Stress Management Strategies: The 4As

Stress Management Strategies: The 4As


From personal experience (and consultation with many medical professionals) the only person who can ultimately manage your stress is you. Therefore, once you identify when your body is having a stress reaction, and you have identified the major stimuli that invoke this reaction, you can start becoming proactive in how you go about gaining control of the various curve balls, stumbling blocks and other metaphorical traps life has in store for us.

The logic here is simple: empower yourself and build your resilience by doing something about those things you can control, so that when the things out of your control happen you have some reserves left and are not knocked completely flat.

I come from an analytical and structured background and have spent most of my life solving problems with the aid of models, concepts and strategies. Thankfully this has not been a complete waste of time – being able to use a dispassionate two-dimensional model to gain some order out of the chaos/anarchy of my urban existence is quite reassuring.

The 4A model is just such a tool. Go through the list of stressors you identified since the last column – Stress self-awareness: identifying your stress levels and your personal stressors – and assign an “A” to each (see the example at the end of the article).

Avoid à psychologists often talk about avoidance being unhealthy – you need to confront and resolve issues. That’s true, but if those issues, situations or people are causing you negative stress and they can be avoided without incurring another negative or just deferring suffering until later, then avoidance is appropriate.

Alter à Knowing what makes you stressed already helps bring a sense of control to your environment. We are afraid of the unknown and fear is crippling. Let others know what your limits are; learn to say ‘no’ and to delegate more effectively (more about that and basic energy-management techniques in a future column). If someone is upsetting you – let them know. If you don’t speak out you drastically limit your ability to have a positive impact on the situation and increase the likelihood that ‘life will happen to you.’

Adapt à Are you a time-urgent, perfectionist, ‘my way or the highway’ ‘Type-A’ personality? As much as you might not like to hear this, you are often the cause of your own stress. Learn to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself: “will this matter in a month or year from now?” Sometimes ‘good enough’ is just that – good enough; striving for perfection is not always appreciated or necessary and the only one suffering is you.

Accept à when all else fails you need to learn to let go. Intellectually you probably know you need to do this but can’t seem to get it right? Talk the situation through with someone, an objective third party often sheds new light on things we are too involved with to see. Learn the lessons from previous experiences and use that to help you avoid the same situation, adapt to it or alter it in the future.

But, and it is a big BUT, we all know the danger of strategies- they are useless dust-gatherers unless they are effectively implemented. Woody Allen once said that “80% of success is showing up”, and in reality the true value lies in the execution. Take ownership of your stress and practise these strategies daily.

Stress busting tip # 2


Most of us enjoy some kind of music– music that makes us feel good, excited, happy, energised. Dancing is just another form of physical exercise – and exercise is simply good for us physiologically and psychologically:

  • It helps the body ‘mop up’ many of the so called stress-hormones;
  • releases other chemicals that make us feel good;
  • increases our metabolism and helps burn fat;
  • increases oxygen flow;
  • helps us get a better night’s sleep.

So, go home, close the curtains (so the neighbours can’t see you!), crank up the volume and get boogying!

Richard Hawkey
Richard Hawkey is an anti-stress evangelist, author, speaker and productivity consultant. Having suffered from a stress-related breakdown himself, he has since combined this general management and leadership experience with the profound lessons he learnt from mismanaging stress and subsequently burning out. He is the author of Life Less Lived and the founder of equilibriumsolutions – which has developed the first online stress management tool aimed at both employees an employers. Richard can be contacted at