There’s stress, & then there’s Stress. The former can be considered a manageable; in the right amount, it may even strengthen one’s mettle. The latter kills

We all stress over things in our daily lives – work, friends, family or other circumstances that seem contrived to bring out the worst in us. Some of us survive these stresses through meditation or medication, some through dance, some through reading, some through exercise, the possibilities are endless. But, what if there are stresses in life that can’t be relieved through “normal” channels? What if these stresses are inherent to who you are. As so aptly and eloquently stated by author Moises Valesquez Manoff:

“Although professionals may bemoan their long work hours and high-pressure careers, really, there’s stress, and then there’s Stress with a capital “S.” The former can be considered a manageable if unpleasant part of life; in the right amount, it may even strengthen one’s mettle. The latter kills.”

In a recent New York Times’ article Manoff wrote extensively about stress. He posed and answered the question, “What is the difference between potentially constructive transient stress and the killing kind? Scientists have settled on an oddly subjective explanation: the more helpless one feels when facing a given stressor, the more toxic that stressor’s effects.” I think that conjecture is right on target – nothing hurts quite so much as a total lack of control. Scientific studies have proven that to be true.

The lower one is on the socio-economic societal scale and the less money one makes, the more innate powerlessness one feels. Those in that category suffer greater depression and disease. A study in England proved that even healthy eating, access to health care and stopping smoking aren’t effective against this feeling of helplessness. It’s almost impossible to shake. Early-life stress leaves scar tissue that is incredibly difficult to reverse in traditional ways. It could come from racial tension, economic tension, bullying, demographics and socio-economic class. Neuroscientists at Rockefeller University talk about “biological embedding” and have found that one’s parents’ social standing and stress during early life changes how your brain and body work, potentially causing lifelong stress and even vulnerability to disease. Whatever the trigger, the feeling that one is left with is sheer helplessness and total inability to change the circumstances. Stated another way – a lack of control.

I encounter coaching clients almost every day who live with that emptiness. And, therefore, these findings directly impact my responsibility as an executive coach. Those who find themselves “permanently overcome by stress” that grows from socioeconomic factors may even have achieved success later in life. Or they may be one of those who says consciously that he or she wants success, but can’t overcome their internal non-congruent obstacles to achieving their desired success. The point is, if the stressor hasn’t been relieved, it’s not going to go away on its own.

It’s been my experience that those in leadership positions must be uncommonly aware of the ways in which stress may affect them because of its inevitable “trickle down” effect. Leaders who are stressed not just because of the pressure of everyday living, but rather because of toxic circumstances, may take this out on subordinates or even make decisions based on internalized and unconscious thinking, rather than on the actual issues confronting them. They may be extraordinarily sensitive and reactive to hierarchical situations and, in some circumstances, may unintentionally seek to make themselves feel better and more superior by minimizing others or “putting them in their place.” These are intolerable leadership traits and must be addressed head on. To fail to do so contributes to toxicity in the workplace and in many interpersonal relationships.

In the case of stress from ingrained socioeconomic, class-based or similarly circumstances I have found Neuro Emotional Coaching® to be remarkably helpful to my coaching clients. I have muscle tested my coaching clients and found embedded triggers that stem from very early childhood. One executive coaching client remembered how helpless she felt when she couldn’t attend the annual Kennywood Park picnic because her parents didn’t have the money to use for such frivolity. Of course, her parents never realized that being excluded from such an event could have anything but a frivolous aftermath. Rather, it resulted in a lifelong feeling of being the outsider unable to control circumstances. Once discovered through muscle testing, the terrible strain that had led my client to feel ill at ease, sometimes sick and stuck at work, was relieved. She was, at last, able to move forward.

Another life coaching client had two parents who worked and, though the term wasn’t in use when he was growing up, was what we now call a latch-key child. He had to let himself in and out of the house, make his own frozen dinners and even care for his younger siblings. All the while, he was left out of the games and other activities that the mainstream kids were involved in. He, therefore, was marginalized. Even today, he has a hard time fitting in because he was not given the socialization tools when he was growing up. Once we defined the problem through Neuro Emotional Coaching®, we were able to work on those socialization skills and interactions that had been holding him back. It was such a breakthrough that his chronic back and shoulder pain, the actual physical effects of the stress, have been relieved to such a point that he is off pain medication, relying only on periodic visits to a chiropractor.

So, give this some thought the next time you are feeling stressed. Are you feeling a fleeting, circumstantial stress at work, home or with your friends and family? If so, you are likely to be experiencing a non-lethal stress that you can tackle and overcome. But, if you are feeling overwhelmed, hurt, physically ill, forlorn and helpless, give yourself time to consider whether the feelings are far deeper. Maybe there is something there that needs relief, something that we can take care of together through coaching and perhaps NEC. Let’s put that stress in perspective and tackle it once and for all.