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Article contents

Work, stress, coping, and stress management.

  • Sharon Glazer Sharon Glazer University of Baltimore
  •  and  Cong Liu Cong Liu Hofstra University
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190236557.013.30
  • Published online: 26 April 2017

Work stress refers to the process of job stressors, or stimuli in the workplace, leading to strains, or negative responses or reactions. Organizational development refers to a process in which problems or opportunities in the work environment are identified, plans are made to remediate or capitalize on the stimuli, action is taken, and subsequently the results of the plans and actions are evaluated. When organizational development strategies are used to assess work stress in the workplace, the actions employed are various stress management interventions. Two key factors tying work stress and organizational development are the role of the person and the role of the environment. In order to cope with work-related stressors and manage strains, organizations must be able to identify and differentiate between factors in the environment that are potential sources of stressors and how individuals perceive those factors. Primary stress management interventions focus on preventing stressors from even presenting, such as by clearly articulating workers’ roles and providing necessary resources for employees to perform their job. Secondary stress management interventions focus on a person’s appraisal of job stressors as a threat or challenge, and the person’s ability to cope with the stressors (presuming sufficient internal resources, such as a sense of meaningfulness in life, or external resources, such as social support from a supervisor). When coping is not successful, strains may develop. Tertiary stress management interventions attempt to remediate strains, by addressing the consequence itself (e.g., diabetes management) and/or the source of the strain (e.g., reducing workload). The person and/or the organization may be the targets of the intervention. The ultimate goal of stress management interventions is to minimize problems in the work environment, intensify aspects of the work environment that create a sense of a quality work context, enable people to cope with stressors that might arise, and provide tools for employees and organizations to manage strains that might develop despite all best efforts to create a healthy workplace.

  • stress management
  • organization development
  • organizational interventions
  • stress theories and frameworks

Introduction

Work stress is a generic term that refers to work-related stimuli (aka job stressors) that may lead to physical, behavioral, or psychological consequences (i.e., strains) that affect both the health and well-being of the employee and the organization. Not all stressors lead to strains, but all strains are a result of stressors, actual or perceived. Common terms often used interchangeably with work stress are occupational stress, job stress, and work-related stress. Terms used interchangeably with job stressors include work stressors, and as the specificity of the type of stressor might include psychosocial stressor (referring to the psychological experience of work demands that have a social component, e.g., conflict between two people; Hauke, Flintrop, Brun, & Rugulies, 2011 ), hindrance stressor (i.e., a stressor that prevents goal attainment; Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling, & Boudreau, 2000 ), and challenge stressor (i.e., a stressor that is difficult, but attainable and possibly rewarding to attain; Cavanaugh et al., 2000 ).

Stress in the workplace continues to be a highly pervasive problem, having both direct negative effects on individuals experiencing it and companies paying for it, and indirect costs vis à vis lost productivity (Dopkeen & DuBois, 2014 ). For example, U.K. public civil servants’ work-related stress rose from 10.8% in 2006 to 22.4% in 2013 and about one-third of the workforce has taken more than 20 days of leave due to stress-related ill-health, while well over 50% are present at work when ill (French, 2015 ). These findings are consistent with a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO, 2012 ), whereby 50% to 60% of all workdays are lost due to absence attributed to factors associated with work stress.

The prevalence of work-related stress is not diminishing despite improvements in technology and employment rates. The sources of stress, such as workload, seem to exacerbate with improvements in technology (Coovert & Thompson, 2003 ). Moreover, accessibility through mobile technology and virtual computer terminals is linking people to their work more than ever before (ILO, 2012 ; Tarafdar, Tu, Ragu-Nathan, & Ragu-Nathan, 2007 ). Evidence of this kind of mobility and flexibility is further reinforced in a June 2007 survey of 4,025 email users (over 13 years of age); AOL reported that four in ten survey respondents reported planning their vacations around email accessibility and 83% checked their emails at least once a day while away (McMahon, 2007 ). Ironically, despite these mounting work-related stressors and clear financial and performance outcomes, some individuals are reporting they are less “stressed,” but only because “stress has become the new normal” (Jayson, 2012 , para. 4).

This new normal is likely the source of psychological and physiological illness. Siegrist ( 2010 ) contends that conditions in the workplace, particularly psychosocial stressors that are perceived as unfavorable relationships with others and self, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle (reinforced with desk jobs) are increasingly contributing to cardiovascular disease. These factors together justify a need to continue on the path of helping individuals recognize and cope with deleterious stressors in the work environment and, equally important, to find ways to help organizations prevent harmful stressors over which they have control, as well as implement policies or mechanisms to help employees deal with these stressors and subsequent strains. Along with a greater focus on mitigating environmental constraints are interventions that can be used to prevent anxiety, poor attitudes toward the workplace conditions and arrangements, and subsequent cardiovascular illness, absenteeism, and poor job performance (Siegrist, 2010 ).

Even the ILO has presented guidance on how the workplace can help prevent harmful job stressors (aka hindrance stressors) or at least help workers cope with them. Consistent with the view that well-being is not the absence of stressors or strains and with the view that positive psychology offers a lens for proactively preventing stressors, the ILO promotes increasing preventative risk assessments, interventions to prevent and control stressors, transparent organizational communication, worker involvement in decision-making, networks and mechanisms for workplace social support, awareness of how working and living conditions interact, safety, health, and well-being in the organization (ILO, n.d. ). The field of industrial and organizational (IO) psychology supports the ILO’s recommendations.

IO psychology views work stress as the process of a person’s interaction with multiple aspects of the work environment, job design, and work conditions in the organization. Interventions to manage work stress, therefore, focus on the psychosocial factors of the person and his or her relationships with others and the socio-technical factors related to the work environment and work processes. Viewing work stress from the lens of the person and the environment stems from Kurt Lewin’s ( 1936 ) work that stipulates a person’s state of mental health and behaviors are a function of the person within a specific environment or situation. Aspects of the work environment that affect individuals’ mental states and behaviors include organizational hierarchy, organizational climate (including processes, policies, practices, and reward structures), resources to support a person’s ability to fulfill job duties, and management structure (including leadership). Job design refers to each contributor’s tasks and responsibilities for fulfilling goals associated with the work role. Finally, working conditions refers not only to the physical environment, but also the interpersonal relationships with other contributors.

Each of the conditions that are identified in the work environment may be perceived as potentially harmful or a threat to the person or as an opportunity. When a stressor is perceived as a threat to attaining desired goals or outcomes, the stressor may be labeled as a hindrance stressor (e.g., LePine, Podsakoff, & Lepine, 2005 ). When the stressor is perceived as an opportunity to attain a desired goal or end state, it may be labeled as a challenge stressor. According to LePine and colleagues’ ( 2005 ), both challenge (e.g., time urgency, workload) and hindrance (e.g., hassles, role ambiguity, role conflict) stressors could lead to strains (as measured by “anxiety, depersonalization, depression, emotional exhaustion, frustration, health complaints, hostility, illness, physical symptoms, and tension” [p. 767]). However, challenge stressors positively relate with motivation and performance, whereas hindrance stressors negatively relate with motivation and performance. Moreover, motivation and strains partially mediate the relationship between hindrance and challenge stressors with performance.

Figure 1. Organizational development frameworks to guide identification of work stress and interventions.

In order to (1) minimize any potential negative effects from stressors, (2) increase coping skills to deal with stressors, or (3) manage strains, organizational practitioners or consultants will devise organizational interventions geared toward prevention, coping, and/or stress management. Ultimately, toxic factors in the work environment can have deleterious effects on a person’s physical and psychological well-being, as well as on an organization’s total health. It behooves management to take stock of the organization’s health, which includes the health and well-being of its employees, if the organization wishes to thrive and be profitable. According to Page and Vella-Brodrick’s ( 2009 ) model of employee well-being, employee well-being results from subjective well-being (i.e., life satisfaction and general positive or negative affect), workplace well-being (composed of job satisfaction and work-specific positive or negative affect), and psychological well-being (e.g., self-acceptance, positive social relations, mastery, purpose in life). Job stressors that become unbearable are likely to negatively affect workplace well-being and thus overall employee well-being. Because work stress is a major organizational pain point and organizations often employ organizational consultants to help identify and remediate pain points, the focus here is on organizational development (OD) frameworks; several work stress frameworks are presented that together signal areas where organizations might focus efforts for change in employee behaviors, attitudes, and performance, as well as the organization’s performance and climate. Work stress, interventions, and several OD and stress frameworks are depicted in Figure 1 .

The goals are: (1) to conceptually define and clarify terms associated with stress and stress management, particularly focusing on organizational factors that contribute to stress and stress management, and (2) to present research that informs current knowledge and practices on workplace stress management strategies. Stressors and strains will be defined, leading OD and work stress frameworks that are used to organize and help organizations make sense of the work environment and the organization’s responsibility in stress management will be explored, and stress management will be explained as an overarching thematic label; an area of study and practice that focuses on prevention (primary) interventions, coping (secondary) interventions, and managing strains (tertiary) interventions; as well as the label typically used to denote tertiary interventions. Suggestions for future research and implications toward becoming a healthy organization are presented.

Defining Stressors and Strains

Work-related stressors or job stressors can lead to different kinds of strains individuals and organizations might experience. Various types of stress management interventions, guided by OD and work stress frameworks, may be employed to prevent or cope with job stressors and manage strains that develop(ed).

A job stressor is a stimulus external to an employee and a result of an employee’s work conditions. Example job stressors include organizational constraints, workplace mistreatments (such as abusive supervision, workplace ostracism, incivility, bullying), role stressors, workload, work-family conflicts, errors or mistakes, examinations and evaluations, and lack of structure (Jex & Beehr, 1991 ; Liu, Spector, & Shi, 2007 ; Narayanan, Menon, & Spector, 1999 ). Although stressors may be categorized as hindrances and challenges, there is not yet sufficient information to be able to propose which stress management interventions would better serve to reduce those hindrance stressors or to reduce strain-producing challenge stressors while reinforcing engagement-producing challenge stressors.

Organizational Constraints

Organizational constraints may be hindrance stressors as they prevent employees from translating their motivation and ability into high-level job performance (Peters & O’Connor, 1980 ). Peters and O’Connor ( 1988 ) defined 11 categories of organizational constraints: (1) job-related information, (2) budgetary support, (3) required support, (4) materials and supplies, (5) required services and help from others, (6) task preparation, (7) time availability, (8) the work environment, (9) scheduling of activities, (10) transportation, and (11) job-relevant authority. The inhibiting effect of organizational constraints may be due to the lack of, inadequacy of, or poor quality of these categories.

Workplace Mistreatment

Workplace mistreatment presents a cluster of interpersonal variables, such as interpersonal conflict, bullying, incivility, and workplace ostracism (Hershcovis, 2011 ; Tepper & Henle, 2011 ). Typical workplace mistreatment behaviors include gossiping, rude comments, showing favoritism, yelling, lying, and ignoring other people at work (Tepper & Henle, 2011 ). These variables relate to employees’ psychological well-being, physical well-being, work attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction and organizational commitment), and turnover intention (e.g., Hershcovis, 2011 ; Spector & Jex, 1998 ). Some researchers differentiated the source of mistreatment, such as mistreatment from one’s supervisor versus mistreatment from one’s coworker (e.g., Bruk-Lee & Spector, 2006 ; Frone, 2000 ; Liu, Liu, Spector, & Shi, 2011 ).

Role Stressors

Role stressors are demands, constraints, or opportunities a person perceives to be associated, and thus expected, with his or her work role(s) across various situations. Three commonly studied role stressors are role ambiguity, role conflict, and role overload (Glazer & Beehr, 2005 ; Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964 ). Role ambiguity in the workplace occurs when an employee lacks clarity regarding what performance-related behaviors are expected of him or her. Role conflict refers to situations wherein an employee receives incompatible role requests from the same or different supervisors or the employee is asked to engage in work that impedes his or her performance in other work or nonwork roles or clashes with his or her values. Role overload refers to excessive demands and insufficient time (quantitative) or knowledge (qualitative) to complete the work. The construct is often used interchangeably with workload, though role overload focuses more on perceived expectations from others about one’s workload. These role stressors significantly relate to low job satisfaction, low organizational commitment, low job performance, high tension or anxiety, and high turnover intention (Abramis, 1994 ; Glazer & Beehr, 2005 ; Jackson & Schuler, 1985 ).

Excessive workload is one of the most salient stressors at work (e.g., Liu et al., 2007 ). There are two types of workload: quantitative and qualitative workload (LaRocco, Tetrick, & Meder, 1989 ; Parasuraman & Purohit, 2000 ). Quantitative workload refers to the excessive amount of work one has. In a summary of a Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development Report from 2006 , Dewe and Kompier ( 2008 ) noted that quantitative workload was one of the top three stressors workers experienced at work. Qualitative workload refers to the difficulty of work. Workload also differs by the type of the load. There are mental workload and physical workload (Dwyer & Ganster, 1991 ). Excessive physical workload may result in physical discomfort or illness. Excessive mental workload will cause psychological distress such as anxiety or frustration (Bowling & Kirkendall, 2012 ). Another factor affecting quantitative workload is interruptions (during the workday). Lin, Kain, and Fritz ( 2013 ) found that interruptions delay completion of job tasks, thus adding to the perception of workload.

Work-Family Conflict

Work-family conflict is a form of inter-role conflict in which demands from one’s work domain and one’s family domain are incompatible to some extent (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985 ). Work can interfere with family (WIF) and/or family can interfere with work (FIW) due to time-related commitments to participating in one domain or another, incompatible behavioral expectations, or when strains in one domain carry over to the other (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985 ). Work-family conflict significantly relates to work-related outcomes (e.g., job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover intention, burnout, absenteeism, job performance, job strains, career satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors), family-related outcomes (e.g., marital satisfaction, family satisfaction, family-related performance, family-related strains), and domain-unspecific outcomes (e.g., life satisfaction, psychological strain, somatic or physical symptoms, depression, substance use or abuse, and anxiety; Amstad, Meier, Fasel, Elfering, & Semmer, 2011 ).

Individuals and organizations can experience work-related strains. Sometimes organizations will experience strains through the employee’s negative attitudes or strains, such as that a worker’s absence might yield lower production rates, which would roll up into an organizational metric of organizational performance. In the industrial and organizational (IO) psychology literature, organizational strains are mostly observed as macro-level indicators, such as health insurance costs, accident-free days, and pervasive problems with company morale. In contrast, individual strains, usually referred to as job strains, are internal to an employee. They are responses to work conditions and relate to health and well-being of employees. In other words, “job strains are adverse reactions employees have to job stressors” (Spector, Chen, & O’Connell, 2000 , p. 211). Job strains tend to fall into three categories: behavioral, physical, and psychological (Jex & Beehr, 1991 ).

Behavioral strains consist of actions that employees take in response to job stressors. Examples of behavioral strains include employees drinking alcohol in the workplace or intentionally calling in sick when they are not ill (Spector et al., 2000 ). Physical strains consist of health symptoms that are physiological in nature that employees contract in response to job stressors. Headaches and ulcers are examples of physical strains. Lastly, psychological strains are emotional reactions and attitudes that employees have in response to job stressors. Examples of psychological strains are job dissatisfaction, anxiety, and frustration (Spector et al., 2000 ). Interestingly, research studies that utilize self-report measures find that most job strains experienced by employees tend to be psychological strains (Spector et al., 2000 ).

