Guillermo Varela Arjona, Jose Mª Salinero Aroca, Cándida
Sevilla Solano, Francisco Javier Lemus Gallego and Cristina de las
The present module intends to present a wide panorama of stress,
its sources, its consequences and the different ways to do well.
Stress is a current problem that we must know and try to avoid,
since it is one of the worse feelings we can experience in our lives.
In the labour world, responsibility, decision-making, the dissatisfaction
derived from the conditions or work organization, the “psychic
charge” in short, can be stress sources. We must learn to
identify its signs and learn how to avoid them for the development
of our professional life.
- To know the history of this phenomenon of the human beings
- To recognize which are the main sources of stress
- To recognize which situations can be stressful, and the most
- To know the effects that stress provokes.
- To learn how to avoid it and to confront stressful situations.
- To learn how to relax in stressful situations
- To recognize our erroneous thoughts and to change them.
- To manage social abilities to know how to transmit their state
2. WHAT IS STRESS?
One of the current situations is stress. In the developed countries,
more than half of the population suffers from stress. We belong
to this region.
The origins of this notion are old; Hippocrates underlined the
existence of a “vis medicatix naturae”, a healing power
of the nature, that is to say to launch physiologic mechanisms,
to defend oneself from external aggressions. But it is not until
the XIXth century, that the first investigations on stress began
(Bernard, Haldane and Hans Selye). The latter defined the characteristic
symptoms and denominated it “General Syndrome of Adaptation”.
The term “stress” has its origin in physics, where
it refers to a force or weight that produces different degrees of
tension or deformation in different materials. When Selye in 1926
introduced the term stress in health sciences and gave it a new
meaning. In this case, the term stress does not refer to the stimulus
(weigh or charge), but to the answer of the organism. Selye uses
the term stress to describe the addition of unspecified changes
of the organism as a response to a stimulus or situation. It seems
that this change of defining stress like an answer instead of a
stimulus (weigh or charge) was due to their bad knowledge of English.
However, what is stress?
It is the answer of our organism to a state of excessive and permanent
tension that goes beyond the own forces. Indeed, stressed people
are located in some life conditions that lead them continually to
exhaustion, an accumulation of constant superman effort, a strong
motional or/and intellectual tension, with a lack of time.
Mc Grath (1970) defines stress: “Stress is a substantial
imbalance (perceived) between the demand and the answer capacity
(of the individual) under conditions in which failure facing this
demand has great consequences (perceived).”
Other authors1 base their definition
of stress on interaction. In their works, they reach the conclusion
that psychological stress is the consequence of the imbalance there
is between the demands of the environment and the resources that
the individual has to satisfy them.
According to Lazarus and Folkman, it is necessary to take into
account two keys questions: the evaluation of the situations
and the confrontation of the individual to them. The evaluation
is the process by which the individual values the situations depending
on his abilities and his experiences about the event. The confrontation
includes the cognitive and behavioural efforts, which has to carry
out a person to face the external and internal events in a continuous
Stress is the answer that includes cognitive and physiologic aspects
with a high degree of activation of the Autonomous Nervous System
and motive aspects that usually imply unfitted and scarcely adaptive
- Answers of the cognitive system: thoughts
and feelings of concern, fear, insecurity, etc, that is to say,
some recurrent thoughts that lead the individual to a state of
alert, anxiety, tension, lack of concentration. They think that
other people can feel their problems.
- Answers of the physiologic system: throbs,
abnormally rapid heartbeat, mouth dryness, difficulty to swallow,
chills, shivers, sweating, muscular tension, anxious breathing
and breathlessness, stomach discomfort, sickness... We present
in Appendix I a type of relaxation by Jacobson.
- Answers of the motive system: difficulty to
speak, blocks or stammer, clumsy movements, answers to escape
or avoid some subjects, they smoke, eat and drink more, cry, repetitive
movements of feet and/or hands and strange behaviours that other
people can perceive.
Each person has a stress response when facing a threatening situation.
The three previous answer systems are not always present. Two of
them can be more intensive and the other weaker. Alternatively,
there can be one of high intensity or the three of an average, moderate
or high intensity. We have a characteristic profile of anxiety and
if we know our answers, we can begin to reduce stress with the strategies
that we will study later on.
