TIME TO THRIVE BLOG
3 Steps to Reduce Stress Right Now
When we don’t express our emotions we become stressed. We bottle up strong feelings and avoid confronting people. To reduce stress, we need to express our emotions and set boundaries.
Today I will share a personal story from my trip to the U.S. and give you an insight how to strengthen your emotional competence so you can reduce stress in your life. (Read to the end to grab my free gift!)
The Perfect Evening
The sun was setting at Pismo Beach, on California’s Central Coast, as Rihanna’s “Umbrella” blasted from the speakers. Tourists hung out by the food trucks enjoying tacos and beautiful views. Some watched the surfers, others were mesmerised by the sunset.
Pelicans flew over our heads as we sat at the table waiting for our food. ‘This is the perfect evening’, I thought to myself.
My 10-year-old daughter, having had her fill of road trip fast food, finally ordered a salad. I took off my sandals, leaned my bare feet against the wooden fence, and took a sip of cold white wine (served in a plastic cup, but oh well, I decided not to be annoyed by that).
You know that perfect moment when you’re with the people you love and you don’t want to change a thing? Pure bliss.
In the last week, my daughter had gone from an impatient, “I want my food NOW!” kind of kid, to someone who calmly read her chapter book while we waited for our food to arrive.
But after 45 minutes l began to wonder if they had forgotten about us, then quickly reminded myself that we were not in a hurry. Rushing from one place to another is something I know too well from my daily life. I could feel how much my body and soul really needed the break from the busyness.
An Unexpected Question
I took another sip of my wine, then all of a sudden came an unexpected question: ‘Mum, are you going to drink alcohol again tonight’?
My jaw dropped.
The first thought that went through my head was ‘you can’t decide whether I will have a glass of wine or not’! It was my teenage self speaking, not wanting someone else telling me what to do!
Luckily the thought stayed only a thought. Though I had to fight some mind gremlins before I answered: ‘It sounds like you don’t want me to drink wine tonight’.
‘It makes me scared’, my daughter answered with a serious look on her face, then continued reading her book.
There I was in that perfect moment, completely chilled out, enjoying the sunset with a plastic cup of California Chardonnay, and my kid doesn’t want me to drink ONE glass of wine!
A bit puzzled, I started to check in with my emotions.
Memories came back from when I was a kid surrounded by my parents’ friends jamming and having drinks in our basement. Yes, I remember how unpleasant it was when the adults’ personalities suddenly changed. But did I say anything?? No, of course not!
Back then, I don’t think I would have been able to put into words how I was feeling anyway. I just dwelled within that uncomfortable feeling of loneliness.
I decided not to finish the wine. Instead, I looked out over the bay and felt a strong sensation of joy.
‘Joy’? you might ask. Yes, I actually felt joyful. I felt deep gratitude for my daughter’s ability to express her emotions.
She dares to confront me.
She knows I will listen.
She won’t always get what she wants, as such is life, and it’s good that way. BUT she knows that her opinion matters. She hasn’t given up before trying.
She knows that even though she is still a child, she has the right to ask adults to stop doing things she doesn’t like.
I matter. And now that I know that (after four years in therapy!), I don’t answer from my rebellious teenage self anymore—at least most of the time…
This time, the answer comes from my adult self: ‘I understand,’ I said to my daughter. ‘I was a bit different last night after daddy and I had a glass of wine. I get it.’
Oh life… the beauty of personal growth!
Sitting on that dock, I remembered a book I had read recently, When the Body Says No, by Dr. Gabor Maté. The book shook me to the core of my being.
I believe it’s the most important book one can read if you take your health seriously. ‘It could save your life’, Peter Levine writes on the cover.
One line that stuck with me: ‘In important areas of their lives, almost none of my patients with serious disease had ever learned to say no.’
When we welcome the expression of a ‘no‘, either from our child or partner or anyone else, we make them feel that they matter. Their boundary matters!
How to Build Emotional Competence
So what can we do if we didn’t learn to say no as a child?
What can we do if we didn’t learn that what we needed mattered?
We need to build emotional competence such as:
- the ability to express our emotions.
- the capacity to feel our emotions.
- the facility to distinguish between psychological reactions that are pertinent to the present situation and those that represent residue from the past.
Stress occurs in the absence of these three points.
A lot of clients come to me because they feel stressed and want to learn how to express their emotions. To be able to express our emotions, we first need to be able to identify them.
And then learn to feel them.
In order to feel our emotions, we need to slow down and stop living as if we are on fire!
“Should I just sit there and feel”?? many of my clients ask. Well, ideally, yes. But just sitting there and feeling is not that easy. So I have created something else to do instead—a different way to help you identify your emotions.
Download My Guided Journal
My one-month guided journal TIME TO THRIVE, will help you track what causes you stress and make you feel energised again!
‘Thanks a lot for creating this amazing journal! The journal helped me to recognize the thought patterns that drain me, and helped me identify what I’m avoiding in life. By reflecting on my life every week, I started to develop more honesty with myself, more gratitude in life, and more awareness about my values. I used to be very critical of myself, but writing one thing that I can give myself credit for every week helped me develop more compassion for myself, which is something I have been trying to achieve for a long time. Thank you for creating such a helpful tool. It’s truly life-changing!’
– Mohammed, Manager, Spotify
Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming knowing how much work we need to do to stay healthy and energised. I get that. You’d rather watch another Netflix show or hang out with your family or friends.
But I promise you, the award is HUGE. And all you need to do is take the first step.
Get started today by downloading my FREE journal! I’m offering this valuable guided journal for free to anyone who is ready to commit to their personal growth.
Hello, I’m Katarina Stoltz, a life coach and psychotherapist helping ambitious professionals prioritise their well-being so they can achieve fulfillment without burning out.
Welcome to The Time To Thrive Blog, where I share real-life stories and offer valuable and practical tips for how to prevent burnout, expand your self awareness and start living your vision.
I don’t offer ‘quick fix’ solutions, but my tips are straightforward and easy to follow. You’re in the right place if you’re looking for some thought-provoking articles and honest life stories.
I’m happy you’re here!