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How a coaching approach can help in overcoming stress

We all feel stress in our lives and at times stress can be good for us by helping us through difficult situations, allowing us to respond to changes in life and protecting ourselves from harm. However too much stress can be harmful to our health and relationships and we need to be able to identify when stress is impacting our physical and mental health and have support in place to manage it.

So what is stress?

Stress is a feeling of being under abnormal pressure which can come from different areas of our day to day lives.

We can think of stress as a bridge, if a bridge is carrying too much weight then eventually it will collapse as it will not be able to withstand the pressure. We might be able to see some warning signs which might be creaking or cracking. To. prevent collapse we can remove the load or put something underneath to keep the bridge up.

The same principle can be applied to humans, the more pressure, challenges or demands that are placed on us the more likely we will be to start to buckle. There might be some early warning signs but if enough pressure is applied we will collapse and this could be in the form of a breakdown or chronic medical conditions.

We need to think about when we are feeling really stressed, how we can lighten the load, or what it is we can do to support ourselves, I.e. what are our coping mechanism. If we can be better equipped to pick up the early warning signs for ourselves or those around us we can take the action needed to ensure that we don’t get to the place where we collapse.

How can coaching help in managing stress?

There are many benefits to coaching and organisations are increasingly taking a coaching approach to leadership and management. Coaching can help to build self awareness and confidence, improve focus and performance and can enhance personal growth. Coaching will support individuals to take accountability and responsibility and can help to give a difference perspective to challenges that are being faced. Overall coaching allows time and space to empower individuals to come up with different solutions or ways of approaching situations or challenges.

A coach can help individuals to work through the following with an aim to manage stress more effectively:

Recognising when stress is causing a problem - understanding the signs of symptoms of stress and connecting these to situations or certain experiences is the first step in being able to mitigate the impact of stress. Coaching can help to identify the impact that stress might be having and how this might be effecting our health and wellbeing

Understanding exactly what is causing stress - once you recognise that stress is causing a problem then is is important to pin point the causes of stress. This could be the the working environment, internal pressure that an individual is putting on themselves, personal factors or a combination of many things.

Put in place action plans to remove or reduce stress - once the causes of stress have been identified then coaching can help to put in place practical plans that can help to remove or reduce the causes of stress by going through each stressor one by one. Some there may be a practical solution to reduce the stress, others many need additional help our support to overcome, some might just get better with time and there might be some that nothing can be done about.

Develop tools and techniques to manage stress - through coaching a number of coping strategies can be developed and put in place that can help to reduce the symptoms and triggers of stress. A coach will help individuals to reflect on when they have come through difficult and stressful periods before and what it was that helped them through previously and therefore what it is they can do in the present.

Build resilience - resilience can be learnt and strategies can be put in place to allow individuals to be able to cope with stress and stressful situations in a better way. Coaching can help to build this resilience by developing problem solving skills, setting boundaries, being realistic, continuing to grow, learn and develop and reaching out for help when needed.

Reframe our thinking - much of the stress that we experience is internal stress, I.e. the pressure we put on ourselves or negative self talk which can cause us to have a pessimistic outlook which is turn can have a detrimental effect on our self esteem and confidence. Being able to manage our thoughts and emotions and reframe our thinking can help to limit the amount of stress that we are putting on ourselves. A coach can help to focus on a more positive outlook, keep things in perspective and encourage regular reflection on what is going well.

Looking after yourself - finally we are better able to manage stress when we look after our physical health. This is an area that many of neglect when we are particularly stressed but a coach can help to re-prioritise this and ensure we are getting what we need to be able to be at our best. This includes taking time out of work, getting enough sleep and rest, eating well, exercising, and having social interaction.

When individuals receive coaching, 80% report an increase self confidence and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships and more effective communications. Whilst coaching will not be able to eliminate all causes of stress, it is an effective intervention that can support individuals to manage and overcome stress more effectively and lead to increased levels of health and wellbeing.

If you would like to talk through how we can support your organisation and your teams please do get in touch with our Director of Wellbeing, Gemma Carter-Morris on

Gemma Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting

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