At Stress to Strength and the Stress Management
Institute we focus ourselves on developing and delivering stress management solutions
that are based on solid research and sound scientific principles.
SMI’S Stress Management Facilitator and Practitioner trainings and qualifications,
and our workplace stress management services, have been built upon a foundation of academic
research spanning decades. Our stress management models are a reflection
of the principles we have applied in our personal services, and delivered through our sister
organisation Stress to Strength. In the building of the curriculum for our
Stress Management Facilitator and Practitioner qualifications, as well as in the design of
our Workplace Stress Management Services, we began with the basic models of the mechanisms
of Stress. We hear a lot about the physiological impacts
of stress and its effect on our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, but what causes us
to experience stress? And why is it that different people can be
subjected to identical stimuli and some individuals experience no stress at all, while other people
can display debilitating effects, from the same event?
So, this model of the mechanisms of stress, titled The Stress to Strength Process, is
at the heart of how SMI and STS view stress, and is central to how we can help you, as
-an individual, -as a practitioner assisting others or
-as an organisation dealing with workplace stress.
This model also gives an insight into how we intervene to help you manage stress more
effectively. The potential to experience stress starts
with a stressor, or the cumulative effect of many stressors. Stressors are the events,
incidences, encounters, situations, transactions or interactions that have a potentially negative
influence on our lives. When faced with a new stressor, or when we
simply recall or think about it, or even a past stressor, we process that event or situation
in two stages, which we term the primary appraisal and the secondary appraisal.
For most people, in most instances these appraisals occur spontaneously, immediately and without
conscious thought. It is the same process that in extreme cases triggers our fight or
flight responses. In the primary appraisal we subconsciously
determine if this event or situation is a threat to us.
What we consider a threat will be different for different people, but we would rapidly
determine if there was a threat to our health, our wellbeing or even to our lives, or a threat
to our security, to the achievement of a goal or outcome we had set for ourselves, to someone
we care for, or our wealth or possessions. It may threaten our livelihood or our reputation.
If, at the primary appraisal point we decide it’s not a threat, we move on, not experiencing
any real concern or angst as a consequence of what we have just experienced.
However, if we sense that what has just occurred does present a threat, we then re-appraise
the situation and determine if we have the wherewithal to deal with it.
Simply put, if it is a threat we then complete the secondary appraisal and conclude if we
can cope with it or not. If we can, we do what we have to, feeling
OK about it, because we know that we can deal with it or mitigate its affects.
But, if we conclude that we are unable to address what has happened, or will happen,
this is where that ball in the stomach begins to form and be felt. A small event or incident
leads to lesser feelings of stress, as does a few and infrequent events.
But unfortunately, just the opposite is also true.
When a Stress to Strength Practitioner works with you to help you manage stress, one of
the key interventions we practice with you is to give clarity to these appraisal points
and to give you tools and strategies for you to take control of them, which in turn gives
you control of the feelings and the stress you consequently experience.
When an SMI practitioner works with your organisation, we go back another step in the process, and
we analyse and diagnose the sources of stress, and we target interventions designed to reduce
the stressors your employee’s experience. Having clarity and control of these appraisal
points goes part of the way to explaining why different people experience the same situation
with varying levels of stress, but it isn’t the entire picture.
What’s missing are our biopsychosocial factors. These are the things that make each of us,
who we are. They are our background, our history, our
upbringing, our cultural norms, our education, our economic position, our support network,
all bundled up to influence how we appraise situations and what resources we have available
to us, to cope with adverse situations. This is a critical consideration in how STS
and SMI deliver their services and help people deal with stress, because it tells us that
stress is a very personal thing. Because of these biopsychosocial factors, we realise
that there can never be a one size fits all solution to managing stress, only processes
and a range of tools and strategies that can be chosen from .
For instance, we would never walk into an organisation and say we know why they have
a workplace stress problem and that we have just the solution. What we can say at SMI
though, is that we have a process that will unveil those answers, and lead us to the primary
interventions that will reduce their workplace stressors, or the secondary interventions
to help people better appraise their situation and cope with it more effectively.
We invite you to explore both and to discover further opportunities in how we can support
and serve your organisation.