The final letter in the SEMM Model, ‘M’, stands for ‘Manage.’ More specifically, we are referring to the management of stress. We deliberately chose that word because the obvious alternative that many posed, eliminate, is nothing more than a pipe dream. The goal is not to eliminate stress, but to manage it. While a case can certainly be made for eliminating some stress, you can’t remove all of it. Stress is just life being lived.
In this blog series, we’re going to lay out the steps you can take to effectively coach your clients on this pillar. Although great coaches frequently joke amongst themselves that one of the many hats they wear is that of therapist, I find it pertinent to mention that in fact we are most certainly not, in the professions nor clinical sense, therapists. To steer clear of any potential conflicts of interest and stay within your scope of practice, you should coach what you are qualified to coach. If you’re unsure, ask!
One of the simplest definitions I’ve found of stress is:
“any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. It is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.”
Exercise = stress. Food = stress. Work, kids, traffic, bad taste in music = stress!
We all experience stress and each of our bodies see our personal stressors the same way. Said differently: stress is stress is stress. The differentiator for overall health and well-being is how you respond, so let’s dive into that.
Start with Value and Priorities –
When it comes to knowing how to respond to stressors, we need to take clients way back to square one by establishing their values and priorities (V/P). This is as much for you the coach as it is for them. You will use this information to inform your design and explain your decisions to your client through their unique V/P lens.
Why start with value and priorities? Quite frankly, they offer a strong anchor that you can tie actions around to eventually create habits that turn into sustainable behaviors. When we guide our clients to explore what they really want and what really matters, it takes time so patience is a must. Below you’ll see a series of questions meant to put them in the right frame of mind to tease out the truth:
- What do you hold up as the highest values and priorities in your life?
- What are your stress levels? What brings the most stress? How do you manage it?
- What do you love talking about to others?
- Where do you spend most of your time?
- Where do you spend most of your energy?
- What brings you the most joy?
- Do you feel equipped with the resources and support you need to achieve your goals?
- What habits do you think are vital to moving you towards your goals?
- What are you doing to make progress toward your goals today?
- What does success look like to you?
- If you achieve your goal, but your priorities fall to the wayside, is that still seen as a success?
- In what areas, actions, and activities within your life do you have the most consistency, rhythm, and routine? This can be as simple as a morning routine, routes you take as you drive, or paths you walk in your neighborhood.
- If you meet your goal in 3 months, what happens next?
- What is the last goal you achieved that you are most proud of? Why? How long did it take?
It’s important to note that although we use their answers to inform their program design, we don’t use it in such a way that is akin to “holding it over their head” to make them feel guilty for taking an action not in line with their V/P. For instance, if someone listed ‘Be a healthy role model for my daughter’ as a priority and then you noticed that they had pizza and beer the last five nights, you wouldn’t say “what happened to being a role model?” I know that seems like an extreme example, but the sentiment rings true. You use information to guide your decisions and conversations in a way that can move the client forward.
One final thing to keep in mind –
More often that not, I’ve found that values and priorities might not necessarily be the same. Values can best be described as ‘basic and fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate attitudes or actions.’ Priorities can best be described as ‘where our time is spent.’ In other words, values are our own subjective view on what matters to us while priorities are the objective measure of where time is invested. This is a potentially uncomfortable exercise to have someone go through. For instance, imagine a client that lists ‘family’ as value number one. While this person may also think that ‘family’ is also priority number one, upon actual investigation they may discover that after a 10-hour work day, dinner out with friends, and a ninety-minute commute, family is actually not that high on the priority list. Again, there is no judgement, you are just painting as clear a picture of your client as possible.
Armed with this information, the following post will cover your next steps to helping your clients understand their source of stress by unpacking decisions made that are in misalignment with their V/P. In the meantime, why don’t you take the time to answer the above questions? Send your replies to me: firstname.lastname@example.org