As we wrapped up a hectic June with the Kickstarter, July has given us time to slow down and be better about practicing what we preach: a health-first lifestyle. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, invested employee, or busy parent, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and stress.
As we now know stress can make you feel awful emotionally, and exacerbate almost all health condition. It’s critical we start doing the work with techniques from the experts. We sat down with performance mindset coach Vanessa Foerster, an entrepreneur, accomplished Ironman triathlete, wife, and OrangeTheory coach to glean the tools she uses in her own life, and with her clients to navigate stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
What are the common concerns clients come to you about?
Typically I work with those who are finding themselves in negative emotions, that they don’t want to experience such as stress, anxiety, and being overwhelmed.They are seeking help in how to handle these negative emotions. In coaching we explore how to move forward and create results they want out of life.
We all experience stress in our lives, especially when we have audacious personal, business or athletic goals. How do you start when someone says, “I’m feeling really stressed out and it’s negatively impacting my life”?
Every emotion we experience come from a mind-management level. We start by understanding that if we’re dealing with stress it’s because we’re not able to manage our mind. There are some simple tactics, but they take practice. As with anything it’s simple, but not easy.
Tactic 1: Acknowledge & Experience the Emotion
How do you manage or balance stress with a demanding life?
Recognize that stress is part of the human emotion. We’ll experience 50% negative and 50% positive no matter how hard we try to work through things. Establish this baseline, then we can start taking action:
- Stop being afraid of feeling the emotions, we are meant to experience the negative in order to actually experience the positive, if we resist it we get into a bigger hole. Open up to the experience, feel it in the body. In their simplest forms stress and anxiety are sensations or vibrations we feel in the body.
- It comes back to the brain: being pulled in too many directions and feeling a shortage of time. When we’re deliberate with how we use our time and brain, it can help with the sensation of overwhelm. We’re often validated with our busyness, we fill our time with more passive action instead of massive action. Shift from a state of generalized ‘doing’ to being more result and outcome driven.
Tactic 2: Block Out Your Time & Obey the Calendar
How have you become more deliberate in your own life to help manage your stress?
- Results come from time management: time management is more about self-management. We can’t actually manage time but we can manage ourselves. Planning time is critical, on Sunday or Monday first thing I plan the week by listing out the results I want to achieve over the next 7 days. This encompasses work, training, free time and family time.
- I block out how much time I need on my calendar to create results. The description of the time block is the result of that time, not an activity (example: ‘complete first 3 paragraphs of stress management blog post’, not ‘blogging’). At each block of time we know exactly what is asked of us and how much time we have to do it! The reason it’s critical is because our primitive brains want the easy way out, to be indecisive. If something is difficult and we don’t commit to the schedule, it’s easy for our brains to detour and go to what’s easy, mindless, passive.
- Obey the calendar, it takes practice. What’s something you’re already so committed to that you wouldn’t miss it? Family events, working out, work meetings. Tap into that same thought process and emotion that motivates you to commit in this area, and carry it over into a different aspect of your life.
- Keep going back and recommitting, even when things don’t go perfect. When working in the time-blocking system, practicing constraint is necessary.
- Finally, there’s no such thing as multitasking. You have to fully commit to the task at hand. If you need to build in time on your calendar for distractions, that’s fine. Plan in advance for that but don’t let the brian just go free flow during your dedicated working blocks.
Tactic 3: Thought Download
What are some often overlooked causes of stress that we should be paying more attention to?
Every emotion is caused by our thoughts, it’s all a matter of managing your mind. It comes down to a greater sense of awareness, understanding, underlying external factors and beliefs about ourselves.
How do we get better at managing our mind?
Try this when you’re feeling stressed: Thought download - Grab a piece of paper and write down whatever is going on in your brain. What does your brain think on a regular basis that’s impacting your actions? Be a watcher of those thoughts. Looking at your thoughts objectively helps remove you, when we’re so ‘in it’ it’s too hard to see them clearly.
Have you found ways to help compartmentalize stress, i.e. not let work stress negatively impact the other aspects of your life?
This comes back to a sense of awareness that the emotion is coming up because of thoughts around your work or business. Being 100% responsible for our own emotions is the key to creating the results you want in multiple areas of life. This means we’re in control and not giving the power away to other people or things. Sometimes it’s easier to blame others, but the good news is it’s 100% in our control if you’re willing to do the work.
Ask yourself: what emotion is going to fuel the result you want to create? The reason we do or don’t do anything is based on how we want to feel. What feeling is going to fuel the result you want? I.e. Successful, Motivated, Creative. I keep a notebook at all times to aid in these exercises.
What are some helpful lifestyle changes or tools you like to recommend to people who feel overwhelmed or experience general anxiety?
- Time blocking as we’ve discussed and doing the internal work.
- External factors: moving towards a minimalist environment so less to worry about, no clutter, etc.
- Creating a clean, dedicated work environment. I have a whiteboard with prompts or statements that remind me of my motivators and drivers on a daily basis.
- Having a dog in the office is nice.
What are the things you advise against in aspiring to create a more results-driven life?
Indecision and confusion: they lead to wasting time, these are indulgent emotions. Make the decision and move forward. Being in indecision leads to confusion, it’s the brains easy way out, i.e. “let’s think about it”.
Don’t neglect the supportive lifestyle things: self-care in your body and mind, sleep, eating well, hydrating all enable you to show up for yourself and move forward.
This has been so interesting and valuable. How does it look to work with a life coach?
I do a 6-8 week program with 1-on-1 guided coaching calls. Whatever is most relevant in your life is what we work through. No need to prep, my clients show up, be themselves and we get to work.
You can learn more about Vanessa or contact her on her website: https://www.vanessafayefoerster.com/