Now it is time to start learning about specific stress management strategies. The more you can learn about stress management techniques the more options you have for plans. In this section we will cover some of the most basic things that you can do to help your client relieve stress right now. This article will cover some easy strategies that will set the groundwork for a body and mind that can handle the stresses of life.
How Does Sleep Help You Manage Stress?
One of the most important things to do regular basis to build a stress provider is to get enough sleep on a regular basis. It is estimated that nearly 50% of adults report that for a few days each month, they are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with their daily activities and one out of five, or 20%, adults experience a significant level of daytime sleepiness at least a few days or more per week.
If your client needs more convincing that sleep deprivation interferes with life, consider these results from the national sleep foundation:
- Over half of the American workforce reports that sleeplessness on the job interferes with the amount of work. Learn about stress and corporate wellness coaching careers.
- 47% of adults about the quality of the work suffers when they’re sleeping at least 2/3 of adults) 60%) say that sleepiness interferes with a concentration
- 68% say sleeplessness makes handling stress on the job more difficult.
- Nearly one out of five adults (19%) report making occasional or frequent work errors due to sleepiness.
- Overall, employees estimate that the quality and quantity of their work is diminished by about 30% when they’re sleep deprived.
- More than 2/3 (60%) shift workers reported experiencing problems sleeping
Furthermore, over 30% of American drivers that they have fallen asleep at the wheel at least once. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 100,000 traffic accidents and 1500 traffic related fatalities are caused by a driver falling asleep at the wheel. Stress management and sleep science coaching go hand-and-hand.
The numbers are even more frightening for the younger generation, Or those between the ages of 18 and 29. According to some research done in this area, over 50% of young adults surveyed said that they woke up feeling “unrefreshed” and 33% suffer from significant daytime sleepiness, a percentage slightly higher than that of notoriously sleepy shift workers. Here are some simple strategies to enhance sleep naturally.
Many young people report staying awake too late to watch television or use the Internet and 53% admit to sleeping less in order to accomplish more. Young adults also suffer aggravated on-the-job stress when sleep deprived:
- Over 35% of people 18 to 29 years old reported having difficulty getting up for work
- Nearly 25% adults reported being late to work due to sleeping in
- 45% of younger adults or sleepy at work at least two or more days a week
- 60% of young adult drivers report having driven while drowsy in the past year and 24% report having fallen asleep at the wheel.Sleep deprivation has a specific and dramatic fact in the body.
The average adult requires eight hours of sleep per night, most people know that. Sometimes it can climb to nine or more hours. If our client does not get enough sleep you can assume they may experience the following:
Unfortunately, sleep disorders often disturb sleep even when we go to bed on time. The main sleep disorders of note include insomnia, snoring, sleep apnea, sleep walking (and talking) as well as restless leg syndrome (RLS).
Also, being jet-lagged or working a night shift usually causes sleep disturbances. Making sure that our client gets enough sleep may require a 2-prong approach:
- Make more time for sleep
- Treat the sleep disorder that is present
However, if your client does not have a sleep disorder but simply needs to make time for sleep, or if they have plenty of time to sleep but have a sleep disorder, they obviously require only a single approach. In either case, if your client isn’t getting enough sleep, they are increasing their stress, compromising their health, and probably operating well below their potential.
Whichever their situation, the following stress management strategies will have them sleeping better quickly.
Sleep as a Stress Management Tool
If your client can commit to getting a good night’s sleep it will help them with their stress management goals. Here are some tips to get clients on the path to the quality sleep they need each night.
1. Figure out why they aren’t getting enough sleep and have them commit to changing their routine. Where are they wasting time during the day? How could they arrange their schedule to get some things done earlier, or how about an earlier bedtime? How can they rearrange their schedule to allow for a later wake up time? If they are staying up late to watch TV or surf the Internet, try skipping this form of media participation for a few days to see how the extra sleep changes their mood and energy level.
2. Create a bedtime ritual. Just as we create a sleep routine for children, the technique used should also be applied for the grownups in the house too. Your client’s routine could include a series of steps that are conducive to relaxation – for example, a bath or shower, and perhaps a few minutes of deep breathing or other relaxation technique, a cup of herbal tea, a good book (instead of the television or computer), or writing in their journal. Then, it should be lights out.
