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Management Blog

Stress October 2016

Getting Curious about Stress By Laura Borland

I’m pretty sure that you’ve experienced stress at some point in your life. Maybe it is something that you are feeling right now. You are not alone. It’s something most of us feel in varying degrees and frequencies. Some of us seem to experience it more than others and some of us seem to deal with it more easily than others. The message we’re given is that it’s something to combat, and it is, according to what we are told, most definitely caused by things that happen to us. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of stress states that it’s ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.’ Now, if this is true it means that we have to control our external world from these ‘adverse and demanding circumstances.’ Is it just me or does that seem like really hard work? And, if it is true that we have to control ourselves from these ‘adverse and demanding circumstances’, does this mean that when I am stressed that I am somehow failing to do that? If you are feeling stressed right now please don’t interpret this as me telling you that you’re wrong. Feeling stressed can suck the joy and ease out of our worlds. That’s no fun for any of us. I am just inviting you to get curious about it. So, what if things are not quite as they seem? What if there was a different way to view stress? A way that put you back in the driving seat which meant that you didn’t have to control these ‘adverse and demanding circumstances’? Hmmm that feels like it has more possibilities and hope don't you think? When we see life differently, we live life differently. Take the time to read that sentence again. Slowly. When we see life differently, we live life differently. Let me give you an example. You are having a conversation with a colleague about something that is not going well on a project. When you feel relaxed you are able to have the conversation, and perhaps get some insights into other things that you could do to create a different result. On a different day, when you are experiencing feelings of stress it could feel like it is ‘the last thing you need’ or ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Therefore, your response is totally different. Same conversation, different mindset totally different experience. Taking action from feelings of stress doesn’t produce positive outcomes for anyone.

© Hill Group 2016

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People who like to control often attempt to control their external worlds i.e. other people and events. That in itself is futile and exhausting and rarely brings the outcomes we hope for. Now sometimes we have practiced a way of being for such a long time that we don’t even experience the thought just the feeling, and that can often be the feeling that we describe as ‘stress’. Here’s what I know from my experience of years of coaching people in business. The only thing that we can control is ourselves, and our response to what is going on. When we know we have the power on the inside to respond to what occurs in our worlds that takes us into a totally different game. An inside-out game, as opposed to an outside-in game. Use this link to listen to Dr. Aaron Turner of One Thought talk about stress. There’s a couple of important caveats to mention here. 1.

Even when we realise that it is our response to what is going that’s creating stress in us it doesn’t always mean that it instantly disappears.


Experiencing feelings of stress doesn’t say anything about us as individuals, and that is where we often get tricked. We think that these feelings are telling us something about ourselves, our capacities, our strength and our situation. Go down that road and it looks like we have something to fix and solve. When we attempt to fix and solve things we often solidify them and make them worse. Why? Because whatever we give focus and attention to we grow and make bigger in our worlds.

So am I writing you this article from a space of being beyond stress? No. I still get tricked and experience feelings of stress from time to time, but these days I know they are just thoughts creating feelings in me and that they will pass. I know that I do not have to fix anything. It is not about fixing them, it is about being able to be with these uncomfortable feelings when they arise, knowing that they will pass if you do not give them constant focus and attention. So here are some tips for what to do when you notice that you are feeling stressed. Stop. Often we experience feelings of stress because we’re resisting what is happening. We have expectations that the present moment should be something other than how it is. When you are experiencing feelings of stress stop. Take a moment. Feeling stressed and keeping taking action is a bit like drunk driving, with our feelings of stress being in the driving seat. It is a terrible idea. You are never going to do your best work or have your best conversation from that space. You know yourself that when you take action from a space of feeling stressed that you feel much more reactive and that can have a negative impact on people around you. Acknowledge your feelings and just stop. What you cannot see you cannot change. Breathe. When we are experiencing feelings of stress we tend to have more shallow breathing. So pause and take at least 3 long, slow deep breaths from your belly, not from your chest. Bring yourself back into the present moment. Feeling stressed tends to make us ‘catastrophise’ about the future. So bring yourself back into the present moment. If you’re not sure how to do this then check out this link on mindfulness.

© Hill Group 2016

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In the present moment there is only what is actually happening. Everything else you are making up. Which means that you lose your only point of power - here and now. Be kind to yourself. Judging yourself just makes you feel worse. It is what it is. It will pass. Talk to someone that you trust. Internalising things can make things seem more real as we go round and round in our minds. Ask someone you trust to listen to you. Just to listen, not to solve it for you. Remember once you see something differently you can begin to make different choices. It’s just what happens. Ask questions. Get curious. What's the fear that's behind your feelings of stress? What are you afraid of? What's threatening you? Having a conversation? Saying no? Upsetting someone? When you see what the fear is then it can help dissolve the feelings of stress. Remember, when we see life differently we live differently. If there really is a different approach to stress, then that would be a great wouldn’t it? Well how will you know unless you try something different? Doing what you always do will keep you getting the same outcomes and feelings. Let me leave you with a couple of things. Viktor Frankl, the remarkable man who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”. If he could do it in his circumstances then that’s inspiration for us all. And Michael Neill’s talk The end to stress is worth watching.

Resources for diving deeper • • • • • • •

Role of Manager 14 November (1 day) Negotiation skills 15 November (1 day) Difficult conversations (half day experiential) 21 November Meeting skills (half day experiential) 21 November Introduction to coaching (90 mins) 1 December Delegation (90 mins) 1 December Team work (90 mins) 1 December

To attend any of the above sessions please complete a training request form (HRM60). And if you would like to connect with me to explore virtual coaching then I would love to hear from you. You can contact me at

© Hill Group 2016

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MDTK Blog Oct 2016 Stress