Episode 7: Stress and Mental Fitness
The need to manage stress is universal and a frequent coaching topic. Stress comes in many forms: physical stress from injury or illness, emotional stress in the form of grief after a loss, overwhelm from juggling many things, and stress from how we perceive our situation.
Consider this thought experiment from Michael Neill. Imagine you’re walking along a deserted street and find a $100 bill lying on the ground. What would the money mean to you?
Now take the same situation, but imagine you live in poverty. What would the money mean to you in that scenario?
Finally, same situation, but you’re a multi-millionaire. Now what would the money mean to you?
The circumstances of our lives, our workload, the challenging customer, our lot in life, can be viewed from a variety of perspectives. For example, what will be important about these 5 – 10 years from now? Is your response to this situation aligned with what is most important to you? Is this situation worth all the negative emotion we wrap around it?
Why do we get so stressed?
Our brains are hard wired to focus on the negative to keep us alive and out of danger. Imagine we’re out on the Serengeti, enjoying the sunshine and watching elephants at the watering hole. We see the tall grasses moving nearby. Maybe it’s just the wind, or maybe it’s a tiger. If we take the time to figure it out, we could become that tiger’s next meal. To protect us, our brains are conditioned to see the worst-case scenario first, so we get off our butts and run! There’s no time for reasoning and creativity, so our brains tend to shut down those functions under stress.
The brain is diligent. Every time it spots a danger, whether that’s a crazy driver, a callous remark, a tight deadline, or a scary news story, the fight, flight, or freeze stress response kicks in and the stress hormone cortisol is released. This causes us to operate on impulse, so we can dodge the threat.
It takes time for the brain to come back to that place where we can be more creative problem-solvers. If perceived threats are spaced out, we have time to recover in between. If they aren’t, like during a pandemic or a crisis at work or at home, our cortisol and stress levels remain high.
How to Manage Stress
Most of the challenges we face don’t require that rush of stress hormones. As we build our mental fitness, we can avoid the stress response more often and recover faster from the most challenging situations. The mental fitness training programs Wendy and I offer provide a proven, reliable method to build mental fitness. Here are some steps you can start taking right now.
When you feel yourself getting stressed, take a moment to take 3 slow deep breaths. This starts to quiet the stress response.
Using your saboteur-interceptor muscle, talk to the Judge saboteur saying “Thanks for the warning, Judge, but I’ve got this. You can show yourself to the door now.”
Take a few minutes to exercise your self-command muscle by focusing on one physical sensation and letting go of your thoughts as they arise. This helps us center so we have easier access to use the sage muscle. See video below to experience this.
Once we are centered, we can tap into the sage perspective by asking, how could this situation be turned into a gift or opportunity? What could I learn? What strength could I develop? What inspiration can I take from this?
It might seem like this all takes too long in the heat of the moment, but with practice, you’ll find you can do it quickly.
I’ve seen this work in my collaboration with professionals in Santa Fe to provide an integrated wellness program. The Judge saboteur got very worried about how to handle confidentiality. I took a few deep breaths, sent the Judge to the door, and then took a few more deep breaths. My Sage saw the opportunity to expand my knowledge of ethics and integrated practices. The more we spoke the more the sage strength of curiosity came to life. Now I’m excited to understand how HIPPA forms and coaching contracts can be used together to protect client confidentiality and maximize client outcomes.
My regular mental fitness practice helps me with a huge variety of stressful situations. With regular mental fitness practice, you build muscles. The changes to your brain are visible on fMRI machines. I provide a 6-week Positive Intelligence program that has helped my clients develop the habit of exercising these muscles and building it into their routine. As a result, they are start catching triggers sooner and sooner, and recovering to peace and centeredness faster and faster.
If you’d like to explore whether this would be useful for you, you can book a consultation, text me at 224-388-1090, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can schedule a complementary conversation.