3. Encourage your client to try it to avoid getting into the habit of falling asleep in front of the TV. Once a client is in this habit or pattern, falling asleep without the TV will probably take longer, and they may not sleep as well. If this happens, try coaching the client to do some relaxation techniques.
4. Coach your client to abstain from drinking or eating anything with caffeine after lunchtime if they are having problems getting to sleep. That includes coffee, tea, cola and many other sodas; stimulants designed to keep you awake are also off-limits after lunch for clients with sleep issues, including cocoa and hot chocolate.
5. Encourage your client to eat a healthy, light, low-fat, low carbohydrate dinner. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of refined grains and low-fat proteins like fish, chicken, beans and tofu can help our client be in a calmer, more balanced state when it’s time for bed. Have clients avoid high-fat, overly processed foods in the evening.
6. Suggest later dinners. Late, large dinners can be upsetting to your client’s digestive system; for a peaceful night sleep, suggest making dinner their latest meal.
7. For an evening snack, try suggesting client eat foods high in tryptophan, an amino acid that encourages the body to produce serotonin. This potent chemical helps regulate sleep. Serotonin also regulates your moods, helping us to feel good. Foods high in tryptophan include milk, turkey, and peanut butter.
A client with sleep issues should be coached to abstain from alcohol in the evenings, as well. How many people have a drink thinking that will help them to sleep? Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, making sleep less restful. It is also believed to increase the likelihood of sleep apnea occurring.
Make sure clients are aware of the need to get enough exercise during the day. A well-exercised body will fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and sleep more productively.
If your client is still having problems sleeping, encourage them to talk to their physician about it. Studies show that two-thirds of Americans have never been asked by their doctors how well they sleep but 80% have never brought up the subject with the doctors, either. Have your client share with their doctor any concerns about their sleep problems.
How Does Hydration Affect Stress Levels?
Sometimes, one of the most helpful things that we can do for our body feeling anxious is to simply have a drink of water. Human bodies are about two thirds water, but many people are mildly dehydrated and don’t even know it. Dehydration – or underhydration – is a factor when our client is 3% to 5% below their body weight due to fluid loss for sweat. This can also come from either an illness, as result of food poisoning or drinking too much alcohol.
When our client is going through the day without enough water in their body, they will be at elevated risk to experience stress and there will be less of the body’s resources to handle stress if water is lacking. Generally, we want our client to maintain an awareness for:
- Dry mouth
- Dark urine
- An inability to concentrate
One reason people tend to be under-hydrated is that caffeinated beverages have become popular and widely available. While your client may feel their thirst is being quenched, caffeine is acting as a diuretic to flush water from their system. The other reason for dehydration is simple. Most people struggle to really drink enough water. While water used to be the mean practical drink of choice for most people, today it is much easier to get a can or bottle of soda, a sugary fruit drink or a cup of coffee or tea.
But water can offer our body many benefits, not the least of which is a strong defense against stress. If your client is under-hydrated, their body can’t harness its energy for the cause of stress management because it’s too busy trying to compensate for its lack of water.
So, drinking more water turns out to be one of the easiest changes that your client can help manage their stress. With a well hydrated body, your client will feel better in their skin look better, they will have more energy – so we want to encourage our clients to drink lots of water. This may be one of the easier behavior change efforts you start out with a new client.
Like anything else, drinking water is a habit. Your client doesn’t get into this habit, they will drink water for a few days then go back to five cans of soda per day or whatever they are used to consuming.
Here are some tips to get your client into this health habits:
- If your client really doesn’t like the taste of plain water, try a few brands of bottled water with minerals added. Minerals give bottled water more flavor. Or, add a wedge of lemon, lime or orange to the water. If your client just has to have carbonation, try club soda instead of soda period but plain, still water is preferred.
- Ideally, your client should drink 64 ounces roughly rate cups of water each day. This of course depends on their weight. That may sound like a lot, but if your client can space intake throughout the day, it’s a lot more tolerable. Encourage clients to have 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning and again at lunch. This should be repeated for each main meal. Have clients add another 16 ounces or more if they have been sweating we’re getting a lot of exercise.
