Why It’s Irresponsible Not To Attend A Stress Management Course
The stress management industry has a reputation for either being a bit fluffy, Zen-like and only for those who need to sort themselves out; or for being theoretical with lots of talk about the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system or as I prefer to call it the often not so sympathetic nervous system.
As we know, in theory there is no difference between theory and practice where as in practice there is. Which is why an effective stress management course that deals with coping strategies and emotional management has to be experiential.
In any coaching or training programme the measure of success is what is different after the programme. The measure of a stress management programme is how do you feel in relation to stress afterwards and how are you better able to manage stress after the event is long over.
It starts by measuring where you are at the start of the programme. Stress is a very subjective experience one persons “I feel fine” is another persons “I cant take any more” it can be measured with bio-metric feedback mechanisms which gives a visual display of what the individual is experiencing, but even doing the measuring exercise can lead to higher levels of stress and false readings so it’s easier to ask someone the questions.
“How do you feel? Do you have any stress going on at this present moment? That’s either a yes or no answer. If the answer is yes and If stress had a scale and 0 equals no stress whatsoever and 10 is the top level of stress what is your current experience give it a number?”
Having run 100’s of stress management programmes, I am still always slightly amused at the consistent and predictable responses to these questions.
The answers always range from:
“0 – I have no stress whatsoever”
“0 – I have no stress at the moment”
Which pre-supposes that this person is anticipating ahead of time that they will be stressed in the future and that it’s just a mere coincidence that at the moment they attend a stress management course they aren’t stressed. Then there are:
“10 – I always feel stressed”
Meaning I obviously don’t realize just how stressed life is and that 10 isn’t a big enough number to describe their stress experience and I need a new stress scale.My favourite response of all, which in any group will be shared by about 50% of the participants’, is:
“I’m not much stressed at the moment”
When pressed to follow the instructions and actually give it a number rather then share their opinion about what “not much stress” feels like, they will say something like
“Oh its ONLY a 5 out of 10”
This common response tells us that this person has accepted the 5 out of 10 as being normal and an acceptable way of feeling and that goes for any number 3 or above. Consider this, if someone has a normal daily experience of ONLY feeling 5 out of 10 stressed, just how easy is it for something to happen and for their stress levels to become a 6 or a 7 or higher. The answer is not much.
During the first part of any stress management programme, I will coach the participants to change their subjective experience. After all who wants to coach in front of a stressed group of people (not me) and how much will they learn if they are sitting feeling stressed (not much)?
Within 30 minutes or so, most of the group will be sitting back with 0 stress whatsoever. It’s not magic, it involves no scented candles or shoulder rubs (as nice as those things are) it involves them learning to manage their own inner world and changing it.
A few simple techniques later and then we can move onto a conversation about how they not only changed their emotional experience but they created the stressed one in the first place.
At the end of a programme we measure the subjective experience to see what’s changed and I always think a great trainer tests their work thoroughly.
My invitation to all participants at the end of the day is to invite people to “Try in vain to make yourself stressed again”
They will sit in their chairs grimacing and attempting without success to feel stressed.
There are two reasons why this exercise is important. It tests the individuals to ensure they have a complete and through understanding of how they don’t have stress but that they created it. Stress is not a thing it isn’t a noun or an object. Stressing is a verb, it requires active participation for it to happen and be experienced.
The other equally important point is once people know how they once created it and how to not create it, creating stress seems ridiculous and at times impossible to do either passively or unconsciously. They will sit and “try in vain” to feel stressed and will fail miserably at the task and that’s a good thing. It means when they leave the training room they will know how to take what they have learnt back into the real world.
People report back after attending a stress management programme; just how much better they feel, how happier they are, how the things that used to stress them no longer have the same affect, people even report back that their intimate relationships have improved. With that as a motivation it would be irresponsible of you not to learn how to manage stress by managing your inner world.
To find out more about how to manage the inner world of thinking and emotions and for information on “The Wellbeing at Work Formula”
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