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Good advice concerning stress

Written by:
Thomas Ihn Hansen
Master of Educational Psychology, cognitive coach and teacher. Founder of the consultancy Ihn Consulting.
  • What do we do when we are suffering stress?
  • How can you rid yourself of negative stress?
  • What can you do to reduce stress?

There has been given lots of good advice with regards to stress reduction, which it is necessary to be familiar with today. However, stress takes on different faces according to what kind of person you are. Therefore it is impossible to give a definitive method to reduce stress. In spite of this there are some constructive methods one can use when you are suffering stress.
Some possible methods will be listed, which can be used in this context.


Are you one of those people, who are stressed because you expect too much of yourself? Do you expect that you should be able to tackle all challenges and tasks by yourself?

When you are doing a job you might think that it has to be done equally good every single time. You work and work in an endless working rhythm and you probably do not take as many breaks as you need. You are a person who scrutinise everything handed to you and you believe that a good and solid structure is the answer to almost everything. You are often acknowledged in your workplace and through that you experience acclaim and support in your work.

You easily receive more tasks and you solve them in high spirits and with lots of energy. However, as the number of tasks and the difficulty level rise you find out that not everything can be solved to your satisfaction. You experience that you push yourself harder in order to complete the task The thoughts about how you solve tasks is also beginning to disturb your sleep and you soon realise that the simplest tasks seem like a burden to you. You also experience how you slowly feel more insecure as you do the jobs and you continue the downward spiral. The feeling of security you felt before is now experienced as insecurity and that hurts.
What to do now?

The problem with expectations is controlled by your inner dialogue, which among other things is how you wish other people perceive you, how you want to perceive yourself and thus the anxiety of failing.

The solutions can be many and some times it is necessary to ask a psychologist or a coach for help.
What you can do in a situation like that is to reevaluate your expectations. This, for instance, can be done by actively examining them. Here, it is important to understand the options these expectations present you with and which limitations you set for yourself. Ask yourself:

Where do they come from?
  • How does having these expectations make you feel?
  • What would happen if you had lesser expectations to yourself?
  • What do you want for yourself?
  • As your life is right now, are you acting constructively toward these wishes?
  • Do the expectations fulfil these wishes?
  • How do they do that / how do they not?
  • What can you do to get closer to what you really want?

The questions are constructed so that you will get to know your own actions as either constructively aimed at what you want or against what you want – here, you will also be able to inquire to your stress:

  • How do my feelings, actions and thoughts affect me?
  • What thoughts, feelings and actions contribute to my stress?
From here there will be initiated in relation to your problem solving ability

Problem solving

Problem solving is about solving problems in relation to all the challenges you are faced with.
You have to be mindful that it is not alway other people who are challenging you, but that you often actively contribute to the size of the challenge.

People solve problems every day up to a point. Often we do not notice that we solve problems, for example when we buy milk - because we need it. We only notice our problem solving when we are confronted by a challenge, which we cannot solve immediately without an assessment of its form and nature. Problem solving means to solve a problem in a sufficiently expedient manner, which reduces our experience of the problem. We have only achieved true problem solving when we no longer perceive the challenge as being a problem.

Ergo, problem solving is about finding appropriate solutions to a problem and through that experiencing a feeling of satisfaction. When this feeling has been reached the stress level is lowered and a state of equilibrium emerges. When we are not able to solve problems in relation to a challenge / problem, complications will occur – for what do we do with regards to the problem and the emotional strain?
This experience is not unknown – you have probably experienced something like this at some point.
Try to ask yourself the following question:

  • Have I given myself enough time to solve the job / problem?

Time is a factor and it influences how well we solve a problem – often we do not give ourself enough time to make the right decision or to take the right action. We are, on the contrary, experts in solving problems in the short run, which means that we rarely attain a real solution to the problem. It ends up being about shortening the problem's schedule instead of, in an expedient and long-term way, solving the problem and thereby learning to accept that problem solving is time-consuming.

  • Do I know enough about the problem to solve it?

Knowledge about what you are doing and what it takes to solve a problem is alpha and omega to expedient problem solving. Examine your problem and identify what it is about. Do not get complacent before all the facts are known – we are often challenged on all levels; emotionally, with regards to knowledge and so on. These might lead our thoughts away from a more true problem solving.
Find out what questions the problem rouse in you – be active with regards to finding an answer to them, since it often reveals what you really want an answer for and how the problem is affecting you. Find out how and what it takes to make you satisfied – which questions are more urgent? When you attain knowledge about your problem you also reduce the stress level, since it often is connected to the lack of knowledge and the ability to see through the problem.

  • Can I solve the problem by myself or do I need help?

Many people imagine that they will not encounter a problem they cannot solve, but in reality this happens more often than one might think. It is not always enough to gather knowledge – to give yourself time to solve problems. Sometimes we end up without enough insight to see what the problem is doing to us. We experience that no matter what we do the problem continues to exist unchanged. It is especially in these situations that we need the help from other people.

You have to be good at utilising your network in your problem solving and you will often find other ways to view the problem or find additional knowledge. Often you will be challenged with regards to the manner in which you handle the problem, which can be constructive when you cannot. You have to be good at reflecting on problems with your friends, family or professionals. You will not only have the opportunity of getting a new perspective, you will also be trained in utilising the resources around you in order recognise your own boundaries.

