5 minute expert guide to reducing stress

How to cope with the stresses of life and work

Stress is often considered a frustrated ‘fight or flight’ response – a human survival mechanism. However, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regards stress as: ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.’

Pressure itself is not necessarily bad. With the right amount we can feel motivated and challenged, and perform at our best. Some people call this ‘positive’ stress. In this article, we look at the negative reaction individuals have to pressures and demands.

Personality and stress

Our experience of stress may depend upon our perceptions of a situation and whether we believe we can cope. Personality, therefore, plays an important role in determining the amount of stress we experience. Those with a more resilient personality often perceive situations differently to those who are more vulnerable to stress.

How to take control of your mind to reduce stress

Step 1 – Separate physically
Separate yourself temporarily from whatever is causing you stress. Walking, or other gentle exercise, helps process and reduce the chemicals that negative stress can cause. Of course, in some situations you cannot physically remove yourself – an important office meeting, for example, or a presentation. In such a situation, skip straight to Step 2.

Step 2 – Separate mentally
A number of approaches can help you take control of your feelings and reduce negative stress. These require you to take control of your internal dialogue and thoughts. Used extensively in sport, these techniques are now used more and more in business because of the results they deliver. They require you to use your imagination to see, hear and feel your desired outcome rather than the outcome you fear, ie positive stress rather than negative stress.

Whether it’s a presentation, a meeting or an exam, many people are now discovering that visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and encourage a more positive approach to a difficult task.

‘Stop, look and listen’ technique

If you find yourself worrying about a future event, or you can’t get a bad experience out of your mind, try the following. First, be aware of the thoughts you want to stop – the next time you find yourself dwelling on these unwanted thoughts, interrupt the process by shouting in your mind (or out loud if appropriate) ‘STOP!’.

Bring yourself back by looking at and listening to everything around you. If you focus your attention on the present it is impossible to worry about the future or past at the same time. Persevere with this exercise and you’ll find you can banish unwanted thoughts that can cause stress.

Chris Cain is a certified trainer of NLP and regional director at FTC


"Those with a more resilient personality often perceive situations differently to those who are more vulnerable to stress"