Stress is something we’ve all become acutely familiar with since the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year and a half ago. While it’s true that stress levels were already alarmingly high prior to 2020, a survey by the American Psychological Association shows that people are more stressed than they were in previous years—and it’s taking its toll on their physical health. Health and Wellness coaches are no different and are subject to stress just like anyone.
The Statistics on the Connection Between Stress and Poor Health is Alarming
A recent survey found that more people are struggling to cope with the overwhelming demands on their lives. As a result, 40% of survey participants reported gaining weight since the pandemic. Nearly a quarter reported drinking more. Two-thirds reported changes in their sleep habits.
Other studies are finding that increased stress is contributing to mental health deterioration. Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation have all skyrocketed among adults and young adults.
What Are The Long-Term Impacts of Stress?
Chronic stress, or when someone experiences stress over a prolonged period of time, can take a toll on the body and impact nearly every system. When heart rate, stress hormone levels, and blood pressure are consistently elevated, they can increase the risk of heart attack, hypertension, and stroke.
Chronic stress may also lead to inflammation of the circulatory system and also affect cholesterol levels. There is evidence that long-term stress can impact the immune and digestive systems, and also contribute to mental health conditions (e.g. chronic fatigue, depression, and metabolic disorders).
What Can We Do as Health Coaches to Help Clients Manage Stress?
In a world where so much feels out of our control, we can manage stress by focusing on the things we can control. Things like how we care for ourselves in mind, body, and spirit. By making time and creating space to care for ourselves, we can diffuse some of the stress that is wreaking havoc on our bodies and minds. By becoming better adept at handling their own stressors, Coaches are then more prepared to help their clients achieve stress relief.
15 Ways Coaches Manage Their Stress in Today’s Climate
Whether you’re a health and life coach looking for ways to help clients manage stress or just looking for some strategies for yourself, here are 15 stress management tips anyone can use to cope and calm the chaos.
- Stop Trying To Do It All
A lot of people find their stress stems from the overwhelm of trying to do too much. Our daily TO DO lists rival our grocery lists in length. But filling up every moment of your day with obligations is a fast-track to stress and burnout. So first and foremost, look at what you can cut from your life. Are there things you can delegate to others? Are there things you just don’t love and can stop doing altogether?
Be honest with yourself about what you do and don’t want to make time for. Be realistic with yourself about what you have the time and energy to do. Say NO to more. Then set, communicate, and observe clear boundaries. Whether it’s in your career, in a relationship, et cetera, advocate for yourself and your well-being.
- Be Intentional With Your Time
Piggybacking off #1, make a habit of being as intentional as possible with your time. Instead of trying to tackle everything on your TO DO list, prioritize your list and pick out three tasks to focus on each day. Studies have shown that three tasks is the sweet spot of what we can comfortably handle. Picking more can set you up for failure if you fall short.
Start with your three main priorities for the day, adding one or two more tasks if you accomplish those and have the energy and momentum to continue. Repeat every day. We also highly recommend time blocking your schedule. This involves blocking out specific windows of time each day for specific tasks and then focusing on only those items. Time blocking is an easy and effective way to manage your time and systematically work through your TO DOs.
- Break Projects Into Smaller Tasks
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the size or scope of a project, chunk it down into more manageable, bite-sized pieces. Think about how you can divide the project up into smaller tasks that you can check off your list one by one, a little at a time. Doing so will cut down on the overwhelm of the full magnitude of what you need to accomplish, and help you feel like you’re making incremental progress on your goals. Before you know it, you’ll be done!
- Get Your Thoughts Out
When we bottle up what’s bothering us and allow it to fester, that emotional stress can do untold damage to the body. Give yourself a release by giving your worries a sounding board. Set a five-minute timer every day for when you’ll worry. Seriously. During that five minutes, allow yourself to worry about all the things. When the timer goes off, tell yourself you’re done worrying and move on. Over time, you’ll train your brain not to stay stuck in a cycle of worry.
Journaling is another great way to get the thoughts that are swirling around in your head out on paper. Try journaling for 15 minutes in the morning before your day begins, or at night before bed, if that’s more your style.
- Fuel Your Body with Healthy Foods
One of the most fundamental ways you can ward off stress is by fueling your body. That means eating nutritious foods the majority of the time and moving your body regularly. When our bodies are in good physical shape, we’re more able to handle the stresses that come our way. Aim to be active for at least 150 minutes a week (walking counts) and fill your plate with lots of whole foods— like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Try to eat the rainbow and you can’t go wrong. And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
- Prioritize Self-Care
Self-care isn’t a luxury to do when you have time, it’s crucial to make the time for. The fact is, when you’re under stress, you need self-care more than ever. Make a point to schedule in leisure time just like you would a doctor’s appointment and keep it sacred. You might use this time to work on a hobby you love or some other activity that fills you up.
Check out these 60 self-care ideas for some inspiration to get you started.
