Five steps to manage stress when life gets in the way.

Last week I wrote a blog about the merits of choosing to make changes. In particular, I explained how successful goal achievement can be predicted by your belief you can achieve the goal, your commitment to making it happen, and your anticipated happiness when you have succeeded

Unfortunately life is not always (or even usually) a bed of roses where we can simply choose our goals and just get on with it. No matter how motivated we are, no matter our self-belief and commitment, if unforeseen events or crises happen, then our progress towards goal achievement will most likely be affected.

Life will always get in the way!

Major life events, chronic stressors and daily hassles happen all the time. These things can easily push you off track.

Perhaps you have set yourself an ambitious goal, let’s say, setting up a business, or changing career. You may have a well-structured plan of action that will enable you to make great progress towards achieving your goal and to date, you have been making steady progress. Suddenly you receive a call that a loved one has been in a major accident, or there has been a death in the family. Or you or a family member become seriously ill. These things do happen, thankfully quite infrequently, but when they happen, they are most likely to over-ride your plans.

Similarly, living with chronic stress (such as workplace conflict or bullying, or living in a toxic relationship, or pressure to do more at work or home) can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and depression, and ultimately no useful action. Also, daily hassles and distractions can have a major impact on how we go about taking action to achieve our goals, feeling like we simply have to do more can lead to procrastination and inaction.

Freeing yourself of the roadblocks to success can be hard. It’s harder still when you don’t even recognise it is happening.

Being able to recognise when your perception of a situation or event (ie, your stress response) is critical to how you take the next steps. If you are living with a chronic stressor, eg., workplace bullying, then you are less likely to work towards goals regardless of whether you believe you can or not. Incidentally, in cases of bullying or toxic relationships there is usually a loss of self-esteem, which will also impact on your self-belief that you can achieve goals.


When you recognise that your stress reaction is getting in the way, then you are empowered to do something about it. Here are 5 steps to resolving your stress reaction:

Step 1. Identify. What has happened that has caused me to feel stressed/ upset/ angry/ distracted?;

Step 2. Assess. Does this need to impact on me or is it actually someone else’s problem?

Step 3. Decide. Assuming this is an event or situation that is relevant to you, decide if it’s in your control or not. If it is, do something to resolve the situation (see Step 4). If the problem, the stressor, is not within your control, you probably need to do some work on acceptance and letting go (I will be writing about this in weeks to come).

Step 4. Action. If the event or stressor is within your control, take the first smallest action towards resolving the problem, don’t set yourself up to fail by trying to resolve a big issue all in one go, often small steps and getting help from others will produce a better and longer-lasting solution.

Step 5. Be self-compassionate. Take time to be kind to yourself. If someone hurt you physically, you would need time to soothe your wounds, it’s exactly the same with psychological pain caused by stress.

Raising conscious awareness

When stressful events or circumstances overwhelm us, we are unlikely to unconsciously be able to do any or all of the above 5 steps, instead we may start a downward cycle of depression, anxiety and self-deprecation (saying things to ourselves, such as “I’m so stupid, I can’t even get the dinner ready”, or “No-one thinks I can do XX , so why should I bother trying”). This is why having these steps in your conscious awareness is so important, because you can choose to take control of your internal perceptions and psychological pain.

Being asked “what could stop you?” is a common coaching question. We can’t always predict what might stop us from working towards positive outcomes for ourselves. And sometimes life can throw us some pretty hefty knockout blows.

But what about resilience?

For me, being resilient isn’t about not getting knocked down when life throws you punches. To be fair, if you put anyone under enough pressure, they will crack. We are human, we are not robots.

No, for me, being resilient is about the following: (1) being able to understand that your perception of an event or situation is not necessarily ‘real’ (our problems may seem insurmountable, but compared to living in war-torn Syria, most of us are probably OK); (2) recognising the situation will not last forever (try fast-forwarding a year, will this problem even exist then?); (3) being mindful of what is within your control and what is not; (4) accepting some mental discomfort is normal; and (5) choosing to take meaningful action; and, (6) skilful self-care and coping strategies. Being compassionate to yourself is a major factor in coping whilst in crisis and reinforces resilience as you come out of crisis-mode.

Making real changes in our lives relies on emotions and thoughts. Managing stress and our response to challenges also relies on our mood and mindset.

How we manage our moods and our mindset will have a direct impact on how successful we are at making lasting change happen in our lives, even in the face of adversity.

In my free Mood and Mindset Mastery Guide, I help you to start to take much more notice of your emotions and your thoughts.

Mastering both these components of your human make-up will help you to make lasting change. And positive change will help you to Live Life Stronger

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