Where is your stress coming from and what is the impact on you? A piece on systematic stress management

Stress is a really interesting topic to me as I consider the hugely challenging circumstances currently being experienced all over the world during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The aim of this blogpost isn’t to give you 10 top tips to short-term stress relief. As it’s mental health awareness week, you will find this kind of material in every other post you scroll through. Rather, the point of this post is to give you a deeper physiological understanding of stress, and to point you in the right direction in implementing long-term changes so that you are in a better position to manage stress for the long haul. I’m coming at this as someone who treats bodily stress through massage therapy, and as a life, career and wellbeing coach whose clients are coping with various stressors (more about what this is later). I would also really like to thank Jaromir Myslivecek from the Institute of Physiology of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic for his research into this topic. His article The Basis of the Stress Reaction has provided the main scientific foundation for this blogpost.

 

What is stress, from a physiological point of view?

Understanding what stress is helps us to navigate it, deal with it, give it its right place in our lives. So what is stress? There are many definitions for stress, as Myslivecek alludes to. In his view, ‘stress is the body’s response to strain (inner or outer). This response is characterised by stress response elements that could have both positive/beneficial impact (eustress) or a negative/detrimental impact (distress) on the body’. I will pick up on this more because human beings (as with all living creatures) have been designed to cope with stress. Myslivecek describes stress as ‘the body’s response to strain (inner or outer). It is not a nervous tension, as it can occur in lower animals and even in plants, which have no nervous system. Stress is not a reaction to a specific thing. It should be considered a reaction that helps the organism cope with different situations and, therefore, stress cannot and should not be avoided.’

Let’s look briefly into human histology – bone ossification (growth) in particular, since it will explore Myslivecek’s point more. Our bones grow under enormous stress. Is it necessary? Yes, it is – as the pressure is part of the process of the strengthening of bone tissue. Our bones never stop growing since bone cells in the body continue to reproduce to replace those that die. Broken bones knit together and heal by growth. As we get older, our bones are still renewing, but the rate of deterioration of cells in the bone may be faster than the renewal process. This kind of stress is eustress.

So… our bodies were designed and built to handle eustress. From the moment we were conceived, our bodies have remained in some form of eustress – the stress of growing. They will continue to handle growth stresses until the moment we take our last breath. Where we are physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically distressed for prolonged periods of time – well, this is something that our bodies are not naturally designed or built for.

We can think about it this way: Eustress leads to positive outcomes and impacts, in so far as the end goal is not a negative one, or does not transform into a distress. Distress leads to negative outcomes and impacts. In BOTH of these, we will find: STRESS. This is enough overview with which to begin from. I welcome medical experts to comment or even correct me if needed.

 

Is it manageable?

Stress is an overused word these days, and I believe that is partly because of a genuine lack of understanding of the two different types of stresses, and how we ought to relate to them. Stress can also increase or decrease to different degrees as well. It’s very easy to believe that our stress is one thing, but it is actually another. There is quite a lot of chaos and confusion if the stress is distressful or if the stress is chronic (no longer manageable). Only eustress will recollect you, bring you some peace, order and direction in the context of stress itself. Stress is manageable, and even when you think you’ve lost all control, not all hope is lost.

To navigate through the stress, to put together your action plan for managing it, and to see the light at the end of the tunnel,  two of the most important things to look at are the cause of the stresses, and the impact the stress is having on you.

 

How can the cause (aka the stressor) be identified?

‘Stressors can influence the organism acutely (acute/single stress) or chronically (chronic/repeated/long-lasting stress)’ says Myslivecek. ‘The repeated influence of a stressor can have great significance in the context of allostasis, which is defined as the ability to maintain stability through change’. As a change management practitioner, you can imagine my delight in the science of this statement… but that’s a topic for another day!

400x400 8 Wellbeing KeysTo determine the cause of the stress (the stressor / the stimulus / the trigger), I run a wellbeing self-assessment with my clients. This report is an analysis of the eight wellbeing keys to the right. I help my clients come to crystal clarity on what their stressors are, so that the root can either be nourished or dug up. Nourished when the stressor leads to eustress. Dug up (I’m sorry, this is usually quite a painful process) when the stressor leads to distress. Although Myslivecek says that ‘in humans, the majority of stressors are psychological and social’, the other areas of wellbeing could be greatly impacted. So I offer this assessment as part of a wellbeing coaching package, OR people are welcome to simply complete a questionnaire then purchase their unique report from me for only £19.95 to see their results.

