Stress Tolerance


Maintaining effective performance under pressure or adversity; handling stress in a manner that is consistent with CARE's core values. Click here for associated skills and behaviors.

Ways to Demonstrate this Skill

Development Activities

§         Stay focused and accomplish your work effectively under the following stressful working conditions:

·         Frequent interruptions and distractions.

·         Unclear or conflicting expectations.

·         Work volume changing from high to low and back unpredictably.

·         Rush situations and tight deadlines.

·         When you must deal with people who are difficult or challenging to work with.

·         When you must work with people who have different work styles than your own.

·         Other situations that may be stressful to you personally.



§         List the three or four most common ways you react to high levels of stress. Do you withdraw? Become angry? Postpone making decisions? Privately list any unproductive things you typically do and say. Consider asking a trusted colleague to help you identify these things. Then watch for situations that bring out these behaviors in you. The behaviors are what you will work to control and change. The situations will give you a chance to practice.

§         Make a list of “stressors:” things that you know make you feel stressed, and that detract from your productivity. For each, write the most typical way you react to it. Then for each stressor, list at least two different ways you could handle it (things you could do or say) that would help you stay focused, productive, and accomplish your work (e.g. when you feel yourself getting stressed, go for a walk and talk yourself through the issue). For the next month, focus on using these approaches when you encounter any of your stressors.

§         Keep private notes for yourself on what stressful situations you have encountered, and how you handle them. Keep reviewing them and keep working on strengthening your ability to work well under stress.  Consider sharing this information with a trusted colleague who will listen and give you advice.

§         Work either alone or with others in your work unit (or your area of responsibility) to identify job-related situations that challenge your values, or that raise ethical issues. Together build a list of what these are, and then identify one or two ways that each could be handled with a minimum of stress.


§         When you are under stress, behave the same way toward the people around you as you would under normal conditions.

§         Help other people deal with stressful conditions by communicating a positive and hopeful outlook.


§         Ask people you work with whether you seem to treat them differently when you are in a stressful situation, such as working under a tight deadline. Ask them to describe how you behave differently. Then list how you would like to behave in a stressful situation. Be specific. Consider your willingness to listen, your rate and tone of speech, your gestures and speed of movement.

§         Add these desired behaviors to the list of ways you want to respond in stressful situations, and track how you are using them. Consider sharing this information with a trusted friend or colleague who will listen and give you advice.


§         Manage the physical side of stress and encourage staff members to do the same.

§         Look for local classes in stress management, or in disciplines that bring calm and relaxation. Some examples are Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi. Try local adult schools, athletic clubs and community centers.

§         Develop and use some form of regular physical exercise that is appropriate to the setting you are in. This may include walking, dancing, bicycling, hiking, jogging, swimming, tennis, aerobics, and so on.



Developmental Resources


     If you find workshops and/or web-based training a good way for you to learn and develop, and there are funds available, look for opportunities that address one of the following:

§         Stress management.

§         Ways of focusing mind and energy, like Yoga, Tai Chi, or other meditation techniques.

§         Martial arts like Judo, Tai-kwan-do, Jujitsu, etc.



     The following books are resources on Stress Tolerance:

     Allen, David (2002) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. S&S Sound Ideas.

     Carlson, R. (1998) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work: Simple Ways to Minimize Stress and Conflict While Bringing Out the Best in Yourself and Others. Publisher: Hyperion.

     Loehr, James E. and McCormack, M. (1998). Stress for Success. Times Books. (Note for CARE readers: this book, while targeted to a corporate audience, is drawn from the world of sports and has valuable strategies and ideas that will translate well to CARE’s unique and often stressful environment.)

     McGee-Cooper, A. Trammell, D. Lau, B. (1992) You Don’t Have to Go Home from Work Exhausted: A Program to Bring Joy, Energy and Balance to Your Life. Publishers: Bantam Doubleday Dell.

     Morgenstern, Julie (2000) Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule and Your Life. Publisher: Henry Holt

     Newman, John E. (1992) How to Stay Calm, Cool and Collected When the Pressure Is On. Publisher: AMACOM. (Note to CARE readers: while this book directly addresses business people, there is nothing about it that is specific for business. It has been equally helpful to parents and to the previously unemployed.)

     Wall, Bob. (1999). Working Relationships: The Simple Truth about Getting Along with Friends and Foes at Work. Davies-Black Pubs.




View in MS Word