When stress or anxiety presents itself as a need to control every aspect of our lives, it can lead us to feel overwhelmed. This is where it can be useful to have tools to help bring back our sense of awareness, perspective, and the ability to see things in context. Experiencing things such as grief or exam stress can easily lead to difficulties in coping with day to day living, I know I have experienced both myself.
After experiencing grief for Elizabeth and exam stress and school life for Elizabeth’s daughter Grace, both found they were suffering with anxiety and control issues, which led to me working with them both individually and at different times, supporting them through 121 bespoke coaching to help with their individual situations benefiting not just their working and school life, but also their family life.
‘I had recently lost my dad and a short time after, my horse had to be put down. The combination of these two deeply personal griefs broke me. I hadn’t suffered from previous mental health issues before, but I developed clinical anxiety, which in me meant I lost my sense of perspective and proportion. I catastrophised everything — specifically related to my new horse that I had bought after the death of my previous one.
My change in behaviour made a big impact at home because in an attempt to find some sense of control I would shut down regularly. My anxiety would lead to me manically doing lots of housework and ensuring everything was perfect. I had to control everything in my surroundings, which could not have been easy for my family. I was aware I had a problem, but I just didn’t see that there was a solution. I felt very caged within my headspace. Work noticed I wasn’t coping very well and offered me six sessions with Emma to help. My sessions with Emma were mainly about unravelling my spiralling negative thoughts and learning to regain a sense of proportion.’
Finding positive solutions together
Before starting work with a new client, as a part of the introduction session, I always make sure we discuss how I can serve them best, how I can be the best coach for them, because it is all about the client and what they need, this is a really important part of the onboarding process. Some ask for a very gentle approach to their coaching, whereas others like Elizabeth, require a stronger, more direct approach to prevent them from attempting to control sessions, meaning they won’t get the best out of the sessions and not find the solutions they are looking for and I want them to have a powerful and transformational experience.
‘Two things helped me: first, a friend marched me to the doctors, and I was prescribed antidepressants which have helped balance me and second, my sessions with Emma. I had no feelings of awkwardness with Emma, although I did cry a lot! Emma challenged me — I was used to most people fudging around me, agreeing with me or trying to soothe or comfort me. Emma however, made me realise that the person creating my negative emotion, was me. To be honest, I wasn’t used to being challenged—but she was right. Emma’s advice was very helpful and very necessary; she could do this because she wasn’t my friend. As a professional Emma could say things that I would not have allowed myself to hear from a friend — she was in no means unkind, but she would say things that I did not want to hear. She helped me exchange micromanaging every aspect of my life to managing my spirals instead, so I no longer tried to control me.’
Moving forward through using practical solutions we developed together. Some clients use the word ‘advice’, but I never tell my clients what to do, if they ask for advice and I have knowledge in that area I may, after making it clear this is not coaching, share my knowledge and experience, however in the coaching alone the solutions we find are generated by the individual I am coaching, as a result of the coaching.
‘I started practicing meditation and my husband helped facilitate the space for me to spend time on my practice. This also helped me process my grief and the anxiety it manifested. The tools Emma taught me really helped — at the time I saw little, to no value in these things, but incrementally I began to realise how powerful Emma’s advice and knowledge was in helping me.’
Life after coaching, the long term benefits
Two years on, I enjoy my new horse enormously and have really bonded with her, in fact she is the centre of our daily life! Not every day is a picnic, but when I start to feel overwhelmed or during times of stress, I use the tools Emma taught me including sleep techniques and mediations. I’m still medicated, but Emma was careful not to influence my judgement on this matter, and I’m still very happy with my decision. The techniques have stopped me from going back to spiralling — I have learnt my limits. I would never wish my experience on anyone, but I have learnt a lot from this period of my life, and Emma helped me a great deal.
