Jump In and Practice The 4 A's Of Stress Management

We can recognise that stress is an automatic response from our system in response to triggers that we experience. We can recognise though that some of these stress triggers can be predictable – a meeting with your boss, meeting the in laws, the commute to work etc. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. I loved this technique mentioned in HelpGuide which outlines that when deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.

AVOID Unnecessary Stress

It’s not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

Learn how to say “no.” Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a sure-fire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.

Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.

Take control of your environment. If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-travelled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore do your grocery shopping online.

Pare down your to-do list. Analyse your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.

ALTER The Situation

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.

Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, be more assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you’ve got a big work project to finish and your chatty colleague just got back to their desk, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build, and the stress will increase.

Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.

Create a balanced schedule. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.


ADAPT To The Stressor

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favourite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.

Put It In Perspective. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.

Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others and learn to be okay with “good enough.” Remember: Progress over perfection!!

Practice gratitude. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.


ACCEPT The Things You Can’t Change

Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behaviour of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.

Look for the upside. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.

Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.

Share your feelings. Expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist.


How could you focus on the 4A’s to better manage your stress?

Want to manage your stress and wellbeing more proactively? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting, or click here to review Bakjac Consulting’s website for more information.



How To Feel Good Fast- Right Now

Are you feeling below par and want to give your spirits a lift?

Loved this share by fellow Mental Toughness Practitioner, Paul Lyons when he challenges you to improve your immediate wellbeing with this breathtaking 5-minute video of the new coastal walk from Bondi to Manly trip via the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. The 80km (50 miles) trek, linking two of Sydney's favourite beaches, took Guardian Australia's David Fanner four days.

If you can, watch on full screen with some volume to maximise your experience.

View Video

It is important to have short and simple experiences that can give you a positive lift when you need it. This is a great video to start your personal wellbeing collection but there will be others that can give you a similar positive boost when you need it .

How You Can Cultivate Mental Toughness

Many of you know that I am a strong proponent of the benefits of developing Mental Toughness given the significant challenges many of us have in our everyday lives. So, I just had to share this great article by fellow mental toughness practitioner Kendra Cherry where she recognises what we can learn from the world’s top athletes.


Grit. Determination. Willpower. Fortitude. Do you have what it takes to persist in the face of challenges? To pick yourself up and carry on even when it seems like you have hit a brick wall? Mental toughness is a term used in psychology to refer to the resilience and strength that people possess to soldier through struggles and succeed.

It is this mental toughness that gives some of the world's athletic superstars the ability to push past exhaustion, opposition, and injury to score and to win. It is the same quality that gives even weekend warriors the strength to finish that last mile and power through that final set of reps.

So, what can you do to cultivate a mentally tough attitude that will serve you well in not only your fitness pursuits but also in other aspects of your life?

1)   Recognise The Critical Components of Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is what helps set great athletes apart from the competition. To cultivate these qualities, it is essential first to understand what exactly makes these mentally strong competitors different from the pack.

While it originated in the field of sports training, referring to the ability of athletes to stay strong, confident, and competitive, the concept is now widely used to refer to the host of mental attributes that allow people to handle life's difficulties.

How do psychologists define mental toughness? There is some debate among researchers about exactly how to define it including what it entails and the areas of life to which it applies. Some experts, for example, suggest that mental toughness should be restricted largely to the field of sports while others believe that it is a more general quality that impacts many other areas of life.

In their book, Developing Mental Toughness, researchers Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk define mental toughness as "The quality which determines in large part how people deal effectively with challenges, stressors, and pressure...irrespective of prevailing circumstances."

Clough and his colleagues describe it as a personality trait consisting of four critical components:

1.    Challenge: Viewing challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.

2.    Control: Believing that you are in control of your life and destiny.

3.    Commitment: Having the ability to stick to tasks and see them through to completion.

4.    Confidence: Possessing strong self-belief in your ability to succeed.

They also suggest that it is similar in many ways to the concept of psychological hardiness and that mental toughness should not be restricted to the field of sport. Elite athletes might typify the sort of mental toughness that makes them winners, but the same skills can apply to many areas of everyday life.

