Stress Curve

What Stress are you under?

Stress affects us all. In fact, according to Forth, 42% of women and 36% of men believe that they are too stressed. The main causes for this are money for women and work for men. 54% of all illness related days off from work are due to stress in the UK. 

In this post I want to explore 4 types of stress and how you might deal with them. But before I continue – one word of warning.

Warning: If you are finding you are suffering from burnout, stress is affecting your health, or stress is affecting others at work, then addressing this is often something that takes time and it’s worth checking with your GP and looking at support from a life coach or therapist.

A few years ago, I was under huge stress. I wasn’t meeting my sales targets during the 2008-2009 downturn and I didn’t know what to do next. I was getting to bed later at night, and feeling foggy and snappy during the day. I didn’t know how to get out of it, and felt a failure if I were to ask for support. Around me I had friends who to a ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude. I was trapped and miserable. Sadly I didn’t get support at the time, and it was only later when I left my job did I realise how much stress I was under. I wish I had had the courage to call on a life coach then, as my stress levels are significantly less. 

Some stress is healthy

You don’t get fit by taking no exercise. In the same way, some stress is healthy. It motivates us, focusses us and it pushes and widens our limits. This is why emergency services practice traumatic events, or sports people practice difficult situation. If you’ve practiced conflict or stress within your capabilities, when it happens again.

Stress Curve

Four Types of Stress

Dr Karl Albrecht in his book “Stress and the Manager” identifies 4 types of stress:

  1. Time Stress
  2. Anticipatory Stress
  3. Situational Stress
  4. Encounter Stress

Here’s a more detailed blog about the 4 types of stress : 

Time Stress

This often comes from the worry about ‘how will I fit it all in’, and the fear of not doing something or letting someone down. Something has to give. Here’s some tips

  1. Better planning – by prioritisation and to-do lists. 
  2. Learning to delegate – can you give something to someone else AND that they complete it (we often delegate task but end up doing all the work anyway)
  3. Breaking procrastination – learning to confront fears, and do things before they become a crisis
  4. Reshape the day – know if you are a morning or evening person. Look at ‘wasted’ time (E.g. watching TV) and shape this
  5. Learning to say no, gracefully – so you don’t get dumped with work
  6. Asking for help – either asking politely to change a deadline, to for someone to help you out.
  7. Self-limiting beliefs – believing that there’s only one way of doing something, or stubbornly working at the hard way.  

Anticipatory Stress

This comes from the fear of the future. If we play bad scenarios in our mind, our brain cannot tell the difference between imagined and real. In fact, sometimes I would wake up angry with my wife because of something she said in a dream!

  1. Imagine positive outcomes – often this creates the positive future. You’ve run through the stress and solved the problems, so when it happens you know how to react
  2. Link your fears with comedy – one technique for public speaking is to image the audience naked – basically to reduce the fear
  3. Calming tools – this might be meditation, prayer, etc. Sometimes this is taking a shower to let the sub-conscious solve the problem
  4. Tackling your own fears and patterns – perhaps you feel defective, an imposter at work, or you subjugate to the person who shouts loudest. Looking at your patterns, and conflict approaches can reduce the stress  

Situational Stress

This is where you are in a situation that you cannot control. It might be an injury, conflict, or legal situation. It might be having someone make an accusation or gossip against you, or your make a mistake

  1. Monitor your body – seeing what you feel, say or do when stressed. For one friend she always feels sick, another cries. The body is overwhelmed
  2. Build conflict resolution and negotiation skills – to deal with your anger, or another person’s demands
  3. Learn to improvise – think on your feet.
  4. Building resilience – One of my friends worked in Accident and Emergency (Emergency Room) and she had to be totally task focussed during a crisis, show empathy for the victim and family, but then have an outlet for her own emotion afterwards

Encounter Stress

This is where you feel stressed about meeting people. It might be in doing a sales presentation, or it might be with a difficult member of the family. It might be meeting someone whom you’ve wronged, or someone who has breached your trust.

  1. We’ve all got flaws – build up your empathy skills to realise that they may have context and issues, just as you do. The difficult person may have patterns from their childhood that they are still living out.
  2. Know your personality – some of the stress and conflict may come from different personality types, and that’s neither person’s problem
  3. Deal with yourself first – you may need to learn to forgive so that you are not held back by the past, and then build healthy boundaries to come with them
  4. Confront your fears – dealing with conflict, and choosing whether to apologise for past hurts. It is easy to avoid a difficult person, or demand that they are out of your life if you feel offended by them (Cancelling people). Neither strategy leads to your growth – and can be self-righteous and arrogant. 
  5. Recognise it might not be about you! This is similar to ‘we all have flaw’s, but they might be going through stress, divorce, problems with dealing with anger and it’s showing itself with you. Perceptual positions help think about where the other person is coming from.

An approach to dealing with stress

Get awareness:

  1. Where am I on the stress curve? 
  2. What kind of stress is it ? (see below for the 4 types)
    1. Time
    2. Anticipatory
    3. Situational
    4. Encounter
  3. Is this temporary or a pattern? (i.e. an emergency, or that we are always missing deadlines?, If this temporary, then you might just need to live with it. If it is a pattern, then it’s time to change something for next time.

Cope now

  1. Get support 
  2. Put in measures for the type of stress you are facing

Further reading:

Healthy Self-Soothing

A Little Help from My Friends

Cope for the future

  1. Avoid – move to a place where you don’t experience this stress again. E.g. change jobs, or relationship. However avoidance might work in the short term, but can be debilitating if this is a normal stress. E.g a recluse tries to avoid encountering other people. 
  2. Reduce – this might be changing your attitude to the situation, training to be more competant, or tackling the stress straight on. For many things, it’s the fear that creates the stress. If you face your fear, you may find it’s not so bad after all.
  3. Transfer – this is letting someone else take the stress. In a healthy world, this might be to delegate it. e.g. someone gets a PA to take the stress out of organising meetings.
  4. Retain – this is similar to reduce, but you might not be able to deal with it. For example, you may not be able to change your boss, so the main part is to accept the stress, find coping mechanisms, and continue


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