Stress management – Activate your stress defence systems

Stressmanagement und Prävention von Stress

Nowadays, being stressed is almost the norm. And this shouldn’t be so. Stress, on the one hand, puts strain on our mental and physical health and on the other represents a risk to the economy: over the long term, stress reduces our efficiency as well as the quality of our work. It is therefore important to acquire a personal “toolbox” for coping with stress.
We have put together some information on stress as well as some exercises to help build up a successful stress defence system.

What is stress and what does it trigger?

Deadlines, unrealistic goals, too little time for the work at hand, frequent disturbances and interruptions, lack of concentration: stress is generally defined as an on-going imbalance between the demands made on an individual and the available resources to meet those demands. This imbalance is experienced by the individual as unpleasant. However, what makes stress difficult to determine is the fact that the perception of stress is highly subjective. What is perceived as unhealthy stress by one person represents a stimulating challenge by another.

We think of stress primarily as a mental phenomenon. But stress is also a bodily reaction that releases hormones, which activate additional energy in the muscles and brain. This bodily reaction makes sense in that it helps us to deal with a higher rate of demand. As a result, we perform better in the short term. However, this comes at the cost of a lot of energy and in the long term leads to exhaustion.

Long-term stress results in physical and mental illness. Over time, stress blocks our natural resources and with it our performance declines to the point of breakdown with either a burnout or depression. Already in the short term, stress lowers our mental flexibility: we rapidly lose sight of the big picture and begin to respond without thinking things through. A permanent state of stress is undesirable both from the point of view of the employee as well as that of the employer.

How can we avoid stress?

A balanced and healthy lifestyle along with an efficient approach to working help towards avoiding stress. The positive message: you can do more to combat stress than you think. Avoiding stress is not just in the hands of management. Take the time to have a critical look at how you manage stress and if necessary make some improvements by applying a few simple strategies.

1/ Do you recognise the symptoms of stress?

Stress hormones alter our self-awareness. When under continuous stress we are often no longer able to recognise how exhausted we actually are. Signs of exhaustion, such as difficulties concentrating, problems sleeping or loss of appetite are often ignored or only taken seriously far too late.

Stress management exercise: Improve your self-awareness. For example, make a note in your agenda of the type and frequency of your symptoms of exhaustion. Also try to talk openly about how to deal with pressure and stress and to trust the way your colleagues see the situation.

Do yourself a favour – train your self-management skills

Would you like to deepen your knowledge of methods towards successful self-management? You can do so using the digital flash cards of the FCOS “Self-management” learning module.

2/ Do you set realistic goals?

Goals are an important prerequisite for effective time management. They are motivating and lead to a sense of achievement. Goals, however, can also act as an obstacle if they are unrealistic or unclear.

Stress management exercise: How well goals have been set is sometimes only clear when one sees them written out in black and white.  Keep a written record of your goals, whether on a daily, project or overall job basis. The more concrete the goals, the easier and more efficient it becomes to actually achieve them. Rather than setting yourself a target for the distant future, try to formulate it in achievable stages.

3/ Do you use your time efficiently?

Efficiency at work has a lot to do with our working methods and good planning. The more there is to do and the less time there is available to do it, the more important it is to plan carefully. A feeling of loss of control and being overwhelmed by a steadily growing mountain of jobs is the result if planning is skipped. It is therefore worth organising and prioritising jobs before actually starting on the work.

Stress management exercise: Carry out planning on a weekly basis. Think of your agenda as an empty jug that you need to fill with your tasks that can be regarded as stones of differing dimensions. By allocating tasks and their timing to your week, the jug slowly fills to the brim. If you do not immediately place the large stones – the important and labour-intensive tasks – in the jug, there will not be enough space for them. So deal with the important tasks, the large stones, first of all. Then continue to fill the jug with the pebbles or smaller tasks. You will be surprised at how much space there is around the large chunks of stone.

4/ Do you work in a focused way?

In today’s working world, interruptions, whether of one’s own making or from an external source, are pervasive: continuous availability via email and telephone, push messages via smartphone, excessive noise as a result of open space offices. The more distractions there are around us, the harder it is to stay concentrated on our work. When carrying out routine work this may not present much of a problem, but when working on things that require concentration, the quality of the work may suffer and lead to stress.

Stress management exercise: Less is more: try to work on only one job at a time and finish it before moving on to something else. To make this work, you need to avoid distractions and disruptions as far as possible. Develop your own personal “concentration box”. Find out which are the most frequent sources of distraction and deal with them. For example, by putting your smartphone on silent, by finding an undisturbed workspace, or by agreeing on “do not disturb hours” within the team.

Are you already using the FCOS online tools?


In the seven chapters of the FCOS Box and a series of short video clips, you will find out how to improve health and safety at the office and what needs to be taken into consideration.

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FCOS Checkbox

With the FCOS Checkbox apps you can identify safety risks in the office or check to see if your workstation is set up ergonomically.

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FCOS Learning Modules

Easily accessible and entertaining, they will help you check and consolidate your knowledge of the basics in safety and health protection at work.

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