So, is mental toughness the product of nature or nurture? Available evidence points to a strong genetic link. While some people just seem to come by mental toughness quite naturally, researchers suggest that it is also a skill that can be learned and strengthened.

Athletic training certainly points to the ability to acquire these skills. What else can you do to cultivate the quality of mental toughness?

 2)   Believe in Your Ability to Achieve Your Goals

In a 2002 study of ten of the world's most elite athletes, one factor that these top performers named as a major contributor to their success was an unshakable self-belief.

Mentally tough people don't just think they might be able to succeed, they know they can. While much of the research on mental toughness relates directly to the world of athletics and sport, you can apply some of these same principles to other areas of your life.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, drop a bad habit, run a marathon, or excel in your profession, believing in yourself is essential. Avoid negative self-talk and instead focus your energy on staying positive and self-encouraging.

3)   Focus on Intrinsic Motivations Rather Than External Rewards

The world's top athletes don't find the will to persevere and win because they are seeking acclaim, money, or other rewards (although those things are undoubtedly nice). Instead, they are intrinsically motivated by forces within themselves.

Intrinsic motivators are those that come from within an individual and involve doing things for their own sake. These internal motivations drive people to do better, push harder, be stronger, and see just how far they can go.

Mentally tough people don't focus on the possible rewards that may await them at the end of a challenge. Instead, they see participating and overcoming challenges as rewarding in and of themselves.

4)   Don't Let Setbacks Get You Down

Mentally tough athletes tend to rebound from setbacks with a renewed sense of determination. You can employ this in your own life as well. Rather than becoming discouraged, focus on building the resolve to push through the challenge and achieve your goals.

In one study of elite female athletes, many participants suggested that mental toughness often develops out of negative experiences. Facing difficulty both in their sport and in their personal lives led these top performers to develop new ways of managing stress and excelling in the face of difficulty.

5)   Be Self-Directed

Mentally tough people don't let life happen to them—they create the life they want. By setting goals and then taking the initiative to follow through on pursuing these goals, mentally tough people are able to get the things that they want out of life.

When surveyed about their perceptions of what helped them develop this mental toughness, elite gymnasts cited having goals as one of the strongest influences: "I realized how to set goals and how trying to reach them would help me get to the highest level," one gymnast told researchers.

While they sometimes make it look effortless, it is important to realize that they are simply willing to put in the work. For athletes, this is all about sticking to training regimens and facing competition at athletic events. In everyday life, this might involve taking steps each day toward reaching your goals, even when achieving those goals seems far off or even impossible.

Being mentally tough is not something that just happens suddenly in a moment; it is more about daily habits that help people soldier through the tough times in order to realize their ambitions.

This doesn't mean that you should not accept help or go it alone. Even elite athletes rely on their coaches and teammates to help push them, guide them, and inspire them to work harder and achieve their full potential.

6)   Maintain Focus in the Face of Distraction

Elite performers are able to stay focused on their goals, even when life throws disruptions their way. You aren't always going to have the perfect setting and support for pursuing your goals. Other things are going to compete for your attention.

Mentally tough people are able to maintain their sense of direction and keep working toward their goals in the face of these distractions. When you feel yourself losing focus, look for ways to recharge and bring yourself back on track.

7)   Understand That There Will Be Highs and Lows in Life

Mentally tough people don't expect life to be sunshine and roses all the time. In fact, they expect adversity, but they have faith in their abilities to survive, adapt, and overcome.

According to research, elite athletes report that it is often adversity and competition that helps foster mental toughness. It is only in the face of great difficulty that people learn what they are truly capable of.

8)   Maintain Your Sense of Control

According to researcher Peter Clough, control is a key component of mental toughness. Those who exude this type of mental strength feel that they have personal control over their own destiny.

Rather than pin their failures or successes on outside forces, the mentally tough have more of an internal locus of control. They don't see themselves as simply passive observers in their lives. Instead, they believe that they have an active role in creating their own victories.

