S2:E19 | The 4 keys to managing stress

podcast season 2 stress
The 4 keys to managing stress


Would you like a simple framework to guide you in considering how you could reduce or better manage a stressful situation in your life? That’s what I am sharing with you on today’s episode.

Let’s get started…


Hello and welcome to the Sleep Seekers Podcast, I’m your host, Emma Ashford.

I hope you have been having a good week. Today on the podcast, this is the last episode in this mini series around stress and sleep which I decided to do for Stress Awareness Month. 


So far, we have covered how stress affects sleep and how stress shows up in your sleep, some of the indicators to look out for. Then I talked about the stress - sleep cycle that most of us experience at some time or other. I talked about the completely normal experience of this but also how this can go wrong and start to cause more problems and the importance of sleep skills to be able to prevent this. Then we talked about stress more specifically and the different types of stress, all of which can be affecting sleep significantly but not all of which we are so good at identifying so they can fly beneath the radar a bit. 


So, to end this series I’m going to talk again more specifically about stress and the 4 keys to managing stress. You can apply this 4 key system to any type of stress and it’s incredibly helpful for being able to start to turn things around, feel more in control, interrupt the stress - sleep cycle and ultimately to bringing down your stress levels. 

I used this structure recently for myself in an ongoing situation where my stress was escalating and it’s so helpful - I am particularly a big fan of the second key but you will understand why when we get there. 


If you are the kind of person who is very visual and would like to work through this on a worksheet, you can download one for free here. This is taken directly from my Your Stress Matters Course which I will link up for you in the show notes. 



So, let me explain the 4 keys to managing stress. 


The first is … Change the situation where you can.

If you can do anything to change the stressful situation or what is causing your stress then do it. This might look like stopping doing something, it might mean pulling back on your expectations or extending a deadline. If you can’t do anything about the particular situation, a deadline or a meeting for example, you might change the situation around it. So, for example you might reduce the expectations or obligations on you in other areas, you might reduce your workload for a while, you might make things easier for yourself at home with mealtimes for example, you might ask for help from someone or you might decide you would benefit from some professional support.

What could you change? It’s a good idea to brainstorm here and come up with a few ideas, even if you don’t follow through with them all. Think about what you might suggest to someone else. This requires you to think differently and consider things differently. This brings to mind one of my favourite sayings - 'you can’t see the label from inside the jar'. You usually don’t find answers and solutions from looking at the problem from the same perspective, you have to get outside of the jar and brainstorm in different ways to see more clearly or from a different perspective. 

It might also require you to drop your standards, let go of perfectionism and accept that for a little while things might need to look a bit different. 

The second key is … Change your mindset where you can’t change the situation

As I said, this is my favourite one because I find that mindset is everything. Mindset just simply means your way of thinking. We have our normal, default ways of thinking but there are always other perspectives and other ways of looking at a situation. Often we resist these because we are very attached to our default ways, our learned ways and we become almost addicted to the stress and whatever feelings it brings up. But this keeps us trapped in the same experience. 

But when you change your mindset you can find so much freedom and space from the experience you have been having. This could be as simple as what you focus on. Do you focus on the time you have, or the time you don’t have? Do you focus on the problem or the solution? Do you focus on what you can’t do or what you can do? Again, this might require you to do some brainstorming, to think about how different people might consider the situation from different perspectives. It might be helpful to do a bit of research online depending on the situation - you can often find experts, social media accounts or groups that have a very different perspective on your stress. When working on changing your mindset, this does not necessarily happen immediately unless you are very practise at this and very self aware. For most people it takes practice to have a different mindset, so first identify what you need to alter your perspective on and then keep reinforcing the new way of thinking. 

Changing your mindset can be particularly useful for those people experiencing long term, chronic stress in response to a situation. 

The third key is ... Take care of yourself.

How can you take better care of yourself? If you think about every day life using fuel, what do you do to put fuel back in the tank? This might be exercise, getting outside for a walk, meeting with friends, yoga, complementary therapies … the list in endless. This is something we all need to be thinking about all of the time but is often the first thing to go when we feel stressed or overwhelmed. And it’s one of the first things we need to put back in when thinking about bringing stress levels back down. Also, something really important that I think most of us tend to overlook is this … the more demands that are placed on us, in whatever way that looks like, the more we need to take care of ourselves. As the demands go up, so too should the amount of intentional self care we engage in. We get far too caught up in trying to be wonder man or wonder woman but this never works out well in the long term. 

So, how can you do more to take care of yourself? And how can you make this work? It might not look perfect, it might not how you would ideally like it to but it’s important none the less. 

And the fourth key is... Rest and relax.

When is your opportunity to rest and relax? What do you need to change to make this better quality relaxation? I will give you a hint to consider, so much of the time better quality relaxation comes down to two things -  boundaries and technology - do you need to implement better boundaries to protect your relaxation? Do you need to put away the tech and all the distractions and interruptions that come with it?

Are you winding down properly before you go to bed so you can get the most from your sleep? This is when your sleep becomes really important because your sleep is allowing you to be properly rested and restored so you can face your stressful situation with more resilience and from a place of optimum functioning. So what could you do to improve your sleep? Perhaps go back and listen to some of my other podcasts for ideas on this, but getting a copy of the wind down journal could be a really good place to start to help you to stick to really good evening habits. 


So, those are the 4 keys that can be applied to pretty much any situation and that I encourage you to work through and consider. From this, you can create a little action plan of what you might change straight away or over a period of time that will start making life feel a little easier.


I also want to point out that you can use this strategy at any time - it doesn’t matter if you have just started feeling stressed, or if your stress has been too high for months, or if you just want to stay on top of things and stay well. Life will always throw up challenges and things to feel stressed about so it is a good idea to check in with these questions regularly.

It’s never too late to sit down with this worksheet and see what ideas you can come up with. 


So, feel free to go and download the free worksheet to give you a place to work through this, you will find it at … 


I hope this was useful, please let me know how you get on with it.