StressStop Blog

Multi Level Stress Management

Jim Porter, M.A.L.S., President, StressStop.comThursday, February 25th, 2010

Here's a new approach to managing stress I call Multi Level Stress Management. Multi Level Stress Management (MLSM) gives you a variety of tools for teaching stress management in a way that's calibrated to a person's skill set, awareness levels and willingness to change. There are three levels in MLSM.

Level 1 techniques are physical approaches for managing stress, like exercise, deep breathing, biofeedback and yoga. It's what everyone usually thinks of when they talk about stress management. These techniques typically help you relax muscle tension and lower stress symptoms after the stressful event is over.

Level 2 techniques are slightly more advanced mental strategies for managing stress like positive thinking, reframing and cognitive restructuring. These techniques are simple to teach and most people can easily see how they're thinking contributes to their own stress. These techniques can actually be used while a person is experiencing stress. They prevent stress symptoms from arising in the first place.

Level 3 techniques are philosophical and spiritual methods for managing stress like present-moment awareness, lifestyle changes, and developing a belief system that is non judgmental, accepting and geared toward fostering connections and developing social networks. Over the years I've come to see the level 3 approach as the only real way to permanently lower overall levels of stress. However these changes require a level of commitment and time that only certain people are ready for.

Each approach works on its own for just about every problem. For example, if someone comes to you for advice about a difficult boss you can offer them three different methods for coping with this problem:

Level 1:(Change what you do after the situation.)
If you have an argument with your boss go for run at the end of the day or practice yoga to blow off steam. After the exercise endorphins will kick in that will make you feel better.

Level 2:(Change what you do during the situation.)
Question whether your thinking about your boss is rational. If you believe you have the world's worst boss, that's probably not rational. Often times when we feel annoyed or angry with someone, we exaggerate the circumstances of the situation, making the situation worse than it needs to be. You're boss couldn't possibly be the world's worst boss and he probably isn't ALWAYS asking you to stay late. Exaggerated thinking like this only makes YOU feel worse. Practice rethinking (or talking back to) your overly negative thoughts and you'll prevent your stress from happening in the first place.

Level 3:(Change what you do before the situation.)
You accept the fact that your boss has a different temperament from you (which is why he's the boss) and try to see things from his perspective (of being under pressure from above) and totally accept that there are times when you two just aren't going to get along. When you totally accept what is and can't be changed your residual stress just melts away.

Remember, different approaches work best for different types of people. Level 1 is about action and works for people who want to DO something about their stress. Level 2 is about thinking. It's for more analytical people who tend to get bogged down in their own thinking but are capable of bringing awareness to it and correcting it also. Level 3 is about letting go of long-held beliefs that only get in the way of your own happiness. It's hard to do this at first but your investment will produce the highest yeild over time. Stay tuned to future blogs for more examples of MLSM approaches to a variety of different problems.

Words that help you describe MLSM:

Level 1Level 2Level 3
physicalmentalphilosophical
doingthinkingbeing
activepreventativeproactive
beginnerintermediateexpert
after stressduring stressbefore stress
short termintermediatelong term
repairspreventsbuilds immunity
bodymindspirit
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