Keys to Stress Management

by Martha Plant, DHA
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

It’s Monday, let the stress begin! How often have you thought this? An enjoyable weekend comes to a close then BAM—you have to set the alarm, pack lunches, and rush to meet deadlines. In our lives, it is important to find the right amount of stress that allows effective productivity and keeps the out-of-control feelings at bay.

Stress is a part of life and varies for each individual. Time pressure and anxiety are two dimensions of stress. Pressure relates to the approaching deadline or time allowed for a task and anxiety relates to an emotional component. Pressures exist at work, school, and in our family life. Anxiety develops as we are programmed not to disappoint our boss, teacher, or family. Stress can be good to spur us onward but, at some point, stress begins to deteriorate our abilities.

Stress itself is not always the culprit. Perception of the stressor can be the reason we lose our balance. My father used to say no one can make you feel inferior unless you let them. It is our own perception of the situations in life that increase stress. Correcting the faulty perceptions return control and balance in your life.

How can you ease some of the stress in your life? Time management is a good place to start; we all need adequate time to relax and “smell the flowers.” Do you know yourself well enough to assess your feelings, desires, and needs? When we have demands on our time and don’t save time for ourselves we feel overloaded. Learn to say no. It may not be easy if you are the kind of person that everybody can count on to take on the chairmanship, the fund-raising, or the neighborhood watch committee. Remember, it is not possible to please all people all the time. Respect yourself and your time and others will begin to respect you and your personal time.

To develop time management skills, it is important to set goals and priorities and implement the mechanics of time management such as making lists and being organized. The components of time management can help enhance your ability to gradually gain control over their time. With an increased perception of controlling time, behaviors of control are demonstrated and effective work is produced. You no longer find yourself saying, “I have too much to do,” because you developed a belief that you are in control.

You should be flexible with setting goals and priorities as circumstances do change. Goals need to be measurable, adaptable, and reasonable. “Daily goal adaptation is related to daily well-being.”1 If a goal is not working for you, adapt it. You can also continue to work on existing goals, therefore providing the encouraging feelings of being productive.

With the proliferation of smart phones with calendar capabilities, we can handle some things on the go, keep up with our tasks including making lists, and phone home. This multi-tasking helps save time for the things you are most interested in completing.

Another key to stress management is to think positively. Stress reduction is your new goal—you can conquer the out-of-control feelings and restore balance in your life. The perception of stress as a good influence is an encouragement to push the boundaries of your ability. Accomplishing a task is also a positive reinforcement. Take baby steps to accomplishment so you feel positive about what you are doing; completing a smaller task well is much better than a larger one not so well.

Your physical health also plays a role in stress reduction. The healthier you are, the more energy you have to accomplish tasks with success. Eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Make exercise a regular part of your life. “During physical activity, the brain releases endorphins, chemical compounds that have a positive and calming effect on the body.”2 Lack of sleep will cause poor concentration and irritability. Your physical health is important to your mental health.

Finally, design the goals in your life as achievable, reasonable, and manageable. Planning your retirement income as winning the lottery, for instance, is not reasonable, manageable, and the odds are against it being achievable. In the unlikely event you win, you may only discover you have new stressors in your life that need to be balanced.

If you’re interested in measuring your stress level, go to: and count the number of yes answers you have in response to the questions. 


1. Cornelius J, Konig, Wendelien vanEerde, and Anita Burch, “Predictors and Consequences of Daily Goal Adaptation: A Diary Study,” Journal of Personnel Psychology, 9, no. 1 (2010)” 1866-5888.
C. Carter, J. Bishop, S.L. Kravits, Keys to College Studying: Becoming a Lifelong Learner. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002).

C:\Documents and Settings\labinder\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook\ZKT84ECI\dyer_prof_2009.jpgDr. Martha Plant

Dr. Martha Plant currently services as the director of surgical services for a West Virginia hospital. She holds a Doctorate in Health Care Administration, a Master of Science in Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a major in finance. She also has an associate’s degree in nursing.

Dr. Plant has been facilitating online classes for 8 years, and began with Kaplan University in 2009. She thoroughly enjoys giving back to students by sharing her real world experiences with them.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

another brian hill design