Making stress work for you

I’ve been thinking a lot about stress recently.  I’ve felt it myself as new demands on time have emerged, but I’ve really noticed it in the clients I coach in the workplace.  Stress is a factor in nearly every coaching session that takes place, yet the way people react to it varies enormously.

The statistics about the long-term health effects of chronic stress are well documented.  http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx  As well as digestive problems and weight loss or gain, those exposed to high stress levels over an extended period are more prone to cardiovascular problems and a compromised immune system.

However, a recent study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21942377 suggests that it is not so much the level of stress, but the belief systems that are held about that stress, that have the greatest impact on wellbeing.

This piece of research was something of an eye opener for me.  It explains why some clients are able to perform well and feel fulfilled by their work despite being under huge levels of stress.  So how can you make stress work FOR you?

Kelly McGonigal talks about this at length in her recent TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend  and the following strategies emerge…

First up – pay attention to stress response.  Many people in high-stress environments such as an A&E department liken the stress response to a narrowing of focus.  When harnessed in short-term bursts the stress response can create the laser-sharp focus and quick thinking needed in emergency situations.  An increased pulse shows your heart working harder to pump blood around your body and increase strength and energy.

Next up – connect with others.  The stress hormone oxytocin is a trigger to share your experience with others. By connecting to those we love and trust in a stressful situation our bodies actually release more oxytocin through the human connection, which in turn increases the body’s ability to process the negative effects of the stress response.

Next up – take back control.  A key factor in long term stress is a feeling of being out of control.  By taking control of how you react to your biological stress response, the balance of power shifts.  You are back in the driving seat, and can harness the benefits of this response to your advantage.

  ‘When you choose to see your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage’. 

Kelly McGonigal

Coaching is a great tool for regaining clarity and focus in stressful times.  For more information email helen@helenmc.com or call 07799 410 684.