Coaching for well-being
For as long as I can remember there has always been someone around me who was stressed - whether it was the mad dash trying to get things organised for our holidays, or long working hours - stress just happened. But of course, as a child, it wasn't labelled or understood as a problem.
It wasn’t until much later in life that my concept of stress as a problem began to develop; in work I saw people buckle under intense workloads and tight time-scales, and observed changes in personality depending on the pressure they were under.
So, what changed from our innocent childhood understanding that suddenly made everything a problem? Education played a part; we are told that stress is the biggest reason for long-term sickness absence in the UK. This is a problem, so they say, because it has a profound impact on our overall health and well-being. If we are not well, we cannot work and if we cannot work, we cannot earn and then we are relying on the benefits system. In an economy that is focused around cutbacks, faced with redundancies and an attitude of thriftiness, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Wow, what an interpretation of just one word, and a divergence from the innocence of childhood.
Now, I am not saying that the innocence (or ignorance) of my childhood ideals was the correct form of thinking, but it does get you wondering about the way we interpret stress and the importance we place upon it?
Every emotion we have is as a direct result of our thinking. We have 60 to 80 thousand thoughts per day - that is a lot of emotions! In the course of our lives, we experience something as a stressful because we have learned that it is to be interpreted as such. Our education and experiences define how we think and this impacts on how we feel, the feeling then impacts on our behaviour and our subsequent results. For most of us, the stress we experience is only temporary and the disaster we were concerned would happen, never materialises, or is not as bad as we thought. How many times in hindsight have you wondered why you were stressed in the first place? Are you aware that most of the things we get stressed about are in the past, or the future and will probably not actually result in anything to worry about.
So, in other words, stress is the result of an external event that we have perceived as negative and which we believe we don’t have the resources to cope with. If that wasn’t the case, then how is it possible that different people can cope with stress in a multitude of different ways?
Think back to a time when you were really happy, what was it about your experience that meant everything felt good? It is quite likely that you were doing something you loved - you may have been working towards a goal that was exciting, working with people you liked and respected, having fun, or maybe everything just seemed to be going well for you and life seemed in the flow. When we align our values (what is most important to us) with our beliefs (what we believe about ourselves and the world in which we live) and we have goals which challenge us and give us a sense of purpose, then suddenly our emotional and mental well-being start to change. We realise that we are in control of our destiny, our current and future experiences and our interpretations about our past. It is energising, and from this space, our well-being can thrive.
In particular, clients find that one-to-one coaching really helps them to focus, get perspective on their stressors and learn to take control of their well-being so that they experience life in the way they choose.
So, If I hold up a cup of tea and ask you how heavy it is, what might you answer?
The absolute weight of the cup of tea does not matter. It really depends on how long you choose to hold on to it. If I hold it for a minute, that is not usually a problem. If I hold onto it for a day, I am probably going to be in some discomfort. In each case, it is the same weight, but the longer I hold onto it the heavier it becomes.
Stress management is very similar. We often carry our burdens around most of the time, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we will eventually not be able to carry on. Just as with the tea, we have to put it down for a while and rest before picking it up again. When you feel refreshed, you can pick it up again and carry on.
So, before you get home tonight, leave the burden of work at work. Do not carry it home. Whatever your burdens are, let them down for a moment and breathe deeply. You can always pick them up later.
Remember life keeps coming at us. There will always be time to get back in the stress game.
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About Alison Sydenham
Aleigh Sydenham is a specialist well-being coach with 10yrs experience helping her clients to understand their stressors and learn how to overcome these to achieve personal and professional well-being. She is the creator of the Mental Wellbeing Coaching Model and runs coaching for well-being courses designed to help you to improve your well-being.