Leading Frameworks

Organizations that are keen on identifying organizational pain points and remedying them through organizational campaigns or initiatives often discover the pain points are rooted in work-related stressors and strains and the initiatives have to focus on reducing workers’ stress and increasing a company’s profitability. Through organizational climate surveys, for example, companies discover that aspects of the organization’s environment, including its policies, practices, reward structures, procedures, and processes, as well as employees at all levels of the company, are contributing to the individual and organizational stress. Recent studies have even begun to examine team climates for eustress and distress assessed in terms of team members’ homogenous psychological experience of vigor, efficacy, dedication, and cynicism (e.g., Kożusznik, Rodriguez, & Peiro, 2015 ).

Each of the frameworks presented advances different aspects that need to be identified in order to understand the source and potential remedy for stressors and strains. In some models, the focus is on resources, in others on the interaction of the person and environment, and in still others on the role of the person in the workplace. Few frameworks directly examine the role of the organization, but the organization could use these frameworks to plan interventions that would minimize stressors, cope with existing stressors, and prevent and/or manage strains. One of the leading frameworks in work stress research that is used to guide organizational interventions is the person and environment (P-E) fit (French & Caplan, 1972 ). Its precursor is the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research’s (ISR) role stress model (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964 ) and Lewin’s Field Theory. Several other theories have since evolved from the P-E fit framework, including Karasek and Theorell’s ( 1990 ), Karasek ( 1979 ) Job Demands-Control Model (JD-C), the transactional framework (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984 ), Conservation of Resources (COR) theory (Hobfoll, 1989 ), and Siegrist’s ( 1996 ) Effort-Reward Imbalance (ERI) Model.

Field Theory

The premise of Kahn et al.’s ( 1964 ) role stress theory is Lewin’s ( 1997 ) Field Theory. Lewin purported that behavior and mental events are a dynamic function of the whole person, including a person’s beliefs, values, abilities, needs, thoughts, and feelings, within a given situation (field or environment), as well as the way a person represents his or her understanding of the field and behaves in that space. Lewin explains that work-related strains are a result of individuals’ subjective perceptions of objective factors, such as work roles, relationships with others in the workplace, as well as personality indicators, and can be used to predict people’s reactions, including illness. Thus, to make changes to an organizational system, it is necessary to understand a field and try to move that field from the current state to the desired state. Making this move necessitates identifying mechanisms influencing individuals.

Role Stress Theory

Role stress theory mostly isolates the perspective a person has about his or her work-related responsibilities and expectations to determine how those perceptions relate with a person’s work-related strains. However, those relationships have been met with somewhat varied results, which Glazer and Beehr ( 2005 ) concluded might be a function of differences in culture, an environmental factor often neglected in research. Kahn et al.’s ( 1964 ) role stress theory, coupled with Lewin’s ( 1936 ) Field Theory, serves as the foundation for the P-E fit theory. Lewin ( 1936 ) wrote, “Every psychological event depends upon the state of the person and at the same time on the environment” (p. 12). Researchers of IO psychology have narrowed the environment to the organization or work team. This narrowed view of the organizational environment is evident in French and Caplan’s ( 1972 ) P-E fit framework.

Person-Environment Fit Theory

The P-E fit framework focuses on the extent to which there is congruence between the person and a given environment, such as the organization (Caplan, 1987 ; Edwards, 2008 ). For example, does the person have the necessary skills and abilities to fulfill an organization’s demands, or does the environment support a person’s desire for autonomy (i.e., do the values align?) or fulfill a person’s needs (i.e., a person’s needs are rewarded). Theoretically and empirically, the greater the person-organization fit, the greater a person’s job satisfaction and organizational commitment, the less a person’s turnover intention and work-related stress (see meta-analyses by Assouline & Meir, 1987 ; Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005 ; Verquer, Beehr, & Wagner, 2003 ).

Job Demands-Control/Support (JD-C/S) and Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) Model

Focusing more closely on concrete aspects of work demands and the extent to which a person perceives he or she has control or decision latitude over those demands, Karasek ( 1979 ) developed the JD-C model. Karasek and Theorell ( 1990 ) posited that high job demands under conditions of little decision latitude or control yield high strains, which have varied implications on the health of an organization (e.g., in terms of high turnover, employee ill-health, poor organizational performance). This theory was modified slightly to address not only control, but also other resources that could protect a person from unruly job demands, including support (aka JD-C/S, Johnson & Hall, 1988 ; and JD-R, Bakker, van Veldhoven, & Xanthopoulou, 2010 ). Whether focusing on control or resources, both they and job demands are said to reflect workplace characteristics, while control and resources also represent coping strategies or tools (Siegrist, 2010 ).

Despite the glut of research testing the JD-C and JD-R, results are somewhat mixed. Testing the interaction between job demands and control, Beehr, Glaser, Canali, and Wallwey ( 2001 ) did not find empirical support for the JD-C theory. However, Dawson, O’Brien, and Beehr ( 2016 ) found that high control and high support buffered against the independent deleterious effects of interpersonal conflict, role conflict, and organizational politics (demands that were categorized as hindrance stressors) on anxiety, as well as the effects of interpersonal conflict and organizational politics on physiological symptoms, but control and support did not moderate the effects between challenge stressors and strains. Coupled with Bakker, Demerouti, and Sanz-Vergel’s ( 2014 ) note that excessive job demands are a source of strain, but increased job resources are a source of engagement, Dawson et al.’s results suggest that when an organization identifies that demands are hindrances, it can create strategies for primary (preventative) stress management interventions and attempt to remove or reduce such work demands. If the demands are challenging, though manageable, but latitude to control the challenging stressors and support are insufficient, the organization could modify practices and train employees on adopting better strategies for meeting or coping (secondary stress management intervention) with the demands. Finally, if the organization can neither afford to modify the demands or the level of control and support, it will be necessary for the organization to develop stress management (tertiary) interventions to deal with the inevitable strains.

Conservation of Resources Theory

The idea that job resources reinforce engagement in work has been propagated in Hobfoll’s ( 1989 ) Conservation of Resources (COR) theory. COR theory also draws on the foundational premise that people’s mental health is a function of the person and the environment, forwarding that how people interpret their environment (including the societal context) affects their stress levels. Hobfoll focuses on resources such as objects, personal characteristics, conditions, or energies as particularly instrumental to minimizing strains. He asserts that people do whatever they can to protect their valued resources. Thus, strains develop when resources are threatened to be taken away, actually taken away, or when additional resources are not attainable after investing in the possibility of gaining more resources (Hobfoll, 2001 ). By extension, organizations can invest in activities that would minimize resource loss and create opportunities for resource gains and thus have direct implications for devising primary and secondary stress management interventions.

Transactional Framework

Lazarus and Folkman ( 1984 ) developed the widely studied transactional framework of stress. This framework holds as a key component the cognitive appraisal process. When individuals perceive factors in the work environment as a threat (i.e., primary appraisal), they will scan the available resources (external or internal to himself or herself) to cope with the stressors (i.e., secondary appraisal). If the coping resources provide minimal relief, strains develop. Until recently, little attention has been given to the cognitive appraisal associated with different work stressors (Dewe & Kompier, 2008 ; Liu & Li, 2017 ). In a study of Polish and Spanish social care service providers, stressors appraised as a threat related positively to burnout and less engagement, but stressors perceived as challenges yielded greater engagement and less burnout (Kożusznik, Rodriguez, & Peiro, 2012 ). Similarly, Dawson et al. ( 2016 ) found that even with support and control resources, hindrance demands were more strain-producing than challenge demands, suggesting that appraisal of the stressor is important. In fact, “many people respond well to challenging work” (Beehr et al., 2001 , p. 126). Kożusznik et al. ( 2012 ) recommend training employees to change the way they view work demands in order to increase engagement, considering that part of the problem may be about how the person appraises his or her environment and, thus, copes with the stressors.

Effort-Reward Imbalance

Siegrist’s ( 1996 ) Model of Effort-Reward Imbalance (ERI) focuses on the notion of social reciprocity, such that a person fulfills required work tasks in exchange for desired rewards (Siegrist, 2010 ). ERI sheds light on how an imbalance in a person’s expectations of an organization’s rewards (e.g., pay, bonus, sense of advancement and development, job security) in exchange for a person’s efforts, that is a break in one’s work contract, leads to negative responses, including long-term ill-health (Siegrist, 2010 ; Siegrist et al., 2014 ). In fact, prolonged perception of a work contract imbalance leads to adverse health, including immunological problems and inflammation, which contribute to cardiovascular disease (Siegrist, 2010 ). The model resembles the relational and interactional psychological contract theory in that it describes an employee’s perception of the terms of the relationship between the person and the workplace, including expectations of performance, job security, training and development opportunities, career progression, salary, and bonuses (Thomas, Au, & Ravlin, 2003 ). The psychological contract, like the ERI model, focuses on social exchange. Furthermore, the psychological contract, like stress theories, are influenced by cultural factors that shape how people interpret their environments (Glazer, 2008 ; Thomas et al., 2003 ). Violations of the psychological contract will negatively affect a person’s attitudes toward the workplace and subsequent health and well-being (Siegrist, 2010 ). To remediate strain, Siegrist ( 2010 ) focuses on both the person and the environment, recognizing that the organization is particularly responsible for changing unfavorable work conditions and the person is responsible for modifying his or her reactions to such conditions.

Stress Management Interventions: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary

Remediation of work stress and organizational development interventions are about realigning the employee’s experiences in the workplace with factors in the environment, as well as closing the gap between the current environment and the desired environment. Work stress develops when an employee perceives the work demands to exceed the person’s resources to cope and thus threatens employee well-being (Dewe & Kompier, 2008 ). Likewise, an organization’s need to change arises when forces in the environment are creating a need to change in order to survive (see Figure 1 ). Lewin’s ( 1951 ) Force Field Analysis, the foundations of which are in Field Theory, is one of the first organizational development intervention tools presented in the social science literature. The concept behind Force Field Analysis is that in order to survive, organizations must adapt to environmental forces driving a need for organizational change and remove restraining forces that create obstacles to organizational change. In order to do this, management needs to delineate the current field in which the organization is functioning, understand the driving forces for change, identify and dampen or eliminate the restraining forces against change. Several models for analyses may be applied, but most approaches are variations of organizational climate surveys.

Through organizational surveys, workers provide management with a snapshot view of how they perceive aspects of their work environment. Thus, the view of the health of an organization is a function of several factors, chief among them employees’ views (i.e., the climate) about the workplace (Lewin, 1951 ). Indeed, French and Kahn ( 1962 ) posited that well-being depends on the extent to which properties of the person and properties of the environment align in terms of what a person requires and the resources available in a given environment. Therefore, only when properties of the person and properties of the environment are sufficiently understood can plans for change be developed and implemented targeting the environment (e.g., change reporting structures to relieve, and thus prevent future, communication stressors) and/or the person (e.g., providing more autonomy, vacation days, training on new technology). In short, climate survey findings can guide consultants about the emphasis for organizational interventions: before a problem arises aka stress prevention, e.g., carefully crafting job roles), when a problem is present, but steps are taken to mitigate their consequences (aka coping, e.g., providing social support groups), and/or once strains develop (aka. stress management, e.g., healthcare management policies).

For each of the primary (prevention), secondary (coping), and tertiary (stress management) techniques the target for intervention can be the entire workforce, a subset of the workforce, or a specific person. Interventions that target the entire workforce may be considered organizational interventions, as they have direct implications on the health of all individuals and consequently the health of the organization. Several interventions categorized as primary and secondary interventions may also be implemented after strains have developed and after it has been discerned that a person or the organization did not do enough to mitigate stressors or strains (see Figure 1 ). The designation of many of the interventions as belonging to one category or another may be viewed as merely a suggestion.

Primary Interventions (Preventative Stress Management)

Before individuals begin to perceive work-related stressors, organizations engage in stress prevention strategies, such as providing people with resources (e.g., computers, printers, desk space, information about the job role, organizational reporting structures) to do their jobs. However, sometimes the institutional structures and resources are insufficient or ambiguous. Scholars and practitioners have identified several preventative stress management strategies that may be implemented.

Planning and Time Management

When employees feel quantitatively overloaded, sometimes the remedy is improving the employees’ abilities to plan and manage their time (Quick, Quick, Nelson, & Hurrell, 2003 ). Planning is a future-oriented activity that focuses on conceptual and comprehensive work goals. Time management is a behavior that focuses on organizing, prioritizing, and scheduling work activities to achieve short-term goals. Given the purpose of time management, it is considered a primary intervention, as engaging in time management helps to prevent work tasks from mounting and becoming unmanageable, which would subsequently lead to adverse outcomes. Time management comprises three fundamental components: (1) establishing goals, (2) identifying and prioritizing tasks to fulfill the goals, and (3) scheduling and monitoring progress toward goal achievement (Peeters & Rutte, 2005 ). Workers who employ time management have less role ambiguity (Macan, Shahani, Dipboye, & Philips, 1990 ), psychological stress or strain (Adams & Jex, 1999 ; Jex & Elaqua, 1999 ; Macan et al., 1990 ), and greater job satisfaction (Macan, 1994 ). However, Macan ( 1994 ) did not find a relationship between time management and performance. Still, Claessens, van Eerde, Rutte, and Roe ( 2004 ) found that perceived control of time partially mediated the relationships between planning behavior (an indicator of time management), job autonomy, and workload on one hand, and job strains, job satisfaction, and job performance on the other hand. Moreover, Peeters and Rutte ( 2005 ) observed that teachers with high work demands and low autonomy experienced more burnout when they had poor time management skills.

Person-Organization Fit

Just as it is important for organizations to find the right person for the job and organization, so is it the responsibility of a person to choose to work at the right organization—an organization that fulfills the person’s needs and upholds the values important to the individual, as much as the person fulfills the organization’s needs and adapts to its values. When people fit their employing organizations they are setting themselves up for experiencing less strain-producing stressors (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005 ). In a meta-analysis of 62 person-job fit studies and 110 person-organization fit studies, Kristof-Brown et al. ( 2005 ) found that person-job fit had a negative correlation with indicators of job strain. In fact, a primary intervention of career counseling can help to reduce stress levels (Firth-Cozens, 2003 ).

Job Redesign

The Job Demands-Control/Support (JD-C/S), Job Demands-Resources (JD-R), and transactional models all suggest that factors in the work context require modifications in order to reduce potential ill-health and poor organizational performance. Drawing on Hackman and Oldham’s ( 1980 ) Job Characteristics Model, it is possible to assess with the Job Diagnostics Survey (JDS) the current state of work characteristics related to skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. Modifying those aspects would help create a sense of meaningfulness, sense of responsibility, and feeling of knowing how one is performing, which subsequently affects a person’s well-being as identified in assessments of motivation, satisfaction, improved performance, and reduced withdrawal intentions and behaviors. Extending this argument to the stress models, it can be deduced that reducing uncertainty or perceived unfairness that may be associated with a person’s perception of these work characteristics, as well as making changes to physical characteristics of the environment (e.g., lighting, seating, desk, air quality), nature of work (e.g., job responsibilities, roles, decision-making latitude), and organizational arrangements (e.g., reporting structure and feedback mechanisms), can help mitigate against numerous ill-health consequences and reduced organizational performance. In fact, Fried et al. ( 2013 ) showed that healthy patients of a medical clinic whose jobs were excessively low (i.e., monotonous) or excessively high (i.e., overstimulating) on job enrichment (as measured by the JDS) had greater abdominal obesity than those whose jobs were optimally enriched. By taking stock of employees’ perceptions of the current work situation, managers might think about ways to enhance employees’ coping toolkit, such as training on how to deal with difficult clients or creating stimulating opportunities when jobs have low levels of enrichment.

