Managing your own stress levels
One issue with stress has always been, we have no medical definition for it and some health care professionals are unable to agree if stress is the cause of problems or the result. So it can be hard to understand why somebody feels stressed or even learn how to manage your own stress levels.
We do however know what stress feels like, it’s just difficult to describe it. So, we normally use terms like “I feel stressed” or “this is stressful” when we talk about having a lot of work to do, not having much control over what is happening or having demands on us that we simply find difficult to cope with.
For example, a difficult job will stimulate you as long as you succeed, but if difficulties arise and you are unable to manage them, the result will be feelings of stress. Many of us move into coaching after several years in the corporate world and for some, the move was as a direct result of professional stress. But using these different types of life experiences in your coaching sessions will really help bring your work to life.
Definition of stress
Back in 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave the definition as:
“Stress appears in a person whose resources and personal management strategies are exceeded by the demands placed on him.”
Stress is therefore seen as more than simply a natural process of adaptation, but acknowledged as potentially having a negative impact on an individual. Stress is no longer defined only by the existence of a stressor, but also by the result of the ‘struggle’ the individual has going on within them. And the stress reaction is considered to be a sign that the individual can no longer cope with what is being asked of them.
Personalities prone to stress
We are not all equal in the face of stress and some personality types are more prone to stress than others. In our modern lives, stress is now increasingly measured by how we ‘interpret’ the stressors:
- Type A – Characterized by strong extraversion, hyperactivity, a feeling of permanent urgency, an ease to express anger and above all a professional over-investment. Their fundamental belief is to be the best, with no room for error and seen as brilliant or a social success. This personality type does run the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
- Type B – Calm and cooperative, this personality type is less prone to stress.
- Type C – Introverted and expressing few needs, internalizes negative emotions and constraints. This personality type is subject to stress, but in a different way because they are a perfectionist who can have low self-esteem. They can be described as having a ‘false hope’ and runs the risk of suffering from anxiety, depression and burnout.
Learning to cope
As a coach, we fully invest in the work we do and support we provide, so we will want the people and organizations we work with to fully reach their potential. We need to learn how to manage our expectations of others, so we are not disappointed by the effort others are putting in. It is therefore important to remember that we only help others find their own solution and in some cases this may not always be possible. Be ready to adapt your style and find a different approach if needed, but always be totally clear on how you will measure success.
Living with high levels of stress can significantly impact on both our emotional and physical health, so ultimately the goal will be to better understand the different types of stress, how it impacts on us and what we can do to relieve the pressure and regain control. When we fully understand stress, we can help both our clients and ourselves live a balanced life that is healthier, happier and more productive.
Relaxation is a vital part of learning how to manage your own stress levels, so before you start this simple exercise, let the people around you know you are taking some time out to sit quietly and focus on your breathing.
It will give you an opportunity to better understand exactly how you are feeling, so you are totally in that moment and able to switch off all other thoughts. This can really ground you in the present and help reduce stress but pressing pause on your day. It can give you a moment to work through any difficult emotions and really listen to your senses.
This simple meditation technique will help you become more mindful in a matter of minutes:
- Find a quiet place – You can sit in a chair with your hands resting on your knees, crosslegged on the floor, or kneel down. You just need to be relaxed, comfortable and have your back straight. If sitting in silence feels a bit strange at first, don’t worry, it’s perfectly OK.
- Gaze into the distance – Try not to focus on anything in particular, just let your eyes slowly de-focus. As your vision starts to blur, close your eyes and relax.
- Breathe deeply – Take a deep breath in through the nose, and then out through your mouth. Do this at least five times and listen to your breathing so you can clear your mind.
- Stay like this for as long as you need – Breath gently and focus on your senses. Only notice what your body is feeling at that moment. When you feel ready, gently open your eyes and enjoy the feeling of calm. You are now ready to take on the world.
We do always need to follow our own advice and live a healthy life to ensure we have the energy needed to overcome any stressful situations as they arise. We know the importance of taking exercise, using meditation and mindfulness, getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet, so we manage our own stress levels to build resilience and take life one day at a time.
If you would like to learn about the different types of stress and how it impacts on the way we live our lives, check out our ebook in the online shop:
- Coaching Stress – Your step by step guide for coaching Stress Management, plus ideas on how to manage your own stress levels as a coach.
We have published a full range of resources specifically aimed at supporting you as a professional coach:
We constantly add content to the site, so please check our on-line shop and look at the full range of games, ebooks and kits. Or read some of the other blog posts written by our team of international coaches.
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Image: Thanks to Tim Goedhart for sharing their work on Unsplash.
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