Stress is difficult to define yet most of us would probably recognize signs of stress in ourselves or others. “Stress is what happens when we try too hard and too often to do the impossible.” - CL Lake. The physiological stress response is an age old set of responses to threat, developed as an aid to survival in the face of danger. It gave us extra strength and energy to fight or run away. We still need physiological responses to deal with challenges in our lives. In the short term these help us to adapt but in the long term they can compromise our mental and physical health. The starting point for stress is often pressure which, perversely, is also the starting point for high performance. The trick is to maintain a balance in our lives so that we retain control over the degree and frequency of challenges we face.
Stress used to be seen as a response to factors in our lives or environment that caused strain or a variety of symptoms. Increasing recognition is now being given to the idea that how we interpret or respond to potential stressors is the crucial factor. That the events themselves are not stressful but our way of responding determines whether we will become stressed by them. This approach uses the increasing evidence from research in a number of fields linking body and mind. It suggests that we can help ourselves to deal with the feelings and emotions caused by events in more adaptive and productive ways and thereby avoid or reduce the impact of stressful situations.
What to Expect
Research continues into the effectiveness of specific stress management interventions. A variety of practitioners offer services to individuals and to organisations. Consultants may work with organisations to audit workplace stress, identify contributory factors and make recommendations for preventive / ameliorative action. Some consultants offer training to targeted groups or individuals, helping them recognise and rethink their own individual responses. Many employers now provide access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) for advice and counselling on aspects of personal and workplace stress, via telephone helplines or face to face.
Training & Colleges
Like the definition of stress itself, the stress management field is very broad. Practitioners working at individual, group, or organisational levels require different skills; knowledge both of the physiology, stress and of behavioural / interpersonal interventions should be a minimum starting point. Individual practitioners with appropriate skills are often Chartered Psychologists (Occupational, Clinical, Counselling) who will also have training in research methods and psychometrics. The major EAP providers work to their own criteria for employing counsellors, although many of them suggest their counsellors need to be “eligible for accreditation” by the British Association for Counselling. Courses are offered by:
The Centre For Stress Management
Hayes BR2 7AS
International Stress Management Association
18 Albury Ride
British Psychological Society
Employee Assistance Professionals Association
British Association for Counselling