Anyway, we should say one thing; the answer to stress is not something
bad in itself, but on the contrary, it helps having more resources
to face situations that are supposed to be exceptional. However,
since many extraordinary resources are activated, it represents
an important weakening for our organism. If it is an isolated issue,
there will be no problem, because the organism has the capacity
for recovering. Nevertheless, if these stress answers are too frequent,
intensive or long, the organism may not recover. Some problems may
appear, known as disorders associated with stress.
3. WORK STRESS AND BURNOUT
Work stress is one of the most investigated issues since it can
affect the activity and efficiency at work of any professional,
and personal life.
Work stress is the result of the worker's perception: he or she
thinks that the demands of its professional activity overcome his
or her own capacities. It can be due to objective and subjective
The International Labour Organization (ILO) refers to work stress
as: “Dangerous illness of the developed and developing economies.
It damages production because it affects the physical and mental
health of the workers.
The ILO maintains that the companies that help their employees
face stress and reorganize carefully the labour atmosphere in all
its environments have more possibilities to achieve competitive
The expenses and losses derived from the cost of stress increase
year after year: Absenteeism, low productivity, accidents at work,
low motivation and what is more important, the incidence on mental
and physic health, are some examples of its consequences.
3.1. BURNOUT SYNDROME
The Burnout Syndrome or syndrome of “being burnt”
is an alteration that appears in the workers because of their relationship
with the labour market. Freudenberger first described it in 1974,
although Malach and Jackson in 1986 define the concept more clearly.
It is fundamentally present in professions where there is a direct
attention to people or assistance.
The Burnout Syndrome has the following characteristics:
- Emotional exhaustion: a professional weakening
that leads the worker to a psychic and physiologic exhaustion.
There is a loss of energy, physical and psychical tiredness. It
takes place when we have to carry out some labour functions daily
and permanently with people that we have to assist as objects
of our work.
- Depersonalisation: It takes place in negative
attitudes in relation to users/clients. People are more irritable,
and less motivated. This can lead to dehumanisation.
- Lack of personal fulfilment: Weakening of
personal self-esteem, frustration of expectations and physiologic,
cognitive and behavioural stress manifestations.
As we have said previously, the Burnout syndrome is a sort of specific
stress that arises from the person's relationship with work. Its
consequences are very similar to stress manifestations in the three
answers levels. It appears in a progressive way because of the effort
of inadequate adaptation from the worker to the reality that overcomes
him. The quantity of work, its difficulty and the seriousness of
the problems he must overcome show the evolution.
4. SOURCES OF STRESS
Before beginning with this point, let us try to write down all
the situations that provoke stress.
Stress is impossible to avoid, people even increase frequently
their own stress unnecessarily. The difference between the exigencies
people have with themselves or perceive from other people, as well
as the available resources to satisfy those requirements, can constitute
a threat or a stress source.
Many stress sources can be classified into the following list:
- Intense and extraordinary events: Changes
in situations like matrimonial separation, work dismissals, death
of relatives, etc.
- Daily stressful events of small intensity:
According to some authors, this sort of events can cause more
important psychological and biological effects than more drastic
events like the death of a relative can generate.
- Events of maintained chronic tension: Those
situations that generate maintained stress during short or long
periods. The stress that implies having a son that has problems
every day because of an illness, drug addiction, etc. These stressful
situations are intensive, similar to vital events; they recur
and last in time. This combination of high intensity and duration
makes the effects of these events the most important.
4.1. SOURCES OF WORK STRESS:
- Stressful elements of the physical atmosphere,
Stressful elements of the task: Stress generation
varies from one person to another, since the characteristics of
each task and of what it generates in the professionals depend
on what they like or do not like to do. When the task is adapted
to the expectations and the professional's capacity, it contributes
to the psychological welfare and it is an important motivation.
Among these stressful elements, we can find:
- Illumination: It is not the same thing to
work on the night shift than on the day shift.
- Noise: When you continually work with alarms;
it can affect ears, but also work: satisfaction, productivity,
- Polluted environments: The perception of
risks can produce more anxiety in the professional, having repercussions
on efficiency and on the psychological welfare.
- Temperature: To work sometimes in a hot
atmosphere generates a big discomfort.
- Weight: For the professionals who must work
in warehouses loading and unloading merchandise, tiredness can
Stressful elements of organization: The most
important stressful elements that appear in organization are the
- The mental charge of work: The degree of
energy and mental capacity that the professional sets in motion
to carry out the task.
- The control on task: When the task is not
controlled, that is to say, when the activities we have to carry
out overcome our knowledge.