- Some of us busy professionals – including your client – become so removed from her natural sensations of hunger that we often mistake thirst for hunger and eat when all one really needs is a tall cool glass of water. A glass of water before each meal and whenever hunger sets in could easily satisfy our body’s need for water and help to curb an excessive eating habit
Bad habits can be irritating to both us or others but they can also be stressful. Many bad habits undermine physical health, emotional well-being, as well as mental acuity. To help clients to begin building a body capable of managing the stresses that life necessarily entails, help clients to control over their bad habits.
Habits become stressful three different ways.
- Direct: Many habits have a direct negative effect on the body. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol and taking certain drugs (legal and illegal) can introduce toxic or harmful substances into the body that compromise the body’s ability to function properly, lead to addiction and even encourage disease processes. Habits can also directly impact our emotional or mental functioning. Becoming intoxicated, overly distracted or otherwise impaired can make one more prone to accidents, behavior control and just plain old sloppy mistakes. When our body or mind are directly affected in any negative way by a bad habit, stress levels will increase.
- Indirect: Habits also have an indirect effect on our stress levels. Knowing that we drink too much, stay up too late or eat too much the night before can add to our frustration or our low self-esteem in our work life the next morning. Maybe someone will comment on ragged nails and make us feel embarrassed and angry at ourselves. Later, we might snap at a family member because we feel bad about our lack of control. Habits can make us feel helpless when they control us, causing stress because we worry about our lack of self-control, the effects our habit may have on others and the negative health effects of whatever they habit may be.
- Combinations: Some habits can have both direct and indirect negative effects. It is probably most accurate to say that a majority of bad habits fall into this category. After all, anything that affects us negatively – and that we could have controlled but did not – will tend to undermine our emotional state and/or self-esteem, leading to related stress. Compulsive overeating, for example is dangerous to the body because the body isn’t designed to taking huge amounts of food all at one time. But it can also create emotional states such as frustration, depression and anxiety. Even less dramatic bad habits, like habitual messiness, can have a combined effect. If your client never can keep things clean and organized, for example, they may suffer frustration over never being able to find things, financial loss because of disorganization and of course, low self-esteem that stems from a belief that everyone else is able to keep things orderly but your client feels a bit of self-shame because they cannot master this good habit quite yet.
Obviously, some habits are good. If your client always cleans up their own messes, has a habit of being polite or is already devoted to their daily bowl of fresh salad, they probably already know that these habits are good and should be kept. Coaches use positive reinforcements to affirm these good habits in their client when they are revealed.
Other habits or neutral in nature. For example, your client might always eat a favorite cereal, or they may prefer a certain gas station or they may have a habit of humming while they wash the dishes. If it doesn’t bother anybody it is not a problem.
But other habits are not good for our client. What makes habit bad? A bad habit is a habit that makes you feel less healthy or less happy. Even if you feel good while indulging in a habit, our client probably knows it’s just a temporary high, like when you go to the mall and spent $400 on something you don’t really need. You get an initial rush, but as soon as you get home and put everything away, a bit of guilt begins to set in– as well as regret or even anger at yourself for not exercising proper restraint. Any good steps a client makes toward building their self-esteem are quickly and easily undermined by the expression of a seemingly benign bad habit. The fact that the bad habit was controlling our client (rather than the other way around) is a very important coachable moment. Use awareness and reflection in this scenario when it is present.
If your client feels that their habits are controlling them, then they should consider the habit in question to be potentially bad. Once they have determined that they do have bad habits, the next step is to identify the habit and make sure that your client understands, logically, why it is indeed a bad habit. Once they have recognized and admitted their habit is less than ideal, you can then begin to work with the client on getting control over it with them. Now we will look at some common bad habits and the ways that they can cause our client additional stress. Your client may recognize some of these.
