Self-knowledge appears as the first principle, because most of the others build on it. It involves knowing your capabilities and your limits, your personal temperament and typical coping style, and your values and goals.
Aspects of self-knowledge
Are you what Hans Selye calls a racehorse, or are you a turtle?. Racehorses thrive on stress and are only happy with a vigorous, fast-paced lifestyle. Turtles require peace, quiet, and a generally tranquil environment. These are of course extremes - people are usually somewhere in between.
What are your values, what matters to you? Though many aspects will be shared with others in your social group, every person has a unique system of values and goals.
Everyone has certain abilities - and limits. Do you recognise your abilities and make the most of them? Do you also acknowledge your limits and know when to stop?
Why knowing yourself is important to stress management
You may feel comfortable with some of your characteristics, less happy with others. In either case, to effectively manage stress you need to be aware of your own optimum stress level and coping style, as well as the goals and values that guide your reactions.
Everyone has their own temperament, style of managing stress, and value system. You need to develop strategies relevant to your personal style and compatible with your personal values, otherwise you are not likely to use them.
Developing self-knowledge
How can you become more aware of your coping style and optimum stress level? Here are some suggestions.
Identify your typical stress triggers. What situations do you typically react to? Keep a log for a few weeks.
You are the best intuitive judge of your optimum stress level. Observe what your body is doing - note your typical stress signs.
Observe how you typically cope with problems. What works for you? What do you tend to do that is unhelpful?
There are some strategies to help you identify your values and goals in Chapter Nine of GoodStress. Use these to check out your preferences, values and standards. Are they realistic and appropriate? Have you thought them through for yourself?
Completing rational self-analyses will help you identify the underlying values that guide your reactions to specific events and circumstances.
Further reading
Asbell, Bernard. What They Know About You. Random House, New York, 1991.
McCutcheon, Marc. The Compass in Your Nose and Other Astonishing Facts About Humans. Schwartz and Wilkinson, Melbourne, 1989.