A primary reason individuals and social systems suffer harm from stress is that people do not just react to stressful events, they tend to turn stress into “an emotional and physiological habit,” according to Cryer and Childre (2003). While the stress mechanism in most animals tends to turn off after danger has passed, the choices, perceptions, and behaviors of humans can get the stress switch stuck in the “on” position.
- Recommended Reading: From Chaos to Coherence: Advancing Emotional and Organizational Intelligence Through Inner Quality Management
Cryer and Childre proposed that people can “break the stress habit” by using “inner-quality management,” research-based techniques designed to transform reactions to stress while increasing performance and wellness. The approach they offer might sound familiar to anyone who has attended a Yoga class or who can remember Grandma’s “stop and count to 10” folk wisdom. Following are the steps to inner-quality management:
- Recognize and temporarily disengage from thoughts and feelings.
- Monitor how stress is affecting the body and mind.
- Practice deep breathing by visualizing air embracing the heart. Meditation and prayer might be equally as effective at this stage.
- Attempt to activate positive feelings. For example, generate feelings of appreciation to counter the frustration.
- Consider positive ways of dealing with the challenge. Thinking about the adverse consequences of rash actions may also help improve decision-making and behavioral responses to perceived stressors.
- Note changes in perspective and sustain positive feelings.
- With the mind, heart, and body in sync, reengage.
In short, inner quality management can help people to
- Deal with stress as it happens.
- Adapt to and influence the environment rather than suffer distress expecting that reality should be different than it is, and
- Implement functional coping strategies that foster growth and wellness.
Cryer, B., & Childre, D. (2003, July). Pull the plug on stress. Harvard Business Review .