A Coaching Model Created by Natalie Hilton
(Stress Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
The aim of the coaching model “Stress Less” is to support clients to reduce and better manage stress, to bring higher levels of health, balance, and happiness into their lives. It has been designed to be used to minimize stress due to work, but can be employed in any area of life.
The client is central to the “Stress Less” coaching model. The focus is solely on the client’s needs. It is about them; their coping strategies, cognition, vision for the future, and their needs and meaning in life. The direction of the sessions and the tools and techniques used are dependent on the client. Before the coaching begins the client will complete psychosocial tool(s), such as the Enneagram Personality Test. This will allow the client and coach to shape the discussion, learning, and action of the individual’s personality and styles of learning.
When supporting a client through a period as emotionally involved as stress, the coach must be completely present and non-judgemental during the process. Within the “Stress Less” model the coach creates a truly safe space, where the client feels they can be honest, vulnerable, and safe. Central to this is the coach’s use of unconditional positive regard, which is the coach’s full acceptance of the client regardless of what they say or do. The coach enters into the relationship without any prior assumptions regarding the client or their needs and builds the sessions and processes on the individual client.
Unconditional positive regard
Unconditional positive regard is an attitude towards others. Within the coaching space, it is the coach’s unconditional respect of the client and recognition that they are doing their best within every situation. It is also the unwavering respect of the client’s right to self-determination.
It is central to the “Stress Less” model as when dealing with stress individuals are often overwhelmed with external events, internal chatter, and the physical impact of stress. Therefore, they are not at a peak state of being. They may not be fully present in sessions, or able to make healthy choices, or may not follow through on agreed actions.
To build a strong, trusting relationship and for the client to succeed the coach must have full respect and a positive attitude towards the client. They must recognize that where the client is currently is okay and they are doing the best they can.
The Stress Less Model: CALM
Coping strategies are the actions, behavioral, and psychological, that individuals take to minimize, tolerate, or master stressful events. The efficacy of these determines an individual’s perceived level of stress and its effect on them. Coping strategies can be adaptive or maladaptive; emotion- or problem-focused; and active or avoidant.
The coach supports the client to identify their current coping strategies and to amend, alter, or continue to utilize adaptive and active strategies. Maladaptive, avoidant strategies include withdrawal from social situations, unhealthy self-soothing, numbing, compulsive risk-taking, and self-harming behaviors. Adaptive and active coping strategies include seeking external support, relaxing activities, problem-solving stressor, humor, and physical activity.
Both emotion- and solution-focused coping strategies are useful. However, people generally revert to emotion-focused coping strategies, that help them deal with the feelings of distress, rather than problem-focused when stressed. So, coaches may want to focus on supporting clients to engage in more problem-focused coping strategies. These may include time-management, getting active support from others, such as a boss or HR, and conflict-resolution.
An individual’s cognitive appraisal of a situation and themselves determine how they respond to and feel about stressful events, and how these affect them. Everything individual experiences is a perception of reality. Inaccurate and negative appraisals can cause and exacerbate stress and can reduce an individual’s ability to cope. The emotional, mental, and physical weight of stress has a long-standing negative impact on the individual as mental processes become automatically negative and ruminative.
The coach supports the client, via curious questioning, to challenge and amend these cognitive appraisals, and to build new, more realistic ones to replace them. The coach focuses on cognition rather than the stressful events, as it is the beliefs and thoughts that cause and exacerbate stress rather than the events themselves. The development of more appropriate and positive cognitive appraisals increases an individual’s ability to cope and respond effectively to stressors.
Letting go and making space
Feeling overwhelmed with demands at work, often combined with other personal demands, is a major contributor to feelings of stress. Letting go and making space is about supporting the individual to create and maintain boundaries with their work, colleagues, and themselves. This is key to maintaining energy and happiness.
The coach supports the client to identify areas where their energy and time is being overwhelmed. As well as where they would benefit from prioritizing themselves and what is important to them more. The coach then works with the client to create structures to maintain this space and dedication to themselves.
As the client implements and maintains their boundaries over time their confidence increases. This, consequently, supports the changes made through amending cognitive appraisals. With higher trust and confidence in themselves, clients can maintain more realistic, positive appraisals.
Individuals who live and work in-line with what is important to them experience less stress and more happiness. This can be their values, purpose, mission, or goals. The meaning must be intrinsic, from themselves, rather than extrinsic, from society or others.
The coach supports the client to identify values, purpose, and goals that are important and intrinsically motivated. These are across both the personal and professional life of the client. The coach then supports the client to weave this meaning and goals into their life and work. Creating positive and intrinsically motivated action helps overcome the negative impact of stress. It supports the client to lift out of the negative loop of stress and to proactively create what they want. What an individual is focused on becomes their reality.
Supporting the client to design and action a positive future in terms of their stress management empowers and motivates the client, building on the changes they have made with amending coping strategies and cognitive appraisals. This focus also acts as a protective mechanism for future stress the client may experience.