Participatory Action Research Interventions

Participatory action research (PAR) is an intervention wherein, through group discussions, employees help to identify and define problems in organizational structure, processes, policies, practices, and reward structures, as well as help to design, implement, and evaluate success of solutions. PAR is in itself an intervention, but its goal is to design interventions to eliminate or reduce work-related factors that are impeding performance and causing people to be unwell. An example of a successful primary intervention, utilizing principles of PAR and driven by the JD-C and JD-C/S stress frameworks is Health Circles (HCs; Aust & Ducki, 2004 ).

HCs, developed in Germany in the 1980s, were popular practices in industries, such as metal, steel, and chemical, and service. Similar to other problem-solving practices, such as quality circles, HCs were based on the assumptions that employees are the experts of their jobs. For this reason, to promote employee well-being, management and administrators solicited suggestions and ideas from the employees to improve occupational health, thereby increasing employees’ job control. HCs also promoted communication between managers and employees, which had a potential to increase social support. With more control and support, employees would experience less strains and better occupational well-being.

Employing the three-steps of (1) problem analysis (i.e., diagnosis or discovery through data generated from organizational records of absenteeism length, frequency, rate, and reason and employee survey), (2) HC meetings (6 to 10 meetings held over several months to brainstorm ideas to improve occupational safety and health concerns identified in the discovery phase), and (3) HC evaluation (to determine if desired changes were accomplished and if employees’ reports of stressors and strains changed after the course of 15 months), improvements were to be expected (Aust & Ducki, 2004 ). Aust and Ducki ( 2004 ) reviewed 11 studies presenting 81 health circles in 30 different organizations. Overall study participants had high satisfaction with the HCs practices. Most companies acted upon employees’ suggestions (e.g., improving driver’s seat and cab, reducing ticket sale during drive, team restructuring and job rotation to facilitate communication, hiring more employees during summer time, and supervisor training program to improve leadership and communication skills) to improve work conditions. Thus, HCs represent a successful theory-grounded intervention to routinely improve employees’ occupational health.

Physical Setting

The physical environment or physical workspace has an enormous impact on individuals’ well-being, attitudes, and interactions with others, as well as on the implications on innovation and well-being (Oksanen & Ståhle, 2013 ; Vischer, 2007 ). In a study of 74 new product development teams (total of 437 study respondents) in Western Europe, Chong, van Eerde, Rutte, and Chai ( 2012 ) found that when teams were faced with challenge time pressures, meaning the teams had a strong interest and desire in tackling complex, but engaging tasks, when they were working proximally close with one another, team communication improved. Chong et al. assert that their finding aligns with prior studies that have shown that physical proximity promotes increased awareness of other team members, greater tendency to initiate conversations, and greater team identification. However, they also found that when faced with hindrance time pressures, physical proximity related to low levels of team communication, but when hindrance time pressure was low, team proximity had an increasingly greater positive relationship with team communication.

In addition to considering the type of work demand teams must address, other physical workspace considerations include whether people need to work collaboratively and synchronously or independently and remotely (or a combination thereof). Consideration needs to be given to how company contributors would satisfy client needs through various modes of communication, such as email vs. telephone, and whether individuals who work by a window might need shading to block bright sunlight from glaring on their computer screens. Finally, people who have to use the telephone for extensive periods of time would benefit from earphones to prevent neck strains. Most physical stressors are rather simple to rectify. However, companies are often not aware of a problem until after a problem arises, such as when a person’s back is strained from trying to move heavy equipment. Companies then implement strategies to remediate the environmental stressor. With the help of human factors, and organizational and office design consultants, many of the physical barriers to optimal performance can be prevented (Rousseau & Aubé, 2010 ). In a study of 215 French-speaking Canadian healthcare employees, Rousseau and Aubé ( 2010 ) found that although supervisor instrumental support positively related with affective commitment to the organization, the relationship was even stronger for those who reported satisfaction with the ambient environment (i.e., temperature, lighting, sound, ventilation, and cleanliness).

Secondary Interventions (Coping)

Secondary interventions, also referred to as coping, focus on resources people can use to mitigate the risk of work-related illness or workplace injury. Resources may include properties related to social resources, behaviors, and cognitive structures. Each of these resource domains may be employed to cope with stressors. Monat and Lazarus ( 1991 ) summarize the definition of coping as “an individual’s efforts to master demands (or conditions of harm, threat, or challenge) that are appraised (or perceived) as exceeding or taxing his or her resources” (p. 5). To master demands requires use of the aforementioned resources. Secondary interventions help employees become aware of the psychological, physical, and behavioral responses that may occur from the stressors presented in their working environment. Secondary interventions help a person detect and attend to stressors and identify resources for and ways of mitigating job strains. Often, coping strategies are learned skills that have a cognitive foundation and serve important functions in improving people’s management of stressors (Lazarus & Folkman, 1991 ). Coping is effortful, but with practice it becomes easier to employ. This idea is the foundation for understanding the role of resilience in coping with stressors. However, “not all adaptive processes are coping. Coping is a subset of adaptational activities that involves effort and does not include everything that we do in relating to the environment” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1991 , p. 198). Furthermore, sometimes to cope with a stressor, a person may call upon social support sources to help with tangible materials or emotional comfort. People call upon support resources because they help to restructure how a person approaches or thinks about the stressor.

Most secondary interventions are aimed at helping the individual, though companies, as a policy, might require all employees to partake in training aimed at increasing employees’ awareness of and skills aimed at handling difficult situations vis à vis company channels (e.g., reporting on sexual harassment or discrimination). Furthermore, organizations might institute mentoring programs or work groups to address various work-related matters. These programs employ awareness-raising activities, stress-education, or skills training (cf., Bhagat, Segovis, & Nelson, 2012 ), which include development of skills in problem-solving, understanding emotion-focused coping, identifying and using social support, and enhancing capacity for resilience. The aim of these programs, therefore, is to help employees proactively review their perceptions of psychological, physical, and behavioral job-related strains, thereby extending their resilience, enabling them to form a personal plan to control stressors and practice coping skills (Cooper, Dewe, & O’Driscoll, 2011 ).

Often these stress management programs are instituted after an organization has observed excessive absenteeism and work-related performance problems and, therefore, are sometimes categorized as a tertiary stress management intervention or even a primary (prevention) intervention. However, the skills developed for coping with stressors also place the programs in secondary stress management interventions. Example programs that are categorized as tertiary or primary stress management interventions may also be secondary stress management interventions (see Figure 1 ), and these include lifestyle advice and planning, stress inoculation training, simple relaxation techniques, meditation, basic trainings in time management, anger management, problem-solving skills, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Corporate wellness programs also fall under this category. In other words, some programs could be categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary interventions depending upon when the employee (or organization) identifies the need to implement the program. For example, time management practices could be implemented as a means of preventing some stressors, as a way to cope with mounting stressors, or as a strategy to mitigate symptoms of excessive of stressors. Furthermore, these programs can be administered at the individual level or group level. As related to secondary interventions, these programs provide participants with opportunities to develop and practice skills to cognitively reappraise the stressor(s); to modify their perspectives about stressors; to take time out to breathe, stretch, meditate, relax, and/or exercise in an attempt to support better decision-making; to articulate concerns and call upon support resources; and to know how to say “no” to onslaughts of requests to complete tasks. Participants also learn how to proactively identify coping resources and solve problems.

According to Cooper, Dewe, and O’Driscoll ( 2001 ), secondary interventions are successful in helping employees modify or strengthen their ability to cope with the experience of stressors with the goal of mitigating the potential harm the job stressors may create. Secondary interventions focus on individuals’ transactions with the work environment and emphasize the fit between a person and his or her environment. However, researchers have pointed out that the underlying assumption of secondary interventions is that the responsibility for coping with the stressors of the environment lies within individuals (Quillian-Wolever & Wolever, 2003 ). If companies cannot prevent the stressors in the first place, then they are, in part, responsible for helping individuals develop coping strategies and informing employees about programs that would help them better cope with job stressors so that they are able to fulfill work assignments.

Stress management interventions that help people learn to cope with stressors focus mainly on the goals of enabling problem-resolution or expressing one’s emotions in a healthy manner. These goals are referred to as problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping (Folkman & Lazarus, 1980 ; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978 ), and the person experiencing the stressors as potential threat is the agent for change and the recipient of the benefits of successful coping (Hobfoll, 1998 ). In addition to problem-focused and emotion-focused coping approaches, social support and resilience may be coping resources. There are many other sources for coping than there is room to present here (see e.g., Cartwright & Cooper, 2005 ); however, the current literature has primarily focused on these resources.

Problem-Focused Coping

Problem-focused or direct coping helps employees remove or reduce stressors in order to reduce their strain experiences (Bhagat et al., 2012 ). In problem-focused coping employees are responsible for working out a strategic plan in order to remove job stressors, such as setting up a set of goals and engaging in behaviors to meet these goals. Problem-focused coping is viewed as an adaptive response, though it can also be maladaptive if it creates more problems down the road, such as procrastinating getting work done or feigning illness to take time off from work. Adaptive problem-focused coping negatively relates to long-term job strains (Higgins & Endler, 1995 ). Discussion on problem-solving coping is framed from an adaptive perspective.

Problem-focused coping is featured as an extension of control, because engaging in problem-focused coping strategies requires a series of acts to keep job stressors under control (Bhagat et al., 2012 ). In the stress literature, there are generally two ways to categorize control: internal versus external locus of control, and primary versus secondary control. Locus of control refers to the extent to which people believe they have control over their own life (Rotter, 1966 ). People high in internal locus of control believe that they can control their own fate whereas people high in external locus of control believe that outside factors determine their life experience (Rotter, 1966 ). Generally, those with an external locus of control are less inclined to engage in problem-focused coping (Strentz & Auerbach, 1988 ). Primary control is the belief that people can directly influence their environment (Alloy & Abramson, 1979 ), and thus they are more likely to engage in problem-focused coping. However, when it is not feasible to exercise primary control, people search for secondary control, with which people try to adapt themselves into the objective environment (Rothbaum, Weisz, & Snyder, 1982 ).

Emotion-Focused Coping

Emotion-focused coping, sometimes referred to as palliative coping, helps employees reduce strains without the removal of job stressors. It involves cognitive or emotional efforts, such as talking about the stressor or distracting oneself from the stressor, in order to lessen emotional distress resulting from job stressors (Bhagat et al., 2012 ). Emotion-focused coping aims to reappraise and modify the perceptions of a situation or seek emotional support from friends or family. These methods do not include efforts to change the work situation or to remove the job stressors (Lazarus & Folkman, 1991 ). People tend to adopt emotion-focused coping strategies when they believe that little or nothing can be done to remove the threatening, harmful, and challenging stressors (Bhagat et al., 2012 ), such as when they are the only individuals to have the skills to get a project done or they are given increased responsibilities because of the unexpected departure of a colleague. Emotion-focused coping strategies include (1) reappraisal of the stressful situation, (2) talking to friends and receiving reassurance from them, (3) focusing on one’s strength rather than weakness, (4) optimistic comparison—comparing one’s situation to others’ or one’s past situation, (5) selective ignoring—paying less attention to the unpleasant aspects of one’s job and being more focused on the positive aspects of the job, (6) restrictive expectations—restricting one’s expectations on job satisfaction but paying more attention to monetary rewards, (7) avoidance coping—not thinking about the problem, leaving the situation, distracting oneself, or using alcohol or drugs (e.g., Billings & Moos, 1981 ).

Some emotion-focused coping strategies are maladaptive. For example, avoidance coping may lead to increased level of job strains in the long run (e.g., Parasuraman & Cleek, 1984 ). Furthermore, a person’s ability to cope with the imbalance of performing work to meet organizational expectations can take a toll on the person’s health, leading to physiological consequences such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and diabetes (Fried et al., 2013 ; Siegrist, 2010 ; Toker, Shirom, Melamed, & Armon, 2012 ; Willert, Thulstrup, Hertz, & Bonde, 2010 ).

Comparing Coping Strategies across Cultures

Most coping research is conducted in individualistic, Western cultures wherein emotional control is emphasized and both problem-solving focused coping and primary control are preferred (Bhagat et al., 2010 ). However, in collectivistic cultures, emotion-focused coping and use of secondary control may be preferred and may not necessarily carry a negative evaluation (Bhagat et al., 2010 ). For example, African Americans are more likely to use emotion-focused coping than non–African Americans (Knight, Silverstein, McCallum, & Fox, 2000 ), and among women who experienced sexual harassment, Anglo American women were less likely to employ emotion focused coping (i.e., avoidance coping) than Turkish women and Hispanic American women, while Hispanic women used more denial than the other two groups (Wasti & Cortina, 2002 ).

Thus, whereas problem-focused coping is venerated in Western societies, emotion-focused coping may be more effective in reducing strains in collectivistic cultures, such as China, Japan, and India (Bhagat et al., 2010 ; Narayanan, Menon, & Spector, 1999 ; Selmer, 2002 ). Indeed, Swedish participants reported more problem-focused coping than did Chinese participants (Xiao, Ottosson, & Carlsson, 2013 ), American college students engaged in more problem-focused coping behaviors than did their Japanese counterparts (Ogawa, 2009 ), and Indian (vs. Canadian) students reported more emotion-focused coping, such as seeking social support and positive reappraisal (Sinha, Willson, & Watson, 2000 ). Moreover, Glazer, Stetz, and Izso ( 2004 ) found that internal locus of control was more predominant in individualistic cultures (United Kingdom and United States), whereas external locus of control was more predominant in communal cultures (Italy and Hungary). Also, internal locus of control was associated with less job stress, but more so for nurses in the United Kingdom and United States than Italy and Hungary. Taken together, adoption of coping strategies and their effectiveness differ significantly across cultures. The extent to which a coping strategy is perceived favorably and thus selected or not selected is not only a function of culture, but also a person’s sociocultural beliefs toward the coping strategy (Morimoto, Shimada, & Ozaki, 2013 ).

Social Support

Social support refers to the aid an entity gives to a person. The source of the support can be a single person, such as a supervisor, coworker, subordinate, family member, friend, or stranger, or an organization as represented by upper-level management representing organizational practices. The type of support can be instrumental or emotional. Instrumental support, including informational support, refers to that which is tangible, such as data to help someone make a decision or colleagues’ sick days so one does not lose vital pay while recovering from illness. Emotional support, including esteem support, refers to the psychological boost given to a person who needs to express emotions and feel empathy from others or to have his or her perspective validated. Beehr and Glazer ( 2001 ) present an overview of the role of social support on the stressor-strain relationship and arguments regarding the role of culture in shaping the utility of different sources and types of support.

