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The ABC of Stress Management

There are 3 ways that we can tackle stress, based on how it happens in the first place as illustrated below

Our minds are like massive computers, programmed with everything we have learnt and experienced to date (Bit in between).

When we are faced with things that we know cause us stress (Activator), our minds immediately add meaning to the situation. We label it stressful and our emotions and body respond accordingly (Consequences). We feel stressed and our bodies go into 'survival mode', as if a bear’s just come into our cave, getting ready to fight, flee or freeze.

The meaning/feeling/body link is what I call The Magic Triad. Change one and the other two change.

This model gives us the ABC of stress management - 3 ways to tackle stress

  • Activator

  • Bit in between

  • Consequences


What options do you have for addressing the things that cause you stress?

What changes can you make to your internal processing so that things that used to stress you out don't anymore?

  • Immediate action - something you can do now, today or within the next few days.

  • Investigate & plan - what could you do to resolve this for the future?

  • Ignore/adapt - you accept you will have to cope with things as they are for a while. Decide what your strategy is going to be for coping and how you will build in more self-care during this time, to make sure you give your body and mind a break from the stress and restore your energy.

Bit in between

What changes can you make to your internal processing so that things that used to stress you out don't any more?

This area can be a little tricky to tackle on your own as you may not be totally aware of the processing you're doing, so working with a coach can help.

Here are a few things you could play with

  • Language. Experiment with toning down the language you use to describe what's going on? E.g. instead of "this is a total nightmare", what would happen if you tell yourself "this is just slightly frustrating".

  • Rules. You may have rules about what you should or must do. Challenge those rules. What if you changed should and must to could, and make a choice about what you will and won't do?

  • Strategies. Is there an easier, more efficient way you could do what needs to be done. If you let your standards drop a bit for now, would that reduce your stress levels? Could you work somewhere else that makes you feel more relaxed?

  • Assumptions. What assumptions are you making about the activator (situation or person) that may not actually be true? What meaning might you be adding that isn't necessarily there? What alternative assumption might make the activator seem less stressful?

Consequences - play with the Magic Triad

When you get stressed and end up in survival mode, what can you do in the moment to calm down?

  • Change how you feel in an instant by vividly remembering a time when you felt really calm or the way you'd like to feel in this situation. Take a couple of minutes to really imagine being there as if you're looking through your own eyes (close your eyes if it’s easier or gaze into space). Ask yourself what's happening in that calm place? What are you seeing, hearing and saying to yourself? Stepping fully into and dwelling on a memory or an imagined situation where you feel calm and relaxed will make you begin to feel calm and relaxed.

  • Challenge the meaning What do you say to yourself when you're feeling stressed in this situation? What does your inner voice say? And what could you say to yourself to combat that, and let go of the stress? What would you say to a colleague or friend to help them be calm in this situation. Bargain with yourself. You might try something like "you've got this, there's plenty of time, let's just calm down and I'll think better". When you find something that reduces the stress a bit, repeat the phrase over and over to yourself for a couple of minutes.

  • Change what you do with your body Think about what your body looks like when you're calm and get into that posture: drop your shoulders, loosen the muscles in your jaw, relax all the muscles in your forehead and around your eyes, look up at the sky, breathe deeply from your belly for a few minutes and you will feel yourself calm down.

Working with a coach can really help with your ABCs when it comes to stress management. If you are experiencing stress and want to explore how coaching can help, before the situation gets completely out of hand, please book a free call with me.

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