3 Strategies to Manage Stress More Effectively

3 Strategies to Manage Stress More Effectively

If there’s one thing we all share in common, it’s experiencing stress in our lives.

The way we handle and cope with stress varies for all of us. And what might be encouraging to know is that it’s not something you’re born good or bad at, it’s a skill you can develop.

For those that manage stress well, they’ve developed an effective skillset throughout their life for coping and navigating through stressful situations. In emotional intelligence, this skillset is called stress management.

Something important to note, before I go further, is that there are other things that complicate our ability to cope with stress effectively, which include trauma. Past trauma adds additional complexity to our thinking, our stress response and our ability to regulate our nervous system. For those struggling with past trauma, I would encourage the support of a therapist or other trained professional in times of increased stress.

However, regardless of where you find yourself and what stress you’re navigating right now, there are 3 strategies that you can start using right away to learn to manage stress more effectively.

1. Learn ways to regulate your nervous system

ways to regulate your nervous system

Regulating your nervous system is crucial for overall well-being and functioning. The nervous system plays a central role in controlling and coordinating all the activities of the body.

When it comes to stress management, the nervous system is closely linked to the body’s stress response. Chronic stress can lead to an overactive sympathetic nervous system(fight-or-flight response), which can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health. Learning to regulate your nervous system helps manage stress and promotes a more balanced and relaxed state.

Here are some ways you can start regulating your nervous system:

  • Breath work
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness practices
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Adequate sleep

2. Check and challenge your mindset

challenge your mindset

Your current mindset can have a huge impact on how you experience the situation you’re in.

The beliefs you have about yourself, the assumptions you have about the situation you’re in and how you let your fears dominate your thinking directly affect how you respond to certain situations, the stories you make up, the feelings that surface from those stories and consequently how you experience stress.

If you are feeling powerless, if your optimism is low, if you are consumed with worry and if you’re overthinking and struggling to come up with a solution, these are all indications that possibly your current mindset isn’t serving you.

What we don’t often realize is how much our mindset keeps us from seeing a solution or a way forward. It can often keep us in the past pointing to where we’re most afraid. The key in these situations is to challenge our current thinking and look beyond our current frame of reference.

Here are some questions that will help you do that:

  • What are you currently hustling for? – perfectionism, FOPO (fear of other people’s opinions) fear of failure, fear of being seen as weak, stupid, incapable.
  • What limiting beliefs are running the show that need to be reframed into more empowering ones?
  • What fear might be dominating your thinking that you need to face and address?
  • What could you be learning from this right now and what opportunity is there for you to grow?

After answering these questions ask yourself how you might shift your current mindset and thinking to be more empowering. Then, create action steps from this new thinking which will help move things forward.

3. Create an intention for how you’d rather be right now

set an intention

When we’re stuck in stress, it’s hard to see our way out. It’s hard to see past a certain stressful situation or time frame. We get lost in the trees instead of being able to see the whole forest.

An empowering way of moving ourselves through stress is to create an intention for how you’d rather be experiencing life right now? It’s essentially a vision for a future time and a future you.

Examples of intentions are:

  • I want to feel more calm and relaxed
  • I want to feel more empowered in my life
  • I want to feel more in control
  • I want to be more boundaried with others
  • I want to speak my truth more often

Here are some questions to help you create your new intention:

  • What would you rather feel right now?
  • How would you rather be responding to life right now?
  • What would you like to take action on that you’re afraid to?
  • What things do you need to say and to whom?
  • What’s most important right now?
  • What word represents an intention that you’d like to make?

Now that you have these 3 strategies, look into them a bit deeper, learn more about different aspects of these strategies (eg. learn about breath work) and start trying them today.

Maybe you could commit to doing one breath work or meditation practice every day, maybe you could commit to 30 min of exercise 3 times per week, maybe you could have a crack answering the questions about your current mindset.

Whatever it is, start doing it.

Because the reality is, no one’s going to do it for you, no magic wizard is going to appear and remove all of your stress with her wand.

It’s up to you to look after yourself. And you’ll thank yourself for it, I guarantee it.

Learning To Let Go of Control

Learning To Let Go of Control

“If only I could control what happens then everything would be ok.”

