IMG_8371We all know about the negative effects of stress on our physical and emotional well-being such as high blood pressure, poor sleep and reactionary mood swings. If you Google ‘stress management’ you’ll find many theories and techniques to alleviate stress such as:

  • The AAA Model – Alter it, Avoid it, Accept it
  • The STOP Method – Stop, Take 3 breaths, Observe what is happening, Proceed with new awareness
  • The S.O.S. Technique – Situational Change, Optimal Self-Care, Support System

And of course, the classic recommendation of Meditation, which, although good advice to be sure, requires a mental acuity and emotional stability that might not be accessible once stress has set in. But this column isn’t about how to control stress, instead we are going to take a more collaborative approach.

Is it possible to see stress, not as an evil entity that interferes with the ‘normal’ process of life, but to understand it as a ‘normal’ and useful part of life? This idea, like so many radical ideas before it, came to me during a mammogram when I asked the technician why the breast had to be constricted so firmly. She explained that the key to an effective mammogram is compression which isolates the breast and equalizes the density of the tissue — allowing for a clearer image and less radiation.

When applying the mammogram metaphor to life, we can see how in the midst of emotional compression (aka: stress), our body releases hormones that:

  • Help us focus on the issue at hand,
  • More efficiently mobilizes our energy,
  • Intensifies our emotions which increases our ability to take in and remember information, and
  • Provides clarity regarding an appropriate solution.

Genetically, the human body was designed to handle and benefit from a certain amount of stress. Of course, evolutionarily speaking, stress management was a little less complicated when our needs were restricted to survival and our response options were limited to fight or flight. Nowadays, our endless options and freedom of choice make life a lot more complicated, stressors much more varied, and frustration and angst seem continual. Although our physiological instincts still push for the quickest way to resolve the stress, our highly developed intellectual brains are inclined to worry about and dwell over the stressor.

IMG_0336I guess the lesson here is to understand that stress in and of itself is not the enemy, at least it shouldn’t launch a long-term campaign that drains you of all of your energy and resources. Maybe the next time you find yourself feeling pressure from all sides, try engaging the mammogram model… Get in, squeeze out the relevant information, and disengage… and if this requires you to bare a breast or two (metaphorically speaking of course) then be willing to examine the situation (be sure to look beneath the surface) and trust your instincts to fight or take flight. A lot of good can come from stress, you just have to remember to stop for a moment so you can get a clear picture.

If you’d like some guidance in getting beneath the surface of your stress, contact me for a complimentary 30-min discovery session via phone or skype.


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Follow this link to read past columns of The Coach’s Alphabet including: Accountability Balance, Choice, Discovery, Energy,  Fun, Grace, Humor, Integrity, Joy, Knowing, Love,  Meaning, Nourish, Opportunity, Passion, Quality & Recognition.

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