How to turn the tables on stress
This past weekend’s FT published an article exploring how a certain amount of the right kind of stress might be good for us. I love the suggestion of visiting a Swiss clinic to reset! But, in case that's not an option, I thought it would be useful to share how I help my clients who are experiencing stress, or living with ongoing anxiety, to turn the tables and take control.
It is pretty well accepted that stress – the actual experience of tension, of demand – may be uncomfortable, but doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, a certain amount of stress is necessary to stimulate us into action, to evolve and develop.
It's in the Stretch Zone, between boredom and anxiety, where we find our Flow State: the optimal state for learning, increasing our skills and self-actualisation. This in turn gives us a sense of accomplishment, higher self-regard and improved self-confidence. Meeting the challenges of life actually helps us grow mentally and emotionally stronger, as well as physically healthier thanks to reduced inflammation responses.
The problem is that our biology doesn’t always keep pace with modern life. When stressful events come our way, the amygdala in our primitive brain is hardwired for us to go into the fight-flight-freeze response with a release of stress hormones. Typical triggers are emotions of fear, anxiety, aggression and anger.
This automatic reaction has served us pretty well in surviving as a species. But modern life requires us to handle a daily onslaught of information, decisions, consequences and convoluted interactions: not only with our families, neighbours and colleagues “in real life” but also online.
To avoid sub-optimal, or even counterproductive outcomes, we need to do more than unconsciously react. To be successful leaders and contributors in society today we need to be able to rely on our abilities to assess and decide upon a chosen course of action and recalibrate if necessary.
How can we do that when external circumstances are happening to us and change is the one constant in life? How do we override the "amygdala hijack" to embrace good stress and dispel the bad?
The critical skill to develop when we get triggered and reactive, is to shift from fight-flight-freeze, into “attend and befriend”. That is:
recognise the trigger,
allow the emotional response and
facilitate a conscious and positive choice as to how to proceed.
This concept of compassionate acceptance to allow a positive pivot is integral to ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy), which informs a lot of my coaching method.
As a life coach I help my clients to identify their triggers and negative patterns. We then use a variety of techniques to focus on the thoughts and behaviours that serve your goals and enhance your results.
With these tools you can actually choose which stress triggers you want to pay attention to because they help you get to where you want to be. At the same time you learn how to consciously manage and park the triggers that don’t.
The massive bonus is that these are now your tools for any stress trigger, for life!
How do you manage stress? Please leave questions and comments!
Do you want to know how to relate to stress so that it empowers you? Let’s chat.
As always, you can book an initial consultation with me here: