if you can’t avoid a stressful situation. This often involves changing the way you communicate and carry out your daily life.

  • Express your feelings instead of keeping your emotions. If someone or something is bothering you, be assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If your colleagues are chatting and you can’t work, tell them off in a polite manner. If you don’t voice out how you feel, resentment will build and stress will increase.
  • Be willing to compromise. If you and your partner are constantly arguing, both you and your partner would have to compromise to change each other’s behaviour in order to find a happy middle ground.
  • Start a balanced schedule. All work and play is a recipe for burnout. Find a balance between work and personal time.
3) Adapt to the stressors

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Adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

  • Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a positive perspective. Rather than raging at traffic jam, switch on your favourite music and enjoy it.
  • Adjust your expectations and standards. Stop being a perfectionism and set too high expectations and standards. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others as long as it is good enough.
  • Practice gratitude. When you’re breaking down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in life such as people you love and your own positive qualities.
4) Accept the things you can’t change
In certain stressful situations which you can’t avoid, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things the way it is. There are situations which you can’t avoid such as death of a loved one, serious illness or recession. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. A lot of things in life is outside of our control especially the behaviour of people. Choose to change your reaction towards them instead of stressing out over them.
  • Positive view. When you’re faced with challenges in life, look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If you’ve done a mistake which has contributed to the stressful situation, reflect on it and learn from it.
  • Learn to forgive. No one is perfect and people make mistakes. Overcome your anger and resentment by forgiving and moving on.
  • Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted family member or friend about your stressful situation. You can also talk to a trusted therapist.

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