Home Grow Use the 4Ds Method to Reset Your Relationship to Stress

Use the 4Ds Method to Reset Your Relationship to Stress

Once and for all. To finally beat stress and feel calmer, you need both short- and long-term solutions. This framework delivers both.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
images header


What's the problem with most stress-busting techniques out there? They only work for a short time. Coping strategies like going for a runtuning into your physical senses, or a slothful night watching Netflix can dull the feeling that life is all a bit too much.

But get back to your company the next day and face the same towering to-do list and long-standing pressure to perform, and your stress levels are probably just as high as they ever were. 

What many entrepreneurs dream of is a more permanent fix to that frantic, overwhelmed feeling -- one that doesn't require moving to a monastery or otherwise signing off from the responsibilities of modern life. Is this too much to ask? 

Nope, respond a pair of mental health experts on Psyche lately. The duo, a counselor and a professor, take to the online psychology magazine to offer a comprehensive strategy for facing the root causes of your distress so you can reset your relationship to stress once and for all. This plan for a calmer, happier life goes by an easy-to-remember name -- the 4Ds. 

You need both short-term and long-term fixes

The basic insight of the article by Warren and Louise Mansell is that stress is both a short- and long-term phenomenon. When you feel like you're living in a pressure cooker, you need strategies to feel better now as well as techniques to understand and alter the root causes of your stress. After all, you're unlikely to have the clarity of mind to come up with solutions when you feel like you're drowning. 

"A short-term way of dealing with a slow puncture in a car tire is to keep pumping it up, but ultimately you will need to find the hole and get it repaired. Stress is similar -- you need to have both short- and long-term ways of dealing with it," the Mansells write. Their 4Ds method -- distract, dilute, develop, and discover--starts with the short term and works its way up to more permanent fixes. 

1. Distract 

Just as the first step in first aid is to stop the bleeding, the first step in the 4Ds method -- distract -- is all about ending acute suffering and giving your body and mind a break. The best way to distract yourself from stress varies by the individual, from hobbies and sports to reading and scrolling. The Mansells recommend going with whatever activity works for you at this first stage -- just make sure it's not something, like drinking or workaholism, that ultimately creates more problems than it solves. 

2. Dilute 

Distracting yourself from stress feels good, but will, of course, do nothing to eliminate it long term. You also need to start moving up the pyramid toward longer-term fixes. 

The next step is to learn to calm your nervous system when you're in the midst of stressful situations. The authors recommend several techniques, many of which we've written about here on Inc.com previously, such as breathing exercisesmindfulness meditationapplied muscle relaxation (systematically squeezing and releasing your muscles), and grounding yourself in the physical world (e.g., playing with a stress ball or Play-Doh).  

"Remember, some of the dilute strategies will suit you better than others and their effectiveness can vary across situations. It is up to you to work out when and where they work best, and for what kind of stress in your life," the Mansells remind readers. 

3. Develop 

Once you've figured out how to short-circuit some of your stress in the moment, you need to start preparing the way for longer-term action. "Develop is the preparation for the final discovery step and it involves reminding yourself of your own resilience, and planning ahead so that you feel more in control and better equipped to face future problems," explain the pair. 

They recommend specific techniques such as setting aside a period as "worry time," reminding yourself of your strengths and resources, and visualizing all the people out there who help you meet challenges. 

4. Discover 

Now that you're armed with more confidence and calm, your mind will hopefully be in a better place to start figuring out the root causes of your stress and making plans to reduce them. How do you do that? The Mansells offer several suggestions, including using free writing to untangle your thoughts and get them out into the light, allowing yourself to be uncertain and conflicted, facing up to what you truly want and not what others want from you, and making space for thoughts and ideas to bubble to the surface. 

The article also includes specific exercises you might try to help you pinpoint exactly what is causing your stress. It also notes that you may need to move up and down the pyramid as you work through your stress. 

"After fully facing a problem in the discover stage, it can sometimes bring up difficult feelings, and you might feel the need to have a break. If so, you can always draw upon the strategies further down the pyramid," the Marsells write.

The whole 4Ds framework is meant to provide a toolkit that you can use to confront and reduce stress in the different situations life throws at you so you can not only stop the short-term bleeding but also get back to long-term balance. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Last update:
Publish date: