Special Notice From Glyn Blackett
My coaching / therapy practice is currently closed, and has been since early 2019.
This was initially necessary for family reasons (I had to become a carer), and though at first my intention was to re-start my practice in a new location, this has not proved possible. It is unlikely I will reopen a coaching practice for the foreseeable future.
I'm focusing my energy on developing and marketing my biofeedback software produce, Mind-Body Training tools, which you can read more about here.
I decided to leave my website up as there are lots of articles that people still read.
The Stress Resilience Blueprint
The Stress Resilience Blueprint is a concise but far-ranging statement of what you need to manage and overcome problems associated with stress: anxiety, panic, irritability and other difficult emotions, also fatigue, brain fog, low mood and insomnia.
In any project, the results you achieve are framed by how you conceive of what needs to be done – what you think is possible, what you can think of to try, and the tools, expertise and support available to you.
The video below was formerly offered in exchange for signing up to my email list. Since the closure of my coaching and therapy practice, I no longer operate a mailing list but you can access the Stress Resilience Blueprint video here.
What do you need for effective stress management?
I'm Glyn Blackett, and this is my stress resilience blueprint, a concise but fresh and penetrating view of what you need to manage and overcome problems associated with stress. So if you're experiencing problems such as difficult emotions like anxiety, panic or irritability also fatigue and burn-out, low mood, brain fog and difficulty focusing and thinking, insomnia and sleep problems, or health issues made worse by stress such as headaches, migraines and IBS, then I hope this blueprint I can give you a sense of new hope, a sense that there are things you can do that you never thought of before.
In any project, the results you achieve are framed by how you conceive of what needs to be done – what you think is possible, what you can think of to try, and the tools, expertise and support available to you. I created this blueprint because I believe when it comes to stress, so much more possible than many people realise.
Talking to a counsellor about your feelings is well and good, but for some people it doesn't really deliver long-term results, and for others is completely unappealing. If that's you, I want you to know that there are other options which may suit you a lot better.
And whilst I'm not qualified to advise on taking medications or not, I recognise many people don't want to go down that route because they know it doesn't address causes and may lead to side-effects. So I hope this blueprint can give you a sense of other options.
Of course it's just a starting point – it's only a first step towards creating a personalised project plan for effective stress management. And I do think it's helpful to think of stress management as a project, because you need to start by defining clear and achievable outcomes, then you look at what skills and resources you need to actually deliver them.
If you've signed up for the blueprint on my website you can download a one-page summary of the blueprint. This video goes into more depth, aiming to clarify and unpack some of the elements. I've also written a series of articles further exploring these themes, offering useful tips and insights, and showing in more detail how you can start to overcome the problems presented by stress. If you signed up on the website, I'll be emailing these articles over the coming days and weeks. I hope you'll get some value from them even if you don't ever sign up for my products and services, but of course you can unsubscribe from the list at any time.
OK so on with what you need for effective stress management. I've grouped things into three areas:
- first, knowledge & understanding
- second, skills and resources – and this one is the heart of the matter
- and then third, mindset.
We'll unpack these, starting with knowledge and understanding. This is the easy bit – but important because it's about understanding what stress management really means: you'll need to formulate a personalised road map that addresses underlying causal factors and skills deficits.
Here are some of the things you need to know & understand:
- What your real goal is – not just how you'd like to feel instead, but what skills and resources you need to develop.
- What your real problem is – not just in terms of symptoms (like anxiety, fatigue etc.) but as underlying causal patterns. There isn't just one – causes are multiple and individual. There are psychological factors, biological factors, social factors. And you need to address all the major factors before you see results.
- How stress works, as a mind-body process – that is, how the body reacts to stress, and how this stress response influences how you think and feel, and vice versa. How stress causes problems and how it's actually helpful in some ways. So in other words you need a practical understanding of the science of stress.
- Next, your triggers for stress – both general and personal, and both internal or psychological, and external or environmental.
- And lastly, knowing what emotions are, from the inside, and in their different aspects, both physical and mental. How they naturally evolve over time, and what works and what doesn't work in terms of influencing them.
The second area is skills and resources. As I said this is the real heart of the matter: to manage stress effectively you need a set of skills and inner resources, best summed up as stress resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly and easily from stress, upsets and set-backs. The real goal is not avoiding stress or anxiety, but building resilience.
If I can sum up my whole approach in one sentence, it's this: stress resilience is a skill-set that can be learned and developed with the right training and the right tools. I think what makes my approach stand out is:
- the emphasis on skills development and
- I believe I can offer truly effective training tools that you won't find anywhere else.
I'll talk about tools later, but first, what exactly makes up this skill-set of resilience? For the blueprint I've pulled out five core skills. I call them mind-body skills because they're all to do with the relationship between mind and body. Stress is a mind-body phenomenon and resilience is about having the mind-body connection work for you rather than against you.
In broad terms the strategy is to learn to guide your body towards states that support well-being and optimal performance. These five aren't everything of course, but what I think they offer is a foundation for higher-level skills and resources, such as emotional intelligence and willpower, or in other words these are components or building blocks.
So what are the five?
- First, what I'm calling mind-body awareness. This is self-awareness in a particular sense: it's awareness of your body responses and processes, including feelings, plus awareness of your thoughts and thinking patterns, and then crucially how these two relate to each other – awareness of how the mind-body connection plays out in practice. How your body responds to your thinking, and how the feelings in your body condition your thoughts.
- Second, attention. Your attention, or your focus, is like a muscle in many ways. It can be trained and developed. Now I'm aware it might not be obvious how focus relates to well-being generally, and one of my articles that I mentioned, I go into the connection in greater depth, but essentially, being focused means being in the here and now. When you're not focused, your mind tends to be either worrying about the future or regretting the past. And that's where you generally find stress and unhappiness: when you're off in the past & the future rather than the present moment.