Meaningfulness and Resilience

Meaningfulness reflects the extent to which people believe their lives are significant, purposeful, goal-directed, and fulfilling (Glazer, Kożusznik, Meyers, & Ganai, 2014 ). When faced with stressors, people who have a strong sense of meaning in life will also try to make sense of the stressors. Maintaining a positive outlook on life stressors helps to manage emotions, which is helpful in reducing strains, particularly when some stressors cannot be problem-solved (Lazarus & Folkman, 1991 ). Lazarus and Folkman ( 1991 ) emphasize that being able to reframe threatening situations can be just as important in an adaptation as efforts to control the stressors. Having a sense of meaningfulness motivates people to behave in ways that help them overcome stressors. Thus, meaningfulness is often used in the same breath as resilience, because people who are resilient are often protecting that which is meaningful.

Resilience is a personality state that can be fortified and enhanced through varied experiences. People who perceive their lives are meaningful are more likely to find ways to face adversity and are therefore more prone to intensifying their resiliency. When people demonstrate resilience to cope with noxious stressors, their ability to be resilient against other stressors strengthens because through the experience, they develop more competencies (Glazer et al., 2014 ). Thus, fitting with Hobfoll’s ( 1989 , 2001 ) COR theory, meaningfulness and resilience are psychological resources people attempt to conserve and protect, and employ when necessary for making sense of or coping with stressors.

Tertiary Interventions (Stress Management)

Stress management refers to interventions employed to treat and repair harmful repercussions of stressors that were not coped with sufficiently. As Lazarus and Folkman ( 1991 ) noted, not all stressors “are amenable to mastery” (p. 205). Stressors that are unmanageable and lead to strains require interventions to reverse or slow down those effects. Workplace interventions might focus on the person, the organization, or both. Unfortunately, instead of looking at the whole system to include the person and the workplace, most companies focus on the person. Such a focus should not be a surprise given the results of van der Klink, Blonk, Schene, and van Dijk’s ( 2001 ) meta-analysis of 48 experimental studies conducted between 1977 and 1996 . They found that of four types of tertiary interventions, the effect size for cognitive-behavioral interventions and multimodal programs (e.g., the combination of assertive training and time management) was moderate and the effect size for relaxation techniques was small in reducing psychological complaints, but not turnover intention related to work stress. However, the effects of (the five studies that used) organization-focused interventions were not significant. Similarly, Richardson and Rothstein’s ( 2008 ) meta-analytic study, including 36 experimental studies with 55 interventions, showed a larger effect size for cognitive-behavioral interventions than relaxation, organizational, multimodal, or alternative. However, like with van der Klink et al. ( 2001 ), Richardson and Rothstein ( 2008 ) cautioned that there were few organizational intervention studies included and the impact of interventions were determined on the basis of psychological outcomes and not physiological or organizational outcomes. Van der Klink et al. ( 2001 ) further expressed concern that organizational interventions target the workplace and that changes in the individual may take longer to observe than individual interventions aimed directly at the individual.

The long-term benefits of individual focused interventions are not yet clear either. Per Giga, Cooper, and Faragher ( 2003 ), the benefits of person-directed stress management programs will be short-lived if organizational factors to reduce stressors are not addressed too. Indeed, LaMontagne, Keegel, Louie, Ostry, and Landsbergis ( 2007 ), in their meta-analysis of 90 studies on stress management interventions published between 1990 and 2005 , revealed that in relation to interventions targeting organizations only, and interventions targeting individuals only, interventions targeting both organizations and individuals (i.e. the systems approach) had the most favorable positive effects on both the organizations and the individuals. Furthermore, the organization-level interventions were effective at both the individual and organization levels, but the individual-level interventions were effective only at the individual level.

Individual-Focused Stress Management

Individual-focused interventions concentrate on improving conditions for the individual, though counseling programs emphasize that the worker is in charge of reducing “stress,” whereas role-focused interventions emphasize activities that organizations can guide to actually reduce unnecessary noxious environmental factors.

Individual-Focused Stress Management: Employee Assistance Programs

When stress become sufficiently problematic (which is individually gauged or attended to by supportive others) in a worker’s life, employees may utilize the short-term counseling services or referral services Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide. People who utilize the counseling services may engage in cognitive behavioral therapy aimed at changing the way people think about the stressors (e.g., as challenge opportunity over threat) and manage strains. Example topics that may be covered in these therapy sessions include time management and goal setting (prioritization), career planning and development, cognitive restructuring and mindfulness, relaxation, and anger management. In a study of healthcare workers and teachers who participated in a 2-day to 2.5-day comprehensive stress management training program (including 26 topics on identifying, coping with, and managing stressors and strains), Siu, Cooper, and Phillips ( 2013 ) found psychological and physical improvements were self-reported among the healthcare workers (for which there was no control group). However, comparing an intervention group of teachers to a control group of teachers, the extent of change was not as visible, though teachers in the intervention group engaged in more mastery recovery experiences (i.e., they purposefully chose to engage in challenging activities after work).

Individual-Focused Stress Management: Mindfulness

A popular therapy today is to train people to be more mindful, which involves helping people live in the present, reduce negative judgement of current and past experiences, and practicing patience (Birnie, Speca, & Carlson, 2010 ). Mindfulness programs usually include training on relaxation exercises, gentle yoga, and awareness of the body’s senses. In one study offered through the continuing education program at a Canadian university, 104 study participants took part in an 8-week, 90 minute per group (15–20 participants per) session mindfulness program (Birnie et al., 2010 ). In addition to body scanning, they also listened to lectures on incorporating mindfulness into one’s daily life and received a take-home booklet and compact discs that guided participants through the exercises studied in person. Two weeks after completing the program, participants’ mindfulness attendance and general positive moods increased, while physical, psychological, and behavioral strains decreased. In another study on a sample of U.K. government employees, study participants receiving three sessions of 2.5 to 3 hours each training on mindfulness, with the first two sessions occurring in consecutive weeks and the third occurring about three months later, Flaxman and Bond ( 2010 ) found that compared to the control group, the intervention group showed a decrease in distress levels from Time 1 (baseline) to Time 2 (three months after first two training sessions) and Time 1 to Time 3 (after final training session). Moreover, of the mindfulness intervention study participants who were clinically distressed, 69% experienced clinical improvement in their psychological health.

Individual-Focused Stress Management: Biofeedback/Imagery/Meditation/Deep Breathing

Biofeedback uses electronic equipment to inform users about how their body is responding to tension. With guidance from a therapist, individuals then learn to change their physiological responses so that their pulse normalizes and muscles relax (Norris, Fahrion, & Oikawa, 2007 ). The therapist’s guidance might include reminders for imagery, meditation, body scan relaxation, and deep breathing. Saunders, Driskell, Johnston, and Salas’s ( 1996 ) meta-analysis of 37 studies found that imagery helped reduce state and performance anxiety. Once people have been trained to relax, reminder triggers may be sent through smartphone push notifications (Villani et al., 2013 ).

Smartphone technology can also be used to support weight loss programs, smoking cessation programs, and medication or disease (e.g., diabetes) management compliance (Heron & Smyth, 2010 ; Kannampallil, Waicekauskas, Morrow, Kopren, & Fu, 2013 ). For example, smartphones could remind a person to take medications or test blood sugar levels or send messages about healthy behaviors and positive affirmations.

Individual-Focused Stress Management: Sleep/Rest/Respite

Workers today sleep less per night than adults did nearly 30 years ago (Luckhaupt, Tak, & Calvert, 2010 ; National Sleep Foundation, 2005 , 2013 ). In order to combat problems, such as increased anxiety and cardiovascular artery disease, associated with sleep deprivation and insufficient rest, it is imperative that people disconnect from their work at least one day per week or preferably for several weeks so that they are able to restore psychological health (Etzion, Eden, & Lapidot, 1998 ; Ragsdale, Beehr, Grebner, & Han, 2011 ). When college students engaged in relaxation-type activities, such as reading or watching television, over the weekend, they experienced less emotional exhaustion and greater general well-being than students who engaged in resources-consuming activities, such as house cleaning (Ragsdale et al., 2011 ). Additional research and future directions for research are reviewed and identified in the work of Sonnentag ( 2012 ). For example, she asks whether lack of ability to detach from work is problematic for people who find their work meaningful. In other words, are negative health consequences only among those who do not take pleasure in their work? Sonnetag also asks how teleworkers detach from their work when engaging in work from the home. Ironically, one of the ways that companies are trying to help with the challenges of high workload or increased need to be available to colleagues, clients, or vendors around the globe is by offering flexible work arrangements, whereby employees who can work from home are given the opportunity to do so. Companies that require global interactions 24-hours per day often employ this strategy, but is the solution also a source of strain (Glazer, Kożusznik, & Shargo, 2012 )?

Individual-Focused Stress Management: Role Analysis

Role analysis or role clarification aims to redefine, expressly identify, and align employees’ roles and responsibilities with their work goals. Through role negotiation, involved parties begin to develop a new formal or informal contract about expectations and define resources needed to fulfill those expectations. Glazer has used this approach in organizational consulting and, with one memorable client engagement, found that not only were the individuals whose roles required deeper re-evaluation happier at work (six months later), but so were their subordinates. Subordinates who once characterized the two partners as hostile and akin to a couple going through a bad divorce, later referred to them as a blissful pair. Schaubroeck, Ganster, Sime, and Ditman ( 1993 ) also found in a three-wave study over a two-year period that university employees’ reports of role clarity and greater satisfaction with their supervisor increased after a role clarification exercise of top managers’ roles and subordinates’ roles. However, the intervention did not have any impact on reported physical symptoms, absenteeism, or psychological well-being. Role analysis is categorized under individual-focused stress management intervention because it is usually implemented after individuals or teams begin to demonstrate poor performance and because the intervention typically focuses on a few individuals rather than an entire organization or group. In other words, the intervention treats the person’s symptoms by redefining the role so as to eliminate the stimulant causing the problem.

Organization-Focused Stress Management

At the organizational level, companies that face major declines in productivity and profitability or increased costs related to healthcare and disability might be motivated to reassess organizational factors that might be impinging on employees’ health and well-being. After all, without healthy workers, it is not possible to have a healthy organization. Companies may choose to implement practices and policies that are expected to help not only the employees, but also the organization with reduced costs associated with employee ill-health, such as medical insurance, disability payments, and unused office space. Example practices and policies that may be implemented include flexible work arrangements to ensure that employees are not on the streets in the middle of the night for work that can be done from anywhere (such as the home), diversity programs to reduce stress-induced animosity and prejudice toward others, providing only healthy food choices in cafeterias, mandating that all employees have physicals in order to receive reduced prices for insurance, company-wide closures or mandatory paid time off, and changes in organizational visioning.

Organization-Focused Stress Management: Organizational-Level Occupational Health Interventions

As with job design interventions that are implemented to remediate work characteristics that were a source of unnecessary or excessive stressors, so are organizational-level occupational health (OLOH) interventions. As with many of the interventions, its placement as a primary or tertiary stress management intervention may seem arbitrary, but when considering the goal and target of change, it is clear that the intervention is implemented in response to some ailing organizational issues that need to be reversed or stopped, and because it brings in the entire organization’s workforce to address the problems, it has been placed in this category. There are several more case studies than empirical studies on the topic of whole system organizational change efforts (see example case studies presented by the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive). It is possible that lack of published empirical work is not so much due to lack of attempting to gather and evaluate the data for publication, but rather because the OLOH interventions themselves never made it to the intervention stage, the interventions failed (Biron, Gatrell, & Cooper, 2010 ), or the level of evaluation was not rigorous enough to get into empirical peer-review journals. Fortunately, case studies provide some indication of the opportunities and problems associated with OLOH interventions.

One case study regarding Cardiff and Value University Health Board revealed that through focus group meetings with members of a steering group (including high-level managers and supported by top management) and facilitated by a neutral, non-judgemental organizational health consultant, ideas for change were posted on newsprint, discussed, and areas in the organization needing change were identified. The intervention for giving voice to people who initially had little already had a positive effect on the organization, as absence decreased by 2.09% and 6.9% merely 12 and 18 months, respectively, after the intervention. Translated in financial terms, the 6.9% change was equivalent to a quarterly savings of £80,000 (Health & Safety Executive, n.d. ). Thus, focusing on the context of change and how people will be involved in the change process probably helped the organization realize improvements (Biron et al., 2010 ). In a recent and rare empirical study, employing both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, Sørensen and Holman ( 2014 ) utilized PAR in order to plan and implement an OLOH intervention over the course of 14 months. Their study aimed to examine the effectiveness of the PAR process in reducing workers’ work-related and social or interpersonal-related stressors that derive from the workplace and improving psychological, behavioral, and physiological well-being across six Danish organizations. Based on group dialogue, 30 proposals for change were proposed, all of which could be categorized as either interventions to focus on relational factors (e.g., management feedback improvement, engagement) or work processes (e.g., reduced interruptions, workload, reinforcing creativity). Of the interventions that were implemented, results showed improvements on manager relationship quality and reduced burnout, but no changes with respect to work processes (i.e., workload and work pace) perhaps because the employees already had sufficient task control and variety. These findings support Dewe and Kompier’s ( 2008 ) position that occupational health can be reinforced through organizational policies that reinforce quality jobs and work experiences.

Organization-Focused Stress Management: Flexible Work Arrangements

Dewe and Kompier ( 2008 ), citing the work of Isles ( 2005 ), noted that concern over losing one’s job is a reason for why 40% of survey respondents indicated they work more hours than formally required. In an attempt to create balance and perceived fairness in one’s compensation for putting in extra work hours, employees will sometimes be legitimately or illegitimately absent. As companies become increasingly global, many people with desk jobs are finding themselves communicating with colleagues who are halfway around the globe and at all hours of the day or night (Glazer et al., 2012 ). To help minimize the strains associated with these stressors, companies might devise flexible work arrangements (FWA), though the type of FWA needs to be tailored to the cultural environment (Masuda et al., 2012 ). FWAs give employees some leverage to decide what would be the optimal work arrangement for them (e.g., part-time, flexible work hours, compressed work week, telecommuting). In other words, FWA provides employees with the choice of when to work, where to work (on-site or off-site), and how many hours to work in a day, week, or pay period (Kossek, Thompson, & Lautsch, 2015 ). However, not all employees of an organization have equal access to or equitable use of FWAs; workers in low-wage, hourly jobs are often beholden to being physically present during specific hours (Swanberg McKechnie, Ojha, & James, 2011 ). In a study of over 1,300 full-time hourly retail employees in the United States, Swanberg et al. ( 2011 ) showed that employees who have control over their work schedules and over their work hours were satisfied with their work schedules, perceived support from the supervisor, and work engagement.

Unfortunately, not all FWAs yield successful results for the individual or the organization. Being able to work from home or part-time can have problems too, as a person finds himself or herself working more hours from home than required. Sometimes telecommuting creates work-family conflict too as a person struggles to balance work and family obligations while working from home. Other drawbacks include reduced face-to-face contact between work colleagues and stakeholders, challenges shaping one’s career growth due to limited contact, perceived inequity if some have more flexibility than others, and ambiguity about work role processes for interacting with employees utilizing the FWA (Kossek et al., 2015 ). Organizations that institute FWAs must carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks the flexibility may have on the employees using it or the employees affected by others using it, as well as the implications on the organization, including the vendors who are serving and clients served by the organization.