- Conflict and ambiguity of the Role: There
are differences between what the professional expects and
the reality of what demands the organization. There can be
conflicts like for example: to receive contradictory orders
from a manager or when desires and goals have nothing to do
with what we are really doing. When you are not sure of what
you have to do, work objectives and the inherent responsibility
it has can stress us a lot.
- The excessive working day: It produces
physical and mental weakening and avoids the professional
to face stressful situations. For example, a night shift can
be longer than a day or afternoon shift; therefore, at the
end of the day, the professional will be more tired and his
or her physical and mental capacity can diminish.
- The interpersonal relationships: They can
become a source of stress. Think about an emotionally unbalanced
professional that makes his or her colleagues’ life
a misery. It is a continuous source of stress. On the contrary,
when there is a good interpersonal communication and social
support and help from the company, there are not so many negative
effects on our health.
- Promotion and professional development:
If the professional aspirations do not correspond with reality
for a lack of valuation, it can generate a deep frustration
The influence also comes from breaks, interpersonal relationships,
observations / criticism from the colleagues, communication difficulties
and limited promotion possibilities. These factors can also generate
We present two ways of classifications of the possible stress situations
that everybody has at work or as an analysis of stress prevention
facing the organization situation and labour plan.
Stress scale: The objective is to identify the
students’ stress, so that they begin to identify the possible
Complete chart nº 1.
Sources of the students' stress:
|Sources of work stress
||With what weekly frequency it takes place
||What do I think when I am in stressful
||What do I feel?
||What am I used to do?
Complete chart nº 2.
Choose a stress source that you enumerated in chart nº 1.
Write, at least, two scripts for each stage of confrontation with
the stress sources. The scripts should limit the perturbing emotions;
provoke positive emotions that may place you in a good position
to control this stressful situation.
|Before the situation.
|During the stressful situation.
|After the stressful situation.
If the results are positive.
If the results are negative.
5. STRESS IDENTIFICATION: SIGNS
Stress accumulation usually provokes different reactions. The
quantity of stress people need before they show it varies depending
on different factors related with the personality (insecurity, perfectionism),
heritage, habits and defence mechanisms. Next, we expose the signs
and symptoms associated to professional stress:
- Chronicle tiredness
- Dream agitation (insomnia, nightmares…)
- Gastric ulcer and other gastrointestinal upsets (nauseas, vomits,
- Alimentary disorders
- Loss of weight
- Abnormally rapid heartbeat, throbs, hypertension
- Frequent migraines
- Allergy problems and dermatitis
- Muscular aches (back, neck, shoulders)
- Menstrual disorders
- Inability to concentrate, problems for memorizing, forgetfulness
- Irritability, mistrust, criticism of other people
- Affective distance, reserve
- Low self-esteem, disappointment feelings, delusion and desires
to give up the work
- Depression and suicide ideas
- Self-criticism, fault feelings and self-sacrifice: Work more
- Labour absenteeism: periods of sick leaves.
- Increasing of violent behaviours as anger, aggressiveness and
disproportionate answers to the external stimuli
- Excessive use of substances like coffee, tobacco, alcohol,
tranquillizers and sedatives
- Personal abandon
- Passivity facing the demands of other people
- Impossibility to relax
- Walks without direction
- Negation of feelings
- Effort to contain the feelings
- Irony, rationalization
- Selective attention regarding the patients
- Changes in feelings
5.1. Stress effects:
Work stress will also have repercussions on personal life and on
the efficiency and quality at work. When the worker comes back home
after his or her working day, he or she carries all the accumulated
tension and this has consequences on his or her family. That person
will continually complain about his or her work, he/she will direct
his or her dissatisfaction, laments and aggressiveness towards the
partner, and it may lead to a crisis and rupture of the marriage.
The individual affected by professional stress is unable to develop
his or her family role, he or she has fewer attention and dedication
for his or her family. He says it is aimed at protecting them, although
the only reason is that he or she does not want to relive his or
her work problems. The effect of repressing his or her feelings
will modify his or her personality in a negative way, for his or
her own person and for the relationships with the others, suffering
from the lack of communication at all levels.
In relation to work, the most evident result will be a lost of
efficiency, smaller motivation, bigger frustration, dissatisfaction
and disillusion, prevailing a dropout and non-participative attitude.
6. PREVENTION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The prevention of stress is quite important and decisive. It is
easier to face it in the initial phases than when it is already
“established” in the person.
The others are very often those who observe the changes and attitudes
in a stressed person. The people that surround us are those who
can check the precocious diagnosis of stress, and therefore the
professionals of the team should be aware of what they represent.