Personal habits are those things that we do that probably drives someone else crazy or that you never do in front of people because you know it would probably drive them nuts. Personal habits include nail biting, hair twirling, knuckle cracking, spitting, whining, habitual coughing, or throat clearing, habitual cursing and gum snapping. Our client can probably think of others – but a bad personal habit is worth getting rid of it annoys the client, annoys people around them or makes them feel bad about themselves.
Drugs can be important tools for maintaining or regaining health. When used for purposes other than for correcting a health problem, however, drugs can cause imbalances in the body that contribute to health problems. There are people who use legal drugs, which include alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and prescription drugs. And then there are people who use these legal drugs illegally. Then there are the illicit/illegal drugs, and people use illegal drugs because these drugs make them feel good, increase their energy, or have a calming effect.
Some substances (legal) used occasionally in moderation probably aren’t harmful for some people, but other drugs– especially “hard” drugs such as cocaine and heroin– can be very harmful to the body, obviously. A glass of wine with dinner is probably fine for someone who isn’t addicted to alcohol, isn’t prone to alcohol addiction and really enjoys it. For example, one marijuana cigarette could be dangerous to somebody with asthma and can easily have an immediate short-term stressful physical effect on anyone when abused (which ironically is the opposite of the desired effect). Illegal drugs pose multiple risks for a healthy client, the least of which is the potential for getting in trouble with the law. If you want to talk stressful, consider a jail term.
But any substance that artificially alters our mental state taken too often – or in large amounts – will adversely keep your client from dealing with their stress and, at worst, will add significantly to your client’s stress. Although it is legal, few would dispute the dangers of overconsuming alcohol. Sure, it is easier when we feel stressed or when one does not like their life the way it is, to use drugs to help distract ourselves – or to help forget about the things that are too heavy for us to process. But helping clients work to improve the way they process or view life by helping them manage their stress is a lot more productive in the long-term. If your client uses mind-altering substance to avoid the issues in their life, it’s time to rethink this distractive habit. This may also necessitate a referral to a qualified professional.
Eating too much weighs down our body and makes us feel sluggish. Overeating keeps our digestive system working overtime and can disturb our quality of sleep. Eating too many simple sugars raises insulin levels and promotes binging, which perpetuates the cycle of overheating. Eating too much can also lead to being overweight; unfortunately, it is already done so in over half the population of United States.
In some cases, overeating is simply a habit, encouraged by a culture that is obsessed with food. Eating a lot of food that tastes good is enjoyable. Good food is everywhere and doesn’t have to cost too much. Try watching television for an hour and you will see many commercials for mouthwatering food. Plus, when life is stressful, it’s easy to convince yourself that you deserve a candy bar or a slice or two of double pepperoni pizza. Coaches need to approach overeating as a bad habit that needs to be considered worthy of changing.
Working hard can seem to be more of a necessity and for some that’s certainly the case. For others, however overworking is simply a habit. Maybe your client works because the office team has become a surrogate family that they depend upon for your sense of well-being and belonging.
Whatever the case, if your client is in the habit of overworking and their work is impinging on their life, then overworking has become a habit – and in this way, a bad one. Luckily, with some coaching, you can bring your client to a level of awareness with overworking that they can gradually reshape. Have clients journal about work dynamics and elevate their awareness.
Cable television, satellite dishes, premium movie and music stations can be appealing. Some people can’t resist the appeal of watching a DVD on a laptop while curled up in bed or having Netflix streaming on their tablet. If your client has a media habit, they aren’t alone. According to statistics, 98% of American households have at least one television and 40% have three or more TVs. The television is turned on in an American home for an average of seven hours each day and 66% of Americans eat dinner while watching television. 84% of us have at least one device to record digital media or television/movies and together, we give Netflix alone 15 billion dollars of our hard-earned money each year compared to 3 million public library books checked out by comparison. Almost half of Americans admit they watch too much television.
But like anything else, technology and media are fine in moderation. But also, like anything else coming to much of a good thing soon becomes a bad thing.
Consider the daily news. Many people depend on the news to be informed about world events, to hear the next day’s weather and to keep up on local happenings. But obsessive news viewing can result in a preoccupation of events far removed from our lives, anxiety about the state of the world, even depression as a result of focusing too much on all of the bad things that happen. Unfortunately, news often focuses on tragedy. Coach or client to seek balance in their media habits. Help them set boundaries and don’t forget to encourage that Internet surfing/social media posting be kept to a minimum. You could always suggest that a client get up out of their chair or sofa and getting some exercise.
Who doesn’t procrastinate at one point, at least occasionally? If your client can’t get things done on time, no matter how much preparation time they allow, no matter how simple the task, may have a procrastination habit that has become bad. Some procrastination stems from the basic lack of organization, in the home (remember the kitchen sink?), personal life or office. For some, procrastination exists as habit all on its own. It doesn’t matter how organized someone is, they may still have a mental block about getting anywhere or doing anything on time.
Chronic procrastinators sometimes despair that procrastination is just part of their personality and therefore impossible to change. Although as coaches we know that this is not true. Procrastination is in fact a bad habit that can be reshaped just like anything else. I can certainly take some doing, however. While breaking any bad habit is challenging, it certainly is not impossible. But procrastination is a very tough one to correct for some clients. Remember, your client doesn’t have to stop procrastinating everything all at once. Choose areas that they can tackle, like getting to work on time. Maybe paying bills on time could be another area of focus. Have your client retrain themselves to pick up clutter or wash dishes every evening just before bedtime. Any client can learn this behavior change.
- Being late
- Forgetting and other acts of carelessness
- Knuckle cracking
- Five belching and passing gas
- Obsessing over orderliness
- Being unable to make a commitment
- Being a skinflint or cheapskate
- Cigarette smoking
How many of these is your client currently doing? The fact that a bad habit is common doesn’t mean it’s okay. Now let’s look at some tips that coaches can use to help clients to address the first three; the others on this list above are simply acts of carelessness.
- Lying is a habit, not necessarily a character flaw. Some people find themselves bending the truth eventually, even if they don’t have a good reason to do so. Does your client slant situations or the facts so that they are just a little more dramatic? Do they say what you think people want to hear instead of what is really slow? Truth telling is a habit, too, and the best way to start is to always pause to think before something. Have your client as themselves, “What am I about to say here?”. If they find that their answer is something other than what you know they know to be the truth, have them turn their inner-dialogue into another question: “Is there really a good reason to be bending the truth in the first place?”. What would happen if your client simply said what was so? Becoming aware of this habit as they do it will help your client to slowly alter it.
- Why are people chronically late? Are they perpetually disorganized? Do people like the power that comes from making people wait for them? Being late is considered inconsiderate, even rude. It makes our client look bad and sets a bad example for the people who look up to us – such as our children. The best way to handle this disorganization is to tackle problems one time. Tardiness could be your client’s first goal to address if this is the case. Planning is the key here…. have your client try starting to get ready for anything they have to do about an hour ahead of time and encourage the use of checklists to be sure they have everything they will need beforehand.
- “Forgetting” is another act of carelessness, including being late all the time, and it shows a blatant disregard for other people. Your client may have plenty of excuses, they were “running behind”, they have “too much on their plate”, or they “didn’t think”. But these are really only excuses at best. The way that we treat other human beings is a direct reflection on our character but it is also something which we have the most control over. Help your client to take control of their people skills and work on doing something thoughtful for someone every day. Have your client try to imagine themselves as the recipient of their own actions. How would they feel if their friends offered the excuses already stated? As with any habit, creating awareness is the key.
It is inevitable that eventually your client will come to realize that they need to change things to address their stress, however this can be overwhelming. Having some specific strategies can help you coach clients to set goals and work on things with your client one step at a time. Use the following suggestions as guidelines to help your client set goals. Initially you can try one strategy each week and encourage your client to avoid the frustration that will inevitably arise from trying to make changes. Your clients have had these habits for a long time and it may take a while to retrain them – but it is certainly doable and worth it.
Practice the pause. Create an awareness of habits and make sure your client can recognize their habits before they are about to fall into a habitual behavior; then teach them to learn how to pause for just a moment and think. Have them ask themselves these questions: Will this nourish my body? Will it lift my spirits? Or, will I feel guilty about it later? Have your client consider if it is worth the momentarily pleasure? Sometimes we have to explain to clients that leaving things “status quo” is not conducive to managing stress, especially if it is a bad habit. We must consider a change.