You can take your wellbeing self-assessment here: http://bit.ly/ToC-WSA.

You could also complete this explorative task on your own and without any aid. All you need to do is look at each wellbeing key, and write down what is discomforting, not quite at right balance, stress-invoking or is unsatisfactory to you in your life.

Here’s an example exploring the social key: a) Tension in the relationship between my boss and myself. b) My kids are complaining that I am not spending enough time with them. c) At the moment I feel like I have so few friends. d) Business networking gives me the sweats. Which ones are distressful? Which ones are a form of eustress? Which ones are acute and which ones are chronic? What degree of importance on a scale of 1-10 do you give them (1 being low and 10 being high)?

Then repeat this process for the other 7 wellbeing keys, and see what comes up for you.

 

How can the impact of that stress be measured? Indeed, what is the impact of all that stress?

Taking the wellbeing self-assessment is only part one of this stress-identification journey. The second part of the journey is nailing down the exact impact the stress is having on you. For example, you may be distressed by your next door neighbour who is repeatedly playing their music on full blast until 5am keeping you awake. Not only is the outcome of physical tiredness going to have an impact on you, but you could also be greatly impacted by short-temperedness in your family relationships, or an unkept living environment, or poor performance in your workplace. To help clients determine this, I give my clients a Stress Impact Assessment (again, based on the above wellbeing keys) to complete.

A comprehensive Stress Impact Assessment is a part of my wellbeing coaching package, OR people are welcome to attend one of my Radical Self-Care Workshops to go through a mini version (4 wellbeing keys) of this Stress Impact Assessment. You’ll find all my upcoming workshops on Radical Self-Care on my Eventbrite channel.

If you wanted to assess the impacts of your stress without my aid, you could draw a 3 columned table. The first column contains your stressor. The second column contains at least 1 (but likely to be multiple) outcomes of the stressor. The third column contains the impact. This is a very important piece of work, because this will actually help you determine which stresses need addressing.

Once you understand your stressors and the impacts of that stress, you can really begin to map out a plan for stress management. Otherwise, you’re just trialling and erring without really understanding your fight-fright-flight capacities. You could be throwing away a lot of money for something that you stumble onto by accident. Approaching your stress management systematically will help combat the chaos that comes with negative stress.

 

Why work with a Wellbeing Coach

Wellbeing coaches who have a good overall knowledge of the body (I would recommend level 3 qualifications in bodywork as a minimum since they show some level of competency in the hormonal and nervous systems). They will also have a greater understanding of healthy eating, psychology, in fact –  a good holistic understanding of all 8 wellbeing keys altogether. Such a coach would be in a good position to support you in managing your stress. They can also help you in your stress prevention strategy. They:

  • Take into account your physical wellbeing, through understanding and analysis of symptoms showing up as outcomes resulting from chronic stress or distress.
  • Will help you look at your life as a whole, as no one area of your life can be isolated unto itself.
  • Work with you to implement stress management strategy – forming action plans to prevention systems.
  • Look at your dietary intake, and can recommend dietary plans (but not subscribe vitamins or supplements unless they are a registered nutritionist).
  • Go through, in overview style, your financial as well as your environmental and occupational situations.
  • Recommend physical exercises and signpost you to helpful resources.
  • Think outside the box to help you with your career progression and development, without losing or selling your soul!

 

Of course, there is so much more that could be said about this topic, even from a physiological perspective – but I hope I have achieved what I set out to according to the second paragraph. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the above material, or would like to embark on a bespoke 3 month wellbeing coaching programme with me. I offer a free 30 minute consultation call.

 


I’m preparing to open up a 1 year Career & Wellbeing programme to 6 keen hi-potential job hunters or career chasers to escalate their performance as individuals, and to work as a team to achieve their unique life & career visions. Do you want to be someone who receives unlimited access and support from me, who will be championing you throughout your journey of growth and self-actualisation?

 

Tips for CV L-Writers… according to your learning style

It can be assumed that I’m writing this blogpost for teens or recent graduates looking for their first job. You are mistaken.

