Stress-management: Removing the cause of stress
Now that you have talked about what stress is, what can cause it, and what the signs of stress are, it is time to discuss how to cope with stress. There are two major strategies we’ll look at next:
- Remove the causes of stress
- Deal with the symptoms of stress
In this section we’ll look at removing the cause of stress, and in the next section we’ll look at dealing with symptoms of stress.
Refer back to the main causes of stress that the participants listed earlier. Ask the group: Are there any that we could do anything to reduce?
You might want to teach the steps of problem-solving (outlined below). You could ask the group to get into pairs or groups of three and instruct each group to problem-solve one cause of stress they are facing. Then ask each group to share the problem and their solution with the whole group.
Use an example from a cause of stress given by a workshop participant. Choose a problem which does have potential solutions.
- Identify the problem as early as possible
- Specify the problem accurately ‘Brainstorm’ solutions (list as many ideas as possible regardless of what you think about whether they will work. The idea at this stage is to identify a broad array of options.)
- List the pros and cons of each solution
- Choose the best solution or combination of solutions
- Draft an action plan to implement the solution
- Act on the solution
- Review the problem-solving process, and consider what you could do differently another time.
An example of the first three steps of problem-solving as applied to a common problem faced by humanitarian workers is given below. The problem is ‘language problems within our team.’
Problem-solving example: “Language problems”
- Identify the problem: As a team we become frustrated because we don’t really understand each other, because we speak different languages. There are a lot of misunderstandings and people become angry with each other.
- Specify the problem accurately: The team leader and the other expatriates speak English. The official language in this country is French, but the expatriates don’t speak much French. Most of the team speak one of three different tribal languages as their mother tongue, but have a reasonable knowledge of French.
- Brainstorm possible solutions: Brainstorming might include:
- Have an interpreter at team meetings.
- Get minutes of team meetings translated into all the relevant languages.
- Ask the NGO to send only expatriates who can speak fluent French.
- Offer language classes so the expatriates can learn some French and the national staff can learn some English.
- Ask for a spokesperson who speaks English, French, and the dominant tribal language to attend staff meetings, then explain to each of the groups what has been agreed upon.
- Stop employing national staff.
- Stop employing expatriates.
- Employ staff from only one tribe.
- The group should then go through pros and cons of each of these suggestions.
- Then they can offer up any other solutions they can think of.
- Then the group should discuss and decide upon their preferred solution. (Make clear there is not one right answer. It can be helpful and fun to use role play to act out the solution before trying it for real.)
Stop and Think
Apply the steps of problem-solving to a problem you are facing at the moment. Try not to pick the most difficult problem for your first attempt!
Next: Stress-management: Deal with symptoms of stress