Once in our professional life stress can appear, and it is a risk
for us, it is important to know it, to assume our limitations and
to ask for help when we lose control.
7. WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN WE FEEL STRESSED?
Next, we detail some general advice when you are stressed.
- Stop and breath deeply
- Admit we are exceeded. It is important to recognise our feelings
to face them.
- Keep a sense of perspective. If we have already experienced
this situation previously and we have succeeded in overcoming
it, we can also do it this time
- Make a mental list of the tasks you have to carry out and classify
them, from the most important to the least, taking into account
the most urgent.
- Complete only one task at the same time, and try to think only
on this thing because if you don’t, the rest only steals
time and energy that you need for the very task you are carrying
out. If you get another task, classify them into your list. A
professionalism sign is flexibility.
- Plan to save time. Take some cautions as a routine. We should
check our resources to use them with efficiency.
- Ask for help to your colleagues or boss. It is necessary to
admit that many times we cannot make everything alone. We have
to learn how to ask for help.
8. USEFUL ADVICE FOR OUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE
8.1. Cognitive techniques
The cognitive techniques to reduce stress are more effective in
individuals whose answer profile is predominantly cognitive. This
type of techniques aims at modifying erroneous or negative evaluations
with regard to the demands or of the individual’s own resources
to confront them and facilitate the restructuring of the cognitive
Some distorted habits or thoughts are quite common and we can identify
them to be able to modify them. We present the most representative
elements to identify and face them:
- Arbitrary inference: to establish conclusions
or to be convinced of sources that have motivated the behaviour
of other people, without having any data or information enough
on that situation: “I have not achieved the position
I requested, for sure somebody is trying to destroy me and they
want to dismiss me”
- Thought divination: to guess or invent the
sources for the given behaviour of other people, without enough
data, without any reason. “If I say something during
the meeting, they will think I only speak nonsense and they will
push me away...”
- Generalisation: to reach conclusions about
a person capacity or value, usually your own person, starting
from vague and inexact data. Starting from certain behaviours
or behavioural habits, we establish a global trial, for example:
“I have not been able to answer to his criticism, I
- Magnification: to exaggerate the meaning of
a negative event or of an error, and everything seems worse than
it really is. “They will never forgive me since I could
not be present the day of the company decision” “I
arrived late they will not take me into account next time”
- Minimisation: to give less importance to the
meaning of a positive event, success or personal achievement than
this it really has. “It is true that I solved the opening
of this site, but I am not good at starting a business”
- Imperatives: people own and even other people’s
strict rules of behaviour. When somebody does not behave according
to them, it can generate aggressiveness, for example: “it
is necessary to be always on time...” “I have to do
it well so that I make money”
- Absolute thoughts: to think of everything or
nothing, white or black, correct or incorrect.... this is this
sort of dichotomic thought where there are no graduation possibilities,
only absolute values. For example: “you have not been
able to solve all the company documentation this week, it means
that you do not know how to do it”.
- Personalisation: You charge with responsibility
of a negative event independently of the events that surround
the event. For example: “if I don't get 20 clients in
one week that because is I am not worthy”.
- Emotional reasoning: You consider that the
way we feel or the emotions we experience are the reality of what
is happening. For example: “if I feel afraid to start
a business, it must be dangerous “
These irrational thoughts or ideas can arise in 4 fundamental ways
- Self-dialogue and terrifying self-affirmations: “it
is terrible....” “it will be horrible....” “It
can be catastrophic”
- Statements in terms of “it should be”, “it
is necessary that...”
- Thoughts of “I cannot bear”, “I cannot
stand”, “I cannot tolerate”
- Valuation of personal wealth taking as a reference other people,
what leads to self-condemnation and self-disdain.
People with these types of thoughts may easily perceive reality
in a distorted way and it is then difficult for them to reach any
objective or personal goal, provoking a problem of adaptation to
To be able to modify the way they interpret reality or think about
an event, we present the cognitive reorganization technique:
- Objective description of the event: Describe
the event in the most possible objective way, emphasising on aspects
like: how did it happen, who was there, for how long?
“Today is the eve of a holiday in the supermarket where
I am in charge and they have had to help me to solve a problem
with a supplier because I was at the cash desk showing how to
use the card”.
- Description of the emotional answers and behaviours
that have arisen from the interpretation of that event:
It is a description of how you felt and what behaviours have
appeared during the event and after it.
