Summary: Sources of Stress

In order to deal effectively with the stress in your life, it is important to understand precisely where the stress you experience comes from, to analyze your reactions to it, and work to improve your responses. You can then anticipate stressful situations, prepare for them, and learn to use the most appropriate stress management techniques.

Target Your Stress Effectively

So far you have looked at what stress is, and at how it affects your health and your performance. If you can work out how to manage the stresses that your career brings, you will be able to rise above them.

Prioritize Your Stresses

Once you have identified the main sources of stress in your life, the next step is to prioritize them so that you can separate the more important stressors from the minor, infrequent irritations that do not deserve much attention.

  • Work through your Schedule of Recent Experience sheet and list the events that still cause you stress now.

  • Look at the two lists you prepared during the analysis of your stress diary. The first of these showed the most frequent things that caused you stress, while the second list showed the most unpleasant ones. Add these things to your list.

  • Run through the list of weaknesses and threats that you identified in your Stress SWOT Analysis. If any of these cause some of the stress that you are currently experiencing, make a note of them.

  • Consolidate any items that have the same underlying cause so that each source of stress appears only once on the list. Strike out those that you do not expect to happen again, or that are so minor that you would not normally worry about them.

  • Rank the remaining items with the most important stressors at the top of the list and the least important at the bottom. The items at the top of the list are those that are most important for you to resolve.

Learn to Manage Stress

Once you have identified the most important sources of stress in your life, the next step is to identify stress management techniques that will help you to deal with them. There are three major approaches to this:

  • Action-oriented approaches – These confront the problem causing the stress, and change the environment or the situation. When you have some power in a situation, action-oriented approaches are some of the most satisfying and rewarding ways of managing stress.

  • Emotionally-oriented approaches – When you do not have the power to change the situation, you can try to manage your stress by changing your interpretation of the situation and the way you feel about it.

  • Acceptance-oriented approaches – When something has happened over which you have no power and no emotional control (for example, when a loved one dies), your focus is on surviving the stress. You need to build buffers to help you to survive situations that you cannot change, and learn to cope with the long-term stress that can lead to burnout.


Put together your list of stressors using a spreadsheet on your computer – the list will then be much easier to sort into the correct order.

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