Today is National Stress Awareness Day. Everywhere we look today there will be news, articles, guidance, advice to manage your stress. And I too could talk about them… all…day…long…
And the advice will include many things like getting more rest/sleep, taking some me time, exercise, eating well, journaling and more. Could it be that easy? While I would love to say of course it is that easy, it is often not that simple for people.
In my many years of working with clients (and my own experience of chronic stress, burnout and serious illness), I like to talk about the elephant in the room with stress. Which is that for most people we don’t feel we deserve the things to reduce stress, we don’t give ourselves permission to slow down, to rest, to take care of ourselves.
When it comes to stress management, all the advised relief and coping mechanisms can help, but only short term. It is rather like slapping a plaster on a deep wound, we provide a temporary solution but if we don't work with the deeper wound, it will remain a problem and maybe even get worse. This is why it is important to also go beyond the surface of stress management by digging deeper into why the stress cycle is there to begin with.
Stress often creates a sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, a loss of control and these feelings run deep and tend to have been around a long time. For this reason, I support people to gently explore these thoughts and feelings together and uncover any old beliefs and personal lies that are rummaging around your mind. Some more common things include always putting your own needs last (or not even realising you have needs), people pleasing, perfectionism and more. Having awareness of your patterns allows for compassion, which is at the core of healing from stress.
A typical (and personally familiar old pattern I struggled with for years) I see a lot is where shame plays a role in our stress cycle. So, for example, we are overwhelmed with workload, demands of people in our lives, have no boundaries in place, no time for rest or relaxation.... Eventually we reach a point of exhaustion, forcing us into a need for rest. Rather than allow compassion and recognise we truly NEED the rest, we find ourselves in a shameful place of feeling not good enough, incapable, weak, feeling like a failure, and a whole host of other unkind thoughts and feelings. This in turn only drives us back to actions and behaviours that keep us stressed as we attempt to fight the shameful thoughts and feelings by proving ourselves good enough. And the cycle continues.
I actually get a physical response writing that as my body remembers those days still. A knot in my stomach and chest and a feeling like I almost can't breathe. I don't miss those days one little bit. Is this familiar to you at all? If so, take a moment to notice what happens in your body? What might it be trying to tell you?
If stress is something that you are hoping to remove from your life, reach out for support. Perhaps you have tried before but find yourself stuck on the stress loop, repeating old habits and patterns and never quite figuring it out. It could be that you need to explore what's going on underneath.
Of course, practical stress relief actions are important. When we are physically and mentally refreshed, it is easier to tackle the bigger picture, so through Coaching you are also encouraged to take small steps with regard to stress relief, but all with the intention of giving yourself permission to understand (finally) why it is so present in your life and how this can play a significant role in allowing real, sustainable change when it comes to stress.
If this is resonating and you would like to challenge your stress, reach out for a FREE intro call and let's have a chat about how reducing stress could impact your life in some really beautiful ways.