Coach your client to avoid having the triggers in their house. For example, if sugar sends your client into a binge, suggest not keeping sweet snacks around; if your client can’t resist shopping, have them keep their credit card somewhere else – but not in their wallet when they are going shopping – or have them leave their credit cards at home. Have your client bring just enough cash to make their purchase and no more. If alcohol is your client’s weakness they should not keep it in their home. If nighttime television is their weakness have them remove the TV out of their bedroom. You can make suggestions, such as leaving it in the kitchen to make cleaning up at the end of their day a bit more interesting, instead.
If your client uses their bad habits to soothe stress, replace this habit with another kind of “treat” that is as just as good or better. Have your client make the treat easily accessible in situations where they know they will be tempted to lapse into their old habits. For example, if your client automatically turns on the television and as soon as they get home from work, have them first take 20 minutes of quiet time instead. Relaxing music, breathing exercises, meditation or even reading a book are good ways to help your client recharge far beyond what a soap opera or talk shows can do for them.
Work your coaching angle to turn your client’s habits into their specialty by becoming a connoisseur. Let food become a genuine pleasure, for example. Focus on quality, not quantity. If your client wants to address food intake habits, encourage small amounts of something really good to savor on occasion and never waste time, energy or health on large amounts of substandard fast-food type meals. The same is true for alcohol. Rather than drinking as much as they can of whatever is available, have your clients settle for only small amounts of the very best cognacs or liqueurs. The same goes for shopping – talk to your client about not buying everything they see. Instead, encourage that they collect something valuable and learn about it. For example, learning about early American ceramics or antiques can resonate with your client if they find something interesting
Now it is time to pull out the stress management journal once again. Use the chart below in your coaching delivery by having your client keep it in their journal once they have listed their habits. Have your client describe what triggers them and then write down each habit that causes them stress. For example, your client might late quote “nail biting” in the first column, “feeling nervous or bored” in the second column” social embarrassment, feeling attractive, annoyance at myself” in the third column (see appendix for this worksheet).
Even if your client is not quite ready to give up a certain habit, have them record their habits in the chart anyway. They can deal with it when they are ready, even if that won’t be anytime soon. At least they will have all their bad habits officially identified in one place.
When your client has filled out the chart and uncovered the bad habits, they think they’re causing them the most stress, you can now strategize with your client to manage their habits one at a time, at a rate that your client can handle.
Another great way to build a healthy body that is best able to combat excessive stress is to make sure that your client isn’t suffering from any basic deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (substances in plants thought to improve health and strengthen the immune system). Not everyone agrees that supplements are important, yet most of us don’t get a chance to eat a completely balance, well-rounded diet every single day. The Stress Management Coach should think of a supplement vitamin as an insurance policy for a client assessed as being in need. This requires that coaches get to know their client(s) on a fairly intimate or deep level, it also requires that we get any relevant information from the client that may be related to their stress management.
Many studies point to an increase in certain vitamins and minerals as helpful for boosting the body’s ability to heal certain maladies. For example, an extra boost of vitamin C and zinc lozenges may help to shorten the length and lessen the severity of a common cold. Many people swear by these remedies. Extra calcium has been shown to lessen the severity of PMS symptoms in women. Some other studies suggest that vitamin C and E – as well as other antioxidants – are beneficial and may protect against certain cancers and heart disease.
Use the Vitamins and Minerals chart as a reference for making suggestions for your client (again, in the Appendix collection of documents).
It is important to first note that the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements so we can never be completely sure the herbs that we are buying are consistent in their ingredients for quality. Therefore, if your client wants to use herbs be aware of the benefits and risks.
Herbalism is an ancient and time-tested art that remains alive and well today. Many people take herbal remedies, from Echinacea for common colds to more complex preparations for every imaginable ailment. A good herbalist may be able to help your client naturally while being an excellent complement to conventional medicine. Again, coaches are cautioned against the practice of diagnosing and treating illness, chronic conditions or disease states.
