Coping with Stress and Anxiety: Fight, Flight or Freeze?

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them. Our increasingly busy, complex and demanding lifestyles sometimes have us feel out of control. We feel anxiety builds as we feel powerless to make the changes to gain the right balance between work, relationships and leisure activities. We worry about money, health, what people think of us, how we look, getting older and not having enough time.

The key point is that we think the demands and pressures come from outside of ourselves. We feel threatened and our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response is triggered.

This anxiety and fear exist for a reason. Humans evolved to have a fight, flight, or freeze response to alert us to danger. It helps us to act in stressful situations, but the results do not always work in our favour. The physical response can vary — you might act impulsively (fight), escape (flight) the situation or freeze up. Many of my clients suffer from social anxiety and speak to me of feeling this type of intense physiological response (fight, flight or freeze) when interacting with, or in front of, other people. Their brains trigger a response meant to help them in life-threatening situations for ones that aren’t actually dangerous and this can be very challenging as it inhibits their progression at work and in relationships.

Common ‘fight’ behaviours include:

  • becoming overly competitive while anxious
  • adjusting body language to appear strong and stable (broadening your shoulders, keeping your chin up)
  • overly preparing for an stress/anxiety-provoking event like a presentation or small talk
  • snapping at people while anxious or stressed.

Common ‘flight’ behaviours include:

  • leaving the room to wash dishes or go to the bathroom (even if you don’t want or need to)
  • giving an excuse to leave early from stress/anxiety-provoking interactions/social/work events
  • changing the topic of conversation from one that is stress/anxiety-provoking
  • pretending to take a phone call to walk away
  • stopping an activity that is stress/anxiety-provoking
  • adjusting body language to protect or hide your body (like folding your arms or closing in your posture)

Common ‘freeze’ behaviours include:

  • blanking out (having your mind go completely blank)
  • clamming up (not knowing what to say or being able to speak)
  • physical shutdown or even fainting

If this sounds like you, you are not alone, many people can pin point these behaviours. The result over time can become very harmful. Over a prolonged period physical and emotional health can deteriorate, resulting in health risks that can be life threatening.

How can we recognise stress and anxiety?

The effects and symptoms of stress are many and vary greatly between individuals.

Some of the effects are sweating, cold extremities, ruddy complexion, digestive discomfort, increased sensory reactions, raised breathing and heart rate, impaired thinking and memory functions, etc.

What you can do to reduce stress and anxiety:

Identify stress/anxiety-provoking thoughts and ground them in reality. Try to identify what exactly you’re afraid will happen. We often automatically assume the worst case scenario will manifest. Once you identify your fears or anxious thoughts, you can ask whether they are actually true, or if you might be jumping to conclusions and making up a story.

Ask yourself “What would I tell a friend in this situation?” Asking this question will help you to view the situation objectively, instead of through an emotional lens. Even asking others for advice might give you perspectives that you haven’t considered before.

Alternatively, external action and support through professional coaching will benefit and reduce the cause of stress and anxiety.

If you suffer from any form of stress or anxiety, get in touch and begin your coaching journey with me. Stress and anxiety management coaching is an important step in the right direction. My coaching will help you:

  • Learn proven relaxation techniques
  • Adopt healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety
  • Become aware of the signs of stress and anxiety
  • Maintain boundaries and learn to say no
  • Stop being a perfectionist
  • Manage your time effectively

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Do You Find it Hard to Say No? It’s Time to Stand in the Power of Your ‘No’

Do you find it hard to say ‘No’ to a colleague, a friend or a loved one? Most people assume that saying ‘No’ is an easy process, however for many this could not be further from the truth.

Here are the 5 reasons:

1. Fearful of disappointing or hurting someone. Sometimes we do things that go against our own desires just to make others feel better, even without us realising. We often unconsciously make choices in life to our own detriment just to please our parents, husband, wife, partner, boss or friends because we want to make them happy. We find it hard to say ‘no’ especially to our loved ones, as if they will stop loving us if we say ‘no’ to them.

2. Avoid conflict. Many of us are fearful of conflict. We don’t want others to be critical of us or angry with us when we say ‘no’ to a request. We want to do everything and anything to avoid the unpleasant feelings that come with being in conflict. For some people, turning down a request is not politically correct because they think that saying ‘no’ puts them into conflict and they always need to show up as the ‘good’ person.