How coaching helped Grace
Grace is 15 and currently studying for her GCSEs; Elizabeth and her family were alerted to the fact that Grace had developed an eating disorder by her school. The family had never encountered eating disorders before, and both Elizabeth and her husband wanted to organise help for Grace as soon as possible. As Elizabeth had already experienced coaching with me, she knows how I work, and she had also read the case studies on my website about my work with teenagers and thought I would be a good fit with Grace. I worked with the causes of Grace’s stress and anxiety behind her eating disorder.
“I worked myself very hard through both lockdowns, putting myself underneath a huge amount of pressure. I don’t like the environment of school and enjoyed working at home, the shift back to school after the lockdowns really made things worse. I felt like I had to control everything. Controlling how I looked, what I was eating, what I was doing. My issues with food then made the situation ten times worse. Controlling food was definitely linked with me trying to gain control in those areas of my life where I felt I had no control. I was one big ball of stress!
School stress and tense home life
When I was stressed, I wouldn’t talk to any of my teachers at school, instead letting the stress out at home which built home tensions. I was very embarrassed by myself and aware that my parents wouldn’t have expected this behaviour from me, so I was angry at myself. My parents were so worried about me that their worry could turn into anger. I would then become angry at the way they were reacting and overall, there was a lot of tension at home.
I always discuss at the start of any coaching how we will approach difficult discussions in a way that will benefit and empower a person. My philosophy is to break down barriers and problems, to build-up the person. On occasions, this can be an emotional journey. However, when handled professionally and with care, people are given the opportunity to safely move on from what they perceive to be negative and unhelpful behaviours to find peace and ease within themselves.
‘At the time I felt that I had made my parents very angry with my behaviour and I was willing to ease any pressure. Talking with Emma was easy, and she talked on my level. She made me feel like there was a reason to talk to her —I felt relevant. I do not trust people easily, but I knew I could trust Emma and that our talks would remain confidential. Unless my life was actually in danger, she wouldn’t say anything to my parents, which was really important to me.
Emma taught me to surround myself with people that make me feel positive. One of my weekly tasks was to spend a day with my friends — the friends who I had known for years, those who I consider ‘true’ friends and not people who I think will improve how others view me as a person.
After this, my sessions mainly focussed on how I deal with stress. I did cry at every session, bar my last, because that is how much Emma pushed me. I do not mind she pushed me, because frankly, I wouldn’t have realised what I was doing wrong. Like my mum, I didn’t want to hear the truth!’
‘When Emma pointed out my negative behaviours it was difficult — but necessary. Most of my issues were learning to work around the stress that school and exams cause me. Emma helped me learn how to better respond to people in my year and how to react to situations that made me stressed at school. She taught me to simply stop and breathe — this sounds simple, but it was something I had never allowed myself to do.
She also taught me how to use distraction techniques when feeling worried. My inability to process my feelings of stress, which then manifested into my eating disorder, really embarrassed me and I didn’t want to speak about it. I was scared if I talked, I would be opening a can of worms. She really pushed me, and on occasions I wanted to say I couldn’t do it, but she made me do it, and I did!’
The long term impact of coaching
‘I feel a lot better and can cope with things far better now. Emma has taught me to surround myself only with people that make me feel good. I now know I can talk to teachers if I feel I’m on the verge of a breakdown; learning to talk to people at school has really helped me.
I’m still working on my stress but am learning how to improve situations for myself. When I’m in a stressful situation I can become quite irrational, but now know I can stop myself by taking a moment to breathe. This really helps me rationally figure out how to help myself. I apply everything Emma has taught me to a lot of situations.
My parents now talk more to me about decisions, which means a lot to me. Home life is now much smoother — I’ve always been close with my parents, but the atmosphere is more positive and less tense, which is perfect.
I will always be grateful to Emma for what she has told me and what she has taught me. Ultimately, at the end of my sessions I felt like I had the tools to cope by myself and I’m not that big ball of stress that I once was.’
Many different reasons lead to us feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and it can affect us at any age. Anxiety also affects our family and friends — if you feel your anxiety or your teenager’s anxiety is starting to negatively impact your home, book a free discovery call to see if I can help you or your teenager.