To share your problems with others can work miracles with regards to stress. To be met with understanding and the chance to see things differently has a beneficial effect with regards to stress reduction.

Structure (planning of rest – without rest)

Lots of people, who are suffering from stress, tell stories about demanding weekdays with lots of activities. At the same time they have a hard time meeting the many demands that are made to them. We often plan constructive actions in our daily life which should result in concrete rewards – like for instance work-related taks, shopping, cleaning and social commitments. To plan and structure our life is often necessary in order to make our everyday-life work, however we often plan too many things in our daily life – thus our structure is becoming an annoying and stressful factor in our life instead of something benefits us. Here you have to consider what is more basic to your life.

What is really necessary to plan in to your daily life?
What wishes and expectations do you fulfil by planning the way you do today? When you answer the question, try to think of your wish and ask yourself which one of your daily actions that affect your wish in a positive direction.

If you experience that your wish is boosted and is growing because of what you do, you are acting expediently – but when you encounter actions that do not have a beneficial effect on your wishes, then stop and assess how it is influencing your wish and whether you can eliminate this action. You can for instance replace it with something that has a positive effect in relation to what you wish.
You also have to ask yourself how you will prioritize peace and quiet in your daily structure – do you include that?
Ask yourself whether you actually rest when you say you do?

Or do you do a lot of chores like checking your e-mail, making an ”important” phone call, doing the dishes and so on. We often have a tendency to tell ourselves what we have to do. This can be job-related tasks, practical concrete actions, deadlines and other necessary things – however, we often forget to tell ourselves when we need to rest. Our need to rest is shelved like a waste of time and it is only allowed when the weekend approaches. Try to include rest as an active and calculated variable in your life, where you intentionallychoose to spend your time on something that has a positive effect on your frame of mind and the experience of energy, like for instance exercise, taking part of social gatherings and so on.

Inner dialogue

The inner dialogue is about what you tell yourself, experience and feel when you are faced with a specific problem.
Stress can be worsened by the inner dialogue, because you often will find the voice of your guilty conscience and your expectations. In the inner dialogue you interpret the situations and feelings you experience, given that the inner dialogue often is controlled by thoughts and emotions. The inner dialogue appears as jumble of emotions, thoughts and images that can be hard to decipher. Often you will be able to interpret two characters in your inner dialogue – either a negative one or a positive one.

These two types are an indication of what you attribute the things you have experienced in the situation, the task and so on to. The more time you wonder over something, the more you expose yourself to stress. Herein you have to be aware of what your thoughts are about. A positive thought could have solved a task in a satisfying manner, wherein you use energy to recall the positive experience. The inner dialogue can be about feeling proud, to think of oneself as being a winner, and that you see your boss smiling at you. This type strengthens your perception of yourself, your self-confidence and your self-worth. However, it is more complicated when you experience something negative.

It can also be about a bad experience you have had, where you feel insecure - that you see yourself at the bottom of the food chain and where you feel it is impossible to rectify the error.

The examples are quite normal and they tell how a situation, which stems from two different experiences, can be interpreted. Here, you have to be aware of what you tell yourself and especially which opportunities you create for yourself in relation to development and active problem solving. The inner diaogue can open up to new opportunities or limit your options. Often we relate to negative experiences with emotions like pain, sorrow, frustration and so on. Our thoughts lead us in this direction and we have difficulty rising above them. In essence we are trapped by a feeling of being limited and the fear of not being good enough. Thoughts like ”I will never be able to...” and ”if I do not do it today, I will never do it” actively shut us off from opportunities that might free us.

You have to be aware of the inner dialogue type; discuss it with yourself and be on the look-out for options. If you choose to think thoughts like ”I will find a solution to that problem” you give yoursef opportunities to do the very same and you will presumably search for the solution. Therefore, the inner dialogue can be corrected and it can be made more expedient depending on the way you choose to relate to it and the position you place yourself in with regards to the problem.

With regards to negative experiences we often forget the competencies we possess and we are easily distracted by anger and frustration because we do no suffice. We then turn the anger inwards and focus it on our self-confidence and self-worth. Problem solving often lies in accepting, on a more objective and analytic plane, what we did wrong and accept that we cannot do things right all the time. It is also significant that we are able to contain our own frustration, anger and sorrow, and that we accept these emotions as a natural part of being a human being. Instead of running away from the emotion and using it against ourself, it is more expedient to convert it into constructive energy, where we acknowledge and accept this as a reaction to something we have experienced.

Emotions exist so that we can actively search for the feelings that have a positive effect on us and to learn by the ones that have a negative effect on us. It is not about protecting ourselves from these emotions, but to use them as a measure for what is working and what is not working in our life. Accepting this will tell us that it is okay to react like we do; when we have done this we spend less energy on fighting it. Instead we free more energy, which enables us to be able to relate to the problem in a more constructive way.

Thus, you can address the inner stress factors and focus your energy on solving problems. This experience will often lead to more expedient methods, which you will pick up as a natural variable in your life. Hereby you will become better at listening to yourself and understanding yourself - and in the end this can prevent stress.

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