Stress coachingby Jake Smolarek
A recent study in the UK by Mentalhealth.org has found that within the last year, around 74% of adults have felt so stressed they have been unable to cope. An even greater number of people feel such intense stress on a daily basis that it impacts their life, mental health, and decisions.
While these stats are shocking, they aren't surprising. We all feel stressed. There are so many reasons we feel stressed; work, school, family, money, body image, social pressures… the list goes on.
And the impact stress can have on your life is profound. The same study found that people who regularly feel stress often overeat, take up smoking or drinking, self-harm or become medically depressed or anxious and require daily medication to cope.
With so much stress in our lives, dealing with it can be difficult, if not impossible. Many people feel comfortable seeking help for other issues but often feel they cannot ask for help managing stress.
But you can. You can ask me!
I, and many other professional life coaches, have helped so many people identify points of stress in their life and work to manage and deal with stress. Learning to manage stress can have long-term benefits in helping you develop ways of coping with stress in the future.
Let's start destressing your life.
What is stress?
We all talk about stress and being stressed, but we never talk about what stress actually is. This is half the battle. Unfortunately, stress has yet to be fully defined. A quick search online will show you lots of different ways that stress can be determined. Here are just some of the ways in which we define stress:
- Being overwhelmed or unable to cope in a situation
- Feeling intense social, mental, or emotional pressure
- Any negative change in the body or mind as a reaction to an external event
- Emotional or mental tension
Fight or flight stress response
In fact, to really understand why we feel stress, we need to understand some basic biology. Stress is actually a biological reaction that happens in your body. When faced with a big challenge, or something scary, our body releases a specific combination of hormones, including adrenaline. Thousands of years ago, this set of hormones was very handy. It helped us make decisions like when to fight a lion and when to run away.
These hormones have a specific effect on our body that you might recognise as stress. This response is called fight-or-flight. It's this response that is responsible for stress. Look at the chart below and see if you feel any of these things.
|Stress response||Ancient use||Modern stress|
|Tunnel vision||Clear focus on one situation, ready to fight or run away. No distractions||Unable to focus on more than one thing. With multiple stressors, unable to concentrate on anything, memory loss, mental fog|
|Slow digestion||Divert vital energy and resources to essential muscles rather than digesting food||Loss of appetite or desire to combat this by overeating, slow metabolism, digestive issues, putting on weight, or losing weight|
|Tense muscles||Prepare for sudden movement to avoid being struck or to run fast||Muscle pain, tense shoulders, aching, unable to relax muscles and stay still, fidgeting|
|Suppressed immune system||Increased blood pressure and flow to more crucial areas to allow for increased activity in muscles||Feeling ill or rundown, catching a cold, and unable to feel healthy|
|Liver releases glucose||Glucose carried to muscles for additional energy||Desire to drink alcohol to relax (alcohol stops the liver from producing glucose)|
|Adrenaline in brain||Faster reaction time, mentally awake, and prepared to respond to a threat||Unable to switch off, feeling anxious concerned, inability to sleep|
|Increased heart rate||Ready to pump blood carrying vital oxygen to muscles for additional straight and energy in crucial moments||Increased blood pressure, feeling dizzy and tired. Over time, it can lead to a heart attack|
Is stress bad?
It's a lot to take in. Stress is actually way more complicated than just feeling overworked or anxious. It's an actual physical and biological response in your body that alters how you act and think. And it can have some pretty uncomfortable and severe side effects. But is all stress bad for you?
Stress signals that you are in an environment or facing an unusual, dangerous, or uncomfortable situation. If this happens a lot and you regularly have a stress response in your body, it can lead to serious health issues. But there is a reason we developed this response thousands of years ago.
It's because stress can be helpful. In small amounts, stress can help you focus, keep you awake to finish a task, push you to make decisions, and give you the adrenaline boost you need to perform to your best.
However, nowadays, we have a different name for this. When we feel a little bit stressed but not overwhelmed, we say we are nervous, a little anxious, or have butterflies in our stomach. All of these are considered to better than being stressed. But really, it's the same thing happening in our body; it's just less intense and less frequent.
So, your body can handle small, infrequent stress responses and return to its natural, more relaxed state without any issues. The problem comes when you regularly experience extreme stress and don't know how to manage stress effectively.
Why is stress management so important?
Impact of stress on the body
Managing stress is crucial for your mental and physical health. As you've seen, feelings we associate with stress are caused by physical reactions in your body. The result is that feeling stress regularly or over an extended period of time can severely impact your health.
A common health problem caused by stress is heart palpitations. Excess adrenaline can cause your heart to beat fast or irregularly, leading to heart damage and, in extreme cases, heart attacks. So finding ways to destress could literally save your life.
Furthermore, stress can cause you to age prematurely. Not only will you feel tired and rundown, but your immune system will be less effective, meaning you can catch diseases more easily. This can lead to other related health conditions.