- Get Good Sleep
Sleep is so much more important than many of us realize. It’s when the body performs complex tasks to repair itself and it’s not an exaggeration to say that good sleep is critical to our overall health and wellness. Not getting the rest you need puts undue stress on your body. Both the quality and quantity of your sleep matter. Make sure you’re getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and do whatever you need to set yourself up for a tranquil slumber.
Check out this blog post for 20 tips to help you sleep your best.
- Use Affirmations
We’ve talked before about how positive thinking can help with stress reduction. One of our favorite ways to promote positive thinking is through the use of affirmations. Simply put, affirmations are empowering statements that help you reprogram your brain to think more positively. When you start to feel worry and anxiety creep in, try reciting or writing one of the following 5-10 times:
I embrace new challenges.
I trade in worry for wonder.
I breathe in calmness and positivity.
The life I have right now is a life of abundance.
I replace fear with curiosity.
I release all negative thoughts.
I am confident and courageous.
Or create your own affirmation that resonates with you and the feeling you want to embody. The more you use affirmations, the more likely you’ll be to see the positive in a seemingly negative situation and believe that you can come through it.
- Unplug from Electronics and Social Media
When you’re feeling stressed, it’s not a good idea to prowl social media or watch the news. Consuming content that could potentially make you feel less than, fearful, or some other negative emotion can exacerbate your mental state. If you’re feeling particularly fragile, consider a screen detox.
Try starting small over a weekend. Delete time-sucking apps, avoid TV, and keep your phone in another room. Notice if this has any impact on your stress levels. If you find that it helps, consider setting stricter parameters around social media usage (most smartphones give you an option to restrict screen time in Settings), unfollowing accounts that don’t positively impact your life, and designating one time a day to check the news.
- Laugh Every Day
There’s a reason they say laughter is the best medicine. It’s good for you on so many levels—one of which is helping to regulate stress. When you laugh, you decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone) by increasing your oxygen intake and stimulating circulation throughout your body. Laughter also increases endorphins (chemicals that help boost happiness levels) and improves mood. Additionally, laughter lowers your blood pressure and serves as a welcome distraction.
Think about it: if you’re laughing at the latest Jim Gaffigan show, odds are you’re not thinking about how you’re going to possibly accomplish all your work assignments next week. So go ahead and watch those Family Feud reruns and silly baby videos—they really are good for the soul!
- Connect With Loved Ones
If you’re struggling with stress and anxiety, don’t keep it to yourself. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and have an honest conversation about where you’re at. Don’t be afraid to let them into your life and share that you’re having a difficult time. Your friends love you and they would want to be there for you if they knew things were tough. You may find that they can help you find a different perspective and propose creative solutions to the issues you’re facing. At the very least, they can provide a safe, non-judgmental space for you to voice your concerns.
- Start a Relaxation Practice
If you’re not currently engaging in some type of relaxation practice, it’s time to start one! Breathwork, yoga, and meditation are all fantastic ways to unwind and bring your body and mind back into a state of calm. Here is an easy Box Breathing exercise to get you started.
Step 1: To begin, breathe in counting to four slowly.
Step 2: Next, hold your breath for four seconds.
Step 3: Then exhale slowly to a count of four.
Step 4: Hold your breath again for four seconds.
Repeat as many times as needed until you feel re-centered.
- Schedule Regular Time Off
As a society, we don’t take enough time off and that’s not helping anyone in the mental health department. In 2018, Americans left a record 768 million vacation days unused. The fact is, you need regular time to relax and recuperate so you can function your best. So this is your permission to schedule that vacation! If you can’t take a full-fledged vacation, at least give yourself the treat of a Mental Health Day. Focus on taking things slowly and doing things that help you rejuvenate.
- See a Health Coach/Life Coach or a Therapist
If you’re dealing with chronic stress that’s interfering with your daily life, it may be time to talk to a professional. Speaking with a Health/Life Coach or a therapist can be a great way to peel back the layers behind the stress and help you uncover the root cause. Maybe there’s a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. A trained professional can be an objective ear and can ask the right questions to understand what’s truly going on. They can also help you create an action plan based on what you uncover.
- Take a Stress Management Course
If speaking with a professional sounds scary and you’re more of the “do-it-yourself” type, we’ve got a course for that! In Master Your Stress, we’ll help you go from surviving to thriving. You’ll learn how to create your own personalized stress management plan, so you can find the calm within. If you’re already a coach, this is also a great course to add to your coaching toolkit!
The bottom line: stress is real and it’s something so many of us are living with daily right now. But with the right tools and tricks in your arsenal, you can manage your stress and even thrive. Which tip will you try today?
Health Coach Institute Has the Coaching Program is for You!
Learn how you can master your stress and help others to improve their lives through HCI’s Master Your Stress program or take the next step in your coaching journey and join the Coach Mastery program for advanced courses!