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Stress and Your Inner Unicorn

Life is too short to be stressed. I am not talking about the kind of short term stress that pushes us to deliver to a deadline because that can be positive. What I am referring to is the kind of ongoing stressed feeling that affects your wellbeing. This kind of stress can make you feel negative, disengaged, tense and anxious. You may begin to doubt yourself, start losing your confidence and feel like a different person.

If you are suffering with this ongoing stressed feeling then this blog is written with you in mind. Reading this and working through the exercises could be a step towards reaching a calm and confident state. If you are not stressed and better still if you are happy, that's fabulous! Enjoy your week and if you have the desire to go skipping down the street in a blissful state, I will be the first to cheer you on. Yey!! If you are suffering from stress, then skipping down the street could still be a worthwhile and productive activity but you may choose to continue reading this first.

Recent life events have made me really appreciate my health (something I have taken for granted previously) and realise the importance of investing in myself and my happiness. Experiencing and recognising stress and anxiety for the first time in my life has taught me a lot. I don't like it! I needed to tackle it and work out how to overcome it to get back to my best happy self. I missed my happy self! It forced me to make big decisions and changes, all for the better. THANK YOU stress! You were an insidious villain to live with but there are many positives I can take away for myself and to help others. I shall continue to study you but you won't be overstaying your welcome with me any time soon!

I had to make some big decisions and changes to get into a happy place and since doing this, the most amazing things seem to be happening! It feels like I am being rewarded for making the right choices. One of the best outcomes is that I help people overcome work-related stress and anxiety and reach a calm and confident state....potentially a motivated and excited one! Imagine that!!! Actually, you may struggle to imagine that if you are suffering from stress or anxiety because we tend to operate from a position of fear and threat and that can make us feel stuck or trapped. This state is not conducive to making positive decisions and shaping our future for the better but coaching can help to gain perspective and find your answers.

In the words of Salt-N-Pepa (well almost) let's talk about stress, baby!

I have included some exercises throughout this blog to help you understand your work-related stress and identify possible solutions. It is best to write down all your answers and allow yourself enough time and space to give it your full attention.

Exercise 1:

* Write down all the things you feel stressed about at work.

It might relate to people, communications, presentations, confrontation, culture, targets, leadership/management, motivation, purpose, job role, workload, work life balance.

* What is it specifically about this person/situation that makes you feel stressed?

Be honest!

* How do you know when you are feeling stressed? What happens and where in your body can you feel it?

Now what does this have to do with unicorns? My previous colleagues provided me with a range of leaving gifts recently featuring many unicorn related items including a plaque to put on my new desk which said 'Be A Unicorn' and it has inspired this blog.

If I think of what a stressed state feels like, I would describe it as drained, exhausted, anxious, trapped, unhappy and weak. When I think of the opposite state, that would be positive, strong, calm, confident and energised....hang on a minute, that sounds like a unicorn! I would need to channel my inner unicorn to reach this state! Let's go with that!

I don't want to be serious all the time (life can get too serious) so a playful image works well for me. My daughters teach me a lot about being playful and they also happen to love unicorns. As I type this, I am tuning in to a game they are playing...they are riding the rocking horse, pretending to live in a forest where they have never met other humans and have to eat snake for breakfast! To my knowledge they are not suffering from stress and they began the day with pancakes, no reptiles in sight! It is difficult to feel fearful, anxious or stressed when you are laughing and playing.

Exercise 2: Your version!

* Describe your stressed state, use words to describe how you feel physically and mentally

* Now think about the opposite of this. Write down how you want to feel, the state you want to reach both physically and mentally (it doesn't have to be a unicorn or even a thing, just words are fine)!

Unicorns appear to be popping up all over the place. Whilst I haven't noticed any in the fields of Lancashire....YET, my daughters, colleagues and I particularly enjoyed the recent range of stationery from Paperchase. According to social media posts, unicorns eat glitter and fart rainbows, I have even stumbled across a 'scientific' diagram demonstrating how this occurs! You can spend your hard earned cash on unicorn cereal, unicorn poo putty, unicorn poo cookies and more. Imagine a creature so magical and fabulous that even their waste product is in demand! Pretty special!!

What is it about unicorns that so many people adore? In my mind, they are a magical version of the horse. Horses are sensitive and used in coaching because they respond to people very honestly, they are 'in the moment' and look for positive leadership. Unicorns have all the grace, sensitivity and beauty of a horse but often with a dazzling glittery rainbow coloured tail and the added benefit of magical powers! They appear to float along without anything weighing them down and they have the ability to shield themselves from negative influences. Now we are talking! What's not to love there?!

For some time I endured a stressful state for longer than I probably should have, you could call it 'research' there's a positive angle! Drinking lots of wine was one solution and whilst I partly enjoyed the short term benefits of this survival method, it wasn't really the bes tactic! I began using all the techniques and tools in my coaching kit (searching for my inner unicorn!) including hiring a coach. One of the most beneficial outcomes for me in various forms was mindfulness, something I hadn't paid much attention to previously. It helped and inspired me so much that I will soon be qualified in Mindfulness Coaching. There are various ways to work on living mindfully but that's a whole other blog.

Exercise 3:

* What impact is stress having on your life currently? Who else is it affecting?

* What have you learned about yourself during this stressful period?

* What have you tried so far to help you de-stress?

* How effective have these measures been? What impact have they had?

By channelling your inner unicorn, I am talking about finding your powerful and fabulous self (potentially hidden in the shadow of this stressful state) and believing in yourself....then the magic happens! When we feel stressed and anxious, it's hard to shine brightly, particularly on the inside. When operating from a position of fear and threat, we can start to doubt ourselves, lose confidence and self-belief and can find it impossible to come up with creative solutions.

'Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.' Roald Dahl

'We have to believe in ourselves. When we believe in ourselves, magical things start to happen.' Amanda Green

Exercise 4: Time to get creative!

* How could you potentially bridge the gap between your current and desired state?

Write down 10 (really stretch yourself here) ideas of how you could do this.

Some questions to help:

* What is the whackiest thing you could do?

* What would your friends tell you to do?

* What would Richard Branson (or insert alternative guru) advise?

* What could you do if you had a magic wand to wave or better still a unicorn horn?!

If you are visual, you might prefer to draw a bridge or maybe a rainbow (it's a meteorological phenomenon and yet we witness them fairly regularly in Lancashire)! #believeinmagic

Exercise 5: Action stations!

* From the list of 10, pick out 3 actions you can take to move towards your desired state.

* Which one is the easiest?

* Which one is the most motivating?

* Which one are you drawn to?

Pop a timescale on when you can realistically do this and stick to it!

Wishing you a dazzling week!

Amanda Green, Stress Management Coach.

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