3. Want to get along with the crowd. We often have difficulty saying ‘no’ because we want to get along with everyone. We have the desire to be accepted and be liked by others. We don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ so we do what others are doing to avoid rejection or become the odd one out instead of saying ‘no’ because we have a different opinion. Consequently, we are pressured to compromise our principles because we don’t want to be seen as someone who is difficult to get along with, or someone who does not play well with others.

4. Desire for recognition. Saying ‘no’ may be perceived as a sign of weakness, selfishness or incompetency, we either believe this to be true or we fear others think it of us. We want to be seen as someone capable so we say ‘yes’ to a request even if we can’t fulfill the task in that moment. At work we don’t want our colleagues to think of us as ‘unsupportive’ or not a ‘team player’. We find it hard to say ‘no’ in these situations because we are constantly looking for recognition and to be accepted. This is especially true for people with low self-esteem who feel insecure about their career.

5. A constant unspoken expectation of a ‘yes’. When we are asked to do something, we often get a sense that it is more of an instruction than a genuine request. This is because the person who is asking has already assumed that we will say ‘yes’. So we are pressured to become submissive to this unspoken expectation especially when it comes from someone in authority, or someone we see as ‘above’ us. With every ‘yes’ we speak that has a ‘no’ underneath we encourage people to keep expecting our yes’s. Overtime this expectation in the other becomes a habit as they come to believe we will always do everything we are asked and we become trapped in our ‘yes’.

The difficulty we have in saying ‘no’ to a request is not a personality trait that comes naturally. In fact, it has a deep roots in our upbringing and parental care system. As children we were told not to go against authority. We were taught to follow what our parents told us to do. At school we had to do what the teachers said or we were punished. We became submissive not only because of the fear of punishment, but also because of a desire to please and be loved by people who are very important to us. We carried this programming with us into the adulthood and it has a powerful and negative impact on our relationships, leadership, career development and our general well-being.

We say ‘yes’ for all the reasons above (and many more), but we often overlook the extent of the impact it has on us; it creates resentment, jealously, self loathing and depression. Even though it is so hard to speak there is real value in your ‘no’ and speak it you must.

Find it hard to say ‘No’? It’s time to stand in the power of your ‘No’ and be aware of the pitfalls of your constant ‘Yes’.

If you are struggling with saying ‘no’ and be at the effect of it. Get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me for further support. You will learn to:

  • Become aware of your boundaries enabling you to stand in the power of your ‘no’, an essential skill in becoming a good leader.
  • Consider all possible choices available to you before giving your answer to a request. This involves putting yourself first and offering your reply from your reality not what you think others expect of you.
  • Have a mindful approach to requests made of you, especially in the workplace.
  • Be able to create a professional and thought-out response which leaves the person making the request with a clear indication from you as to what you are prepared to do or why you are not prepared to do what is asked of you.
  • Come from the place of awareness and clarity which will leave you less space for conflict and open up the possibility of healthy, stress-free interactions with the people in your life.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

4 Simple Steps to Let Go of Your Resentment

Resentment is a powerful and destructive emotion, it creeps up and gets stronger, it preys on our well-being and if left unchecked will eat us alive! It is powerful because it comprises of a number of emotions; anger, disappointment, sadness, fear & disgust. It is brought about when we focus on the wrongs done to us and our perception of injustice.

It is also interesting to note that whilst it is very painful and potentially life threatening to hold on to resentment, it also has a big part to play in our righteousness. Something happens to us and we are hurt and wounded. It is at this point resentment creeps up and says “you are right to feel this way, of course you feel like this, you are the good one and they are the bad” and out of this conversation you take action. You seek revenge, gossip, an do what you can to lessen your feelings of anger and hurt. It is a destructive cycle and the only one who suffers is you, you are the victim and you are ‘being’ the victim.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” – Nelson Mandela

The cost of holding on to resentment

When you hold onto resentment you hold onto all the emotions associated with it, it drains you and you have less ability to have compassion for others, you are irritable and withdrawn. You often find yourself unable to share with loved ones because they ‘would never understand’. You are simply not fun to be around.