“I am angry”, “I feel rage and anger”,
“I have not eaten anything since the event of the supermarket”
- Irrational ideas: “I have to work more
quickly tomorrow”, “Today my bosses won't accept me,
I have failed”, “I have to make everything well so
that people I care for accept and consider me”
- Discussion of irrational ideas: This is the
most important point in the process. The objective is to analyse
each irrational idea, one by one to realise that they are distorted
and erroneous ideas that avoid us achieving goals. We will follow
the following steps:
- We choose an irrational idea
“I have to make everything well so that people I
care for accept and consider me”
- What reasons support this thought? Has this idea
a real support?
“No, there is nothing that can show me it is true”
- What proofs do we have?
“Every day I work well, I assist all the suppliers
and I carry out other tasks; moreover, there is no universal
law that tells me that I must do everything well”
“Why do I have to look at other people to valuate
- Possible effects of my thoughts
In fact, I do not live better thinking, and it avoids
me to solve other situations. So I only speak with myself,
I interpret the reality erroneously.
If I go on like this, I will have more breathlessness,
will not eat and worsen my health.
- Substitution of these thoughts for other more rational
or adaptive ones:
Once you have detected and analysed these thoughts, you
have to use some strategies to think rationally and adaptively.
- Self-affirmations or self-instructions that generate
automatic changes with these thoughts: “it is only
a thought, it is stupid”, “there is no evidence
that what I am thinking is true”, “I do it
better and better...”, “I am getting more
and more successes in my confrontation situations”
- To focus on evaluating the situation more positively:
“What steps have I made in this situation to be
successful?” “What changes will help me carrying
out things I could not do before?
- Exaggeration of these thoughts: “it is true that
I am useless at work, at home, crossing the street, cooking,
as a friend, etc.”
To get success with this technique it is necessary to train; at
the beginning, you should do it with a pencil and sheet of paper,
until you do it well.
We are going to analyse the following irrational ideas, trying
on the one hand to classify them and, on the other hand to modify
Level of anxiety
From 1 to 10
|“My friend doesn't want to meet me to have
|“My boss believes I don't make any effort”
|“I am very slow, I should work quicker”
How to confront with stress?
- Establish realistic objectives
- If you try to do more than it is humanly possible to
do, this will send you beyond your limits and it will
create unnecessary stress. We should leave our idealistic objectives
behind and approach the real world having taken into account our
capacity and limitations.
- Maintain a realistic expectation of the relationships
you have at work.
- Nobody is perfect, nor you. There is always
a risk of conflicts, it is necessary to accept the faults of other
people and it is necessary to be kinder with oneself.
- Practice of assertiveness, to learn how to
This is one of the most difficult things, since everybody expects
a lot from us and we try to satisfy their expectations. To say
“no” politely and with a good reason does not mean
we should feel guilty, and will not make the others move away
from us neither.
- To take regular rests
Some minutes of relaxation with a cup of coffee can make us
feel better and give us strength to face our work. Take one
day free or some small vacations extra can be good for us. Everybody
has a limit for the quantity of stress he can tolerate and we
do not have to feel guilty.
- Leave boredom and routine
Look for new challenges and try to escape from the routine:
it is always useful. Doing the things you usually do in a different
way provides a bigger personal freedom and autonomy.
Continue your training
In order to have your knowledge updated with the new advances
in your profession, you can get it with off-the-job training,
conferences and magazines; you will have more knowledge and
will be able to apply them.
- Take things with more distance
It can really help us, especially when we get too involved
in certain labour tasks. On the other hand, you should leave
your work at work (“leave the uniform at work”).
- Use a “relaxing routine”
Participate in some activity after the working day, take a
drink in a bar, practice some sport, go on foot to your house
if possible, it will help you forget your work and relax, and
there will be no tension with your family and friends.
- Know yourself
- Analyse your own reactions and meditate on
them is important. The self-analysis should be constructive; Learning
from our errors is not a self-condemnation but a step toward personal
growth. It is essential to intensify our positive aspects, to
think from time to time about the achievements and personal recompenses
we obtain with our work because they can counterbalance with our
frustrations and failures.
- Learn how to relax and rest
Many symptoms of stress are psychosomatic. It can be useful
to learn how to relax physically and mentally. You have to relax
but also identify and treat the symptoms to get rid of them.
Many techniques as the abdominal breathing, the self-massage
that can contribute to get rid of muscular tension, and the
progressive relaxation can favour the dream and diminish the
levels of anxiety.