Although you can buy many herbs at your local pharmacy – or even at the grocery store – herbs are not FDA regulated. Your client’s best bet is to go to an accredited herbalist with a good reputation.
While many prescription medications are made or derived from herbs, herbalists use herbal prescriptions to address the whole person, not just an isolated condition. Herbalists believe that medical treatment should involve the least possible intervention and should strengthen the bodies healing powers.
Like herbalism, homeopathic is holistic, but the remedies, which can be purchased in many health food stores, are so diluted that they are safe for really anybody to use. Homeopathy is considered a holistic healing therapy. Herbs and other natural substances that cause certain symptoms in a healthy person are diluted and shaken and again, resulting in an extremely diluted remedy that supports and encourages the body’s ongoing efforts to work on its own for healing. Homeopathy is based on a few basic principles: a) the symptoms of disease are a sign that the body is healing itself, so symptoms shouldn’t be suppressed; b) that a substance that causes symptoms such as those of a particular disease will, in minute amounts, negate the effects of the disease or condition; and c) that symptoms will clear up in the opposite order for how they appeared.
Because the remedies tend to be very safe, the coach doesn’t really have to understand the whole philosophy behind homeopathy to either try or recommend these remedies. In fact, homeopathy is an exceptionally safe way to deal with health imbalances, although it typically works more slowly than conventional medicine. Many people prefer homeopathy because it is less invasive, has fewer side effects and is generally more holistic than conventional medicine. In addition, homeopathic remedies are typically far less expensive than prescription medications because they contain such minute amounts of the actual substance on which the remedy is based.
Fortifying your client’s body with sleep, water, nutritional supplements, and holistic healthcare can help to put one in a good condition for managing stress. What about the mind, in a hyperactive state, or tense muscles, or the parade of worries that keeps running through our client’s head like a record skipping?
When stress hits, our body begins to experience the effects quickly; knowing how to react to combat these effects before they can do too much damage is a very powerful skill to coach clients toward. This requires knowledge and awareness. Consciously and purposely invoking the relaxation response to meditation involves the four following basic steps, no matter what your meditation technique:
- A quiet environment
- Something to focus on
- A comfortable position
- A passive attitude
For most clients, it seems that the most important of the four – for inducing a relaxed state – is the passive attitude, or not judging oneself in one’s relaxation efforts and not becoming distracted. Having a passive attitude can carry over in many areas of life and can be effectively invoked when a client feels the sense of stress building. People tend to become very stressed out when they are feeling decidedly un-passive about something. It could be a coworker’s condescending comments, disrespectful words from a child, doing something clumsy – like spilling coffee on a computer keyboard – or breaking a valuable/irreplaceable family relic.
When a client feels like the last straw after a stressful day, it can make them feel like imploding. They experience a surge of cortisol and their muscles tense. They’re breathing rate increases as well. A recent study has also suggested that sudden cortisol searches can cause tiny nicks and tears in the blood vessels. This is a physical consequence to stress and it is very direct in nature.
When your client feels a rage coming on, a surge of irritation, a flood of despair, a panic attack or a yelling fit, the coachable opportunity then is to have them consciously adopt a passive attitude. Your client will not be an expert out this at first but they will be able to improve with some practice. This means they might need to stop and meditate, find a quiet place, focus on a mantra, or to get comfortable and into a state conducive to adopting a passive attitude.
If your client has more time to work on relaxation techniques, they will be able to pick from many. Over time, different cultures all over the world have developed their own relaxation techniques. Some involve meditation, some focus on breathing or specific kinds of movement. Some work quickly; others are meant to take time. Some involve more physical effort to relax the mind. Others involve mental effort but a relaxed body. Often these are called “body ways”. If your client can learn about some of them, they will be able to pick the kind of relaxation technique that suits them in any given situation. If your client does not have knowledge of this the Certified Stress Management Coach should intervene; this is a lot like functioning as a mind-body coach for your client. There are many options to explore with bodyways, what works depends on what the client’s obstacles and barriers are. Sometimes this is referred to as “what is blocking the client”. Some of these techniques are designed specifically for relaxation, but relaxation is likely to be an observed and desirable side effect for any method and technique you recommend or use (if properly trained to do so).
