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Turn around your Stress - From Stress to a Streamlined Life - Part II

By Edward D. Goodman, Ph.D.
Life Coach [See Profile on the "Coaches" tab on this web site.] Turn around your Stress - From Stress to a Streamlined Life: Part II

In the first article of this series, we discussed several problems that high levels of chronic stress create in our lives and briefly mentioned five steps that we can take to reduce stress.

All of the steps in the first article do relieve stress and empower optimum performance and life satisfaction. Yet we want to focus more closely on the first step, because it contains a powerful key. When you understand this key, you can not only reduce stress, but also transform "problems" into "challenges" - challenges that, when mastered, release positive energy, trigger effective actions and yield immense satisfaction.

We can summarize Step 1:

To set the stage for how we create stress in our lives we quoted the Greek philosopher, Epictetus (55 AD) as saying, "Men [human beings] are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things."

A more modern way of interpreting Epictetus is to say, "Our reactions to events in reality are determined by our expectations, beliefs and self-talk regarding those events." That is, it is our beliefs and thinking that about events that causes our feelings of stress, not the events themselves.

Many successful people have learned the key. They know how to not only "...'cope with stress,' or 'manage' stress, but also to thrive on what others perceive as stress. What seems stressful to others they see as exciting opportunities to be addressed with a feeling of competence. They enjoy the challenge."

The Key:

"Understand that it is our own beliefs and thinking about events in reality that determine our responses."

Some, who read the Key would nod, smile and move right along, continuing to use and benefit from it. They are the lucky few.

Good for the lucky few, but what does it have to do with my ability to "... thrive on what others perceive as stress?"

We can answer that with an example:

A person, let's say Pat, is a member of a large organization and is called upon to give a speech to the group. It is an excellent opportunity.

But, during the week before the speech, Pat panics about giving an inadequate speech. During that week, Pat's self-talk sounded something like this, "I'm not good at this. My mind will be a blank. My hands will shake and my voice will quaver. Everyone will see how nervous I am. My speech will be really bad. I'll probably get fired because of this."

At the end of the week, Pat gave the speech. It was, of course, a disaster.

Let's rewind to before the speech and give Pat a second chance. Assume that Pat was concerned about getting better at public speaking and began working with a skillful Life Coach. The Life Coach could have done several things to help Pat give a good speech. The coach might have chosen interventions such as:

The Life Coach would have probably also suggested practicing some specific speaking skills such as establishing eye contact and rapport with the audience, as well as including humor in the talk.

Given this coaching help, what might Pat do differently the second time around?

In the second scenario, during the week before the speech, Pat follows the coach's directions and does many positive, mental rehearsals. And just before the speech, Pat does a quick, vivid mental rehearsal of giving a good speech. This time, Pat's self-talk sounds like this, "I've talked about this topic many times with my colleagues at lunch and in small groups. I have plenty of ideas and I know how to talk about them. People have always responded well when I've talked about this topic, especially when I throw in a little humor and make good eye contact. This is a really good opportunity to get these ideas across, and that can help a lot of people in this organization. I'm going for it!"

Pat did, indeed, give a good speech this time around. It was well received and stimulated the discussion of many productive ideas during the question and answer session following the speech. Pat felt a sense of great accomplishment. It felt good to transform a "problem" into a "challenge" and to master the challenge.

How did the coach help?

The Life Coach helped change Pat's expectations, beliefs, and self-talk about the speaking opportunity. Notice that the change in Pat's response was not just from feeling stress to a neutral state, but from feeling stress to a positive, resourceful state. This, along with encouragement and accountable practice helped Pat thrive in a situation that otherwise could have led to failure. Pat made a turnaround from stress to success.

But the influence of Pat's initial coaching sessions does not stop at the end of the first successful speech.

Pat now has the Key: The knowledge of how to change beliefs and self-talk is available to Pat for a lifetime. And Pat is free to apply the Key to many other kinds of challenges.

How many successes could that lead to?

How much might these successes improve Pat's self-confidence?

How much value might Pat actualize over several years of continually improving performance?

Each of us confronts scenarios similar to those Pat faced many times in our lives. And we can change our expectations, beliefs and self-talk so that we can thrive on what others perceive as stress. Many such small victories build upon one another to create pinnacles of success.

To paraphrase the great philosopher and "Life Coach," Epictetus, "Human beings are empowered, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things."

I believe that we all do have the ability to turn stress around and live streamlined lives, and that when we do, life can be an exciting adventure!

Edward D. Goodman, Ph.D.
Life Coach

Reference for this article:
The Epictetus [Greek (Phrygian) philosopher, (55 - 135 AD)] quote is from The Enchiridion (c. 135 AD), as translated by Elizabeth Carter from the writings of Epictetus' student, Arrian.

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