Straight "A" stress reduction!


Much of our stress comes from wanting our lives to be different than they are and wanting to feel something other than what we are feeling. Desiring to better ourselves and ours lives can be a natural, healthy motivator towards making improvements but it can also be the obstacle that creates even more stress and dissatisfaction. By following these three steps you will reduce your stress and increase your ability to make more satisfying choices.


The first A is about assessing your current responsibilities and commitments and becoming clearer about how they are supporting you.

Take some time to write out all of your responsibilities and commitments and then put them into two columns. Under column "A" you will put all the responsibilities and commitments that are draining you. In column B you will put the responsibilities and commitments that nourishes you. Some items might appear in BOTH columns. I invite you to do this activity with a friend, family member or even a coach for the greatest objectivity.

Column A: Draining -- Column B: Nourishing Meal Planning -- Cooking Family Scheduling -- Playing with my kids Laundry -- Exercising Car pool -- Weekly lunch date with best friend Volunteering -- Volunteering Work -- Reading Weekly phone calls with mother-in-law -- Knitting


For this second step we will only be looking at Column A- Draining. This step involves accepting ALL the feelings you have about those responsibilities and commitments that are draining you. By allowing yourself to accept and experience your feelings you will release stress and be able to make better choices. Consider each responsibility and commitment that is draining you and identify all of the feelings you have about that responsibility or commitment. Once you have identified all those feelings, then give yourself permission to have and experience them. The more you allow yourself to have and experience all of your emotions the less stress you will feel. It may seem counter-intuitive for some to encourage uncomfortable emotions as a way of relieving stress but it is through accepting and experiencing these emotions that we can truly release them and let them go.


You may be initially aware that you feel exhausted from taking care of your kids but upon further exploration you also realize you feel angry for having to do so much on your own and to top it off you feel guilty for feeling that way. First, accept that ALL of your feelings are valid and OK. Second, experience these feelings as fully as possible, cry if you want to, scream if you need to, talk to a friend, punch a pillow whatever allows you to actually feel your feelings.


Only after you have accepted and experienced all of your feelings is it time to relieve stress through taking action. At this point, review each responsibility and commitment from Column A- Draining and decide to do one of three things:

1) Stop doing it

2) Modify it to make it less stressful

3) Shift your perspective on it


1) Stop doing it: If being on the Board of your kids preschool is something you're doing simply because you feel you should do it then stop doing it. Life is too short to "should" on ourselves!

2) Modify it: If the weekly phone call with your mother-in-law is exhausting you then ask if she wouldn't mind talking every other week or ask your spouse to make the call instead, it's his mother after all. Sure she may get upset but trying to make everyone happy all the time is a sure-fire way never to reduce your stress.

3) Shift your perspective: If you think you will go insane reading, Goodnight Moon, one more time to your son but your son can't seem to get enough of the book then try and remember the deeper value of what you are doing. Maybe it's to cultivate your son's appreciation for reading or to give you both some special time together before he grows up and has no time for Goodnight Moon, never mind some quiet time with Mom.

As you go through these steps be kind to yourself, find support wherever you can, talk to a friend, strategize with a family member, hire a coach, relieving stress is hard but not impossible. By regularly following these three steps, assessing your situation, accepting your feelings and acting appropriately you will begin reduce your stress and start making choices that lead to a more nourishing and satisfying life.

Kirsten Mahoney is a certified Life Balance Coach and founder of Insight Out Life Coaching who enjoys speaking nationally, live and on television, on the subjects of life balance and stress management. As a Life Balance Coach, Kirsten combines her natural curiosity and compassion with her expertise and knowledge to empower people to live more balanced, less stressful lives. Her approach incorporates one-on-one coaching, workshops and presentations, as well as designing and implementing corporate wellness programs. Her clients include Clif Bar, Wells Fargo, Facebook, Cisco and Spring Board Forward, a frequent winner of Fast Company's Social Capitalist Award.

Kirsten is also author of Insights, an international monthly publication on Life Balance.

Prior to becoming a Life Balance Coach, Kirsten performed as Director of Operations for non-profit and for profit organizations where she traveled internationally to present workshops and provide trainings.

Kirsten has worked and studied on five continents and has traveled throughout thirty-five countries. Much of her understanding of people and the life balance choices they make has been informed by her diverse traveling experiences.

Kirsten has earned a BA in Sociology from Tulane University and University College Dublin, Ireland, an MA in Education from San Francisco State University and Massey University, New Zealand and a Professional Coaching Certification through the International Coaching Federation accredited program at New Ventures West.

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