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The 5 Fundamental Steps to Sustainable Stress Management

By: Fia Hobbs

How can we tackle the amount of stressed out people that keeps increasing and who are under pressure and in the risk of being burned out? 

It has been an escalation for many years and it does not seem to plan out in a foreseeable future. It is not an easy task and there are many parts of society that has to get involved to be able to establish viable work ethics and a good health care with emphasis on health, before burn out is a fact.

Photographer Jonna Thomasson

During my 30 years of work as a therapist I have seen many diagnosis like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome to name a few and it is very hard for the person to first of all be taken serious and secondly get the right treatment.

There will always be components of physical, mental and emotional issues and many times also existential together with underlying amount of stress that has not been dealt with.

The stress out syndrome we are witnessing now cannot be blamed on work alone but on a series of complex events happening and has everything to do with the outer stress we experience, as well as how we cope with our inner stress.

On top of that we also have chemical stress all around us that can be harder to avoid. I will talk about the differences later on.

The people I mostly see are successful career women who are stressed out and caught in the sandwich generation, meaning they have teenagers at home, a work that is demanding and parents who are getting older and who needs extra care. Many women tries to balance this impossible equation and end up being the ones who fall ill. Of course this is a scenario that happens to both men and women, but women tend to take on more responsibilities when it comes to caring for the home and dealing with relations in the family.

There is no easy solution but it all has to start with each and every one of us taking responsibility for our own health and making it a priority. 

Most people want a quick solution to their problems. I am sorry to be the one to say that there are never any sustainable habits that comes from quick fixes.

Unless they are willing to look at their life from all angles and be willing to change things, I or anyone else cannot help them. Taking the step towards change is very uncomfortable for many and that is why we see people driving themselves to the ground before making changes. But there are ways to navigate through change and over the years I have identified a system consisting of five crucial steps where the first step is awareness. As most of our days are a series of actions being monitored by our subconscious mind up to 95% we tend to do what we always have done. This works in our favor most of the time as it saves energy for our brain or we would get overloaded. Unfortunately there are also habits and behaviors that we have picked up along the way that are less useful and sometimes even harmful and they also happen by routine.

We need to address the subconscious mind where the real change is going to happen otherwise we will always fall back into old habits as soon as we put our conscious guard down. The subconscious will always win.

There are many ways to reach awareness and I use a few different tools depending on the person. Mindfulness is one of them but the very first step consist of looking at areas of outer stress, things that happens outside of us that we cannot control, change or run away from. This being anything from nature catastrophe, war, getting a serious illness like cancer, divorce or death in the family. The list can be long.

After that we start looking into how to deal with this, what tools do we have, what coping strategies have we used before etc. 

I usually take people through a series of steps identifying their own self-saboteurs that can contribute to the inner stress and cause a blockage. Most of the time we are not even aware of what they are, we just accept them as a part of our identity or behavior depending on what level we are looking at. Most things have been there since childhood and are so ingrained with how we think and act that it becomes a blind spot for us. By looking at our own self-saboteurs we can turn them into self-helpers and resolve blockages that we have been carrying around for years that has contributed to stress.

After the awareness step we have to take action and change patterns to get rid of what does not serve us anymore and this usually comes with a lot of resistance. We need help here to sort things out and learn to let go. It is a process that is necessary to go through before we can go to the next step which is recharging. 

The recharge step is fun and can be done in many ways. For some people it is a daily walk, for others meditation, mindfulness, qigong or yoga practice as a way of finding a new life balance. It can also be singing in a choir, playing an instrument, gardening, painting and whatever gets you in a flow where you feel charged up afterwards. You have by now learnt to set up boundaries, saying no to things and people that takes your energy, and learnt to deal with stress in a whole different way.

Last two steps are very important but many times overlooked. It is the implementation of new habits, making it a part of a new lifestyle and sticking with it until it becomes second nature. That is when you have a new habit that you don’t even have to think about, it has become the new you.

The 5 Fundamental Steps

1. Awareness

The first necessary step that lays the foundation of a deeper understanding on what is going on in your life on different levels that includes physical, mental, emotional and existential level. 

2. Cleanse

once we know the stressors in your life whether it is caused by outer, inner or chemical stress, we take the next step to look at what does not serve you and letting go of it. We tend to cling to familiar habits although we know they don’t help us in the long run.

3. Recharge

this is an exploring step where it is important to match the activity with your personal preference. Getting recharged can be as easy as spending time in nature or taking up a class of qigong or yoga but it can be so much more and the coach will be there to help you.

4. Implement

the last two steps are many times overlooked but they are also important. If you have spent the time going through the level of awareness, cleansing and recharging you also need a plan to implement into your everyday life without it being a burden. This is where we focus on informal training and making it a part of your life.

5. Sustainable New Habits

having a plan to continue with your new habits is crucial and for that reason we put together a health plan that includes all parts of your life, even social life. This is your new roadmap to a more balanced life.

Outer, Inner and Chemical stress

  • Outer stress – Events, illnesses, trauma, divorce, death in the family etc. Things you have no way of controlling.

  • Inner stress – How you react to the outer stress with coping strategies or lack of them.

  • Chemical stress – Environmental toxicity.

Fia Hobbs

International Author, Speaker and Expert on Stress Management



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