Progressive relaxation by Jacobson
Now we will carry out a relaxation technique that will be we very
useful in moments of excessive tension, anxiety, insomnia, depression,
tiredness and whenever we want to relax. The progressive relaxation
of Jacobson is based on the premise that the answers of the organism
to anxiety. The deep muscular relaxation reduces physiologic tension
and it is incompatible with anxiety: the habit of responding in
a way annuls the habit of responding the other one.
The necessary time for its training is from one to two weeks, in
sessions of 15 minutes everyday. The use of a tape recorder is recommended
for its practice along with a soft and relaxing music.
Progressive relaxation involves first tensing your muscles and
then letting the tension go. You might wonder why we first tense
the muscles. Imagine a pendulum. In order for you to get the pendulum
to swing furthest to one side, you have to pull it far along the
other. Similarly, to relax your muscles, it can help to tense them
first. As well, you become more aware of what each muscle feels
like, where it is located in your body, and what to look for in
the future when you are trying to determine whether muscles are
relaxed or tense.
Read it over and give it a try. You can also read the instructions
into a tape recorder and play it back to yourself as you relax.
The key for success is practice. As you get better at progressive
relaxation, you will consequently get better at relaxing.
- Find a comfortable position in a chair with good back support.
You may also do this lying down.
- Loosen any restrictive clothing or jewelry that you are wearing.
- Close your eyes. Begin to focus on the feelings inside your
body - mentally scan your entire body, from head to toe, and note
any signs of tension that there may be.
- For each muscle group outlined below, first tense that area,
hold the tension for 5 seconds, and all at once let go of the
tension and say to yourself "relax." Notice the feelings
of tension when you are tensing, and notice the feelings of warmth
and relaxation as you let the muscle relax. Be sure to relax by
letting the tension go all at once, releasing the muscle tension
The first muscle groups to tense and relax are the hands and
forearms. Starting with your right hand, make a fist and hold
that fist for 5 seconds. Then, all at once, let go of your fist.
Let your hand drop loosely into your lap or on to the support
of your armchair.
Notice the feelings of relaxation. Repeat this one more time
- tense the hand, hold for 5 seconds...and relax. Proceed in
this manner for each of the muscles groups outlined below:
right hand and forearm
left hand and forearm
forehead (tense by making a frown, scrunching up the muscles
above your eyebrows)
cheeks and nose (tense by pretending you are smelling something
mouth (tense by pulling the corners of your mouth outwards)
neck and shoulders (tense by shrugging)
chest and stomach (pretend you are about to be hit in the
right foot and calf
right toes (press your toes down to the bottom of your shoes.
Be careful not to make them too tense or else they may cramp)
left foot and calf
- Once you've relaxed your entire body, alternating tension and
relaxation in each of the 15 muscle groups, allow yourself to
enjoy the feelings of relaxation. Allow your mind to wander throughout
your body, scanning for any tense areas. If you find one, repeat
the exercise of tension and relaxation for that area. You may
find that you cannot attain a relaxed state by doing this exercise
the first few times. The more you practice the better and more
proficient you will become.
- 6. Consider making a personalized tape of your own voice instructing
yourself to relax each of the muscle groups as described above.
This helps if you want to tailor progressive relaxation to your
own needs. You may also buy a relaxation tape from your local
bookstore. Sometimes it is helpful to listen to soft background
After two to four weeks of practicing Progressive Relaxation, you
will be so proficient at relaxing your muscles that you can cause
them to relax without first tensing them.
This technique is called Smooth Muscle Relaxation.
- Focus your attention upon one particular muscle area in your
- Say to yourself "relax" and allow that muscle group
to relax and smooth out. Let the muscles in that area go.
- Continue with each of the muscle groups as above, or focus
only on those that are tense in your body at that time.
This is a useful technique because it allows you to focus on particularly
tense muscle areas and relax them without needing to first make
them tense. The technique is only helpful if you have first become
an expert at recognizing each of your muscle groups, recognize the
difference between tension and relaxation in those muscle groups,
and are able to allow the muscles to relax by focusing your efforts
upon them. All of this is only achieved through thorough and effortful
practice of Progressive Relaxation.
Once we have learned how to relax and rationalize our thoughts,
we will use a more specific technique to confront stress that shows
us how to confront and to relax with many stressful experiences.
The stress inoculation includes to learn how to relax using deep
breathing and progressive relaxation, so that every time you feel
stressed you can get rid of the tension.
