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4 Ways To Reduce Stress With Self-Awareness

Written by: Lauren Cartigny, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Lauren Cartigny

In our fast-paced world, stress has become an all-too-familiar companion. Our responses to stress will hinder our decision-making and create negative emotions. The fields of neuroscience, psychology and biology have long proven this. By better understanding yourself, you can change your perception of how stress impacts you, adopt a more mindful approach, and learn to effectively self-regulate your stress levels and improve your overall well-being. In this article, we will explore practical steps to transform how we view and handle stress.

Concentrated female worker meditating in office.

The impact of stress on well-being

Stress permeates various aspects of our lives, affecting our physical health, mental well-being, relationships, and capacity to influence others positively. Physically, stress can lead to changes in eating habits, disrupted sleep patterns, and reduced exercise. Mentally, it can cause anxiety, depression, and reduced cognitive function. In relationships, stress can strain communication and exacerbate conflicts. Additionally, stress can hinder our ability to exert influence confidently, as others may sense our stress and perceive us as unreliable or unstable.

Understanding stress

Stress most often arises from the gap between our expectations and reality. It can stem from past or future worries. When we feel stressed, we lose clear thinking, and our ego often kicks in, attempting to protect us from a perceived danger. The problem is that the stories we tell ourselves based on these interpretations are usually not real – they’re fiction. The worst part is, that we are mostly unaware of this, because 95% of our thoughts, feelings and actions are subconscious. Therefore, if we are only aware of 5% of our stress response, we cannot change what we cannot see.

Our perception of our reality and beliefs, leads us to experience negative feelings and make decisions from a place of fear rather than lucidity and alignment. These decisions are often inappropriate or not the best choice or behaviour for us because they are based on old programming from growing up which we are stored in our subconscious. When we are stressed, some of us will experience self-doubt, some of us will become more controlling, some of us will become ridged and inflexible, some of us will avoid seeing anyone, some will blame others for our miseries and others may become impatient quickly.

The good news here, is that because this is all a question of perception, we therefore have the power to change how we perceive ourselves at any point in time. The key thing, is to first learn to recognise the early signs of distress. To break free from our programmed stress response, we need to change the way we perceive ourselves by simply thinking differently about ourselves. This is however, is hard and requires professional support most of the time. If 95% of decisions weren’t run by our subconscious mind, then yes it would be easier!

Things we can do to reduce stress

Lowering our expectations and being self-compassionate can help us manage stress more effectively. As a transformational coach, I've witnessed the transformative power of simply "lowering the bar" when feeling stressed, without taking away from your self-esteem. Usually, we don’t do this because we have never questioned our high standards. They will be based on what we are used to and what is recognised positively around us. While you cannot control the expectations of others or your environment, you can take control of your own expectations. This takes guidance and time because we have to uninstall and re-install new programs depending on how deep the limiting beliefs are. If we can work and live with lower levels of stress, we allow ourselves room for growth and learning without falling into the trap of constant stress. We become the best version of ourselves, and live our best life!

Measuring stress levels

Stress manifests differently in each person. Some may feel it as emotional turbulence, while others experience it as physical tension or changes in energy levels. Recognising your individual stress signals empowers you to identify stress early on and take corrective actions before it escalates. How do we do this?

Different personality types will have different predictable sequences when it comes to stress. Understanding your unique stress pattern allows you to recognise signs of stress even before you feel overwhelmed. An effective tool is the Process Communication Model (PCM), is a personality inventory which helps individuals identify their personality types and understand how stress affects them personally and others around them. Empowered with this knowledge, you can implement targeted strategies to manage stress effectively. Without self-knowledge, you can’t see what you need to change! Get in touch with me if you want to discover your PCM profile.

The power of self-awareness

The truth is that you know yourself better than anyone else. Reflecting on what works best for you during stressful situations can be transformative. We don’t tend to do this, and when we do if we are not calm, we won’t thing clearly enough to learn lessons from our self-reflection. Self-reflection and self-awareness are not skills we practice much growing up, so it takes us more energy and the majority of us find it difficult, so we avoid it. We all have experienced moments when we felt prepared, confident, and in control.

