Why do we have stress? What causes us to feel that stress? Why do we choose the coping responses we choose when stress arises? Are there other, better coping strategies that could turn any kind of stress to our advantage?
The answer to these questions is “YES!”
If you want to learn how to turn stress – any stress – to your advantage, and then teach your coaching clients to do the same, this is the article you need to read.
Step 1: Get to know what stress is and why it exists.
According to Psychology Today, the fundamental role of stress is to serve as a messenger from your fight-or-flight survival instinct to you.
So stress arises in the limbic system of the brain. It then spreads throughout the body with the help of the stress hormone, cortisol, which preps the body for its two most primitive stress response choices: fight or flight.
Before you are hardly aware you are stressed, you are already preparing to respond to that stress in life-preserving ways. That is pretty amazing, actually!
Step 2: Tune into your “stress response instincts.”
Some stress prompts your inner wisdom to run from certain situations (a growling bear, a speeding car, a spouse on the rampage). Sometimes, running is better for the moment because it gives you time and space while the other party calms down.
On the flip side, other types of stress are best dealt with head-on before they have time to fester and spread (a client asking for ANOTHER discount, a child who demands to stay out past curfew, or the discovery of fresh mold in your hallway bathroom).
By beginning to tune into the presence of the stress and what your inner fight-or-flight stress response instinct is telling you to do, you can immediately shift to action mode.
Step 3: Pretend you are an Olympic athlete….or a cougar’s lunch of choice.
There is an old joke about two boys in the woods. They hear a bear growl nearby. The first boy starts lacing up his shoes. The second boy asks why and says, “You can’t outrun a bear!” The first boy says, “I know – I just have to outrun you!“
How you choose to respond to stress is very similar. Are you going to let it freeze you in fear or are you going to act?
The good news here is, in nearly every case, you aren’t asking yourself to expend a marathon’s worth of energy to outrun stress from work. You are only asking for a few moments of your own time in this heightened, fully alert state.
Step 4: Know when to say “when!”
Sometimes stress is solvable by getting creative and trying different things until you find what works. And sometimes stress is not solvable – in that, you have tried everything you can think of, and now you have to know when to say “when.”
Figuring out which is which, of course, is the hard part. The more life experience you have, the easier this will be. But if you don’t have that experience yet, try trusting your gut instinct and seeking advice from a trusted inner circle. Whatever you do, never stop working toward a resolution.
But ultimately, sometimes ongoing high stress is its own signal that your path forward lies in a different direction. There is nothing wrong with accepting that some things at the time may not currently have a resolution that is workable for all involved.
There is “good” stress, and there is “bad” stress. But underneath labels like these, all stress is still stress.
Its effect on our body and brain is largely the same. These four steps can give you a ready, steady path to stay focused on the bright light at the end of the stress tunnel.
Photo Credit: Pixabay