WHAT STRESS MASTERY CAN LOOK LIKE IN REAL LIFE
People often wonder what it is that I actually do. Below are some examples drawn from real life. Each illustration is an amalgamation of different interactions I have had with different people. This is to protect the identity and privacy of the people I've worked with, whilst still giving you a true idea of why people come to me and what sorts of solutions we can create together.
Essentially, my clients and I work together to develop real life solutions to give them direction and hope for the future, so that they can master stress wherever it happens, rather than having it master them.
People come away on retreat or to group training events seeking peace and balance. They often feel overwhelmed by all the demands they're facing and the need to be constantly doing. But are we supposed to be human doings or human beings?
Meet my typical group members. Men and women who are busy holding down jobs, building businesses and ministries, caring for children or aging parents and friends, while trying to maintain healthy boundaries and self-care routines... yes, just a little challenging, right?
On retreat, they take comfort in knowing they're not alone, make space away from the endless demands to think about what is really important to them, see themselves and their lives from a different perspective, and learn a practical and effective set of tools that they can immediately use to start managing the busyness and master the stresses they are carrying.
Sometimes people talk to me when they’re at a cross roads in their life. They’re feeling dissatisfied with some aspect of their life, and looking to make a change. But when? And how? And why is this feeling hitting now, of all times??
Meet Mr M. He was an older man, and had been working cheerfully for the same company for more than fifteen years. In many ways, they had become like a second family to him. However, when the company restructured and made some shifts in their organisational policies and culture, he became considerably disengaged and started struggling to even get to work in the morning. Seeing himself reacting in this way added to his distress and confusion, since he had previously thought of himself as reliable, enthusiastic, and committed to his employers and colleagues. Together, we realised that a large part of his difficulties were due to the emerging gap between his own values and that of his organisation. So we spent time reflecting on how he could continue to seek meaning and live out his values in his professional context – and how that would look if he continued in the same role, sought a different role in the same company, or found a new role elsewhere. So then we also did some dreaming - what sort of a role would he really like to pursue, and in what sort of organisational structure and culture and ethos? As it turned out, he pursued and was offered a role in the higher ranks of a not-for-profit organisation, where he is still serving enthusiastically.
Opposing expectations (both implicit and explicit) around work, family, and personal growth are difficult to manage. What can you do when the competing pressures of work, family, mental wealth and resilience are all pulling you in different directions?
Meet Mr O. We started working together after he realised his pressurised professional environment was spilling over and affecting his family and life at home. High levels of stress at work were making him irritable and distant from his family and so triggering relationship problems and conflict at home. So then he started staying back at work to avoid being at home, which meant even more stress at work and exacerbating the problems at home! So we focussed on building his resilience, self-care and stress management strategies, identified what he valued in his different roles at home and work and elsewhere, what meaning he wanted to find and bring to the different areas of his life, and creating opportunities to actively live that out whilst caring for his family. After four months, he was delighted to report that he was coping much better with the stresses at work; his irritability and conflicts at home had dropped way down; and whilst he still wasn’t able to give his family the time they really all wanted, the time he was able to give was intentional, thoughtful, attentive, warm and nurturing.
Many of us know people who have experienced significant loss or change in their lives – such as the loss of a partner, job, organisation, health, or ideal. For some of those people, this catapults them into a search for meaning and equilibrium, or a way to make their loss someone else’s gain.
Meet Ms Q. Enduring chronic ill-health, she was determined to walk alongside others going through the same battle and make their journeys less lonely than her own. So together we clarified what going through these experience had meant for her, recognising some unique factors to her own journey amidst the experiences common to other sufferers. She made her own mental wealth a priority, understanding that her longevity in this ministry would in part rely on how well she continued to look after herself. So she focussed on her resilience, self-care, and improved nutrition, and then developed a huge range of short-term and long-term options to find and support others who were or would find themselves in the same boat. Much of our time was spent on developing the support structures for her plans and my keeping her accountable to the plans she was setting. She now regularly meets others one-on-one to encourage them in their journeys, writes, and runs a support group for fellow survivors.
There are some similarities between managing a team or project and managing a family.
In each scenario, you have figure out what is necessary to maintain relationships with your stakeholders - those people who will be impacted by or contribute to your team. How are you keeping track with them? How engaged are they with the team and its purpose? How are they influencing the group and its outcomes? Then you also need to develop strategies to engage, communicate, set boundaries, and manage all the expectations (often competing) that come along for the ride.
Meet Mrs R. She was struggling. She was managing a small team in a family business, one of whom was snappy, frequently withdrawn, and seemingly low in morale; this was creating tension and stress for the whole team, and thus putting their functioning and productivity at risk. This created added stress for her, fuelling her own worry, and so was creating stress and tension in other areas of her life. So in our time together, we focussed on building her own resilience and self-care strategies; enhancing her rapport-building and relationship management skills; and developing multiple options to support her struggling team member whilst keeping effective communication and boundaries for everyone there. By the end of our time together, the team member had recovered some of her equilibrium, and the team’s overall morale and productivity was back on track. Mrs R’s confidence in herself and her abilities was vastly improved, and she was delighted by the improvement and investment she’d made in her own stress mastery and well-being.