It erodes trust, you become more wary and less self-expressed. It can be very stressful and it is this stress that has an impact on our vitality, our sex drive, our health, etc. It causes depression, you can end up alienating friends and loved ones. You are likely to attract others who are typically feeling the same way about their lives, thereby creating a fully toxic environment for yourself.

There are physical costs as well; chronic bitterness, anger and resentment cause the body’s system to produce toxic chemicals. This compromises the immune system and it could potentially bring on strokes, heart disease and even cancer.

Are you holding on to resentment?

Here are 4 simple steps to take to let go of your resentment:

These are done by yourself, although you can do them with a trusted friend or an experienced life coach.

1) Confess the full extent of your resentment: become fully aware of it describe it, what are your thoughts, what have you said and done. Do not blame the other, rant, or allow yourself to get angry again. This is not about justifying yourself.

2) Share the payoff: what have you been getting out of it? Being right (they are wrong), self-righteousness, doing it your way, false sense of power that feeds resentment, self-justification. Keep watching out for blaming and justification, they creep in as resentment likes to stay around and find ways to take hold again, and again.

3) Ask for, and offer forgiveness: when you have full explored and acknowledged, it is time to ask for forgiveness for holding on to resentment for so long and for what has happened. If you find it hard to let go of resentment and ask for forgiveness then go back to step two. Offer forgiveness, this is not condoning, it just means you are refusing to hold on to your ill-will.

4) Choose a new intention: if the process has been done fully you will have a desire to clear the decks and make a new start, step into freedom.

It is important to bear in mind that whilst the above process appears simple and straight forward, it is not. Therefore working with an experienced life coach is essential.

When working with resentment I am often reminded of the films I have seen where people become possessed by demons. This might sound extreme, but resentment is like mold; it grows inside, I call it a ‘stealth emotion’, so it is important to keep noticing it, keep working on it until you don’t notice it anymore. As a coach it is powerful work, as the client only you will know when you have fully let go. Only then will you feel truly free.

For further support with resentment, get in touch and begin your coaching journey with me. You will be hand held throughout the entire process with powerful tools that will help you let go of your resentment.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Uncovering Your Needs… Identify Yours to Achieve Lasting Happiness

What does real happiness mean to you?

In this fast paced and highly competitive world we strive to succeed, it is all about looking good, status, saving face, the house we own, the car we drive and the clothes we wear, what we look like. This is what most people focus on and when they lose that focus they are fighting to survive. What happens is that we are working to meet our physical needs, but what drops out of view are our emotional well-being needs and lasting happiness deep down.

We are asleep while we are awake, it is as if we are slowly dying inside. When these needs are not met we turn to drink, drugs, or other stimulants. Our home life suffers, our relationships suffer and we become depressed. We see this more and more in society, take the example of the world of celebrities; they seem like they have it all, but how many of them do we hear about who commit suicide or over-dose on drugs? It is becoming a truly worrying social dilemma.

In essence, it is all about the needs we focus on as ‘important’ and getting those needs met. If we become absorbed in meeting only physical needs we begin to lose connection to our emotional well-being and we wonder why life becomes one long tedious struggle where we sink into crisis and lose sight of our real happiness. We begin to wither inside and our emotional state begins to impact our psychical state. It is therefore important to identify the needs that bring you lasting joy and fulfillment.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow first introduced his concept of the hierarchy of needs in 1943. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other more complex needs. There are five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Five Levels of the Hierarchy of Needs

  1. Physiological Needs: These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food and sleep. These needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.
  2. Security Needs: These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighborhoods and shelter from the environment.
  3. Social Needs: These include needs for belonging, love and affection, which are considered to be less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community or religious groups.
  4. Esteem Needs: After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment.
  5. Self-actualising Needs: This is the highest level of needs in the hierarchy. Self-actualising people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others and interested fulfilling their potential.

Physiological, security, social, and esteem needs are deficiency needs, meaning that these needs arise due to deprivation. Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences. These needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior. Self-actualising needs, at the highest-level of the hierarchy, is termed as growth needs, which do not stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person in order to achieve lasting happiness and fulfillment.

You often find people speak of not being happy, lack of motivation, overwhelmed, lack of vision, fearful of the future and disconnected from love, creativity and joy. It is always surprising that these people are often highly successful, have a career that they are happy with and earning good money. In fact, outwardly their lives seem good, however they want something more because many of their needs outside of work are not met.

