Identifying and Managing 4 Types of Stress

The truth is that stress doesn't come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.  ~Andrew J. Bernstein

Most people experience some degree of stress in their life. But if you understand the most common types of stress and know how to spot them, you can manage your stress much better. This, in turn, helps you to work productively, build better relationships, and live a healthier life. Dr. Karl Albrecht is a pioneer in the development of stress-reduction training for business people. He defined four common types of stress in his book, "Stress and the Manager": Time stress, Anticipatory stress, Situational stress, and Encounter stress.

1. Time Stress

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren't enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress. ~Viggo Mortensen

You experience time stress when you worry about the time, or the lack of time. You worry about the number of things you have to do, and you are afraid you won’t complete something important. You might feel trapped, unhappy, or even hopeless. Common examples of time stress include worrying about deadlines or rushing to avoid being late for a meeting. Time stress is one of the most common types of stress many of us experience. It is essential to learn how to manage this type of stress if you're going to be productive.

Learn good time management skills like using To -Do Lists that you can use to assist you in prioritizing what needs to be tackled first. If you're a morning person, schedule the tasks in your planner that need the greatest concentration during this time. You can leave less important tasks, like checking email, for times when your energy levels drop.  Read more about 5 Great Time Management Skills.

2. Anticipatory Stress

I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.  ~ Steve Maraboli,

Anticipatory stress describes stress you experience concerning the future. Sometimes this stress can be focused on a specific event, such as an upcoming presentation at work you are to give. However, anticipatory stress can also be vague and undefined, such as an overall sense of dread about the future, or a worry that "something will go wrong." Because anticipatory stress is future based, start by recognizing the event you're dreading doesn't have to play out as you imagine.

Use meditation and positive visualization techniques to imagine the situation going right. Research shows that your mind often can't tell the difference, on a basic neurological level, between a situation you've visualized going well repeatedly and one that's actually happened.  Anticipatory stress can result from a lack of True Confidence.

You might be stressing over a presentation you're giving next week, because you're afraid your presentation won't be interesting. Often, addressing these personal fears directly will lower your stress. For example, if you put in extra time to practice and prepare for tough questions, you'll likely feel more prepared for the event.

3. Situational Stress

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to accept the things that you cannot control. ~M. P. Neary

You experience situational stress when you're in a scary situation for which you have no control over. This could be an emergency. More commonly, however, it's a situation that involves conflict, or a loss of status or acceptance in the eyes of your group. For instance, getting laid off or making a major mistake in front of your friends are examples of events that can cause situational stress. Situational stress often appears suddenly, for example, you might get caught in a situation you completely failed to anticipate.

To manage situational stress better, learn to be more self -aware. This means recognizing the "automatic" physical and emotional signals your body sends out when you're under pressure.

Conflict is a major source of situational stress. Learn effective conflict resolution skills, so you're well prepared to handle the stress of conflict when it arises. It's also important to learn how to manage conflict in meetings, since resolving group conflict can be different from resolving individual issues. 

4. Encounter Stress

The deepest fear we have, 'the fear beneath all fears,' is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It's this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life.  ~Tullian Tchividjian

Encounter stress revolves around people. You experience encounter stress when you worry about interacting with a certain person or group of people you may not know. This type of stress can also occur from "contact overload": when you feel overwhelmed or drained from interacting with too many people.

Because encounter stress is focused entirely on people, you'll manage this type of stress better by working on your people skills. Develop your emotional intelligence; the ability to recognize the emotions, wants, and needs of yourself and of others. This is an important skill in interacting with others and in building good relationships.

Empathy is a valuable skill for coping with this type of stress, because it allows you to see the situation from the other person's perspective. This gives you greater understanding and helps you to structure your communications so you address the other person's feelings, wants, and needs. Read more about how to get along with others.


Problems can be experienced as… a chance for renewal rather than stress. ~Marilyn Ferguson

Now that you can clearly identify the four types of stress you can start to recognize the type(s) that affect you the most.  With recognition comes the ability to implement tactics and strategies to help overcome the stress that you encounter during your day so that you can learn to prevent stress before it occurs.

If you would like a more in-depth help developing some techniques to overcome any of these types of stresses in your life please contact me, or sign up for my newsletter, I would be happy to help you determine and overcome the four different types of stress in your life.

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