Imagine if you could control how people respond to you and treat you and how things operate around you? Imagine if you could have things exactly the way you want them? Imagine if you didn’t have to deal with this thing called ‘uncertainty’. Ah, what a world that would be?

I know as you read this, a part of you is daydreaming for a brief moment about how good this would be. Although that might sound nice, there are limiting factors to always needing to have control. In fact, needing to have control is actually something that has control over you. 

What do I mean by this? Let me explain. 

When we need to have control over things, we need things to go a certain way in order to feel ok. We tend to be rigid in our approach to things, we tend to be less flexible with others and we tend to be closed to feedback or new ideas. In effect, we close ourselves off from the outside world and operate in a closed loop of our own internal thoughts, beliefs and assumptions.

At a deeper level, we are operating out of fear.

Fear of: 

  • Rejection
  • Being hurt
  • Not being heard or seen
  • Uncertainty
  • Emotional exposure
When we operate out of fear, this is where the fantasy of control ends. When we operate out of fear we’re no longer in control, we are now controlled by our need to be in control.
learning to let go of control
When we operate out of fear, we’re reactive and protective. When we operate out of fear, we’re rigid and inflexible. When we operate out of fear, we often feel powerless. When we operate out of fear we’re at the affect of our blindspots and default negative behaviours. We’re not being discerning or thoughtful. 

What we need most in these moments is not to focus on holding onto control. We need to let go of the idea that control will protect us and make us ok. 

Instead, we need to address the fears that are driving our need for control. We need to face the thoughts and assumptions that are bringing up those fears. And then, we need to bring curiosity, compassion and empathy to that. 

This might also involve: 

  • Having a difficult conversation with someone
  • Making a difficult decision 
  • Trusting that the future is not the past
  • Being open to a different perspective
  • Being wrong
  • Trusting and forgiving others

A simple question you might want to ask yourself to help in this process is “what am I protecting myself from or avoiding by being in control or needing to have control?”

And then, give yourself the time and space to explore the answer to that question. 

letting go of control

This will be the beginning of learning how to let go of control so it doesn’t control you. The more you practice this inquiry, the easier it will get. Slowly, the need for control will ease as you shift to being more present and self-aware to what’s going on for you during challenging situations. Slowly, you’ll learn to address your fears and take the required action that will help you move through them. 

When you learn how to move through your fears and take action in your life, that’s when you get a sense of being in control again. It’s the very thing you wanted in the first place, you just needed to approach it from a different direction! 

The Work of Authenticity

The Work of Authenticity

How many times have you said to someone or you’ve heard it said to you, ‘just be yourself’?

Or, ‘just be you, everyone else is taken’.

It turns out that being yourself is harder than all those quotes say.

In fact, this takes up the majority of the work I do as a coach, supporting individuals to not only be their authentic self but first they sometimes have to find it first.

Why is it hard though? Why do we have such a hard time showing our true selves, saying what we really think, sharing our feelings and admitting our fears?

This is such a huge question and without trying to sound like a great philosopher or even admitting that I have the answer, from a coaching perspective, it all comes down to how we learn to adapt to our life experiences. Human’s are highly adaptable, that’s what makes us successful as a species.

However, it’s also this trait that comes into play when we’re struggling to ‘be ourselves’ or be vulnerable or be more authentic in how we show up in our lives. Ultimately, we adapt our way out of being ourselves as we learn to protect ourselves from being hurt and learn strategies to get our needs met.

And then there’s Jennifer or Thomas, both working professionals, aged 43 and 51 respectively who come to me feeling stuck, wanting to find a deeper sense of meaning in their work and feeling a bit lost with what the next step is in their career (and life as it often happens that way).

This is where the work of authenticity comes in.

Because it is work. 

the work of authenticity article

It’s work to undo or even look at the adaptations you’ve made to navigate your life experiences that have distanced you from your authentic self and/or your values.

It’s work to undo the strategies you’ve developed to protect yourself. It’s work to face the fears you might have found a way to avoid. And it’s work to acknowledge those parts of yourself that perhaps you learned to reject or be ashamed of.

In this article I’m not sharing a ‘how to’ or a ‘5 steps to being authentic’ or any kind of answer on how to do it. I’m simply telling you that it’s work, it’s deep work and it’s hard work.

