How to Successfully Navigate Stress in Your Life

think organisation stress model
think organisation stress model

Stress is an external pressure that can positively or negatively impact individuals, teams, organisations or societies. This time four years ago there was an unprecedented level of societal stress – the pandemic. In 2024, the UK was ranked as the second most miserable country to live in (Business Insider, 2024) due to stressors such as high cost of living and political turmoil. Societal stress impacts people’s health and well-being and is classified as an external stressor.

A stressor is something which causes a state of strain or tension.

External stressors such as a situation, person or task can vary significantly depending on the individual. A stressor for one person may not be for another person e.g. presenting in front of an audience. Stressors are personal and organisations must understand the personal nature of stressors.

Stressors can also be internal. Memories, past experiences or thoughts about situations can cause stress. Like the image above, internal stressors such as a negative outlook can contribute to individuals succumbing to stressors. Individuals only have limited personal resources to overcome stressors. Time, quantity and whether the stressor is expected or unexpected all impact an individual’s ability to overcome or deal with stressors.

Stress is the pressure exerted on an object or person.

The diagram below shows how vulnerable people can be to the stressors impacting them and causing stress. Stressors can be significant (e.g. bereavement) or more mundane (e.g. getting to meetings on time when busy). As shown below the volume of stressors can also impact individuals.

Individuals need to own their stressors and there are many tools which can help with this. Below are some key activities which can be used to help reduce the impact of stress, or increase personal resources to overcome or deal with stressors.

Top Ten Recommendations for Individuals to Reduce the Impact of Stressors

  1. Identify Stressors
    • being able to recognise positive and negative sources of stress in your life, including work, relationships, financial concerns, and other factors is crucial as every individual is more or less susceptible to different stressors.
  2. Develop Coping Strategies
    • because individuals have unique mechanisms to manage stress which work for them. This might include relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation, for others it might include a long run or gym workout. The coping strategies must be positive, and not negative (e.g. drinking to relax).
  3. Prioritise Tasks
    • ensuring you can organise your tasks, and complete them in manageable steps is essential to ensure you get a sense of accomplishment, and that your task list is not overwhelming. Lots of online tools can help if you pick one which suits your work style.
  4. Use your strengths
    • as this is vital to ensure you gain energy from the activities you are undertaking, they also help ensure you enjoy what you are doing, as opposed to having to use additional energy to overcome barriers
  5. Be Healthy for you
    • ensure you engage in regular, enjoyable physical exercise and eat a balanced diet. Sleep is fundamental to this equation as ensuring enough sleep enhances your internal ability to cope with stressors.
  6. Seek Social Support
    • because humans need connections, we are social animals. Connect with friends, family, or support groups if these help as it is important to have an opportunity to talk about your feelings and concerns with trusted individuals, who can provide emotional support and help you gain perspective.
  7. Time Management with Stressor Limits
    • because spending excessive time with stressors will impact anyone. This might involve setting boundaries, delegating tasks, or making lifestyle changes.
  8. Engage in Relaxing Activities
    • which suit you. Don’t penalise yourself if mindfulness is not for you, many people prefer reading, listening to music, gardening, walking or pursuing other mindful hobbies. Engaging in enjoyable activities can provide a welcome distraction from stressors and allow your mind time to recharge.
  9. Get yourself a coach
    • because having someone who can help you increase your self-awareness, acknowledge current challenges, work through tactics to help resolve stressors and be a confidential confidante can be invaluable. Ensure your coach is ICF-accredited and qualified.
  10. Seek Professional Help if Needed
    • because it is always important to know there are lots of support options out there. If stress becomes overwhelming or persists despite self-help efforts, don’t hesitate to seek support from a mental health professional. This could be a Psychologist, Counsellor, Doctor or other qualified and accredited expert as therapy and medication may be beneficial in managing chronic stress.

Why everyone should measure their level of stress over time.

Humans were designed to overcome stress. Stress can be defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. It is the body’s natural response to challenges or threats, whether they are real or perceived. Stress triggers a cascade of physiological reactions, including the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body to either fight the stressor or flee from it (the “fight or flight” response). While acute stress can be beneficial in certain situations, chronic stress, which occurs over an extended period, can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health, leading to conditions like anxiety, depression, cardiovascular problems, and weakened immune function.

Reduce stressors to improve your health.

Measuring individual stress levels is crucial for several reasons. It enables the identification of specific stressors, aiding in their targeted management and prevention of chronic stress. Monitoring stress contributes to overall health awareness, facilitating personalised stress management strategies. Additionally, it enhances self-awareness and mindfulness, leading to improved performance and productivity. Regular assessment also assists in evaluating the effectiveness of interventions and enables early intervention and support when needed, promoting overall well-being and resilience.

Often when we are feeling overwhelmed or stressed we get pushed down the more negative road as it becomes difficult to collect our thoughts due to the way our body responds. This is why it is crucial to understand your current levels of stress, and seek professional help when required.

In the UK, organisations have a role to support the psychological well-being of their employees, both morally and legally (HSE, 2024). If you would like to know more about how to measure current levels of stress across your organisation, within teams or on individual levels please reach out to Think Organisation.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact.

Check our Insights page for more valuable information.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact. 

Check our Insights page for more valuable information.

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