Stress Management and Prevention: Applications to Daily Life 3rd Edition
I feel that I must be one of the luckiest guys in the world I know. Ironically, it all has to do with being stressed out during the earlier part of my career (you will get the story later in this introduction). The usual approach to the subject of stress is that it is altogether a bad thing that must be “managed,” if not eliminated, at all costs. However, when you take a class on stress management, learning such stress reduction techniques as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, journaling, time management, and visualization, to mention a few of the options, you will find out how much it will transform your life for the better. Like many of my students, they may regret not having taken it at an earlier time. But I have to give you a sobering fact, namely, learning and practicing stress management and prevention skills requires lots of self-discipline, significant time, energy, and commitment in order to make the changes last over time.
The reality is that most people don’t stick with diets, exercise programs, or stressreduction plans for very long. That is one reason why there is always a new best-selling book on the market that promises immediate, dramatic results—with little effort. That is also why, a few years after you graduate from college, little that you learned will stick with you. One reason for this is a lack of relevance of the content to your personal interests and goals. Another is that the material may not have been introduced to you in a way that was compelling or interesting.
• What are the reasons that you have not maintained important changes in your life, especially those related to your health?
• In which classes have you learned the most? What contributed to that learning remaining a permanent part of your life?
• What have been the most critical incidents that have occurred in your life and how have they impacted on the choices you have made, as well as those you are considering in the future?
• After reading the personal story of the author, what might you expect from what will follow?
You may never have a learning experience that is more directly related to your success and satisfaction in life than this class on stress management and prevention. My goal is to assist your instructor so that this experience will not only teach you some new skills to reduce the stress in your life in the present and the future, but also to help you approach the inevitable pressures in life in such a way that you can perform at peak levels—whether in school, on the job, or in the relationships that mean the most to you.
You already know, from previous experience, what it takes not only to learn something, but to make it part of who you are and the ways you function characteristically. In order for the methods in this class to become a permanent part of your repertoire, several factors must be operating:
1. You must actively engage with the content. You can’t just read about the subject, or listen to lectures about it; you must think critically about the material and try it out for yourself.
2. You must personalize and adapt the learning to your particular needs. With anything that you read it is legitimate for you to ask yourself what this has to do with your life. You are the one who must figure out ways to take these ideas and apply them in ways that mean the most to you.
3. Practice and rehearsal are a necessary part of any systematic learning program. At first, new skills seem awkward and time-consuming. Over time, with diligence and effort, they become as easy for you as driving a car (which once seemed awkward and frustrating). In order for you to be willing to devote the time and energy into practicing new skills, without increasing your stress levels, you’ll need to feel as if the effort is worth the outcome.
4. Finally, you need a support system to reinforce your efforts. It may be fairly difficult for you to undertake new behaviors unless you are surrounded by those who support what you are doing. That is one distinct advantage of having classmates who are part of this same journey.
With these cautions in mind, I invite you to keep an open mind to the ideas that will be presented to you, as well as to think critically and realistically about what you are prepared to do in your life, and what you are not. You certainly have enough stressful circumstances that you don’t need additional burdens, or commitments, unless they can be demonstrated to lighten your load significantly. I aim to show you how to do that—not just from solid theory and research, but also based on your own experiences.
A Personal Introduction from the Author to the Students xi
About the Author xvii
Part I : Understanding the Nature of Stress 1
1 The Meaning of Stress 3
2 The Body’s Reactions to Stress 33
3 Sources of Stress across the Lifespan 61
4 Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior 89
5 Individual and Cultural Differences 121
Part II : Strategies of Stress Management and Prevention 145
6 Challenging Stressful Thinking 147
7 Problem Solving and Time Management 177
8 Psychological and Spiritual Relaxation Methods 209
9 Physical Methods for Stress Reduction 239
10 Preparing for the Future: College and Occupational Stress 267
11 Care of the Self: Nutrition and Other Lifestyle Issues 291
12 Stress and Conflict in Relationships 317
Part III : Strategies of Synthesis and Prevention 349
13 Resilience and Stress 351
14 Optimal Functioning and Lasting Changes 377
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