Managing Stress Via 4 A’s


Having too much stress in your life can cause issues with your own health as well as relationships that you have with friends and family.   It is up to you to take control of your life.  You can take charge of your thoughts, schedule, environment, and the way you deal with problems.  I will introduce you to the 4 A’s today (Avoid the stressor, Alter the stressor , Adapt to the stressor, and Accept the stressor) as a way to manage and  cope with stress.  To manage or cope with stress you first need to identify the sources of the stress in your life.  However, it may not always be apparent to you what is the source of your stress.


A few years ago I was working as a contract project manager and was brought into an entertainment company to take over a project (I was the 7th project manager).  I was asked to implement a website into production.  It was on the .dot com side of the company.  It was a really cool project as it was a website that users could research information on movies, games, and  music.  We were getting data feeds from three External companies, along with our own internal company content.   Needless to say the project was late and we were under a lot of pressure to get the website up as it was deemed as critical to the business.   The senior management decided we needed to work in 2 eight hour shifts.  So I basically spent my summer there from 7:00 am to 8-9 PM Monday thru Friday and often part of the day on Saturday.  We finally implemented the project in late September at 1:00 am …  I was so excited and tried to call a few friends to announce my news and realized it was too late to call people.    So it was a bit of an empty feeling to have worked so hard and then not be able to share it with anyone outside of the project team.  I soon started to realize that I had given up my whole summer and put my life on hold for this project.   After a few days I realized just how tired, uptight and burned out I was over the course of the project.


For me this was an eye opener that I needed to better manage the stress in my life.   After you have identified the source of the stress in your life then you can do two things: 

  • Change the situation
  • Change your reaction.   

Sounds pretty simple right?  The following is a review of the 4 A’s.

 Avoid the Stressor
 Obviously not all stress can be avoided but here are some things that I do to help me.  I make sure that I am aware of what is on my plate.  I have learned to say “no” when I am asked to take on an activity and my plate is already full.   Or I ask them to take something off if I am adding something to my plate.  I also find it helpful to prioritize my work and address the most critical items first.

Alter the Stressor

Not all stress can be avoided but you can try to Alter the Stressor.   For me, I am now more willing to express my feelings instead of keeping them inside.  I have also become more willing to compromise and I am more assertive so I do more of what I want to do.  I have also learned to manage my time more effectively.  I make an effort to keep the first hour or two of my day open to get my day planned, and organized.  It  is my time to think about what needs to be done.

Adapt to the Stressor

For the stressors that you can’t avoid or alter you can “Adapt to the Stressor”.  For me, I have learned to Adapt to the stressor by adjusting my expectations that it is ok to not always be assigned to the most critical projects all the time.   I now try to remember to look at the big picture.  I try to ask myself will this matter in a month?  Will it matter in six months?  By the way, the entertainment company website was only in production for six months due to the timing of the whole  .dot com economy.

Accept the Things you Can’t Change

And the final “A” word is to  “Accept the things you can’t change”.  For me, that was learning to not try to control the things that you can’t control.   You can’t control the behavior of others.  One of the engineers thought it would be fun to put an “easter egg” on the website. (It is a link that when clicked on pops up a picture).  The engineer was asked to leave the project after the easter egg was discovered by a senior manager.  The other thing that I try to do is to look at the upside when doing something that I am not real fond of the saying “afterall… what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.


The lesson learned is that it is more important for me to have a Balance in my life and I manage and cope with stress by the 4 “A’s”  Avoid, Alter, Adapt, and Accept. 

And remember it all starts with you!!