It’s hard work to be authentic because of all the forces against us to not be, especially as we get older.

So don’t give up the endeavour because it’s hard. Don’t stop the work because you’re afraid of what you’ll find. Keep going, keep searching, keep opening and keep being curious.

Because the gift of it all, of all the work you’re doing is freedom, healing, inner peace, connection with yourself and others, being who you want to be and having what you truly want in your life.

Two Kinds of Burnout & What To Do About It

Two Kinds of Burnout & What To Do About It

 You might be surprised to know that many of my coaching conversations involve the question ‘how are you going to make time to look after yourself?’

The topic of burnout is all around us. Almost everywhere you turn there’s articles, social media posts and books around the topic. Here are some articles I found just today:

“How to deal with Workplace Burnout”
“Burnout Prevention and Treatment”
“4 Steps to Beating Burnout”
“Burnout and Stress are Everywhere”

We might also know people personally who are suffering from burnout or it might be ourselves.

In my work, what I’ve discovered is that there are 2 different kinds of burnout and in this article I’m going to share what you can do about it. 

 

  1. Circumstantial Burnout
  2. Self-Burnout

Circumstantial Burnout

circumstantial burnout

Circumstantial Burnout is when there are circumstances and situations that lead to burnout that are mostly out of our control such as:

 

  • Toxic workplaces
  • High pressure and demanding work cultures
  • Challenging personal circumstances involving:
    • illness
    • loss of a loved one
    • financial hardship
    • conflict in the workplace
    • unfair / inequitable treatment
    • workplace harassment

These situations require a unique approach to burnout typically relying on external tools, resources and people to support us and help shift our mindset. Examples of these are mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, mindset shift exercises and professionals such as coaches, therapists and mediators.

The goal with this approach is to find ways to cope and deal with the stress and difficult emotions that come with these situations and effectively navigate the challenging circumstance.

Self Burnout

self burnout

Self-Burnout is the second type of burnout.

This is the burnout we do to ourselves when we unknowingly create situations and circumstances that drive our own burnout.

This is where I focus most of my coaching when the topic comes up. What most people discover is that they are the ones driving their own burnout.

They’re saying yes to things when they could be saying no. They’re taking on workloads that are too much. They’re fixing other people’s problems. They’re staying up late and responding to emails. They’re sacrificing themselves, their personal time, their health and their time with loved ones willingly.

They think that by working hard in this way, it shows that they’re committed and people can count on them. They think that it’s what’s expected of someone at their level. They think that if they say no or don’t work like this they won’t be eligible for the better opportunities.

Under all of these thoughts I always find one common thought pattern:

“If I don’t do this or work in this way or get these results, it won’t be enoughI won’t be enough.”

The approach for self-burnout is first, understanding what’s driving you to create circumstances that contribute to your burnout. Part of this involves a deeper conversation with yourself around naming your ‘not enough’ statement and creating a new supportive statement instead. The second part of the approach is to create a new strategy for avoiding burnout and creating new situations and circumstances that support you in being your best self instead.

This involves:

 

  • saying no to things that will overload you
  • establishing healthy boundaries with colleagues around work and personal hours
  • leading and coaching more and fixing other people’s problems less
  • making time for healthy lifestyle habits, exercise, time with friends and family
Self-burnout requires a bit more personal development than circumstantial burnout.
In order to hop off your own burnout train, it will take some effort for sure! It’ll take doing some personal reflection, taking responsibility and a willingness to let go of habits and thought patterns that you’ve held onto for a long time.

Both types of burnout will take work to navigate AND the work is always worth it. Because whether a situation is within our control or not, when we take personal responsibility in our lives and take action, we take one step closer to creating the life we want and the outcomes we seek.

Letting Go For Change

Letting Go For Change

Letting go is an essential part of change.

Sometimes we’re not aware of how much we hold onto the past or how much it holds onto us.

That’s why in order to move forward or ‘Fall Through Our Change’, we must be willing to let go, let go of our hurt, our disappointments, our pain and our beliefs that keep some of those things in place.

Letting Go is step three in my ‘Falling Through Change’ Model. To learn more about my model and how to fall through your change visit the Resources page.

And for now, what might you need to let go of in order to move forward on your journey of change?