How can I stress less? 5 tips to reduce your stress

Every week I coach clients who are feeling overwhelmed and sometimes paralysed by stress – whether they be teachers, business owners, university administrators, marketing experts, sales consultants, IT personnel, doctors or students. The list goes on and on.


The stress response

As we all know, stress is a daily, unwelcome feature of modern life. Our bodies were not designed to cope with this constant feeling of fight, flight or freeze. Nowadays, this might start when we wake up and read negative content on social media, followed by getting stuck in traffic, then hearing depressing news headlines, followed by trying to meet impossible work deadlines; all whilst worrying about finances or relationship issues etc.

The human stress response is ideal for dealing with occasional emergency situations, for example, running away from a tiger. At such moments our adrenal glands are triggered to release a surge of hormones which gives us energy. But nowadays our brains and bodies often feel like they are under attack morning, noon and night. This means we never get a chance to recover and our systems start to struggle.

The impact of stress

What is the result of this chronic stress response activation? The answer is disturbed sleep, heart disease, problems with memory and focus, unhealthy coping mechanisms, feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, depression, weight gain, muscle tension, digestive issues, headaches and burnout.

Sometimes, I notice my clients start to refer to themselves as, “being lazy.” Rather than feeling compassion towards themselves, they push through and if they fail they call it “being a procrastinator.” They feel like they cannot drag one foot in front of the other and get motivated for yet another heavy day ahead. But is it any wonder when they are feeling so exhausted? And the worst of it is that they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, because they are so busy trying to stay afloat. Of course, they are not being lazy or a procrastinator – in fact, they are working incredibly hard. They are juggling an enormous amount and sometimes their body just says, “Stop!” Sometimes a heavy emotional load, like grief, on top of busyness brings them to a complete and utter standstill.

The role of resilience coaching

This is where I, a resilience coach, can come in to help. Together, we identify the stressors in your life, then we make plans around how to lessen them or eradicate them, and finally, we focus on your goals for rest, relaxation, health and long-term well-being. This leads to a much happier, more satisfying and more content kind of lifestyle. Resilience gives you the ability to work through tough times to remain positive, healthy, balanced and energetic. 

5 tips to reduce stress

When it comes to reducing stress, here are five helpful tips that I’ve gathered over the years:

1. Stop making endless lists

“But, Kate,” I hear you cry, “I need to stay organised and I like the feeling of ticking the jobs off. I could never live without my lists.” I hear you! The problem is this – your lists never end. As soon as you tick one item off, you add three more, then another three. Be honest, I’m right, aren’t I? It’s very rare that you actually get to feel what it’s like to finish all the chores on a list.

We all tend to write far too many things on them. We also tend to overestimate what we can achieve in a single day. In the morning you might feel like, “Okay, I can manage this today.” But by the end of the day you are running around, trying to cram everything in and you are nowhere near done. As a result, you might end up going to bed far too late. The daily uncompleted tasks on your lists become something else to beat yourself up about. So, stop writing lists. The world will not fall apart and you will feel a lot better about yourself. Your lists are just yourparent voice telling off your child self for not having completed more than a person can realistically do in a day.

2. Stop doom scrolling

In an attempt to feel better, many stressed-out people get over-involved with their social media accounts. They start fighting some good, perceived fight going on elsewhere. It becomes an unhealthy coping mechanism. Social media is designed to be addictive and to give you small hits of dopamine, e.g. with the likes, shares and comments. But small hits of dopamine are not nearly the same as long-term satisfaction or deeper level happiness.

In fact, social media can increase our stress levels, waste hours of our time and for some people, becomes compulsive. It can affect our mood and tolerance levels. It can even inhibit our relationships. So start to reduce your screen time and instead foster healthy relationships with your friends and family, e.g. text a friend and arrange to meet them for a chat, call your mum or go and play with your kids in the park. Working with a coach can help you figure out exactly how to reduce your social media use if you think you are already addicted.

3. Prioritise your well-being

So many people today put their own health and well-being far too far down the list in their order of priorities. Think about what you have got planned for today. Is there any space for fun, laughter or relaxation – or is it just work, chores and tasks? And what about for tomorrow? Is it just the same? What if you were to actually schedule in time for your emotional health first? Instead of making the jobs and chores revolve around your ‘you time,’ make your ‘you time’ front and centre. So for example, schedule yoga or meditation into your calendar, book yourself in for a countryside walk with your spouse, meet your friends for a relaxed meal or reserve an hour to read your favourite magazine.

You may find that if you do not write these in your diary, they will never happen. So insert them at the start of the month instead of trying to fit them in around the edges. It is the same with your hobbies. What do you love to do – art, reading, cooking, gardening, city breaks, kayaking? Have you been neglecting your passions? How can you, once again, intentionally prioritise making time for them? Life should not just be work, work, work, responsibility, responsibility, responsibility.

4. Stop giving away your energy

Are you one of those people who has never learned the art of saying, “No!” Do you find yourself agreeing to help others and not leaving enough time for your own needs and wants? I understand it. You want to be seen as kind and helpful towards others, but this should not come at the detriment of your own emotional health.

If your day is already stretched with work, chores, childcare and elder care, then you simply may not be someone who can realistically take on overtime, volunteering or helping out needy friends right now. One day, you might have time for that again, but not right now. We are all only human after all. Our physical, mental and emotional energy is only finite. We have to keep some reserves of energy in order to do the basics. So if you are constantly taking on too much, speak to your coach about how to set boundaries, how to notice when you are taking on too much and how to get comfortable with saying, “No!”

5. Stop over-exercising

I know, I know, you think loads of exercise is good for you. Do not get me wrong, I know exercise is good for us. The NHS recommends we do at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity per week and I could not agree more. But some stressed-out people are doing way more than this or feeling guilty when they do not keep up with some crazy, hectic schedule. They keep entering themselves into half-marathons or marathons, with intensive training regimes, causing their cortisol levels to remain sky-high. So instead of relaxing at the weekends, they are out there, doing their long run, thinking it is good for them. And then there are the intense gym bunnies – pushing their bodies and heart muscles to the absolute limit.

These short bursts of extreme, intensive exercise can negatively add to our already high stress levels. It actually takes a complete mind shift to realise that you can be a bit softer and kinder to yourself with your exercise practice. Try just going for a walk with a loved one, installing a standing desk, doing some gardening in the sunshine, enjoying a relaxed swim or playing some ping pong in the park. For sure, you will not get yourself another medal to add to the marathon medal haul, but I bet you will have more fun, laughter and contentment in your life.

A secret

Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I did not just learn these tips from working with my coaching clients. I learned them through my own life experience. I, myself, am a reformed list maker, doom scroller, well-being ignorer, “yes” person and half-marathon runner. I have turned these behaviours right around and now I sleep better, have time for myself, feel content, have more energy, live a calm and more peaceful life, am a nicer person to be around and successfully avoid stress most of the time. I go for enjoyable, daily, countryside walks, grow my own food, cook from scratch, enjoy time with friends and family, do art in my spare time and have given up an overly busy, intensive career to retrain as a coach.

Now my passion is helping others rebalance their life. So, if you recognise some behaviours which are not serving you well, if you are currently suffering from stress and overwhelm and would like my coaching support, please do not hesitate to contact me via my Life Coach Directory profile.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8
Written by Kate Schermbrucker, Divorce & Breakup Coach | ICF ACC | EMCC | Dip. Coaching
Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8

Kate Schermbrucker is a resilience coach for people with stress and overwhelm or confidence issues. She is an ICF (ACC) certified coach with an accredited diploma in transformative coaching. She works 1:1 online with clients in the UK and abroad.

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