In our case scenario, your client has asked you how he can eliminate stress from his life… below are some thoughts from our Master Coach Zahava Starak.

Initial Assessment

To find an answer to this question the coach needs to undertake an educative role and teach their client a little bit about stress. There is a plethora of information available describing stress and its symptoms – but there is perhaps not enough understanding.

Therefore before a client can eliminate stress they need to know what stress is. With knowledge the coach and the client can then apply techniques for the identification, management and reduction of stress. It is important for the client to know that stress affects everyone at some stage of their life and that not all stress is bad for you.

No one can completely escape the effects of stress and in actual fact stress is that natural part of the human being that keeps us alert and prepared for situations which require prompt responses. In fact, stress plays a positive role as a performance enhancer as it facilitates the availability and release of motivational energy.

It makes sense therefore for individuals to seek an optimal level of stress in their day to day lives. If stress is totally absent, boredom, apathy and dissatisfaction set in and psychological disturbances can occur. Some people thrive on stress levels that others might find terrifying. For example, politicians, pilots and police officers readily expose themselves to stressors which could severely limit others through their career choices.

It becomes apparent therefore that before eliminating stress coach and client need to identify the stressors in the client’s life and determine how much is required for healthy functioning.

There are a number of tests that a coach can ask the client complete as to determine and measure stress. A pioneering system for measuring stress was devised as far back as 1967 by two psychologists, Holmes and Rahe. Scoring was used to rate the disruption and resultant stress of a range of recent events in the individual’s life.

Some of these events include major upheavals as a divorce, accident, and retirement and some less dramatic causes such as a change in eating habits, change in school or change in work responsibilities. There are also other tests used to generally rate life style stress. Checklists as handouts can be given clients or the coach can ask questions such as:

  1. Do you struggle with stressful interpersonal relationships?
  2. Is your work challenging and satisfying offering intrinsic rewards?
  3. How do you manage your time? Is there too much to be done in the time available? And
  4. Are you the type that accepts high pressure or stressful situations passively when you really want to act assertively to re engineer pressure situations?

With the information these questions and tools provide it is possible to determine what stress the client is experiencing and whether this stress is good or not. It is significant to note that the objective now becomes not to eliminate stress but to find a balance which allows optimum performance and a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Strategies to Achieve Balance

Motivation will play a key component in how successful the client will be in reaching this goal. When the sources of stress have been identified, there are usually three proactive steps the client can take to bring their stress to acceptable levels 

  1. Modify specific situations
  2. Change attitudes
  3. Introduce stress management techniques.

In modifying situations the coach can teach numerous strategies moulded to each unique situation. For coping with too much to do and not enough time to do it, the client can be taught time management techniques and be provided with a time map.

This map is divided into ‘activity zones’ that correspond to your life categories and contain all the tasks on your to-do-list. For those who find the workplace to be a major source of stress, they can learn problem solving strategies and conflict resolution styles.

Individuals experiencing the stress of small business and executive pressures can undertake programs to learn leadership skills, team building and decision making. Skills such as basic communication and assertiveness can help deal with stress in both the work and home fronts as well as in social interactions.

To help clients comfortably talk with others in any setting, coaches can systematically introduce communication skills such as the use of open-ended questions, giving self disclosure, changing topics, breaking into ongoing conversations and learning how to tell stories.

If a strategy or technique is not enough to bring stress to an acceptable level, coach and client can take a hard look at how the client can ‘let go’ of the stressful situation and walk away from it. This challenge will bring another set of skills as the client learns how to deal with pressure situations by releasing their hold on them.

This latter process then introduces the client to the second step they can take in their attempt to optimise their stress levels- change attitudes. And when it comes to this step there are a lot of approaches the coach can use.

Neurolinguistic Training or NLP – for one – is a framework which has many techniques aimed at helping individuals de-construct the meaning they give to events and then introduce a different healthier meaning to them. The fundamental concept in this and all related approaches is that the individual needs to change the thinking around the stressful occurrence.

Click here to access some NLP techniques…

This can be as simple as introducing an intervening thought every time a stressful situation arises. For example, if traffic jams are a source of stress the client can ensure that they are never caught in traffic hurdles (thereby addressing step 1) or they can change their thinking about traffic snarls.

Every time they are caught up in traffic they will think to themselves that this is an opportunity to relax and to listen to that CD they have wanted to for a long time. The response to this intervention is a distressed individual.

Step 3 includes the introduction of stress management techniques is the content of hundreds, more likely thousands of books and articles. The coach can both introduce ways to prevent and reduce stress and can also refer their client to these books.

A more detailed look at some of these stress management techniques can be found in the featured article on Edition 101 of our newsletter – Coaching Inspirations.

In brief, some of these techniques include Relaxation Techniques such as breath control, thought control and muscular control, meditative movement therapies such as yoga, alternative medicines such as acupuncture, manual healing methods such as massage therapy, a change in diet and nutrition, getting a pet and laughing a lot.

Outfitted with the right attitude, the knowledge of how to modify stressful situations and some specific tools to avoid and manage stress the client  has not eliminated stress but has found how to make stress work to their advantage.

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