The most common definition of stress is that it’s a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources s/he can mobilise.”

You will cope better if you understand the nature of your stress

Management consultant, Dr Karl Albrecht, breaks stress into four types: time, anticipatory, situational and encounter.

1. Time stress is the most common and occurs when you feel there is too much to be completed in a limited period of time

Deadlines, back-to-back meetings and travel delays all lead to time stress.

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In the world we live in, ‘stress’ is sometimes worn as a badge of honour.

If you are feeling time stressed, you need to focus on self-management. Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day; the problem is not time. It’s you! Learn and apply the principles of self-management: delegating, working when you are most energised, minimising interruptions and focusing on high-impact activities.

2. Anticipatory stress is what you experience concerning the future

It can be vague and undefined, leaving you with a sense of dread. Heed the words of the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The only things you can control are your thoughts and actions.

Your thoughts and actions impact your future, but you are never in full control of what happens. Identify what you are afraid will manifest, and then act to counter it.

For example, if you are worried that your year-end bonus will not be enough to see you through the next financial year, take steps now to curb your spending or consolidate finances so that you can live within your base salary.

Another option is to give yourself a reality check: explore the likelihood of your fears manifesting.

If there is a high risk, take action now. Where there is a reasonable possibility, outline contingency plans; things you can do if X occurs. If the likelihood is extremely low, then accept that it may happen and that you will find the resources to deal with it if it occurs.

In other words, tell yourself that you will, “cross that bridge when you get to it.”

3. Situational stress is something that happens when you feel no control over what is going on or find yourself in an unexpected situation

For example, you may be asked a question that you do not know the answer to (as I recently experienced when doing a pre-recording of a radio interview). Or be caught in a conflict between colleagues.

Focus on the trigger: what is making you feel stressed? Is it fear of offending someone? Is it embarrassment at not knowing something you feel you should?

My rule of thumb is to ask, “Will this matter six months from now?”

If the answer is “no” then I let it go. If the answer is “yes”, I break the situation down into elements that I can control and those I can’t. In short, I focus on what I can do to reduce the trigger in the future and what I can control.

4. Encounter stress occurs when you need to engage with people you feel threatened by or who intimidate you

Encounter stress can also arise when you need to engage with people you do not like or if you are an introvert quickly drained by social encounters.

To overcome this stress check your perceptions: the most successful individuals in the world also have insecurities and hang-ups.

Beware of putting people on pedestals, and rather engage with them based on your shared humanity.

Another way of dealing with encounter stress is to do some homework: plan an opening statement to get the conversation going, find out about the people you may meet so that you can shift the focus to them instead of you.

If you are meeting with people you do not like or get along with, look for common ground or a shared goal. Look for the bridges instead of walls.

Identifying the type of stress you are experiencing is the first step in learning to manage it. It will give you something tangible to work with.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.