Feeling stressed also has a massive impact on your emotional health. Studies have found that feeling stressed can often lead to clinical depression and anxiety. You may experience breathing difficulties, chest pains, and panic attacks. Not to mention the issues caused by a lack of sleep and an inconsistent diet.
Impact of stress on your life
As well as impacting your mental, emotional and physical health, feeling overly stressed can impact your life. Whatever you hope to achieve is made ten times more difficult if you feel stressed. Stress can make it difficult to focus and concentrate on basic tasks, which leads to errors, mistakes, and missed deadlines. Managing your stress will allow you to have greater clarity about what needs to be done and when and will enable you to give your best to every aspect of your life.
As well as helping you focus, managing stress levels can help you feel more present and actually enjoy life. Feelings of stress mean you are often in your own world, worrying about what you need to do next and what you've not finished. It can lead to people not being present and enjoying life as it happens.
Stress has a significant impact on our behavioural patterns. Coping with your stress can lead to better anger management, healthy lifestyle choices, more social interactions, and better decision-making skills. Effectively managing your stress can help make everyday life more enjoyable and benefit your personal and professional life.
How to manage stress?
Managing stress in your day-to-day life is incredibly personal. What works for one person might not work for you. What works for you might not work for your friend. There is no definite answer for how stress can be managed effectively. You need to find what works for you.
Some of the most common ways to manage stress include yoga, meditation, regular exercise, music, hobbies, and socialising. The problem is that these harmless destressing habits can become part of the problem because of the stress response.
Some people like to hang out with friends to relax but find themselves drinking more than is recommended. Regular exercise can turn into an obsession that might leave you feeling even more stressed if you miss a workout session.
So, unfortunately, there really isn't one answer to dealing with stress. Stress is a problem that starts in your brain, which means that coping with stress must also happen in your mind. This is where stress managing coaching comes in handy.
What is stress management coaching?
As a professional life coach, I often work with people who want help completing a specific project, changing their career, getting a promotion, or losing weight. But I also help people with more general goals like becoming healthier, improving personal relationships and, learning how to manage stress.
Stress management coaching is when I work with you to help you identify and manage the existing stresses in your life. But stress management is so much more than that. It's also about looking at yourself, what you find stressful, how you react, and what you could improve so that when you are faced with new stressful challenges in the future, you are mentally and emotionally prepared to meet them.
Learning how to properly manage stress is more than just working out that you prefer meditation to journaling. Proper stress management is about the tools, tricks, and coping mechanisms you personally find effective to prevent yourself from getting stressed, recognised when you are stressed, and what you need to help beat those feelings.
Coaching can transform your life within just a few sessions and will help you develop the positive habits and behaviour patterns that you need going forward.
How stress management coaching can help you
The importance of proper executive stress management cannot be understated. Speaking to a professional rather than friends or family can make a huge difference. Life coaches can provide a safe, judgment-free space for you to unburden and really get to the source of your stress.
Working with an impartial coach, you'll get expert, unbiased feedback and an outsider's perspective. Friends and family often mean well, but they bring their own stresses and emotions into the situation, which can cloud your own personal issues. A stress coach can help you really reflect and identify your own problems using their expertise, experience and without judgement. Determining what you are really stressed about, it crucial to finding ways to help manage stress.
As well as helping you identify what is causing your stress when you work with a life coach, you'll be able to come up with techniques, methods, and strategies for managing your stress. Trying to tackle stress independently is frustrating because you don't have an actionable plan to follow. When coaching stress management, I always make sure clients know exactly what practical steps they need to take to reduce stress. This can be anything from writing down what time of the day you feel most stressed, to counting how many cups of coffee you drink, to setting a timer for five minutes a day of meditation. Whatever it is that you need to destress, a coach can help you work out how to develop good habits and how to break bad habits.
Life coaches can break down significant goals like "reduce stress" into step-by-step instructions to help achieve your goal. From your first session, you'll feel reassured that you're already making progress and are actively working to reduce the stress in your life.
Finally, a critical part of working with a stress management coach is accountability. Working on reducing your stress levels wounds like it should be easy, calming, relaxing, and fun. But it isn't. Working to actively reduce stress is hard work.
This means that lots of people start off with good intentions but get distracted or even more stressed, and then painting projects, online courses, and self-care are left abandoned in favour of finishing work projects. A coach will help you stay on track and make sure you are actually taking time for yourself and working on how to deal with stress.
Get started today
Actively trying to reduce stress can have a positive impact on every part of your life. But it isn't as easy as just reading a book, meditating, or going for a walk. To make a long-term change, you need to learn to tackle sources of stress and develop positive habits that will help you face whatever challenges come your way in the future.
Working with a professional life coach can provide the support and expert advice you need to make meaningful changes. The only question is, what are you waiting for?