Organization-Focused Stress Management: Diversity Programs

Employees in the workplace might experience strain due to feelings of discrimination or prejudice. Organizational climates that do not promote diversity (in terms of age, religion, physical abilities, ethnicity, nationality, sex, and other characteristics) are breeding grounds for undesirable attitudes toward the workplace, lower performance, and greater turnover intention (Bergman, Palmieri, Drasgow, & Ormerod, 2012 ; Velez, Moradi, & Brewster, 2013 ). Management is thus advised to implement programs that reinforce the value and importance of diversity, as well as manage diversity to reduce conflict and feelings of prejudice. In fact, managers who attended a leadership training program reported higher multicultural competence in dealing with stressful situations (Chrobot-Mason & Leslie, 2012 ), and managers who persevered through challenges were more dedicated to coping with difficult diversity issues (Cilliers, 2011 ). Thus, diversity programs can help to reduce strains by directly reducing stressors associated with conflict linked to diversity in the workplace and by building managers’ resilience.

Organization-Focused Stress Management: Healthcare Management Policies

Over the past few years, organizations have adopted insurance plans that implement wellness programs for the sake of managing the increasing cost of healthcare that is believed to be a result of individuals’ not managing their own health, with regular check-ups and treatment. The wellness programs require all insured employees to visit a primary care provider, complete a health risk assessment, and engage in disease management activities as specified by a physician (e.g., see frequently asked questions regarding the State of Maryland’s Wellness Program). Companies believe that requiring compliance will reduce health problems, although there is no proof that such programs save money or that people would comply. One study that does, however, boast success, was a 12-week workplace health promotion program aimed at reducing Houston airport workers’ weight (Ebunlomo, Hare-Everline, Weber, & Rich, 2015 ). The program, which included 235 volunteer participants, was deemed a success, as there was a total weight loss of 345 pounds (or 1.5 lbs per person). Given such results in Houston, it is clear why some people are also skeptical over the likely success of wellness programs, particularly as there is no clear method for evaluating their efficacy (Sinnott & Vatz, 2015 ).

Moreover, for some, such a program is too paternalistic and intrusive, as well as punishes anyone who chooses not to actively participate in disease management programs (Sinnott & Vatz, 2015 ). The programs put the onus of change on the person, though it is a response to the high costs of ill-health. The programs neglect to consider the role of the organization in reducing the barriers to healthy lifestyle, such as cloaking exempt employment as simply needing to get the work done, when it usually means working significantly more hours than a standard workweek. In fact, workplace health promotion programs did not reduce presenteeism (i.e., people going to work while unwell thereby reducing their job performance) among those who suffered from physical pain (Cancelliere, Cassidy, Ammendolia, & Côte, 2011 ). However, supervisor education, worksite exercise, lifestyle intervention through email, midday respite from repetitive work, a global stress management program, changes in lighting, and telephone interventions helped to reduce presenteeism. Thus, emphasis needs to be placed on psychosocial aspects of the organization’s structure, including managers and overall organizational climate for on-site presence, that reinforces such behavior (Cancelliere et al., 2011 ). Moreover, wellness programs are only as good as the interventions to reduce work-related stressors and improve organizational resources to enable workers to improve their overall psychological and physical health.

Concluding Remarks

Future research.

One of the areas requiring more theoretical and practical attention is that of the utility of stress frameworks to guide organizational development change interventions. Although it has been proposed that the foundation for work stress management interventions is in organizational development, and even though scholars and practitioners of organization development were also founders of research programs that focused on employee health and well-being or work stress, there are few studies or other theoretical works that link the two bodies of literature.

A second area that requires additional attention is the efficacy of stress management interventions across cultures. In examining secondary stress management interventions (i.e., coping), some cross-cultural differences in findings were described; however, there is still a dearth of literature from different countries on the utility of different prevention, coping, and stress management strategies.

A third area that has been blossoming since the start of the 21st century is the topic of hindrance and challenge stressors and the implications of both on workers’ well-being and performance. More research is needed on this topic in several areas. First, there is little consistency by which researchers label a stressor as a hindrance or a challenge. Researchers sometimes take liberties with labels, but it is not the researchers who should label a stressor but the study participants themselves who should indicate if a stressor is a source of strain. Rodríguez, Kozusznik, and Peiró ( 2013 ) developed a measure in which respondents indicate whether a stressor is a challenge or a hindrance. Just as some people may perceive demands to be challenges that they savor and that result in a psychological state of eustress (Nelson & Simmons, 2003 ), others find them to be constraints that impede goal fulfillment and thus might experience distress. Likewise, some people might perceive ambiguity as a challenge that can be overcome and others as a constraint over which he or she has little control and few or no resources with which to cope. More research on validating the measurement of challenge vs. hindrance stressors, as well as eustress vs. distress, and savoring vs. coping, is warranted. Second, at what point are challenge stressors harmful? Just because people experiencing challenge stressors continue to perform well, it does not necessarily mean that they are healthy people. A great deal of stressors are intellectually stimulating, but excessive stimulation can also take a toll on one’s physiological well-being, as evident by the droves of professionals experiencing different kinds of diseases not experienced as much a few decades ago, such as obesity (Fried et al., 2013 ). Third, which stress management interventions would better serve to reduce hindrance stressors or to reduce strain that may result from challenge stressors while reinforcing engagement-producing challenge stressors?

A fourth area that requires additional attention is that of the flexible work arrangements (FWAs). One of the reasons companies have been willing to permit employees to work from home is not so much out of concern for the employee, but out of the company’s need for the focal person to be able to communicate with a colleague working from a geographic region when it is night or early morning for the focal person. Glazer, Kożusznik, and Shargo ( 2012 ) presented several areas for future research on this topic, noting that by participating on global virtual teams, workers face additional stressors, even while given flexibility of workplace and work time. As noted earlier, more research needs to be done on the extent to which people who take advantage of FWAs are advantaged in terms of detachment from work. Can people working from home detach? Are those who find their work invigorating also likely to experience ill-health by not detaching from work?

A fifth area worthy of further research attention is workplace wellness programing. According to Page and Vella-Brodrick ( 2009 ), “subjective and psychological well-being [are] key criteria for employee mental health” (p. 442), whereby mental health focuses on wellness, rather than the absence of illness. They assert that by fostering employee mental health, organizations are supporting performance and retention. Employee well-being can be supported by ensuring that jobs are interesting and meaningful, goals are achievable, employees have control over their work, and skills are used to support organizational and individual goals (Dewe & Kompier, 2008 ). However, just as mental health is not the absence of illness, work stress is not indicative of an absence of psychological well-being. Given the perspective that employee well-being is a state of mind (Page & Vella-Brodrick, 2009 ), we suggest that employee well-being can be negatively affected by noxious job stressors that cannot be remediated, but when job stressors are preventable, employee well-being can serve to protect an employee who faces job stressors. Thus, wellness programs ought to focus on providing positive experiences by enhancing and promoting health, as well as building individual resources. These programs are termed “green cape” interventions (Pawelski, 2016 ). For example, with the growing interests in positive psychology, researchers and practitioners have suggested employing several positive psychology interventions, such as expressing gratitude, savoring experiences, and identifying one’s strengths (Tetrick & Winslow, 2015 ). Another stream of positive psychology is psychological capital, which includes four malleable functions of self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resilience (Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007 ). Workplace interventions should include both “red cape” interventions (i.e., interventions to reduce negative experiences) and “green cape” interventions (i.e., workplace wellness programs; Polly, 2014 ).

A Healthy Organization’s Pledge

A healthy workplace requires healthy workers. Period. Among all organizations’ missions should be the focus on a healthy workforce. To maintain a healthy workforce, the company must routinely examine its own contributions in terms of how it structures itself; reinforces communications among employees, vendors, and clients; how it rewards and cares for its people (e.g., ensuring they get sufficient rest and can detach from work); and the extent to which people at the upper levels are truly connected with the people at the lower levels. As a matter of practice, management must recognize when employees are overworked, unwell, and poorly engaged. Management must also take stock of when it is doing well and right by its contributors’ and maintain and reinforce the good practices, norms, and procedures. People in the workplace make the rules; people in the workplace can change the rules. How management sees its employees and values their contribution will have a huge role in how a company takes stock of its own pain points. Providing employees with tools to manage their own reactions to work-related stressors and consequent strains is fine, but wouldn’t it be grand if organizations took better notice about what they could do to mitigate the strain-producing stressors in the first place and take ownership over how employees are treated?

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International Journal of Stress Prevention and Wellbeing

International journal of stress management, smpij (stress management professional).

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The International Journal of Stress Prevention and Wellbeing is a peer-reviewed journal which publishes articles on all aspects of the theory, research and practice of stress prevention and wellbeing. The professional sponsor of the journal is the International Stress Management Association (UK) . ISMA (UK) is a registered charity and the lead professional body for workplace and personal stress management, wellbeing and performance.

https://www.stressprevention.net/

This journal is a publication of the International Stress Management Association , published by the American Psychological Association. It is published quarterly.

The editorial focus of the International Journal of Stress Management® (IJSM) is the assessment, management, and treatment of stress and trauma, whether emotional, cognitive, behavioural, or physiological. Personal, occupational, organisational, and societal issues relevant to stress identification and management are also covered.

Editor Luo Lu, PhD ISSN 1072-5245; eISSN 1573-3424 https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/str/

SMPIJ is published by ISMA India and is an international journal that brings together research papers on all aspects of stress management. It was first published in 2013 and two issues per year (January to June and July to December) are published.

https://www.isma.org.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=96&Itemid=543

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An Overview of Stress Management

Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

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Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

stress management journal assignment

Stress Management

Stress management is the range of techniques, strategies, and therapies designed to help people control their stress. This can include lowering acute stress, but it is often aimed at lowering chronic stress to improve health, happiness, and overall well-being. Stress management strategies may include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Guided visualization
  • Hobbies and leisure activities
  • Mindfulness
  • Positive thinking
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social support

We all experience stress in our lives. Because many health problems are caused or influenced by stress, it's essential to understand how stress affects your body and learn effective stress management techniques to make stress work for you rather than against you.

What Is Stress?

Stress is your body’s response to changes in your life. Because life involves constant change—ranging from everyday, routine changes like commuting from home to work to adapting to major life changes like marriage, divorce, or death of a loved one—there is no avoiding stress.  

Your goal shouldn't be to eliminate all stress but to eliminate unnecessary stress and effectively manage the rest. There are some common causes of stress that many people experience, but each person is different.

Stress can come from many sources, which are known as " stressors ." Because our experience of what is considered "stressful" is created by our unique perceptions of what we encounter in life (based on our own mix of personality traits, available resources, and habitual thought patterns), a situation may be perceived as "stressful" by one person and merely "challenging" by someone else.

Simply put, one person's stress trigger may not register as stressful to someone else. That said, certain situations tend to cause more stress in most people and can increase the risk of burnout .

For example, when we find ourselves in situations where there are high demands on us but we little control and few choices, we are likely to experience stress. We might also feel stress when we don't feel equipped; where we may be harshly judged by others; and where consequences for failure are steep or unpredictable.

Many people are stressed by their jobs , relationships , financial issues , and health problems, as well as more mundane things like clutter or busy schedules . Learning skills to cope with these stressors can help reduce your experience of stress.  

Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Money Issues

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares what to do when financial stress is impacting your mental health. Click below to listen now.

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Just as stress is perceived differently by each of us, stress affects us all in ways that are unique to us. One person may experience headaches, while another may find stomach upset is a common reaction, and a third may experience any of a number of other symptoms.

While we all react to stress in our own ways, there is a long list of commonly experienced effects of stress that range from mild to life-threatening. Stress can affect immunity, which can impact virtually all areas of health. Stress can affect mood in many ways as well. Creating a stress management plan is often one part of a plan for overall wellness.

If you find yourself experiencing physical symptoms you think may be related to stress, talk to your doctor to be sure you are doing what you can to safeguard your health. Symptoms that may be exacerbated by stress are not "all in your head" and need to be taken seriously.

Stress can be effectively managed in many different ways. The best stress management plans usually include a mix of stress relievers that address stress physically and psychologically and help to develop resilience and coping skills.

7 Highly Effective Stress Relievers

Use quick stress relievers.

Some stress relief techniques can work in just a few minutes to calm the body's stress response. These techniques offer a "quick fix" that helps you feel calmer at the moment, and this can help in several ways.

When your stress response is not triggered, you may approach problems more thoughtfully and proactively. You may be less likely to lash out at others out of frustration, which can keep your relationships healthier. Nipping your stress response in the bud can also keep you from experiencing chronic stress.

Quick stress relievers like breathing exercises, for example, may not build your resilience to future stress or minimize the stressors that you face. But they can help calm the body's physiology once the stress response is triggered.  

Develop Stress-Relieving Habits

Some techniques are less convenient to use when you are in the middle of a stressful situation. But if you practice them regularly, they can help you manage stress in general by being less reactive to it and more able to reverse your stress response quickly and easily.

Long-term healthy habits, like exercise or regular meditation , can help to promote resilience toward stressors if you make them a regular part of your life.   Communication skills and other lifestyle skills can be helpful in managing stressors and changing how we feel from "overwhelmed" to "challenged" or even "stimulated."

Eliminate Stressors When You Can

You may not be able to completely eliminate stress from your life or even the biggest stressors, but there are areas where you can minimize it and get it to a manageable level.

Any stress that you can cut out can minimize your overall stress load. For example, ending even one toxic relationship can help you more effectively deal with other stress you experience because you may feel less overwhelmed.  

Discovering a wide variety of stress management techniques, and then choosing a mix that fits your needs, can be a key strategy for effective stress relief.

Stress FAQs

There are a number of common questions that you might ask about stress and stress management.

Is All Stress Harmful to Health?

There are several different types of stress , and not all are harmful. Eustress , for example, is a positive form of stress. But chronic stress has been linked to many serious health issues and is the type of negative stress most often mentioned in the news.   While we want to manage or eliminate negative stress, we also want to keep positive forms of stress in our lives to help us remain vital and alive.

However, if we experience too much stress in our lives, even "good" stress can contribute to excessive stress levels, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed or having your stress response triggered for too long. This is why it is still important to learn to relax your body and mind periodically and cut down on unnecessary stress whenever possible.

How Can I Tell When I’m Too Stressed?

Stress affects us all in different ways, not all of which are negative. In fact, the stress of an exciting life can actually serve as a good motivator and keep things interesting. When stress levels get too intense, however, there are some stress symptoms that many people experience.

For example, headaches, irritability, and "fuzzy thinking" can all be symptoms that you’re under too much stress.   While not everybody who’s under stress will experience these specific symptoms, many will.

If you find that you don't realize how stressed you are until you are overwhelmed, it's important to learn to notice your body's subtle cues and your own behavior, almost like an outside observer might. To notice how your body is reacting to stress, you can try this body scan meditation (it helps relax at the same time).