By identifying the factors that contributed to those positive experiences, you can develop a personalised stress management strategy. This is what I specialise in and I love the feeling of witnessing clients empowering themselves with self-knowledge. You are the guru of you!

Self-reflection also helps you become more self-aware and better understand your emotions and thought patterns. Doing this alone is hard. I can support you by holding a safe space for you to get out of your own way, get clear with yourself and reflect on what you need by mirroring and leveraging my expertise and experience.

4 Ways to reduce your stress levels

While you cannot avoid stress entirely, you can focus on what you can control: yourself. The key is to build a proactive stress management toolkit that empowers us to respond more effectively to stressors. Here are some practical steps to transform stress:

1. Breathwork

Breathing is the cheapest, easiest thing we can access as human beings to reduce our stress. We often take it for granted, but it has a profound impact on our nervous system. Engaging in resonant breathing (an equal breath in and out) and other breathing exercises can shift our body from fight-or-flight mode into a state of relaxation. In modern life, we are pumping adrenaline and cortisol all the time, but we are not wired for that; we are wired for that to happen only when there's extreme danger. We have got so used to it now that we think that's our normal state, but our normal state is a relaxed state of being: we’ have simply forgotten what this is like.

2. Mindfulness

Being present in the moment helps you let go of worries about the past or future. Our ego cannot exist when we are fully present as it has no reference to compare and analyse and worry about! In a place when our mind, our ego, is quiet we feel a profound sense of calm and clarity. Mindfulness practices like meditation and grounding exercises can help you become more attuned to the present and reduce stress.

3. Self-Science

Go and explore yourself. Go and study yourself. You're the most interesting being on the planet! Understanding your unique stress response and working out how to manage it empowers you to make conscious decisions that work best for you. By starting a self-discovery journey exploring your personality type, stress triggers, and coping mechanisms, you can optimise your response to stress and become the best version of yourself when you need it the most.

4. Communication

Our words hold great power. Stress impacts your interactions with others. The use of our words can be perceived as hurtful by others, just like we can feel harmed by other words. Our words can also provide comfort and healing. Becoming aware of your communication style and its effects on others enables us to foster more positive connections. By staying mindful of your words and attitudes, you can create a supportive and stress-reducing environment for ourselves and those around you at work and at home.

To conclude

In summary, stress is an inevitable part of life, equally how you perceive and respond to it can make all the difference. Embracing mindfulness and a proactive and self-aware approach to stress management empowers us to lead healthier, more balanced lives. By recognising our spheres of influence and focusing on what you can control, you can transform stress into an opportunity to improve the quality of our professional and personal lives.

Remember, stress is not something to be avoided, it is a standard innate response from our Human Operating System, inviting us to learn about ourselves and evolve as human beings. By using breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, self-discovery, and effective communication, you can navigate stress more easily and take control back over your professional and personal life.

If you are looking to reduce stress and anxiety, improve relationship or deliver more impactful results by making a lasting change in your lifestyle and way of working, get in touch to explore individuals coaching and group coaching programs.

Follow Lauren Cartigny on LinkedIn and Twitter. Find out more about her on her website and sign up for her newsletter. For those wondering, Cartigny is pronounced like martini but with a C!

Lauren Cartigny Brainz Magazine

Lauren Cartigny, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lauren Cartigny is a Business and Life Professional Coach for Executives and Conscious Leadership Trainer. Following a successful international corporate career in Sales for leading Tech firms, Lauren faced an unexpected burnout. After re-learning how to perform from a place of well-being as opposed to delivering results from a place of suffering, Lauren has created transformative coaching and training programs for high achieving Leaders seeking to empower themselves with self-knowledge to improve their well-being, their relationships, and their results. Lauren is the Founder of The Self-Science Lab a personal development training company for professionals seeking to find Peace, Power and Purpose.



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