- Elaborate a personal list of stressful situations and classify
them vertically from the less stressful elements to the most stressful
ones. Then learn how to evoke each of these situations in your
imagination and how to relax the tension while visualizing the
stressful situation clearly. For this first part, you can use
the stressful situations of the registration nº 1.
- Create your own arsenal of thoughts to face stress, which you
will use to counterbalance with the old usual automatic thoughts.
For this step, use the discursion of irrational ideas we saw in
the point on cognitive techniques.
- Use your abilities to relax and confront stress “in vivo”
to stress the stressful facts and breathe deeply, loosening your
muscles and using thoughts to face your stress.
8.2. FELLOWSHIP AND SOLIDARITY AT WORK
In situations of exhaustion, the family is the system of natural
support, the primary group, but usually the help of the colleagues
is even more useful, since they have similar experiences.
Our colleagues can help us diminish our emotional tension and guide
us to face the situation with a more effective perspective.
8.3. HOW CAN WE HELP OUR COLLEAGUES THAT ARE IN THIS SITUATION?
- Establish a support relationship: emotional (“sharing
your sadness”), physical (“helping each other to carry
out the stressful tasks”), and help the other to get out
a difficult situation.
- Be on the same level: listen to the others actively and ask
them questions. This can help them express their feelings and
concerns and see the situation in another way.
- Accept what the people have to say without trying them, let
them express their frustrations and feelings, so that they see
the optimistic attitude come out by itself.
- Encourage them and recognize their work, since it is a good
habit we should encourage because it helps to create an atmosphere
of fellowship and solidarity.
8.4. GROUPS OF SUPPORT
The group of support are other options when a person is “stressed”.
A specialist in Mental Health guides the discussions of the group
that are usually related with work concerns directs most of them.
These groups are based on synergy (people in the same situation),
and provide new feelings: how to be accepted, valued, understood,
respected, as well as the feeling of belonging to a group. They
also help to get a social identity and constitute a source of information,
services and help material.
8.5. WORK ENVIRONMENT
The work place also has an influence in the appearance of stress.
The decoration, the architecture, piped music and silence can even
contribute to a calm atmosphere that favours work.
With more people and more means, there would be less stress, although
many times, it is impossible and it would be convenient to analyse
the way to improve the available resources.
8.6. THE MANAGER / ENTREPRENEUR
The manager of the work team plays an important role in the stress
prevention. This can improve the employees' mental health encouraging
understanding, self-control and consequently their capacity to work
in an effective way. This support relationship fulfil several functions
aimed at the stress prevention, since it provides an opportunity
to give advice, offers trust, improves communication, eases emotional
tensions and clarifies your thoughts and it make orientation easier.
The manager/entrepreneur should make the staff aware about the
risks of professional stress, indicating problematic factors as
for example, situations of excessive emotional tension, and giving
them advice about its signs. These can be the behaviours or the
changes in behaviour related to stress. The valuation of the staff
satisfaction is very important to identify their problems and to
be able to solve them, since it will improve the quality of work
and of cares.
- Work stress can affect the activity and the worker's efficiency.
It can have serious consequences, personally and professionally
- We, people, have some limits and we should accept them, nobody
is perfect. When we cannot physically or emotionally tolerate
what is happening, we should ask for help.
- Fellowship and solidarity are very important. Our colleagues
can help us and guide us to face the situation from another point
- The institutions and people in charge of the work teams should
encourage stress prevention among the staff.
YOUR SCALE OF STRESS
In the following chart, you will be able to consult significant
changes in your life and see the stress value.. ANYTHING YOU HAVE
EXPERIENCED IN YOUR LIFE FOR THE LAST 12 MONTHS SCORES. Then add
it to the total.