- Third, letting go. There are two parts to letting go, first letting go in a physical or bodily sense. In the first place that can mean letting go of muscles and tension, but I mean it more broadly than that – calming the body, reducing restlessness and agitation and physiological arousal.
- Then letting go in a mental sense: separating yourself to a degree from your own thinking and mental states, creating some space in the mind, so that differentiate your thoughts and beliefs and narratives about the world, and emotional responses to the world, from the world in itself. It means letting go of internal struggle, or in a word, acceptance. This is acceptance in a positive sense, not just resignation – so for example forgiveness is a kind of acceptance.
- Lastly, accessing and sustaining positive emotion. It's not enough to get rid of negative emotion, and ultimately that's not possible anyway. Positivity is a thing in itself, not just the absence of negative emotion. You don't have to wait till you've got rid of bad feelings first – accessing positivity is a relatively distinct skill, that can be trained and developed, just like the others in this list.
The third area of what you need for effective stress management is mindset. I'm listing this third but it's really the starting point: you have to approach the project of stress management with the right mindset – and by mindset I mean the set of beliefs, assumption and attitudes that condition how you perceive stressful situations, how you respond and how you try to cope.
Mindset matters because it changes how you respond to what life brings, how your biology responds – in real, and measurable ways. Here I'm going to draw out three aspects of this mindset.
- First, growth mindset. This is really just the view or belief that change is possible, and that what you are capable of achieving can change, because you can learn, you can develop your skills and resources, and what matters most is not your innate talent or intelligence but consistently applying yourself to that learning process. We all have a growth mindset at least in some contexts, but maybe not others. For example you might trust yourself to learn computer programming but not playing guitar – or vice versa. But do you have a growth mindset when it comes to stress and emotions? What I've noticed is that a lot of my clients actually don't really – probably because they haven't been used to thinking of resilience as a skill-set.
- Second, you need a positive stress mindset. This is the view that stress is a challenge to be engaged with, and that the stress response is your body mobilising energy to meet that challenge, rather than as a threat, something dangerous or harmful or something to be avoided.
- The third mindset I'm going to call willingness, for want of a better term. It's the opposite of resistance, which is the mindset of struggling against experiences you don't like, as though you could actually push them out of your awareness or avoid them. The concept of resistance is simple enough but this belies its profound significance. The thing is, more often than not, resistance makes things worse. Resistance is what can send a minor discomfort spiralling into a major problem, an out-of-control problem. But when you let go of struggling, surprising things can happen. You open up the possibility of change. I'm not talking about resigning yourself to always feeling bad and just having to make the best of it. But often it's actually the struggle that blocks change and maintains the status quo. When I speak of willingness I'm not talking about confronting your worst fears. I realise that's usually too much for people facing real anxiety and I don't believe it's helpful anyway. What you need is to start small – you need to push your comfort zone but not get too far outside it, so you don't get overwhelmed. As you develop your mind-body skills such as those I've listed, you start to build the confidence that you can handle a little more, that you can push your comfort zone a little further. Just taking things step by step.
Again, the core message is that stress resilience is a skill-set that can be learned and developed with the right tools and the right training. Even mindset can be developed and trained. But what are the most effective tools? Again I think my approach stands out from anything else you'll find by having a combination of truly effective tools. Here I'm going to list three.
- First, mindfulness. You've probably heard of this one – although it originates in ancient spiritual traditions of Asia, it's generating a lot of interest in the world of psychology and even in corporate HR circles. Mindfulness is a method for training the mind, particularly attention and focus in the immediate sense, but perhaps more fundamentally, it develops a mindset of acceptance and willingness. More and more people are trying out mindfulness but not everyone finds that it lives up to expectations – they don't find it easy, or very gratifying – I think that's because it's so easy to spend much of your time in distraction. Even after over 25 years of practising I still find it difficult personally – that is, if I don't get some help – which brings us to the next tool.
- And that's biofeedback. Biofeedback measures body responses and feeds them back to you in real time via a computer, so that you can become more aware of how the mind-body connection plays out in practice, and then on the basis of that you can learn to guide your biology into a more favourable and adaptive state. Personally I believe biofeedback, if used in the right way, can make mindfulness practice more effective and more gratifying. Biofeedback is not a treatment but a tool for learning, and developing skills. It's not something you need to use for ever more, but on the other hand, the learning, and the benefits of the training, can stay with you for the longer term.
- The third tool is actually more of a tool kit. It's positive psychology coaching. Positive psychology is the science of well-being, and provides a set of models, plus research-proven techniques for developing emotional positivity and other aspects of well-being. And coaching is the art and science of facilitating learning and development, and behaviour and lifestyle change.
So that's my stress resilience blueprint. Of course it's just a bear outline of what you need, and to repeat what I said earlier, if you signed up for the blueprint on my website I'm going to be emailing a sequence of short articles over the coming weeks, unpacking the blueprint in more depth, and offering helpful tips and insights for stress management.
Here are some of the topics coming up:
- What's your model of well-being, and why it's important
- Why we get tight, why it matters, and what to do about it.
- What CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy is missing
- Emotional literacy: how to identify emotions
- Why optimal breathing is vital in stress management.
- Positive emotion & how to access it.
- How to free yourself from unhelpful stories and narratives
- Why attention & focus are central in stress management
- How to be an optimist
- Why physiology is key to will-power and motivation.
Of course you don't have to wait, you can explore the articles, and pages describing my products and services on the website right now, and if you want to talk to me about how I can help please do get in touch.