Don’t distress, de-stress! Social workers can help

Stress is a common occurrence for many people. Juggling work, family and other obligations can take its toll. Don’t let stress get the better of you. The first step to dealing with stress is understanding it. From there, you can employ several tactics to help manage and mitigate your stress levels. Read on for more tips on managing your stress and what social workers can do to help.

The four types of stress

Karl Albrecht, cognitive expert and Mensa lifetime achievement award recipient, outlined four types of stress in his 1979 book, “Stress and the Manager.” According to Albrecht, individuals may experience time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress and encounter stress.

Time stress

Time stress is the most commonly experienced stress. As the name suggests, time stress is the stress experienced when worried about time. For example, panicking about deadlines or experiencing anxiety when rushing to arrive on time are both forms of time stress.

Anticipatory stress

Anticipatory stress deals with the future. It may present itself as a general dread that something will go wrong or have roots in a specific event that will occur, such as an upcoming presentation or trip.

Situational stress

Situational stress results when circumstances are outside of one’s control. People may experience situation stress during big events like a natural disaster emergency or during turbulent life events such as a layoff or divorce.

Encounter stress

Encounter stress is the stress experienced from interactions with other people. Interactions with others can cause stress for different reasons. People in customer service positions may simply feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of interactions they have in a day, while others may be anxious about dealing with specific individuals they do not enjoy or feel are unpredictable.

Common reactions to stress

Everyone experiences stress differently. What may be stressful to one individual may not bother someone else. Reactions to stress vary from person to person, as well. However, certain responses are usually exhibited when someone feels stressed. Some common reactions to stress, according to the CDC, are below.

  • Disbelief, shock and numbness
  • Feeling sad, frustrated and helpless
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Feeling guilty
  • Anger, tension and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Crying
  • Smoking or use of alcohol or drugs
  • Reduced interest in usual activities
  • Wanting to be alone
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Nightmares or bad memories
  • Recurring thoughts of the stressful event
  • Headaches, back pains and stomach problems
  • Increased heart rate and difficulty breathing

Recognizing stress in children

Like adults, children also experience stress. However, it may be more difficult for them to pinpoint the source of their stress. In addition to those listed above, parents, educators and social workers should look for the following signs of stress in children:

  • Clinging to parents.
  • Returning to outgrown behaviors such as bed wetting or thumb sucking.
  • Changes in play, such as repeating the same game over and over, hitting playmates or breaking toys.

Managing stress

Stress can never be completely eliminated, but it can be mitigated. The first step is to recognize that stress is present and identify where the stress is coming from.


Everyone manages stress differently. By trying different methods of stress management, people can discern which tactics work best for them. The first step, however, is typically the same for everyone.

  • Assess the situation. Is there anything you can control about what’s happening? If you can change the situation, do so. If not, try focusing on the smaller things you can do to ease anxiety about what’s at hand. Having a sense of control can go a long way to calm stress and fear.
  • Learn how to relax. Some people benefit from meditation, breathing exercises, positive visualization or taking walks. This is especially beneficial if you experience anticipatory stress.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep each night, exercise and try to eat right. Mental health and physical health are inextricably tied.
  • Avoid self-medication. While it may be tempting to engage in drugs or alcohol for a temporary escape, these practices can lead to more stress and more problems down the road.
  • Practice time management. In this age of smartphones, many avenues are open for people who want to get a better handle on their obligations. Keeping a planner or a to-do list can help those who experience time stress to prioritize tasks and more effectively manage workloads.
  • Improve your emotional intelligence. Learning to self-monitor can help some people handle stress. Ask, “Why do I feel this way? How are my feelings affecting others?” Look at things from another perspective to see how others may be feeling about the situation. Seeing the big picture can offer perspective and help get your mind off what’s specifically bothering you.


Children also experience stress and often have more difficulty handling it than adults. They may need help from parents and siblings to cope with their feelings. Parents whose children are facing stressful situations should consider the following techniques:

  • Maintain a routine. A steady routine can help children feel stable and secure and ease any stress they may be feeling.
  • Reassure and encourage. Children should know they have an outlet if they wish to talk, but never force them to talk about their feelings. Reassure children that their parents, school and others are taking steps to keep them safe.
  • Watch and listen. Pay attention to changes in behavior. Even small changes can be indicative of problems. Listen to children’s concerns. Don’t dismiss them as trivial; things that are small peanuts to adults are big deals to developing kids.
  • Connect with others. Reach out to others, including teachers, parents of friends, guidance counselors and school social workers to form a support network for stressed children.

How social workers can help

Social workers can help people who feel their or their family’s stress level is not able to be managed alone. One of the best ways to cope with stress is to talk about their feelings, and social workers are the leading providers of psychiatric services in the country. Social workers also have information on area support groups that may be able to help. They can also help clients design and implement action plans and aid in investigating de-stressing techniques.

The country needs social workers who can help people cope with stress. Brescia University offers one of the only fully online social work degrees in the U.S. accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Find a rewarding career with Brescia University Online.

Established in 1950, Brescia University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution founded in the Ursuline tradition of personal and social transformation through education. With the advent of BUonline, Brescia brings accredited undergraduate and graduate programs to students across the nation. Brescia’s commitment to a student-centered environment rewards students who seek success through meaningful careers and service to others.