Are your needs met?

If your answer is ‘No’, get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me for support. You will learn to:

  • Reconnect to your values which will become your guiding lights and evaluate what is important to you.
  • Identify the deficit of your needs. Connecting with the deficit will help you realise that you are simply no longer living life in line with your values which leaves you immersed in shadow.
  • Reformulate your vision and move towards the life you say you want.
  • Begin to carve out a path towards a happier and a more fulfilling life.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Constant Complaining Damages Your Relationships, Work Productivity & Health

Constant complaining- do you complain about your life or your job all the time?

When you are complaining about something or someone, you know the situation; – why me? – it’s not fair, – why can’t my life be different? – this really annoys me, – this person is a pain, – my life is a mess, – I never have time, – I never have enough, – I hate my job, etc, etc, etc… and you do NOTHING about it, you are RUNNING YOUR RACKET.

What is a RACKET?

A constant and persistent complaint, that you engage in, yet do nothing about.

You are a RACKETEER.

Rackets or constant complaining manifest when people suffer loss of power, loss of freedom or the ability to fully self-express.

People use rackets as a venting exercise to:

  • Justify being right or be seen as the ‘winner’ in a situation
  • Dominate others or avoid domination by others
  • Invalidate others, self-justify or self-gratify to make themselves feel better

Complaining is easy, because we do not have to challenge ourselves, or take responsibility, as long as we complain. Running your rackets or complaining relentlessly can become a habit without you realising. We become addicted to constant complaining because it is the best excuse for not taking action. Complaining can be contagious. You often find in a situation when you complain within an organisation that others get enrolled like a domino effect. Of course, we feel comfortable after complaining however, nothing get fixed but it has consequences.

Constant Complaining Damages Your Relationships, Work Productivity & Health

Compromised relationships. Complaining relentlessly to people in your private life, or working environment, invades the other persons’ personal space. Being at the receiving end of complaints leaves no room for the other to share their own feelings and emotions about the situation. This hinders your real connection with others when you surround people around you with endless negativity. Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships like this can gradually erode the happiness of all concerned especially the angry emotions they experience which lead to resentment and withdrawal. When present to your constant complaining people feel trapped and will eventually start avoiding you to gain freedom.

Reduced productivity at work. We hear people complain about their jobs all the time; the unreasonable boss, long working hours, restrictive company policies, uninspiring office space, demanding clients, the list goes on. In fact, studies have demonstrated that complaints hinder productivity in the workplace. Constant complaining is destructive, and worse of all, it does not support our path to success.

Damage to health, vitality and well-being. Scientific research shows that complaining for 30 minutes a day can cause physical damage to your brain, this is because exposure to negativity impairs the part of the brain used for problem solving and cognitive function. This adversely impacts the way we retain information and our ability to accommodate new situations. Also, listening to someone complaining, gossiping or spreading nasty rumours for more than 30 minutes a day can lead to neuronal disconnection and accelerate cell death!

Constant complaining is clearly detrimental to all of us. We are not achieving our goals and getting the results we desire. It affects our relationships with others, lowering our work productivity, our life at home with loved ones and ruins our health.

Ready to stop constant complaining? Here is how you can stop the venting, break your habit, and effectively stop running your rackets:

Notice, as you begin your week, how often you complain and your attitude while complaining? It is as if you become your complaint, you act in line with your complaint, whinging and moaning endlessly. It can even be just to yourself, yet you do nothing to make the shift needed to get out of the situation and take action to make positive change. The key is awareness… stop empowering the RACKET and take action to change it. Shift it, look for what’s POSSIBLE, turn your complaints into REQUESTS. Be a contribution rather than a drain. Look to see how you can make a positive difference, be action focused not racket focused.

We all have our rackets….what’s yours?

For further support, get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me. You will learn to:

  • Become more aware of your habits of constant complaining
  • Work out what you intend to achieve and clarify your goal
  • Identify who to communicate with to achieve the results you desire
  • Take responsibility and figure out the action steps towards your goal
  • Show up powerfully in order to effectively communicate what your issues are (the complaints) and come up with suggestions for resolve

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)