What Can I Do When I Feel Overwhelmed?

We all feel overwhelmed from time to time; that’s normal. While it’s virtually impossible to eliminate times when events conspire and the body’s stress response is triggered, there are ways that you can quickly reverse your body’s reaction to stress, buffering the damage to your health and keeping your thinking clear, so you can more effectively deal with what’s going on in the moment.

Is There a Way to Be Less Affected by Stress?

By practicing regular stress management techniques, you can eliminate some of the stress you feel and make yourself more resilient in the face of stress in the future. There are several things you can try, ranging from a morning walk to an evening journaling practice to just making more time for friends. The trick is to find something that fits with your lifestyle and personality, so it’s easier to stick with.

National Institute of Mental Health. 5 Things You Should Know About Stress .

Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, et al. The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults .  Front Psychol . 2017;8:874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Mind and Body Approaches for Stress: What the Science Says . 2020.

Bota PG, Miropolskiy E, Nguyen V. Stop caretaking the borderline or narcissist: How to end the drama and get on with life .  Ment Illn . 2017;9(1):6985. doi:10.4081/mi.2017.6985

Lehrer PM, Woolfolk RL, Sime WE. Principles and Practice of Stress Management . 3rd edition. New York: The Guilford Press; 2007.

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

Introducing HRM Students to Evidence-Based Stress Management Strategies: A Semester-Long Experiential Assignment

  • Caitlin Demsky Oakland University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3984-0715

Recent trends in Human Resource Management (HRM) regularly name employee stress and well-being as a top issue for organizations to pay attention to in the coming years. Employee well-being is linked to critical organizational outcomes, including performance, productivity, and absenteeism. Given this growing concern, it is critical that HRM students are prepared to implement and evaluate evidence-based stress management strategies in organizations. This paper introduces a semester-long assignment that asks students to engage in a variety of stress management strategies, including mindfulness, relaxation, and exercise. This assignment builds coping and stress management skills along with an understanding of the importance of these skills in the workplace. Students also increase their awareness of the need for organizations, leaders, and HRM practitioners to provide resources necessary for stress management in the workplace. Potential adaptations of the exercise for different audiences or lengths of time are also discussed.

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16 Effective Stress-Management Activities and Worksheets

Stress management activities

The interview is in 10 minutes, yet I want to run away.

Sound familiar?

Fear and anxiety lead to stress responses – cognitive, physical, and behavioral.

Deeply embedded and automatic, they evolved to provide humans with warnings, guiding present and future behavior while attempting to maintain a relatively stable internal state known as homeostasis (Brosschot, Verkuil, & Thayer, 2016; Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).

However innate these responses may be, there are ways to manage the stress you perceive.

This article offers our favorite stress-management activities and worksheets to help you deal with whatever challenge lies in your path.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free . These science-based exercises will equip you and those you work with, with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in your life.

This Article Contains:

A note on stress-management approaches, keeping a digital stress diary with quenza, our 3 favorite stress-management worksheets, 3 activities to help manage stress, stress management within therapy sessions.

  • Worksheets for Your CBT Sessions

3 Printable Tools for Children

Top 3 exercises for helping students, for group therapy sessions, a take-home message.

Stress, or rather the perception of stressors, can be managed, and there are ways to do so:

  • Preparation increases our sense of control and improves confidence.
  • Relaxation reduces anxiety and restores focus.
  • Maintaining physical health via a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and exercise underpins overall mental wellbeing.

Another way to manage stress is to reframe our perception of it.

Rather than see it as unwelcome and to be avoided, pressure can provide an essential opportunity for development and learning. Viewed as an opportunity to thrive, stress can be the motivation to perform at our very best and adopt a growth mindset (Lee, Park, & Hwang, 2016).

In what follows, we will point you toward a range of useful worksheets and tools you can use to help your clients better manage stress. Most are free, but some of these come from our own Positive Psychology Toolkit© , which is a comprehensive subscription-based resource containing more than 400 exercises, activities, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments you can use to support your clients.

If you’re looking for more ways to grow your coaching or therapy practice using engaging, science-backed tools, be sure to check it out.

Stress Diary Tool

Despite the dangers of experiencing prolonged stress, many of us are likely to be tuned out to our body’s signals that we are experiencing stress.

Likewise, we may not have stopped to consider the factors in our lives that are most responsible for causing us stress.

To help strengthen your clients’ awareness of the drivers and experience of stress, consider inviting them to complete a one-week stress diary.

The purpose of a stress diary is to help them look for patterns and insights into the most common causes of stress in their life and their reactions to stressful events. From here, you can help your clients find effective ways of dealing with stress in the future.

For a great, easy-to-administer tool, consider taking a look at the Stress Diary tool available via the blended care app Quenza .

The platform features a growing library of pre-programmed psychoeducational activities, within which is the Stress Diary Pathway. This pathway invites clients to reflect on the day’s stressful experiences for eight days and culminates in an in-depth reflection into the patterns of stressors, as well as the client’s reactions to these across the eight days.

stress management journal assignment

Download 3 Free Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in their life.

Download 3 Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises Pack (PDF)

By filling out your name and email address below.

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A 2019 report found that in the UK alone, 12.8 million working days were lost due to stress, depression, and anxiety.

But help is at hand.

Multiple, evidence-based stress reduction techniques have been shown to lower stress levels, “ resulting in a reduction of disease symptoms, lowering of biological indicators of disease, prevention of disease and improvement of patient’s quality of life ” (Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).

Many of these techniques are described below and will help you to manage stress in your life.

1. Breath Awareness

Breathing exercises can be a powerful way to place your body in a relaxed state. Sitting in a comfortable position and drawing your attention to your breath can release tension and offer a method for ongoing relaxation and a tool to use for times of stress.

Breath Awareness was created to help individuals cultivate a mindful awareness of their breathing and the present moment rather than get caught up in their thoughts.

Once comfortable, clients are asked to release any unnecessary tension and tune in to their breath. They are invited to observe the movements and sensations in their body with each inhale and exhale, without trying to change anything.

The exercise can be useful during moments of distress to unhook someone from their thoughts or as a mindfulness exercise.

Try out the Breath Awareness worksheet and practice it daily.

2. Anchor Breathing

Similar to the last activity, anchor breathing involves inhaling and exhaling consciously while focusing on the physical experience. In this exercise, clients are also instructed to imagine a peaceful scene – being on a boat, feeling calm and safe.

Deep breathing techniques have been shown to lead to decreased oxygen consumption and heightened alertness. EEG recordings have also recorded increases in theta wave amplitude when participants engage in certain deep breathing exercises, which is associated with reduced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (Jerath, Edry, Barnes, & Jerath, 2006).

By showing patients how combine mindful breathing with calming, peaceful visualization, Anchor Breathing  provides an effective relaxation technique, reducing residual stress levels and providing support during acute episodes of stress (Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).

3. The Five Senses Worksheet

Mindfulness can be cultivated by paying attention to what we observe and feel while using our different senses one at a time. During mindfulness practice, distractions are observed, and attention is gently returned to the body part receiving focus.

This exercise works in a similar way to the Body Scan exercise, which helps clients cultivate a mindful awareness of different body parts. Evidence from functional magnetic resonance imagining found that body scan meditation heightens brain activity linked to increased awareness of the present moment, focus, and stress reduction (Sevinc et al., 2018).

To read more about the steps involved, you can view or download The Five Senses worksheet .

If you’re looking for more tools, our free Mindfulness Exercises Pack  includes the popular Leaves on a Stream tool and audio meditation, as well as two other mindfulness tools and audio files that you can download for free.

use nature to help manage stress

1. Nature effect

The powerful effect of being outdoors has been validated many times and should not be underestimated.

Visitors to a park in Zurich were found to have significantly lower levels of stress, a reduced number of headaches, and a 40% increase in feelings of wellbeing. These positive effects were further elevated in those taking part in sports (Hansmann, Hug, & Seeland, 2007).

While drugs and therapy are often used as treatments for soldiers returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, the medications and treatment frequently have to be continued for many years without providing a lasting cure. In response, nature-based therapy has begun to receive increased scientific attention.

In a 2016 study, veterans reported that merely being in the garden, often performing mindfulness activities, could improve the symptoms of their post-traumatic stress disorder (Poulsen, Stigsdotter, Djernis, & Sidenius, 2016).

The simple act of getting out into an open space can provide stress relief. We delve deeper into this in our post on Environmental Psychology .

2. Exercise

We are all aware of the physiological rewards of exercise, but the psychological benefits are equally impressive and backed up by research.

A seven-week exercise program was found to improve people’s moods ; reduce perceived stress; and increase optimism, self-belief , resilience, and a growth mindset (Cassidy, 2016).

Exercise regimes need not be extreme to be effective. Even modest levels of physical activity if performed regularly provide ongoing support for mental wellbeing, a growth mindset, and reduced levels of stress.

A great way to inspire you to start exercising may be found in our article on Mindful Running and Exercises .

3. Mindful movement

By replacing or combining some of our everyday car journeys with walking, we can become fully present in our day-to-day lives and improve mental health.

Indeed, a trial in 2017 found that combining walking with relaxation techniques is a great way to reduce levels of stress (Matzer, Nagele, Lerch, Vajda, & Fazekas, 2017).

Mindful walking combines the benefits of exercise, nature, and mindfulness.

Its goal is not to reach a destination, but to build an awareness of the moment, using the feet to anchor in the present. Pleasant and unpleasant bodily sensations such as muscle soreness are merely observed without opinion and let go.

3-Minute stress management: reduce stress with this short activity – Therapy in a Nutshell

Many people seek help when stress makes healthy living difficult. Therapy can help address immediate difficulties and work on the underlying causes (Strauss et al., 2018).

1. Anxiety Record

We often feel more vulnerable when we are asked to share what is making us anxious. The Anxiety Record worksheet helps individuals to understand what is causing their anxiety and learn appropriate coping skills.

Using this worksheet, clients can record their anxieties, triggers, and their effects. Afterward, they are guided through a breathing exercise and asked to revisit their answers to the questions.

A few prompts from this exercise are listed below:

  • When do you feel anxious?
  • What thoughts are you having before or during feeling anxious?
  • Do you think these thoughts are realistic?
  • What thoughts could you replace them with?

Click to download the Anxiety Record worksheet and give it a try.

2. Biofeedback training

Biofeedback builds on the concept of homeostasis introduced earlier. Using technology to measure and report brainwaves, skin temperature, breathing, and heart rate, the individual learns how to gain self-control over apparently involuntary bodily functions.

A recent meta-analysis of 24 studies confirmed that biofeedback training led to improvements in coping and offers a promising approach for treating stress and anxiety (Goessl, Curtiss, & Hofmann, 2017).

Individuals can ultimately learn to control their heart rate and blood pressure, reduce levels of stress, and even successfully treat high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Performed with a qualified therapist, these changes ultimately persist beyond the therapy (Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).

Worksheet Suggestions for Your CBT Sessions

imagine a demanding boss

Many of us experience spontaneous thoughts as images rather than individual words or an internal conversation (Beck & Beck, 2011).

A child pictures an angry parent, and an employee imagines a demanding boss. They can be powerful, representing moments of fear or anxiety, and can be used in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions.

The following questions can form the basis of a conversation to explore a mental image and the individual’s relationship with it, cognitively restructuring its interpretation.

Imagery can feel as real to the mind as being in the situation, so playing through images in advance can restructure thoughts and emotions and reframe the stress.

2. Daily Exceptions Journal

A journal can be a fruitful way to track life’s ups and downs. Positive CBT encourages monitoring the client’s strengths and the positive outcomes of life rather than focusing on the negatives.

By capturing what went well in a Daily Exceptions Journal, it is possible to identify and record the skills and talents for reuse in other areas of your life.

Subsequently, walking through the journal during therapy reinforces successes, provides praise, and encourages discussion of the problems overcome.

Sensory awareness involves paying attention to a specific sensory aspect of the body. It can be a great way to teach mindfulness to children.

Such activities can also improve focus, increase self-awareness , help regulate emotions , and reduce anxiety.

1. The Raisin Meditation

The following exercise is a fun, palpable way for a child to develop mindfulness as a skill and notice the present.

Work through the Raisin Meditation worksheet following the steps with the child, paying attention to each sense in turn.

Children paying increased attention to their senses can learn to improve their focus and feel calmer.

2. Nature Play

Ongoing research has recognized the importance of playing and spending time outdoors on children’s mental wellbeing (Dankiw, Tsiros, Baldock, & Kumar, 2020).

Practicing underused senses such as sound can heighten a sense of awareness and promote mindfulness. This can be especially true in an unfamiliar environment, including walking through the countryside with family.

The questions can be tailored to the environment. Starting or pausing somewhere relatively quiet may assist the child’s focus more at the start.

Print the Nature Play worksheet here.

3. Anchor Breathing

Anchor breathing can be quickly learned and helps a child to focus their mind on one point.

Such mental training offers a valuable method for gaining perceived self-control and reducing stress.

The Anchor Breathing method also works with hands placed gently on the belly or in front of the nose.

meditation on the soles of the feet

The following three examples, along with the activities described above, can be learned quickly and implemented into a student’s daily routine to help manage both acute and chronic stress.

1. Urge Surfing

Coping with (often self-destructive) urges can be difficult, especially in times of stress. Such behavior can become a crutch, making us feel like we are taking control, when in reality, we are relinquishing it.

The Urge Surfing worksheet is available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit© . Backed up by scientific research, mindful self-acceptance can teach individuals to observe their cravings rather than act upon them.

2. Meditation on the Soles of the Feet

Meditation on the Soles of the Feet  provides a safe space to work on managing strong emotions and regulating the urge to be aggressive , often a byproduct of stressful situations (Kruk, Halász, Meelis, & Haller, 2004).

The individual is not asked to stop angry thoughts – anger does serve a useful purpose at times – but rather to bring them under control through a shift of focus.

The client, standing or sitting with their feet on the ground, is asked to cast their mind back to a time that caused them to react very angrily. Then they are told to stick with those angry thoughts, letting them flow without hindrance. After that, they shift their attention to the soles of their feet.

Stretching and moving their toes, they feel the texture of their socks, the surface of the ground, or the insole in their shoes. They maintain focus, breathing naturally until feeling calm and in control.

Learning to manage anger more effectively reduces stress and anxiety, and increases feelings of control.

The full exercise is accessible with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit© .

3. Mindfulness

Working through the Leaves on a Stream and anchor breathing techniques, which are part of our free Mindfulness Exercises Pack , will help students focus awareness on the present moment and acknowledge and accept their feelings, thoughts, and emotions.

Research has identified the benefits of combining mindfulness and group therapy to help manage stress and increase resilience and positivity (Seyyed Moharrami, Pashib, Tatari, & Mohammadi; Babakhani, 2017).

Here is an example of a group exercise in mindfulness.

Walking Down the Street

The ability to observe, rather than react to, thoughts, emotions, and sensations is central to positive psychology.

The challenge is that the event and our thoughts about it are far from being the same.

The steps involved in the following exercise can be performed individually or in a group exercise, where everyone benefits from hearing one another’s thoughts.

Walking through the scene and discussing it in the group can help to develop positive behavioral change by separating thoughts and feelings from impulses and actions and, importantly, shape feelings while breaking a negative cycle of thinking.