Scale of stress for adults
| 1. Death of the couple
| 2. Divorce
| 3. Menopause
| 4. Separation of the couple
| 5. Imprisonment
| 6. Death of a close relative
| 7. Illness or inability
| 8. Marriage
| 9. Dismissal
| 10. Reconciliation of the couple
| 11. Retirement
| 12. Change in the health of a close relative
| 13. To work more than 40 hours a week
| 14. Pregnancy
| 15. Sexual problems
| 16. New member of the family
| 17. Change at work
| 18. Change in the financial state
| 19. Death of a friend (not a member of the family)
| 20. Change in the discussions with the couple
| 21. Mortgages or bank loan
| 22. Problems with mortgage or bank loan
| 23. To sleep less than 8 hours
| 24. Change of responsibilities at work
| 25. Problems with the family in-law or children
| 26. I achieve excellent personnel
| 27. The couple begins or she stops to work
| 28. To begin or to finish the school
| 29. Changes under the conditions of life (remodeling, visits
| 30. I change in personal habits
| 31. Chronic allergy
| 32. Problems with the boss
| 33. I change under the schedule or conditions de trabjo
| 34. Change of residence
| 35. Pre-menstrual syndrome
| 36. Change of school
| 37. Change of religious activity
| 38. I change in social activities
| 39. Smaller loan
| 40. I change in the frequency of family meetings
| 41. Vacations
| 42. Time of christmas vacations
| 43. Smaller infraction de the law
We have asked you you to observe the changes in the last 12 months
of you life. This can surprise you. However, it is important to
understand that the changes have effects along certain time. It
is as throwing a stone in a lake. After the initial " chapuzón
", you will experience small stress waves at least one year
after the incident.
Therefore, if you have experienced a level of stress of 250 or
more in the last year, still with a normal tolerance you can be
in a situation of on-stress. People with a low tolerance to the
stress can be on-stresseds at levels of 150 or less.
The on-stress it sources illnesses. To load too much stress is
as managing the car with alone the reservation of gasoline, to leave
the fastened toaster, or to manage a nuclear reactor but there of
the allowed level. Sooner or later something will stop to work,
he/she will burn or it will explode.
What will break will depend on the person's weaker physical links.
This is mainly a hereditary characteristic.
Scale of stress for young and / or adolescents
| 1. Death of the couple, father or boyfriend
| 2. Divorce (own or of the parents)
| 3. Puberty
| 4. I embarrass (or to source pregnancy)
| 5. Marital separation or termination of courtship
| 6. Prison
| 7. Death of some member family (that is not spouse, father
| 8. Rupture of marital commitment
| 9. Commitment of marriage
| 10. Serious wound or personal illness
| 11. Marriage
| 12. To enter at university or following level (of secondary
to preparatory etc..
| 13. Change of independence or responsibility
| 14. Use of drugs or alcohol
| 15. To lose work or to be expelled of the school
| 16. Change in the use of drugs or alcohol
| 17.reconciliation with the couple, family or boyfriend
| 18. Problem at school
| 19. Serious problem of personal health or of some Member
of the family
| 20. To work and to study at the same time
| 21. To work more than 40 hours a week
| 22. Change of career
| 23. Change in the frequency of social exits with Members
of the contrary sex
| 24. Problems of sexual adjustments (confusion in the sexual
| 25. New member of the family (a new brother is born Or one
parent marries again)
| 26. Change in the responsibilities at work
| 27. Change in the financial state
| 28. Death of a close friend (non member of the family)
| 29. Change the type of work
| 30. Change in the number of discussions with the Couple,
parents or friends
| 31. To sleep less than 8 hours a day
| 32. Problems with the family-in-law
| 33. Achieve personal substitute (prizes etc..)
| 34. The couple or parents begins or stops working
| 35. Beginning or end of school
| 36. Changes of life conditions
| 37. Changes in personal habits (to begin or to leave one
Diet, to smoke etc..)
| 38. Chronic allergies
| 39. Problems with the boss
| 40. Change of hours at work
| 41. Change of residence
| 42. Change to a new school (not for graduation)
| 43. Premenstrual period
| 44. Change of religious activity
| 45. Personal debt or of the family
| 46. Change in the frequency of family meetings
| 47. Holidays
| 48. Christmas holidays
| 49. Smaller violation de the law
We have asked you to observe the changes in the last 12 months
of your life. This can surprise you. However, it is important to
understand that the changes have effects in time. It is as throwing
a stone in a lake. After the initial " dip ", you will
experience small stress waves at least one year after the incident.
Therefore, if you have experienced a level of stress of 250 or
more in the last year, still with a normal tolerance you can be
in a situation of on-stress. People with a low tolerance to the
stress can be on-stress at levels of 150 or less.
The on-stress causes illnesses. To load too much stress is as riding
a car with only the last litres of petrol, or to manage a nuclear
reactor. Sooner or later something will stop working, it will begin
to burn and explode.
What will break will depend on the person's weaker physical links.
This is mainly a hereditary characteristic.
(This scale has been adapted of The Scale of Social Readjustment
of Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. This scale was published for
the first time in the Journal of Psycomatic Investigations copyright
1967, vol II p.214. It has been used with the permission of Pergamon
 We quote Lazarus and Folkman (1984)