Five Questions to Combat Stress November 12, 2014 – Posted in: Leaders and Teams, Personal Development – Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Recently I’ve been thinking about how I handle stress. You see, I used to think I was someone who handled it brilliantly, but actually what I think I was doing, was hiding it quite well. Therefore the stress built up, as did my denial about it. I used to want to be superwoman (I still do sometimes) and in my head superwoman coasted effortlessly through life, being lovely to everyone, coping with everything and looking perfect all the time. No wonder I was stressed trying to live up to all that…

Throughout my personal development journey I’ve experienced progress with varying degrees of success and I’ve come to see that ‘success’ is a daily and ongoing practice of self-care and openness to the wisdom of others. From these ‘others’ I’ve learnt to listen to what my body is telling me, to tune in to those voices in my head (the ones we talked about in my last column), to stop, to breathe and to ask myself what it is I need right now. Sometimes this means saying ‘no’, sometimes this means saying ‘help’, and sometimes this means simply accepting the moment knowing that the feelings will pass.

So many of us can get swallowed up in the stress cycle. In fact, it’s almost becoming an accepted fact of modern day life that we will be stressed. Of course, stress is a part of life and always has been. We have the fight or flight response to deal with this very real aspect of life on this planet. However, what seems to be happening increasingly is that daily, sometimes hourly, stress is causing many of us to live in constant ‘fight or flight’, which in turn is triggering dangerous levels of the stress hormone cortisol in us. Elevated cortisol levels interfere with sleep, learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain and can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. In short, not handling stress effectively causes us to get locked into a vicious cycle of stress that begets stress that begets even more stress.

Unlearning your habitual stress responses can take a bit of time and effort but the rewards are massive. Something I use myself and teach my clients is this little technique to use in a critical moment of stress… Stop and ask yourself five questions…

“What can I hear?”
“What can I see?”
“What do I feel?”

These three questions bring you back into the moment. Then ask…

“What am I saying to myself?”
“What do I need?”

Doing this as often as you can means you’ll start creating your own healthy automatic stress response. How do I know this? Because when I practice these steps myself I calm down and handle stressful situations far more effectively than when I don’t.

Let me know how you get on.


This blog post first appeared as an article in my Life Column in The Bath Magazine.

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