Resources from PositivePsychology.com

Building resilience helps clients bounce back from stressful situations and use coping mechanisms to turn them into opportunities for growth.

The Realizing Resilience Masterclass© provides guidance, along with a set of practical tools, to build a more resilient mindset.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop self-compassion, this collection contains 17 validated self-compassion tools for practitioners . Use them to help others create a kinder and more nurturing relationship with the self.

Stress does not have to rule us. Stress should not be allowed to prevent us from doing what we want or need to do.

Instead, stress should be an enabler and drive us forward to build what we want and take on challenges that will allow us to grow.

There should be no excuse to hide from stress or become overwhelmed by it.

By using tools for coping and taking control, we can see stress as something natural that can invigorate and motivate us to overcome both planned and unexpected challenges.

These activities we shared will definitely help you manage stress. However, there are many other stress-management techniques to try out too. Identify those that work for you and implement them into your life. You will reap the benefits, especially before the next job interview or presentation.

Thank you for reading!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free .

  • Arch, J. J., & Mitchell, J. L. (2015). An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) group intervention for cancer survivors experiencing anxiety at re-entry. Psycho-Oncology, 25 (5), 610–615.
  • Beck, J., & Beck, A. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond. Guilford Press.
  • Bergstrom, C. (2018). Ultimate mindfulness activity book: 150 mindfulness activities for kids and teens (and grown-ups too!). Blissful Kids.
  • Babakhani, K. (2017). The effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy group on self-efficacy and quality of life of women with breast cancer. Multidisciplinary Cancer Investigation , 1 (1).
  • Brosschot, J. F., Verkuil, B., & Thayer, J. F. (2016). The default response to uncertainty and the importance of perceived safety in anxiety and stress: An evolution-theoretical perspective. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 41 , 22–34.
  • Cassidy, T. (2016). Psychological benefits of adhering to a programme of aerobic exercise. Clinical and Experimental Psychology, 2 (2).
  • Dankiw, K. A., Tsiros, M. D., Baldock, K. L., & Kumar, S. (2020). The impacts of unstructured nature play on health in early childhood development: A systematic review. PLoS One, 15 (2).
  • De Vibe, M., Solhaug, I., Tyssen, R., Friborg, O., Rosenvinge, J. H., Sørlie, T., & Bjørndal, A. (2013). Mindfulness training for stress management: A randomized controlled study of medical and psychology students. BMC Medical Education, 13 (107).
  • Goessl, V. C., Curtiss, J. E., & Hofmann, S. G. (2017). The effect of heart rate variability biofeedback training on stress and anxiety: A meta-analysis. Psychological Medicine, 47 (15), 2578–2586.
  • Hansmann, R., Hug, S., & Seeland, K. (2007). Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6 (4), 213–225.
  • Jerath, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypotheses ,  67 (3), 566–571.
  • Kruk, M. R., Halász, J., Meelis, W., & Haller, J. (2004). Fast positive feedback between the adrenocortical stress response and a brain mechanism involved in aggressive behavior. Behavioral Neuroscience, 118 (5), 1062–1070.
  • Lee, C. S., Park, S. U., & Hwang, Y. K. (2016). The structural relationship between mother’s parenting stress and child’s wellbeing: The mediating effects of mother’s growth mindset and hope. Indian Journal of Science and Technology, 9 (36).
  • Matzer, F., Nagele, E., Lerch, N., Vajda, C., & Fazekas, C. (2017). Combining walking and relaxation for stress reduction: A randomized cross-over trial in healthy adults. Stress and Health , 34 (2), 266–27.
  • Poulsen, D. V., Stigsdotter, U. K., Djernis, D., & Sidenius, U. (2016). ‘Everything just seems much more right in nature’: How veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder experience nature-based activities in a forest therapy garden. Health Psychology Open, 3 (1).
  • Sevinc, G., Hölzel, B. K., Hashmi, J., Greenberg, J., McCallister, A., Treadway, M., … Lazar, S. W. (2018). Common and dissociable neural activity after mindfulness-based stress reduction and relaxation response programs. Psychosomatic Medicine , 80 (5), 439–451.
  • Seyyed Moharrami, I., Pashib, M., Tatari, M., & Mohammadi, S. (2017). The efficiency of stress management group therapy in job‌ stress and self-efficacy of nurses. Journal of Torbat Heydariyeh University of Medical Sciences, 5 (1), 42–49
  • Strauss, C., Gu, J., Pitman, N., Chapman, C., Kuyken, W., & Whittington, A. (2018). Evaluation of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for life and a cognitive behavioral therapy stress-management workshop to improve healthcare staff stress: Study protocol for two randomized controlled trials. Trials , 19 (209).
  • Varvogli, L. & Darviri, C. (2011). Stress management techniques: Evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Science Journal , 5 , 74–89.

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linda speed

The resources was very helpful. thanks.

Tansy

Interesting article although I wasn‘t able to open the links as it sent me to a site saying I had to purchase a toolkit in order to access them! I don‘t know why I get sent emails with resources that I‘m unable to access. Shame!

Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

Glad you found the article interesting, and I’m sorry our distinction between the free and paid resources here is not as clear as it could be — I’ll flag this with our editor. Yes, some of the resources listed are freely available while others are available to subscribers of the Positive Psychology Toolkit . However, the three resilience exercises mentioned at the beginning are free and should instantly arrive in your inbox and be available to use.

– Nicole | Community Manager

De Metzger

These will be most helpful with the Native American population I serve

Che Gon Hashim

Very practical exercises of relaxation. True we have to rule ourselves not left to unnecessary stress which consequently results in low well being and reduce quality of life. Thank you Jeremy

Jones Kwesi Tagbor

Very helpful and easy to understand and practice documents. Grateful.

Moses L. Moreku

The article was more helpful and am looking forward to read more of this kind.

Nicole Celestine

Hi Moses, So glad you found the resources helpful. Another great tool for dealing with stress is journaling, which you can read up about in our dedicated article here. – Nicole | Community Manager

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stress management journal assignment

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What is stress management?

Tip 1: identify the sources of stress in your life, tip 2: cut out unhealthy ways of dealing with stress, tip 3: practice the 4 a's of stress management, tip 4: get moving, tip 5: connect to others, tip 6: make time for fun and relaxation, tip 7: manage your time better, tip 8: maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle, tip 9: learn to relieve stress in the moment, stress management: how to reduce and relieve stress.

While it may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress at work and home, there are steps you can take to destress and regain control.

stress management journal assignment

It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have a lot more control than you might think.

If you’re living with high levels of stress, you’re putting your entire well-being at risk. Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional equilibrium, as well as your overall physical and mental health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life.

Effective stress management helps you break the hold stress has on your life, so you can be happier, healthier, and more productive. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on. But stress management is not one-size-fits-all. That’s why it’s important to experiment and find out what works best for you. The following stress management tips can help you do that.

Speak to a Licensed Therapist

BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you to licensed, accredited therapists who can help with depression, anxiety, relationships, and more. Take the assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn't as straightforward as it sounds. While it's easy to identify major stressors such as changing jobs, moving, or going through a divorce, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress can be more complicated. It's all too easy to overlook how your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contribute to your everyday stress levels.

Sure, you may know that you're constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it's your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.

To identify what's really stressing you out, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:

  • Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
  • Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

Start a stress journal

A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, make a note of it in your journal or use a stress tracker on your phone. Keeping a daily log will enable you to see patterns and common themes. Write down:

  • What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure).
  • How you felt, both physically and emotionally.
  • How you acted in response.
  • What you did to make yourself feel better.

Many of us feel so stressed out, we resort to unhealthy and unproductive ways to cope. A lot of these unhelpful strategies can temporarily reduce stress, but in the long run, they actually cause even more damage:

  • Smoking, drinking too much, or using drugs to relax.
  • Bingeing on junk or comfort food.
  • Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or phone.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and social activities.
  • Sleeping too much.
  • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems.
  • Procrastinating.
  • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence).

[Read: Self-Medicating Depression, Anxiety, and Stress]

If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones that leave you feeling calm and in control.

While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable times: your commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction.

When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it's helpful to think of the four A's: avoid , alter , adapt , or accept .

Avoid unnecessary stress

It's not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

Learn how to say “no.” Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress.

Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.

Take control of your environment. If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.

Avoid hot-button topics . If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.

Pare down your to-do list. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.

Alter the situation

If you can't avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.

Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don't voice your feelings, resentment will build and the stress will increase.

Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you'll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.

Be more assertive.  Don’t take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk.

Find balance. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.

Adapt to the stressor

If you can't change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.

Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.

Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”

Practice gratitude. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life , including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.

Accept the things you can't change

Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can't prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it's easier than railing against a situation you can't change.

Don't try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.

Look for the upside. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.

Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.

Share your feelings. Expressing what you're going through can be very cathartic, even if there's nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist.

When you're stressed, the last thing you probably feel like doing is getting up and exercising. But physical activity is a huge stress reliever—and you don't have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries.

While you'll get the most benefit from regularly exercising for 30 minutes or more, it's okay to build up your fitness level gradually. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day. The first step is to get yourself up and moving. Here are some easy ways to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule:

  • Put on some music and dance around.
  • Take your dog for a walk .
  • Walk or cycle to the grocery store.
  • Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator.
  • Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way.
  • Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you work out.
  • Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids.

Deal with stress with mindful rhythmic exercise

While just about any form of physical activity can help burn away tension and stress, rhythmic activities are especially effective. Good choices include walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, tai chi, and aerobics. But whatever you choose, make sure it's something you enjoy so you're more likely to stick with it.

While you're exercising, make a conscious effort to pay attention to your body and the physical (and sometimes emotional) sensations you experience as you're moving. Focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements, for example, or notice how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Adding this mindfulness element will help you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress.

There is nothing more calming than spending quality time with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. In fact, face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body's defensive “fight-or-flight” response. It's nature's natural stress reliever (as an added bonus, it also helps stave off depression and anxiety). So make it a point to connect regularly—and in person—with family and friends.

[Read: Social Support for Stress Relief]

Keep in mind that the people you talk to don't have to be able to fix your stress. They simply need to be good listeners. And try not to let worries about looking weak or being a burden keep you from opening up. The people who care about you will be flattered by your trust. It will only strengthen your bond.

Of course, it's not always realistic to have a pal close by to lean on when you feel overwhelmed by stress, but by building and maintaining a network of close friends you can improve your resiliency to life's stressors.

Tips for building relationships

  • Reach out to a colleague at work.
  • Help someone else by volunteering .
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
  • Call or email an old friend.
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date.
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
  • Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach.
  • Join a support group—either in-person or via on online therapy platform .

Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by carving out “me” time. Don't get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you'll be in a better place to handle life's stressors.

Set aside leisure time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.

Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.

Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.

Take up a relaxation practice. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body's relaxation response , a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the fight or flight or mobilization stress response. As you learn and practice these techniques, your stress levels will decrease and your mind and body will become calm and centered.

Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you're stretched too thin and running behind, it's hard to stay calm and focused. Plus, you'll be tempted to avoid or cut back on all the healthy things you should be doing to keep stress in check, like socializing and getting enough sleep. The good news: there are things you can do to achieve a healthier work-life balance.

Don't over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take.

Prioritize tasks. Make a list of tasks you have to do, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant or stressful to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.

Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.

Delegate responsibility. You don't have to do it all yourself, whether at home, school, or on the job. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You'll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.

In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.

Eat a healthy diet . Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.

Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet , you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.

Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

When you're frazzled by your morning commute, stuck in a stressful meeting at work, or fried from another argument with your spouse, you need a way to manage your stress levels right now . That's where quick stress relief comes in.

The fastest way to reduce stress is by taking a deep breath and using your senses—what you see, hear, taste, and touch—or through a soothing movement. By viewing a favorite photo, smelling a specific scent, listening to a favorite piece of music, tasting a piece of gum, or hugging a pet, for example, you can quickly relax and focus yourself.

[Read: Quick Stress Relief]

Of course, not everyone responds to each sensory experience in the same way. The key to quick stress relief is to experiment and discover the unique sensory experiences that work best for you.

More Information

  • Stress Management - Learn to manage your stress. (American Heart Association)
  • Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. (Harvard Health) - Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. (Harvard Health)
  • Tolerating Distress - Workbook and information sheets to help you manage feelings of distress. (Centre for Clinical Interventions)
  • Building Your Resilience - Learn how to increase your resilience in the face of stress and hardship. (American Psychological Association)
  • How To Relax: 8 Relaxation Tips for Your Mental Health
  • Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . American Psychiatric Association. Link
  • Can, Yekta Said, Heather Iles-Smith, Niaz Chalabianloo, Deniz Ekiz, Javier Fernández-Álvarez, Claudia Repetto, Giuseppe Riva, and Cem Ersoy. “How to Relax in Stressful Situations: A Smart Stress Reduction System.” Healthcare 8, no. 2 (April 16, 2020): 100. Link
  • Norelli, Samantha K., Ashley Long, and Jeffrey M. Krepps. “Relaxation Techniques.” In StatPearls . Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2021. Link
  • Toussaint, Loren, Quang Anh Nguyen, Claire Roettger, Kiara Dixon, Martin Offenbächer, Niko Kohls, Jameson Hirsch, and Fuschia Sirois. “Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2021 (July 3, 2021): e5924040. Link
  • Unger, Cynthia A, David Busse, and Ilona S Yim. “The Effect of Guided Relaxation on Cortisol and Affect: Stress Reactivity as a Moderator.” Journal of Health Psychology 22, no. 1 (January 1, 2017): 29–38. Link
  • Singh, Karuna. “Nutrient and Stress Management.” Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences 6, no. 4 (2016). Link
  • Katsarou, Alexia L., Marios M. Vryonis, Athanassios D. Protogerou, Evangelos C. Alexopoulos, Apostolos Achimastos, Dimitrios Papadogiannis, George P. Chrousos, and Christina Darviri. “Stress Management and Dietary Counseling in Hypertensive Patients: A Pilot Study of Additional Effect.” Primary Health Care Research & Development 15, no. 1 (January 2014): 38–45. Link
  • Errisuriz, Vanessa L., Keryn E. Pasch, and Cheryl L. Perry. “Perceived Stress and Dietary Choices: The Moderating Role of Stress Management.” Eating Behaviors 22 (August 1, 2016): 211–16. Link
  • Choi, Dong-Woo, Sung-Youn Chun, Sang Ah Lee, Kyu-Tae Han, and Eun-Cheol Park. “Association between Sleep Duration and Perceived Stress: Salaried Worker in Circumstances of High Workload.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15, no. 4 (April 2018): 796. Link
  • Blaxton, Jessica M., Cindy S. Bergeman, Brenda R. Whitehead, Marcia E. Braun, and Jessic D. Payne. “Relationships Among Nightly Sleep Quality, Daily Stress, and Daily Affect.” The Journals of Gerontology: Series B 72, no. 3 (May 1, 2017): 363–72. Link
  • Saleh, Dalia, Nathalie Camart, Fouad Sbeira, and Lucia Romo. “Can We Learn to Manage Stress? A Randomized Controlled Trial Carried out on University Students.” PLOS ONE 13, no. 9 (September 5, 2018): e0200997. Link
  • Loprinzi, Paul D., and Emily Frith. “Protective and Therapeutic Effects of Exercise on Stress-Induced Memory Impairment.” The Journal of Physiological Sciences: JPS 69, no. 1 (January 2019): 1–12. Link
  • Salmon, P. “Effects of Physical Exercise on Anxiety, Depression, and Sensitivity to Stress: A Unifying Theory.” Clinical Psychology Review 21, no. 1 (February 2001): 33–61. Link

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  • v.8(Spec Iss 4); 2015

A review of the effectiveness of stress management skills training on academic vitality and psychological well-being of college students

P alborzkouh.

