Deci and Ryan are two educational behaviourists who identified a model with three components they believe affect our motivation and performance in different settings. These components are competency, control and belonging.
- Competency – we need to feel that we are competent and that we have the skills and tools required to do the job – from brushing our teeth to pulling together an end of year financial report. We don’t like to feel as if we are in over our heads, or that we don’t have the required skills and competency to do what is required of us. This links back to our definition of stress.
- Control – we need to feel that we have a choice and some autonomy over the way in which we go about our lives. A core factor is that we often don’t like change. As Mark Twain said, “the only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper”. And even then, it’s not really the process of change that the baby likes; it’s the result, right?
- Belonging – we need to feel that we belong to something or to someone and that we are accepted, valued, respected and cherished – by someone or some group. We are social creatures and it is not just about being part of a group – but importantly, we want to feel that we are a valued member of the group and that we contribute in meaningful ways.
You can use these three components above as a model to manage your stress as follows:
Think about a situation that causes you stress. Next consider what is the core issue that is triggering the stress?
- Is it a lack of competency? Are you lacking the necessary skills and abilities?
- Is it that you don’t feel that you have enough control?
- Or maybe that others are trying to control you?
- Maybe you feel you have too much control and you are daunted by it?
- Perhaps there is an issue around belonging? Do you feel disconnected, alone, isolated, misunderstood or unappreciated?
Finally, determine possible strategies to alleviate the stress in that area. For example, if you are feeling stressed about the amount of work you currently have (the boss just keeps stacking tasks on top of you and you have no say in them, right?), stop and think. Are the tasks difficult because you feel that you don’t have the skills needed to complete them? Is it that the workload feels out of your control? Do you feel undervalued in your job? Maybe you have the skills to do the job, but you feel that you cannot control how much work comes in, because you are short-staffed. What can you do to get some control back? Perhaps you can delegate some tasks to a colleague, or ask your manager for a prioritised list of tasks.
Ongoing stress that’s not managed can lead to burnout, anxiety disorders and depression. So don’t just resign yourself to living with it. If you’re in need of additional support, please contact our Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) for a chance to chat about other strategies that may work for you.