9)   Stick With It, Even When It's Hard

Commitment is another one of the four major factors identified by Clough and his colleagues. Consider how athletes can power through exhaustion and pain to reach the finish line. The mentally tough are dedicated to seeing it through, even when it's hard and even if they think they might fail.

Many of the best performers suggest that competition, and the inherent success and failure that comes with it, is one of the critical components that contributes to their mental toughness.

The lesson from the world's top athletes is that even though setbacks are hard, sticking to your commitments helps you gain the lessons and experience you need to succeed in the future. It teaches you about your strengths, makes you aware of your weaknesses, and helps you realize that obstacles and even failures don't spell disaster—as long as you dust yourself off and keep going.

10)                   Put a Positive Spin On It

Simply working on your goal may, over time, help contribute to a mentally tough attitude. Mahoney and his colleagues found that by exerting more continuous effort, people are more likely to feel a sense mastery, achievement, and productivity, all of which make the pursuit of the goal a more positive experience.

When things are challenging or even unpleasant, pushing forward and attaining that feeling of accomplishment can give you the mental strength to keep going.

11)                   Find Support

World-class athletes do not reach the top of their game all on their own. In most cases, they spend a tremendous amount of time with peers who provide support, training opportunities, and a positive environment for personal and professional development.

Friends, family, colleagues, and even your competitors can also help contribute to a 'never say die' attitude. Look to people you admire to help instil these feelings of hard work, determination, grit, and positivity.

Seek out people who are going to contribute to your success and encourage you to achieve your goals. Find mentors and look to people who exude mental toughness to help inspire the development of this mental skill in your own life.

A final word to consider

Mental toughness certainly has a strong genetic component, but research on some of the world's strongest athletes suggests that it is also a skill that can be developed. Look for ways to apply some of these lessons learned from mentally tough athletes to different areas of your own life, whether you are trying to find the strength to stick to a difficult workout routine or succeed in a challenging job.

As Winston Churchill once proclaimed, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."


Want to develop your mental toughness? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting.

How Exploration and Exploitation Fit With Your Comfort Zone

Distinguished Stanford Professor, James G March, first discussed the exploration and exploitation model in 1991 as it applied to organisational learning, but of course it is highly relevant for your own personal development too.

The approach suggests that you should balance the exploitation of your current array of talents - knowledge, skills and experience, with the exploration and development of new talents. The exact balance is your choice, obviously, and depends on your own mindset, risk profile (which is also identified through the Challenge scale in the MTQ 4Cs’s Framework), your career stage, as well as external markets and opportunities.

I think the Pareto Principle of 80-20 is a useful place to start with perhaps 80% exploitation and 20% exploration as a guide.

This 80-20 exploitation/exploration guide is entirely consistent with another concept called the zone of proximal development described succinctly in this article by Saul Mcleod on Simply Psychology.

The term proximal refers to those skills that the learner is “close” to mastering and shows that the best way to make solid progress isn't to push yourself as much as possible, but instead aim to learn within "the zone of proximal development” which sits just outside your comfort zone. This allows you, for the most part, to exploit your skills proficiently and then stretch to explore new ground whilst not being too far afield from what you already know. This allows for healthy and steady growth.

A similar and more modern concept of the zone of proximal development is the Goldilocks Rule" developed by author James Clear, which finds that one of the best ways to stay motivated is to work on tasks and projects of "just manageable difficulty." According to the Goldilocks Rule, as humans we experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of our current abilities.

In contrast if your 80-20 balance was reversed, so the majority of your time was spent in ‘exploration mode' beyond your comfort zone, then you would very quickly feel uncomfortable and out of your depth. To use a popular phrase, you would “sink or swim” and hope that you were able to learn from your mistakes or lack of knowledge quickly and without making too many poor decisions or experiencing too great a loss.

So, in developing your skills and experience be mindful of the boundaries of your existing comfort zone and the zone of proximal development so that you can maximise your rate of personal growth.

For more on maximising your potential in your comfort zone contact Michelle on 0412047590.