Stress Management and Relief


“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm.”


I can’t do it.I’ve never done it before.

Doing something new is frightening, but exciting as hell. I don’t have to do it perfectly the first time.

They’re not here, they must have had an accident.

There’s a logical reason for their lateness. It must be traffic.

I wish I were more attractive.

This outfit is great, but for someone else. I’ll keep looking until I find what’s right for me.

I’ll never be able to handle all this work.

I can build on success. My previous performance earned me extra responsibility. I can do this.

Accept-learn to accept what you cannot change. You may need to redefine priorities and how best to meet them. For many people, over-committed translates into overwhelmed. Respect your time and energy as much as you respect others. Learning to say “no” actually helps you to do more by doing less, but doing it better. Part of being in control of stress in your life also involves learning to say “no,” or if that is still too difficult, try: “I’m sorry; your invitation sounds appealing, but there isn’t time in my schedule.” Or, “While I would ordinarily jump at this opportunity, this isn’t a good time for me to take on anything extra.” Or, “You can’t afford my services.” Phrases like these allow you to graciously decline, without using the word. “No.”

Communicate your needs clearly and openly, using “I” statements, “I want,” “I need,” “I choose to.” Become aware of the demands you place on yourself. Demands are a source of strength, especially when they are unrealistic. When you accept others, yourself and situations as they truly are, you can become more effective in dealing with them.


A stress log came be a valuable tool to recognize sources, symptoms and responses to stressful situations. If you truly don’t have a clue what stress you are experiencing, take a few minutes each day to examine your day. Write down what stressors you notice and how you respond to them.

But, most nurses know exactly what causes stress, what symptoms they have and how they react. Instead of concentrating on recording what you already recognize, put that time and energy into a daily coping plan.

At the end of this tutorial, there is a stress inventory worksheet to help you identify stressors, and recognize how priorities (the time commitments) of your life contribute to stress.

Managing time and commitments is a first step toward coping with stress. Polish up your organizational skills. Delegate responsibilities to another. Review the priorities of your life.

The second worksheet (Inventory of Coping Skills) is used alongside the first sheet. When you have identified the stressors, try to match them with a strength that would enable you to better handle the stressor. For example, you may recognize that your automobile is a source of stress. Do you have a resource in physical strengths or intellectual resources or a friend listed under social support systems that might solve the problem with the car? (Or perhaps from the spiritual strength list, prayer is all that’s left.)


Frequently stress arises from relationships, especially when one person’s needs are not being met, or when expectations are unrealistic. Keep in mind that often a person’s most important needs are the ones that are not being met. What can you do to identify and meet those needs today? What can you do to identify and meet your own needs? Whose needs can you meet?

Note: It is not possible to meet all needs (remember: avoid perfectionism) and you may need to say to yourself, “I cannot meet all needs, but, this is what I can do.”

People use their expectations to maintain order in their lives. Unmet or violated expectations evoke stress, complaints and disagreements. Disagreements between people are an inherent and normal part of life, stemming from differences in perceptions, lifestyles, values, facts, motivations or procedures. However, disagreements may also be threatening because they arouse deep feelings of anger, jealousy, fear, grief, guilt, frustration or disappointment. Differing goals, expectations or methods can turn disagreements into conflict which, like a snowball rolling downhill, can be damaging to both parties. Conflict can be healthy and beneficial when it forces clarification of policy or procedure, but usually, conflict is a symptom of a breakdown in basic communication.

Focus on acknowledging the concerns of each party, drawing on the positive intent of each side, bridging from the commonality of each person’s expectations, encouraging cooperation marked by mutual respect.

Ease the stress of relationships by improving listening skills. Listen without drawing premature conclusions, or jumping ahead to answer the other person. Every part of the body is involved in listening. Listen with the eyes, to physical cues. Even though sitting at a table masks the view of the lower half of the body, the use and position of the hands, head and face can speak volumes. A social smile may reveal weakness, lack of interest or even hostility. Too much eye contact expresses hostility, while too little may indicate low self-confidence or nervousness. How is the speaker using distance, posture, gestures? Placement of the arms can reveal openness and willi
ngness to participate in problem-solving.

Listen with the ears to vocal cues in inflection, emphasis, volume, pitch, tone, pace, rhythm and use of silences. Listen with the mind to discover the intention of the speaker. Note the sequence of ideas, detail and organization of thoughts. Listen with the body to send physical responses that encourage the speaker. Listen with the voice by asking reflective questions, repeating to clarify what you have heard, and summarizing frequently to keep on track.

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