1. Take It Personal

How stress applies to you is likely to be completely different from how stress applies to your best friend. While your stress might come from having a demanding job and being required to meet impossible deadlines, your friend’s stress might come from staying home alone with four young children and trying to stick to a limited budget. Because the word stress can mean so many things to so many different people, it’s logical that before any one individual can put an effective stress-management plan into practice, a Personal Stress Profile is essential.

“The word stress can mean so many things to so many different people.”

2. When It Comes to Stress, Mean Business

Think of your Personal Stress Profile, or PSP, as something like a business proposal. You are the business, and the business isn’t operating at peak efficiency. Your PSP is a picture of the business as a whole and the specific nature of all the factors that are keeping the business from performing as well as it could. With PSP in hand, you can effectively create your own Stress Management Portfolio.

3. The Four Parts of Your Personal Stress Profile

So, how do you organize the huge, unwieldy list of details that comprise the stress in your life and your response to it? Start at the top. Your PSP has four parts:

1. Your stress tolerance point

2. Your Stress Triggers

3. Your Stress Vulnerability Factor

4. Your Stress Response Tendencies

Once you understand how much stress you can handle, what things trigger stress for you, where your personal stress vulnerability lies, and how you tend to respond to stress, you’ll be able to build your Personal Stress Management Portfolio.

4. Remember: Some Stress Is Good

Although too much stress is bad, some stress is good. Good stress can be great, as long as it doesn’t last and last and last. Eventually, most of us like to get back to some sort of equilibrium, whether that is a routine, an earlier bedtime, or a home-cooked meal. Maybe you’ve noticed that some people thrive on constant change, stimulation, and a high-stress kind of life. Think of reporters who travel all over the world covering stories. Others prefer a highly regular, even ritualistic kind of existence. Think of the people who have rarely left their hometowns and are perfectly happy that way. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.

5. Where Is Your Stress Tolerance Point?

Whichever type of person you are, the changes in your body that make you react more quickly, think more sharply, and give you a kind of “high” feeling of super accomplishment only last up to a point. The point when the stress response turns from productive to counterproductive is your stress tolerance point, and it’s different for each person. If stress continues or increases after that point, your performance will decrease, and you’ll start to experience a negative rather than a positive effect.

6. Identify Your Stress Triggers

Every person’s life is different and is filled with different kinds of stress triggers. Someone who has just been in a car accident will experience a completely different stress trigger than someone about to take a college entrance exam, but both may experience equal stress, depending on the severity of the accident and the perceived importance of the test. Of course, since both people probably have a different stress tolerance point, high stress to the test taker may be moderate stress to the car accident victim, and both people may have a higher stress tolerance than the person about to experience the third migraine in a week. Your stress triggers, in other words, are simply the things that cause you stress, and your stress tolerance point is what determines how many and what degree of stress triggers you can take and still remain productive.

7. Calculate Your Stress Vulnerability Factor

The stress vulnerability factor can determine which events in your life will tend to affect you, personally, in a stressful way, and which life events may not stress you out, even if they would be stressful to someone else. Some people have a high stress tolerance, except when it comes to their families. Some can ignore criticism and other forms of personal stress unless it relates to job performance. Some people can take all the criticism their friends and coworkers have to offer but will wail in anguish at a pulled groin muscle. Every individual will tend to be particularly vulnerable or sensitive to certain stress categories while remaining impervious to others.

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