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Training for Stress


Does anybody have any ideas as to exercises that I could use within my training to demonstrate stress?

Cath King

12 Responses

  1. Stress demonstration
    Hi Cath

    For demonstration of stress to each individual, you could try this:
    Get everyone to relax, close their eyes and breathe deeply. Then ask them to remember a time within the last week or month (or whatever timeframe you want) that they felt what they would call “stress”

    Because your delegates are relaxed from the breathing etc. Their experience the feelings of “stress” will be magnified.
    Then ask them to open their eyes and write down what they felt within their own bodies. This can range from “the hot surge” throughout their body to muscular tension to headaches to a feeling of helplessness. This technique focusses on the feelings of stress and not the situations (which of course are always different). From there, you can look at ways to deal with these feelings and avoid if possible. Hope this helps.

    Good Luck


  2. Stress or anxiety
    A thought to ponder…

    A recent conversation with an occupational health nurse yielded the following thought: what so many people claim as stress, as in “I am feeling stressed about tackling the awkward customer/employee” is perhaps more likely to be anxiety, and should therefore be tackled as such; stress is usually much more ‘severe’ or extreme and degrades significantly our ability to perform – either in terms of level of performance and/or breadth of performance.

    Some years ago I served in the RAF with an RAF Regiment Office who had come up through the ranks and seen active service in a number of places. Over a beer or 4 we were philosophising (as one does) and he said “Harry, if it’s life threatening, it’s a problem – everything else is an inconvenience” – I guess that kind of sums it up perhaps?

    This thought may be worth exploring in a discussion with your group, with a view to them developing some strategies for identifying whether it’s anxiety or true stress they are dealing with, and acting accordingly.

    Best wishes,

    aka “Harry”

  3. academic view
    There is a view held by many academic writers that “stress” is a socially constructed term and in fact is more likely to be something else – including, as Martin says, but not limited to – anxiety, depression, fear, lack of self confidence, time pressure etc etc.

    Exercises which demonstrate time pressure (i.e. doing something against the clock) would be one way of demonstrating it, but doubtless there are loads of others if you consider it in this way

  4. Cause them stress.
    Try telling the group that the training has been replaced by a Personal Development Appraisal.

  5. another cause of stress
    Similar to Martin’s suggestion, you could tell them they are all going to have to get up and speak to the group for 5 minutes. Not recommended for the beginning of a session however!

    A useful definintion of stress I have found: “stress occurs when there is a perceived inability to cope with perceived pressure”

    The idea of perception is a useful one to discuss, and opens up different angles on both the personal aspects as well as the actual pressure being experienced.

    good luck!

  6. Some thoughts
    You could ask your participants to identify an example of a situation in which they were stressed/distressed, and to describe how they were affected by the distress.

    If you want to try distressing them in the training room you could ask them to prepare a 5 or 10 minute presentation on either a given or chosen topic, then present it to the group. Afterwards they could tell you how they were affected. However, a participant who is very lacking in confidence and self-esteem could be very upset by this, and someone with a health problem could become ill. Personally, I think that to actually induce stress in a training context is unwise and unethical. Also, this will not be representative of the effects of distress over days, weeks or years in which relationships with others, sleeping, appetite and many other aspects of a person’s health are affected. Stress is induced experimentally but the subjects have given their consent and can withdraw at anytime.

    This new web site might be useful.

  7. stress indicators
    Anything that takes one out of one’s comfort zone usually causes stress….a reactivity in body, mind, emotions or spirit that is a sign of discomfort…it could be a thought, something one sees or hears, an event, etc., that results in discomfort in some way, shape or form. Monitoring one’s thoughts is a great way to gauge stress…if my thoughts in any way are fear-based, negatively judgmental or critical,resistant, defensive, etc., that’s a sign of stress.

  8. stress activity
    One thing I use in my stress management workshops to demonstrate the affect and effects of stress is to take an elastic band. and stretch it, explaining the tension in the rubber at different points, until when it has too much strain/tension, it snaps (watch your fingers!) Then to demonstrate the balance between constant stress/tension and intermittent relaxation and tension, give each trainee an elastic band and ask half of them to keep a strain on the band for a short ime, say by putting it round their chair, or clip board whatever, and the other half to simply keep stretching and releasing the band. The effects are evident – basically getting the message accros that you need a helath work/life balance.
    Good luck

  9. Demonstrating stress
    There is no easy way to demonstrate stress because how you define it depends on your own theoretical viewpoint and that will differ from the views of other people in the group. Like Rich Lucas I would get the group in a relaxed state and then ask them to recall when they were last aware of having a physiological stress reaction and what they felt it was triggered by. Cumulative stress reactions though are not usually recognised by the person suffering them , they are noticed by people around them. So it is important for people to be aware of changes in mood, attitude and performance levels.

  10. Stress Measurement Software
    There’s a brilliant software package which involves attaching sensors to your fingers or ears which dynamically measures and displays your stress level on a computer screen. You can do various activities with this attached and watch the stress levels rise when the task doesn’t quite go to plan! I use it frequently during my Work / Life & Stress Management Sessions. NOBODY will ever argue that they are NOT stressed. The Computer never lies! (Does it?!) – If you’re interested, drop me an e-mail and I’ll dig out the details and costs etc

  11. Stress
    The acknowledged expert in this field Professor Carey Cooper has written a number of books from which good exercises can be built.We had a trainer who ran a wonderful session using Cooper’s 5 managerial types and their links with stress!
    Waterstones will have all his books. I think he is now at Lancaster University having previously been in Manchester

  12. A Stress Therapists’ Viewpoint
    As a specialist in training and treating people suffering from long-term stress, I can offer a solution I heard of and which i use and is an easy demonstration of what stress is. Hold up a glass of water and ask how much it weighs. Then ask how much it would weight if you had to hold it for an hour. It’s not that the stress is any different – just that it is prolonged. In addition, I include information about what the signs of stress are and invite people to take a questionnaire prior to the seminar, which can be assessed and discussed later. If you’d like to discuss this, I can be reached on [email protected]. I’ll be happy to help if I can.


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