I believe there will be a lot of people out there, who are writing their CVs for the first time, who are beyond this category of CV Learner Writers (I’ve nicknamed them CV L-Writers for ease, hence the title!). I have one client, for example, who has set up and ran businesses, who is super bright and super loving, who loves learning, but has never written a CV in her life. She’s never had to. Having come into the family business soon after O-levels and then being in the business world until she became a mother to two amazing children has meant that she has never had to apply for a job. Now, however, this is something that she is exploring, and I’m here to offer her career coaching help.

Of course, one of the first objectives was to get a CV together. An entirely new concept for my client! There were indeed blockages there when trying to put this CV together, and it became a task that for weeks hadn’t been completed. After coaching the issue out, and understanding the bigger picture, it appeared that my client needed to complete the task in a way that many might not understand. You see, she is a Reflector-Pragmatist blend of learner, and this would make her task of CV writing difficult – especially in lockdown!

So what are learning styles and why are they important for career coaches to understand? I guess I learned the hard way. Our careers are a journey that we are always learning from. Based on the work of Kolb (…), Peter Honey and Alan Mumford identified four preferential learning styles. You can research into their work yourself if you are more interested, but here’s my take on it here:

Learning Styles-2

Which one are you? Or in fact, which blend are you?

My client as a Reflector-Pragmatist first needs to watch someone explaining what they are doing as they create their CV. She’ll take a billion and one notes about it. And then she will apply past life experiences to having a go, but needs to be assisted whilst on the task by a respected practitioner. This had not dawned on me until most recently. It has inspired the content for this post, since others may also be needing some helpful tips on learning how to write their CV bearing in mind their learning styles.

For the purposes of not drowning this post, I simply post up the tips, but don’t point to any particular sources. Notice that NONE of these learners would ever revert to a CV writing service. They will learn their way, and not fob of the task onto someone else.

 

Tips for ACTIVISTS

My friend… you’ve probably already started on the task and are ready to share your first draft with your coach! But if you’re not quite there yet, here’s a few tips especially for you with love from Claz!

  • Get cracking way before your set deadlines so that you can produce multiple drafts if need-be.
  • Research your ideal model CV using the various means and methods you have at your disposal.
  • Consider taking up a career coach to keep you on track and to give you the feedback that you will be wanting after your drafts.
  • Don’t rush the process. Activist learners have a tendency to move on too quickly from one experience to the next. In doing so, they block their own abilities to learn effectively.

Tips for REFLECTORS

My cautious and careful friend, I understand the risks you are imagining in your mind as you begin your CV writing task. But don’t you worry! This practical experience is going to be of great worth to you once you have landed the job that you’re going to be happy excelling in. My tips for you:

  • Start. Just start. Once you’re started, don’t stop. Build up your courage to keep going. Creating something badly is better than not creating it at all, if that’s what you’re worried about.
  • Hear/Watch others’ stories and ask your network of friends, family, acquaintances to share with you how they went about putting their CV together.
  • Watch YouTube tutorials.
  • Ask your career coach if he/she has anybody who is currently writing their CV whether you might be able to Zoom call or meet with the CV L-writer to observe how they do it.
  • Try to engage sufficiently with others in the process, but not become dependent on them to do the task. E.g. you might want to pay a CV writer to sit with you as you produce your CV (note: you must not have the CV writer do the task for you though!).

Tips for THEORISTS

I love the simplicity of your approach, dear friend. There are many websites out there with clear instructions for you to follow. Many career services will also offer CV-writing support in a logical and theoretical way.

  • Get in touch with your local University or Higher-Education College Career Service and make yourself known to them.
  • Understand the ideas and the intended concept of what you are reading. Remember that after this process is over, every step lead to an outcome. That’s what you’re aiming for! The outcome being a ready-to-distribue CV!
  • It may be worth thinking outside the box about who you might want to work with here. Yes, career coaches can be of invaluable help, as can CV writers. But people who write job descriptions, interview candidates and sit on shortlisting panels could also teach you a thing or two about what would be valuable in a CV.
  • Try not to ignore your intuitions and creativity or you may miss out on learning something new.

Tips for PRAGMATISTS

Your openness to new techniques and ideas is a result of your realistic and practical approach to problem-solving, my friend. You also very much appreciate respected practitioner coaches to give you feedback on your tasks.