The body scan is a popular relaxation technique that involves a mental scanning of the entire body in search of tension and a conscious release of attention. It relies on cues to the client, working on the part we want them to relax. The body scan is a great way to wind down after work or to calm down before or after a stressful event. When practiced every day, it can become a way to maintain attention for total mind-body relaxation for anybody who uses the technique.
Each client will probably do a body scan a different way. Some people like to tense each area of the body and then in turn, fully relax. Others prefer to visualize the release of tension without contracting the muscles first. Your client could even imagine breathing into and out of each body part, exhaling attention one area at a time.
As a coach, you could even make your own body scan audio files for your clients to use. There is a script provided in the appendix materials for this course. When you access this document, try reading the passage out loud and recording it; do not forget to pause after mentioning each body part to give your client time to focus on relaxing and releasing tension.
One of the easiest relaxation techniques is as simple as breathing in and out. In fact, it is simply breathing and out. So many of us are used to shallow breathing, which does not reach the depths of the lungs in the way deep breathing does. A few slow, purposeful, truly deep breaths can stop a stress attack in its tracks. Deep breathing also helps to expel more air from the lungs, which is important for efficient lung function
When told to breathe deeply, people tend to gulp in a large amount of air with a dramatic uprising of the chest. Actually, deep breathing happens much deeper and is diaphragmatic, coming from the stomach and abdomen. This means that these parts should rise and fall, not the chest – and especially not the shoulders. A client who does either of these is probably very physically stressed.
Breathing from deep in the torso is hard to do if your client is not used to doing it. We all used to do it as infants, but as an adult in a high stress world we may have forgotten how. The easiest way to retrain your client to breathe deeply is to begin by lying down flat. Have your client lay flat on their back and put one hand on their abdomen and the other on their chest. Then have them continue by breathing normally. Be conscious of their breathing, but don’t try to manipulate what occurs. As you observe, which hand is moving more, the hand on your chest and on your abdomen?
Next, try to exhale every last bit of breath slowly, making an ”SSS” sound. At the point your client thinks they have exhaled every bit of their breath, have them give their lungs one more push and let out a final “SSS” of air. As the client exhales, have them feel their breathing with one hand on their abdomen, sinking in lower and lower as the breath empties out of the body.
After this deep exhalation phase, have your client naturally take in one deep breath, but don’t try to just simply suck in air. Have your client let their body take it in on its own. As the body refills with air, encourage your client to keep their chest and shoulders still. Cue the client to be conscious of how the hand of the abdomen rises again as breath enters the body.
Next, have the client exhale once again, very slowly and as fully as possible, while keeping one hand on their abdomen to feel their mid-section sinking in with each exhaled breath.
Repeat this with your client for 10 deep breaths. Once your client has mastered the feeling of deep breathing, they can then try it while sitting. Again, the focus will be on the exhalation phase. A good calming breathing exercise used to measure breathing is done by silently counting, making exhalation twice if the inhalation.
For instant relaxation, work with your client on imagery. Imagery is simple and fun, and can help your client who is feeling stressed, anxious, or really any negative stress response. Using imagery means that our client can virtually go on vacation without leaving the coaching space or any environment outside of their own head. Have your client stay still and close their eyes, relaxing, breathing and using their imagination to visualize the place that they would most like to be at that moment.
We typically only use our imagination with childhood and in this way, it is a skill that becomes a little rusty for an adult client. But our imagination is still very much in our head, and even if it has grown a little rusty from disuse. Take a time out to work on imagery and imagination and have your clients use imagery in the service of stress management. Your client might not decide to imagine that they are superhero or something grandiose; something simpler like wandering down a secluded beach at sunset, the balmy tropical winds rippling on the ocean or sitting in front of a warm fire with someone special – could be all of your client wants or desires to visualize and imagine. There are no rules for what it “should” be. Encourage clients to allow themselves time to daydream a little bit each day. They can even consider this personal time and it is their time to recharge when it can be fun and a way to manage the stress that comes up for them to beat back. It is a lot like recharging while going on a vacation or that feeling of being recharged when we return from one.