* Exceptional Children Psychology, Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran Branch, Iran

** General Psychology, Islamic Azad University, South Tehran Branch, Iran

*** General Psychology, Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty, Paradise University, Gillan Branch, Iran

**** General Psychology, Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch, Tehran, Iran

F Shahgholy Ghahfarokhi

***** Clinical Psychology, Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch Branch, Isfahan, Iran

Objective: Carrying out the appropriate psychological interventions to improve vitality and mental well-being is critical. The study was carried out to review the effectiveness of stress management training on the academic life and mental well-being of the students of Shahed University.

Methodology: The method used was quasi-experimental with a pretest-posttest plan and control group. Therefore, a total of 40 students of Shahed University of Tehran were selected by a convenience sampling method and were organized into two groups: experimental and control group. Both groups were pretested by using an academic vitality inventory and an 84-question psychological well-being inventory. Then, the experimental group received stress management skills training for ten sessions, and the control group did not receive any intervention. Next, both groups were post-tested, and the data were analyzed with SPSS-21 software by using descriptive and inferential statistical methods.

Findings: The findings showed that the stress management skills training significantly contributed to promoting the academic vitality and psychological well-being of students (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: It was concluded from this research that teaching the methods for dealing with stress was an effective strategy to help students exposed to high stress and pressure, and this was due to its high efficiency, especially when it was held in groups, had a small cost, and it was accepted by the individuals.

Introduction

Challenges during education create sources of stress for students, and put their health at risk, in a way that affects their learning abilities [ 1 ]. Therefore, paying attention to the factors that could have a positive impact on the agreeableness and could increase the positive psychological states, and as a result, the physical and psychological health of the students was of great importance.

Among the important factors that affect people’s ability to adapt to the stresses of studying era is academic vitality [ 2 ]. Academic vitality means an adaptive response to various challenges and barriers experienced during education [ 3 ]. When a person does things spontaneously, does not feel not only frustrated and tired, but also constantly feels the strength and increased energy, and overall has a sense of inner vitality [ 2 ]. Therefore, the academic life has a relationship with the individual’s adaptation to the various situations of the academic period, feelings of self-efficacy and empowerment in the face of challenges, experiencing less anxiety and depression, a sense of responsibility in dealing with the academic tasks and better academic success [ 3 ]. Despite the high importance of academic vitality in the successful confrontation with the challenging academic period, the literature review of the studies managed in Iran showed that few studies were performed on the factors promoting this important variable. Therefore, an attempt to address this research gap increased the need for the current study.

Another important positive psychological state in students is the psychological well-being. The psychological well-being factor is defined as a person’s real talents growth and has six components that are the purpose in life, positive relations with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, and environmental mastery [ 4 ]. The purpose in life means having a purpose and direction in life and pursuing them [ 5 ]. Positive relations with the others mean having warm, satisfactory relations along with confidence and empathy [ 6 ]. Personal growth means having a sense of continuous growth and the capacity for it and having an increased sense of efficacy and wisdom [ 4 ]. Self-acceptance means having a positive attitude towards oneself and accepting the various aspects of oneself [ 6 ]. Autonomy means the feeling of self-determination, independence, and self-assessment against personal criteria [ 4 ]. Moreover, environmental mastery means a sense of competence and the ability to manage the complex environment around [ 5 ].

However, one of the most significant parts affecting the psychological health and well-being of individuals is life skills training [ 7 ]. Life skills’ training is critical for students, in a way that on this basis, many universities have started to teach life skills and stress management skills to improve the physical and psychological health of their students in the recent years [ 8 ]. The main objective of the World Health Organization regarding the creation of a life skills plan is in the field of psychological health. Therefore, different societies throughout the world try to promote the implementation and evaluation of the programs training in life skills. It focuses on the growth of mental abilities such as problem-solving, coping with emotions, self-awareness, social harmony, and stress management among children, teenagers, and even adults [ 9 ]. From the life skills, training in stress management skills is critical, because students need to deal effectively with stressful issues and factors. Accordingly, it was thought that teaching stress management skills is very efficient in improving the students’ positive psychological states, in particular, their vitality and mental well-being. Therefore, this study examined the effectiveness of the stress management skills training on the academic life and psychological well-being among Shahed University students.

Methodology

The study was quasi-experimental with a pretest-posttest. The analytical community of the study included all the students of Shahed University of Tehran in the fall of 2015, who were selected with a convenience method. For the calculation of the sample size, the appropriate sample size in experimental studies was of 15 people for each group [ 10 ]. At first, the sample size of 15 individuals was selected for each group. Then, to increase the statistical power and to manage the possible decrease in the number of participants, the sample size of 20 individuals (n = 20) was considered for each group. The sampling was voluntary non-random from among all the students studying at Shahed University. The inclusion criteria included an informed consent and the willingness to participate in the research, the ability to take part in the sessions and to collaborate in carrying out assignments, willingness to cooperate in completing the instruments, and the age range of 18 to 35 years. The exclusion criteria included the lack of desire to participate in the sessions and the absence to more than three courses in the preparation method, the lack of the ability to participate in the sessions, lack of cooperation in carrying out assignments, and receiving any training or psychological therapy that was not part of the program of this research.

The procedure of the study was that from all the students studying at Shahed University, a number was non-randomly and voluntarily selected, and if they met the inclusion criteria, they were randomly assigned to two groups: experimental and control. At the beginning and before starting the study, an informed consent was obtained from all of them to uphold moral considerations, through informing them of the aim of the study and the impact of such studies in improving their psychological status. Then, all the information of the participants were collected, and they were assured that the information would remain confidential by the researcher. Then, the experimental group received group stress management training for ten sessions, and the control group did not receive any intervention. In the end, both groups were post-tested. The protocol of stress management training sessions is presented in Table 1 .

Protocol of stress management skills training sessions

The instruments used in the study included a demographic sample page, an academic vitality questionnaire, and a psychological well-being scale (PWBS-18).

Demographic sample page: The demographic sample page included age, gender, educational level, and marital status. The sample page was prepared and evaluated by the researchers of the study.

Academic vitality questionnaire: This questionnaire was developed by Dehqanizadeh MH, Hosseinchari M (2012) [ 3 ], based on the academic vitality scale of Martin AJ, Marsh HW (2006) [ 15 ], which had four items. After various implementations of the items of the questionnaire, the final version was rewritten, and the result was that the revised version had ten items. Then the items above were again examined in a preliminary study on a sample including 186 high school students, who were chosen by using a cluster random sampling, and their psychometric properties were examined. The results of the examination showed that the obtained Cronbach’s alpha coefficient, by removing [ 3 ] item number 8, was 0.80 and the retest coefficient was 0.73. Also, the range of correlation of the elements with the total score was between 0.51 and 0.68. These results indicated that the items had a satisfactory internal consistency and stability.

Psychological well-being scale (SPWB): Riffe’s mental well-being scale [ 11 ] was made up of 84 questions in Likert’s 7-degree scale (from “strongly disagree” to “agree strongly”). It was a self-report questionnaire, which measured six components of the psychological well-being, including purpose in life, positive relations with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, and environmental mastery. The internal consistency coefficients for the components of this questionnaire were obtained from 0.83 to 0.91. In Mohammadpour and Joshanloo research (2014) [ 6 ], the reliability coefficient of this scale with Cronbach’s alpha method for the psychological well-being scale obtained was 0.81. Also, for the subscales of the test including self-compliance, environmental mastery, personal growth and development, link with others, the goal in life, and self-acceptance were obtained at 0.60, 0.64, 0.54, 0.58, 0.65, and 0.61, respectively. A study performed by Kafka and Kozma (2002) was conducted to verify the validity of the items of the Riffe’s psychological well-being scale. The findings showed that there was a high correlation between this scale and the subjective well-being scale (SWB) and the satisfaction with life scale (SWLS). In the present study, the reliability coefficient with Cronbach’s alpha method for the psychological well-being scale obtained was 0.81. Also, for the subscales of the test, including self-compliance, environmental mastery, personal growth and development, relations with others, the goal in life, and self-acceptance were obtained at 0.60, 0.64, 0.54, 0.58, 0.65, and 0.61, respectively.

The SPSS-20 software was used for data analysis. The statistical method used for the data analysis of the research on the level of descriptive statistics was mean, standard deviation, frequency, and frequency percentage indexes, and on the inferential statistics, univariate and multivariate analysis of covariance model were used.

Findings of the research

The demographic properties of the sample present in the study are presented in Table 2 .

Demographic characteristics of the subjects

As presented in Table 1 , the largest frequency of participation belonged to the participants in the age range of 21 to 25 with 14 individuals (35%) and the lowest frequency of individuals in the range of 18 to 20 years, with six individuals (15%). In addition, the mean age of the participants was 24.85, and the standard deviation was 4.41. The other information about the demographic properties of the present sample is provided in Table 2

As shown in Table 3 , the mean scores of purpose in life, positive relations with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, environmental mastery, total score of psychological well-being, and academic vitality of posttest were increased in the test group as associated with the control group.

Descriptive stats of academic vitality and psychological well-being scores of the two groups divided by the pretest and posttest

As shown in Table 4 , the null hypothesis of the equality of variances of the two groups in the academic vitality and psychological well-being with all its components was confirmed. It meant that the variances of the two clusters in the population were equal and had no significant difference for the academic vitality and the psychological well-being variable with all its components. Thus, given the compliance with the Levene assumption, the analysis of covariance of the results of the hypothesis of the research were permitted.

Results of Levene test for the examination of the consistency of variances of academic vitality and psychological well-being variables with its components in the posttest stage

As shown in Table 5 , the significance level of all the tests (p < 0.001) indicated that there was a significant difference between the two groups at least in one of the dependent variables (academic vitality and psychological well-being with its components). And, according to the eta square, 0.89 percent of the differences observed among individuals were associated with the effect of the independent variable, which was the intervention method (stress management skills training). On the other hand, given that the statistical power was 0.95, which was higher than 0.80, the sample size was acceptable for the research. The results related to significant differences in any of the dependent variables are listed below.

Results of multivariate analysis of covariance on the scores of posttest with the control of pretest in the academic vitality and psychological well-being variable with its components

According to Table 6 , the significance level was p < 0.001, the hypothesis of the difference between the academic vitality and the psychological well-being with its components in the two groups was confirmed. It stated that 0.54, 0.25, 0.52, 0.64, 0.60, 0.59, 0.45 and 0.81 percent change in the academic vitality, individuals’ purpose in life, positive relations with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, environmental mastery, and psychological well-being scores were due to the independent variable (stress management skills training). Therefore, it could be said that stress management skills training increased the academic vitality and the psychological well-being and all of its components.

The results of multivariate analysis of covariance to assess the impact of stress management skills training on the level of psychological well-being and its components in the posttest stage

Discussion and conclusions

Given the aim of this study, which was to examine the effectiveness of stress management skills training on the academic vitality and psychological well-being of the students of Shahed University, the results of the univariate and multivariate analysis of covariance showed that stress management skills training had a significant impact on increasing the academic vitality and psychological well-being. The findings indicated that the stress management skills training had a major impact on increasing the academic life. It was consistent with different studies of Habibi M (2015), Pakdaman A, Ganji K, Ahmadzadeh M (2012), Shirbim Z, Sudani M, Shafi-Abadi A (2008) [ 12 - 14 ].

In explaining their similar finding, Pakdaman A, Ganji K, Ahmadzadeh M (2012) [ 13 ] also stated that life skills training helped in the improvement of the academic conditions of the subjects. In addition, this was because of this training, with growing different skills of the students, helping the students know their strengths and weaknesses, and overall, help the individuals move from weaknesses and skill deficits to capable and strong skills. Therefore, this could provide the students with better educational conditions [ 14 ]. In explaining their similar finding, Shafi-Abadi (2008) stated that teaching life skills, including stress management skills, are one of the ways to improve the mental health of the individuals of the community and to prevent harms. In fact, these teachings protected the health and mental hygiene of the society and protected it against diseases, disabilities, and disturbances in human relations. As a result, the feeling of security and solidarity increased among the members of the society, and then their senses of happiness, vitality, and health increased.

The findings showed that stress management skills’ training has a significant impact on the psychological well-being. It was consistent with the multiple studies of Qadiri-Bahramabadi F, Mikaeli-Manee F (2015), Qanbari N, Habibi M, Shams-Aldini S (2013), Alavi-Arjmand N, Kashaninia Z, Hosseini MA, Reza-Soltani P (2012), Chubforushzadeh A, Kalantari M, Molavi H (2009) [ 16 - 19 ].

In explaining their similar findings, Qadiri-Bahramabadi F, Mikaeli-Manee F (2015) [ 16 ] stated that facing numerous stresses required teaching and learning of appropriate stress management skills. In other words, during stress, individuals must know the necessary coping skills to reduce the effects of stress, and if the pressure was managed and the effective coping skills were applied, the person would be able to get along better with the needs and challenges of his/ her life. Therefore, the intervention of stress management led to the formation of good feelings about oneself, as well as a positive performance in the stable world. It created interest and motivation in people’s lives as well as increasing the self-confidence of the individuals. As a result, it increased the psychological well-being.

In explaining their similar finding, Qanbari N, Habibi M, Shams-Aldini S (2013) [ 17 ] stated that with the help of multiple strategies to manage stress such as relaxation, and muscular relaxation, stress and anxiety could be reduced. The individuals identified the somatic symptoms, and with mastering the ways to acquire relaxation, which was inconsistent with stress, reduced their anxiety and unpleasant feelings, thus increasing the psychological well-being. Also, in explaining their similar finding, Chubforushzadeh A, Kalantari M, Molavi H (2009) [ 19 ], stated that stress management treatments make multiple changes in the individual’s beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. Therefore, improving the individual’s evaluations and coping skills, and the provided practices to integrate the learned separations with real life situations could lead to a decrease in the perceived stress and an increase in the psychological well-being.

Acknowledgement

The authors would like to thank the venerable authorities of Shahed University of Tehran for their assistance. Also, the authors would like to thank all the participants in the study.

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    Stress Exploration. worksheet. Stress is a feeling of being tense, overwhelmed, worn out, or exhausted. A small amount of stress can be motivating, but too much stress makes even small tasks seem daunting. Sometimes stress is the accumulation of many small hassles, while other times it is the result of major life changes or long-term problems...

  24. Resilience Through Counseling

    Mental and Emotional Stress: A high-stress environment, risk of injury or death, and the impact of combat can lead to mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and depression. ... Separation from Family and Loved Ones: Long deployments and assignments away from home can strain personal relationships and lead to ...