  • You are so capable of completing the task, so continue in perseverance until it’s completed. Don’t become complacent.
  • Keep reminding yourself of the ‘why’ you are doing this task, so as not to reject or ignore ideas supporting your task and completing it.
  • On the very rare occasion, you will have to learn to do things that might not make sense to you, or that you can’t see the bigger ‘why’. I know it’s not as natural for you, but don’t let this prevent you from your learning opportunities. Life is full of learning, and worth learning even these lessons, that may appear to be insignificant or not of value to you. Don’t lose out. Your opportunity to learn is a gift.

 

So there we are. I hope that you will find some of this information helpful for you. Feel free to share it on to others whom you feel could benefit! You could also get in touch with questions 🙂

 


Life Coach, Change Agent Management, Holistic Massage Therapy, Wellbeing, London, West,

I’m Claz, a Professional Career Coach based in West London, accredited in the UK. I am also a Life & Wellbeing Coach, working with individuals as well as organisations.  You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com.

How I’d love to write a PhD on human behaviour right now…

I don’t consider myself an #academic… but I’m just so fascinated by #human #behaviour at the moment!

I agree with the UK Government’s current standpoint on the Coronavirus. Why? Well… because they have taken into serious consideration human behaviour.

In my 30+ years of life, I have observed how much we as human beings have changed in terms of our behaviour. I’m sure that many of you who are older, will see an even starker contrast in human behaviour from when you were younger, to today. We have become more impatient. We need things to be done faster and better. And, we have become so much more focused on ourselves (this is an iCulture, remember) and insular. We no longer connect with the dimension of time – and it’s going to hit us BIG TIME.

I’m not a scientist, nor am I a medical expert. I’m not a human behaviour expert neither. However, I do care very much about people. I care very much about the vulnerable in society – the disadvantaged, the marginalised, the isolated. I do this out of choice – not just because it’s inspired by my faith but also because it’s an intrinsic part of who I am. I was very pleased to have been able to watch the entire press briefing on BBC News on Thursday 12th March and I really have to say that it made entire sense to me.

If we go into lockdown too soon, people will become frustrated and lonely (depending how active or dependent you are on others). Perhaps I would never have heard myself saying this in the past, but it seems that on this occasion, the British Government appear to understand its peoples’ blind spots and weaknesses better than we do. Around a few months ago, I remember standing in a queue. I was only in the queue for around 10 minutes but the woman behind me spent 5 minutes constantly complaining at the fact that she’s in a queue. I mean, when we can’t even queue for 15 minutes without complaining, how are we conceivably going to remain on lockdown for an extended period of time? I know that not everyone behaves like this, but the truth is, the vast majority of us are extremely active – in our mindsets, our communications, our work, our lifestyles, etc.

Today, I was watching the movie ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (LOVE that movie!) and every single time Brooks narrates the line “the world got itself in a big hurry”, I always think that this is even more true of today, than it was back then. Our human behaviour has changed from allowing things time to take its course, to wanting immediate results. I’m a coach – for sure this is something that I even experience in my line of work. It’s one of the reasons why I love the elderly, and spending time with them. They really teach me the value of patience and self-control, in ways that can’t be explained in textbooks.

It’s too late to kill the virus, so therefore we need to let it continue to run its course, whilst of course doing all we possibly can to develop immunity to it. The situation is going to get worse, and it makes most sense if the peak of impact was delayed, and risk mitigated as much as is possible. The Government’s recommendations are on-point if you think that what they’re asking people to do is to remain indoors for a week should symptoms of the virus make an appearance. This is to prevent the spread. It’s very sensible advice. Eventually, the lockdowns will have to happen… but they shouldn’t happen before their time.

In terms of my business, I’m here to be of service, not to be of risk! Unfortunately, I’m someone who is currently showing symptoms of the virus although I don’t know if I actually have it or not. I’m stopping all my volunteering activities and I’ve also cancelled my Career Strategy workshop that was due to take place on Thursday 19th March, for the reason that it will be my 7th day of self-isolation.

What I’d be most interested in now is having a good conversation with experts in the arena of human behaviour during times of panic such as the time we are experiencing now. If there is anyone out there who reads this and who can point me in the right direction, or connect me, I’d be delighted to speak to them and learn more. So much to learn… always! I’m so glad that I have a love of learning.

 

 

academicresearch phd study humanbeings humanbehaviour crisismanagement crisisresponse behaviourchange panicbuying psychology sociology research researchers researchproject researchanddevelopment government coronavirus covid19