One of the best ways of managing stress, is to know yourself.  Understanding what works well for you, how you like to do things, how you respond to varying situations, will help you recognise potentially stressful situations and develop plans for managing it, and your own response to it.

There are innumerable tools, models and theories out there vying for your attention, and it can be hard to know what is going to work, and what isn’t.  The simplest is good old-fashioned common sense, which someone once observed, is clearly not common at all.  Though it should be relatively easy to work out whether you’re a morning person or not, and to plan your work pattern accordingly.  It’s also easy to work out whether music playing in the background distracts or invigorates you, or whether for you office banter makes the atmosphere congenial or chaotic.  Armed with this knowledge, you can plan your work area accordingly, and discuss with your colleagues how to make things work well for all of you.

But there are deeper issues which can lead you to feel frustrated with your work or your colleagues, and which if unresolved can lead to significant problems resulting from stress.  These are personality issues which affect who people are and the way in which they approach life: why does that person never get his paperwork done?  Why can’t she finish the job properly before starting another one?  Why is he so bureaucratic?  There are many reasons for the way people are – culture, upbringing, nationality and gender are some of the typical ones – and until we understand that the way people are is unique and often very different to us, we aren’t fully equipped to make appropriate allowances for the differences.  Which is where self-analysis tools are useful.

My personal favourite is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which helped me to understand not only why I like to do things in a certain way, but why others can misunderstand my actions and motivation.  It relieved an awful lot of pressure!  I think MBTI should be compulsory for all new mission workers, and many sending and training organisations provide it as part of their preparation or ongoing team development.  You can find out more at http://www.myersbriggs.org.  Some people criticise it because people can easily us it to label others, but that’s the fault of the labellers, not the tool.  This tool needs to be used by a qualified trainer, and there are many in the UK and abroad who provide this service.  Please contact Syzygy for further information.

Another popular tool is Strengthfinder, which works on the deceptively obvious premise that rather than working to strengthen our weaknesses, we should concentrating on doing what we’re naturally best at.  It will help you focus on what your principal skills are so that you can reorganise your commitments around them.  This tool can be used by yourself, working through a book, but can also be used together with an experienced counsellor.  See http://strengths.gallup.com/110440/About-StrengthsFinder-2.aspx for further information.

The Belbin Team Role Inventory concentrates on behaviour in the workplace and is focussed on the role that each individual will play within a team.  It helps team leaders work out who is best at starting something, keeping it going, and finishing it, since it is highly unlikely that one person will be able to do all three roles well.  The result is that people can be assigned to role which suit their aptitude, and thereby increase their effectiveness and reduce their stress.  Go to http://www.belbin.com for a further explanation.

So there are three different tools, each focussing on different aspect of who we are:

  • Our core personality (MBTI)
  • Our key strengths (Strengthsfinder)
  • Our ideal team role (BTRI)

Of course, you don’t always need to go to the trouble of this level of training.  Sitting down and creating some thinking time, perhaps with a trusted friend, and asking yourself whether there might not be a reason why you find a certain situation or person stressful, can lead to more self-awareness.  If only we had the time…..