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This article explains 4 Types of Stress by Karl Albrecht in a practical way. After reading it, you will understand the basics of this powerful stress management tool.
What are Albrecht’s 4 Types of Stress?
Everyone suffers from stress at times, and everyone experiences it in their own way. The most common stress situations were described by management consultant Karl Albrecht in his 1979 book Stress and the Manager. In it, the stress reduction specialist discusses Four Types of Stress. According to Albrecht, the first step to overcoming stress is understanding stress. That enables the manager to work more productively, build better relationships and live healthier. The foundation comes from the following 4 Types of Stress:
1. Time stress
Time stress is the best-known form of stress in a modern, fast and demanding work environment. Often, projects have deadlines and tasks have to be completed within an agreed upon time. If that does not happen, it will lead to stress.
In the case of time stress, people are worried about a lack of time. They will feel trapped in time, which will make them unhappy. Especially managers feel that they are responsible for this. Trying to get the task finished in time or rushing to make the deadline can have a negative effect on the final quality because tasks are being rushed.
Sometimes, additional resources are necessary to make the deadline. This can all cause time stress and that is why it good time management is important to reduce stress.
Managing time stress
Time stress is one of the most common types of stress today. That is why it is vitally important to learn to how to get rid of this type of stress. Albrecht describes a number of useful tools to achieve that, aimed at proper time management.
- Use to-do lists that do not just list the tasks, but also the time required for each task. The most important things are put on the top of the list, leading to a plan of action. The so-called Pomodoro Technique can help with this.
- Focus on priorities. If urgent tasks have little or no impact on the general objectives, they should not come before other tasks. A day of work should give you energy and a sense of meaning. It should not leave you feeling drained.
- Focus on important tasks; that help to achieve goals and are important to you. This eliminates tasks that can also be performed by others. The so-called Eisenhower Matrix is a useful instrument to evaluate the urgency and importance of tasks and then prioritising them.
- Use active working hours. If someone is a morning person, he will be more productive during those hours. It would then be wise to spend those hours concentrating on more difficult tasks or tasks that take up a lot of time.
- Be assertive; say ‘no’ to others in a polite way, explain the reason try to help them think about a different solution if you can. Concentrate on your own calendar and your own tasks without feeling guilty for turning down someone’s request.
2. Anticipatory stress
People often also suffer from stress about events that still have to happen. This anticipatory stress is also called future stress. Its causes include uncertainty about future events and/or the uncertainty someone feels about their personal responsibility.
This stress can be very frustrating, mostly because nothing can be done about it yet and people have no control over it. Sometimes, this stress can be related to a specific event, like giving a presentation. It can be accompanied by vague feeling: ‘What if something will go wrong?’
Managing anticipatory stress
To counter this, Albrecht writes about the following key mechanisms:
- Make a contingency plan, with all possible outcomes. That way, you can learn to overcome your fear of failure. Analyse what can go wrong and what impact that might have. By thinking about possible failure in advance, anxiety is reduced and someone will feel they have more control over the event.
- Use positive visualisation techniques by imagining what will happen if the situation has a good result. Research has shown that thoughts, on an elementary neurological level, cannot always distinguish between a situation someone has experienced often or the situation that actually happened. Imagining how it will go will be a trigger for the brain to actually experience it like that.
- Use other techniques, such as meditation. This helps to focus and concentrate on what will actually happen. It helps to stop you from worrying.
- Anticipatory stress can also be caused by a lack of confidence. By addressing personal fears directly, the stress will diminish. A way to do this is, for instance, to think in advance about which difficult questions will be asked and having an answer ready. Well begun is half done, usually.
3. Situational stress
People experience situational stress during tense situations over which you have no control. This can happen for instance in emergencies, when making major mistakes or during conflict situations. This stress results in a feeling of powerlessness and lack of support. Like there is no easy solution.
Managing situational stress
Compared to the other forms of stress, people are least prepared for this kind. That is why it is important to gain full control over your own emotions and communicate well with others and finding the right solutions. The following tips can be helpful as well:
- Being more self-aware; situational stress happens suddenly in a completely unexpected situation. By behaving in a self-aware way, you are able to recognise automatic physical and emotional signals when you are under pressure.
- Learning about conflict management; conflicts are an important cause of situational stress Be offering effective solutions you will be well prepared to handle a situation like that.
- Learn to recognise physical and emotional symptoms of stress. Every person reacts differently to situational stress. That is why it is essential to be aware of that and respond in the right way. If someone has a natural tendency to get angry quickly and start screaming, it is wise to learn to control this emotion and simply count to 10.
4. Encounter stress
This stress is about interaction with others and can also be called meeting stress. This encounter stress is experienced when someone is worried about the interaction with a certain individual or group of people. For instance, anxiety about meeting a boss with a dominant personality.
This stress can also occur when someone’s job involves a lot of personal interactions. Examples would be doctors, account managers or social workers. They have to be on their toes all the time because they constantly deal with different people. When meetings become routine like this, someone can experience an overload, making him exhausted and stressed even before the encounter. Encounter stress can also occur when regularly communicating with unpredictable, dissatisfied or unfriendly customers, patients or colleagues.
Managing encounter stress
Developing strong interpersonal skills is the key to overcoming this type of stress. Strong emotional intelligence helps to better understand the wants and needs of customers and/or colleagues. In addition, the following tips apply:
- Work on social skills; this makes you better able to deal with different kinds of people.
- Increase emotional intelligence; this allows you to recognise the emotions, the wants and the needs of yourself and others. That makes interaction with others easier and it offers a foundation for building strong relationships.
- Recognise your own limits; when you know the maximum number of conversations you can have with customers, patients or colleagues, you will also be able to manage encounter stress better. Every person has different forms and symptoms of encounter stress; the common trait is becoming withdrawn. By taking breaks in between, talking a walk or doing a meditation exercise, you can protect yourself from encounter stress.
Albrecht indicates that it is best to understand all 4 Types of Stress and to eliminate where possible. Nevertheless, he writes that there are many other sources of workplace stress. Unfortunately, stress is not completely avoidable. By recognising and identifying it early it can be dealt with and counteracted.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognize the 4 Types of Stress in your personal or professional life? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? How do you deal with stress?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Albrecht, K. (2010). Stress and the Manager. Simon and Schuster.
- Matteson, M. T., & Ivancevich, J. M. (1987). Controlling work stress: Effective human resource and management strategies. Jossey-Bass.
- Quick, J. C., Quick, J. D., Nelson, D. L., & Hurrell Jr, J. J. (1997). Preventive stress management in organizations. American Psychological Association.
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