Stressed Out Clients: A Coaching Challenge

As a Life or Business Coach, your job is to understand your client and help them understand

  1. Where they are in life or business
  2. Where they want to be, and
  3. How best to get there…


So what happens when they

  • fret about everything,
  • argue minor points continuously
  • become distracted and don’t listen,
  • flake out and don’t follow through,
  • change their minds frequently, or
  • simply stressed out?

Then what??

Most clients are not basket cases and will respond to effective coaching.  There are some who may need you to apply a few other methods I will reveal later on in this article… and then there are those who are probably beyond your help.

Stress and Abuse

Stressed Out 300x300 Coaching The Stressed OutI once had a client who came to me to take a Logical Soul® workshop and spent most of the weekend either protesting the structure of the course, or arguing with me over simple rules.  Later, when I found out she was abused as a child by a male relative, it all made sense. But by then, I had already lost her as a client or prospect.

Should I have known?  Yes, but I didn’t at that time.  Is child abuse something this woman would have normally volunteered?  No.  I was a coach, not her therapist, and abuse is a condition I was not normally prepared to deal with.  Subconsciously the woman was probably feeling both shame and rage, especially towards men.  It was my job to recognize the symptoms and deal with it accordingly – most likely by referring her to a therapist.

As a coach, you will occasionally come across people with a history of past trauma.  It is NOT your job to treat them.  It IS your job, however, to recognize the symptoms and refer these people to someone who can help them deal with their traumatic past.

Fight or Flight

One of the biggest realizations I had was that there is always a very good reason why clients and patients act – or react – the way they do..  Usually, however, these reasons are based on SUBCONSCIOUS SURVIVAL DECISIONS that their conscious minds have no access to understand or correct.

Let’s look at the biggest survival response to see how this works . . .

Walter Bradford Cannon 233x300 Coaching The Stressed Out

Dr. Walter B. Cannon

In the 1920’s, psychologist Walter B. Cannon coined the phrase “fight or flight” to describe the reaction most of us have when faced with sudden danger.  Dr. Cannon studied the bio-chemical responses in people who were exposed to either real danger or perceived danger.  In both cases, the physiological responses were identical:  palms became sweaty, pupils, dilated, heart rate increased, breathing became shallow, and adrenal cortisol levels shot up… all indicating an increased stress response.

In other words, Cannon discovered that we as humans react to any situation – whether real or imagined – the same way as we did in prehistoric times.  This long-inherited survival instinct, while it may have been necessary for hunting and avoiding saber-toothed tigers, is now a mere vestige of the past – a useless, and even harmful, reaction when living in our modern society.

The fight-or-flight response in today’s world is rarely useful.  But the “rush of adrenaline” can become addictive, despite the fact that it depletes the adrenal cortex, can suppress the immune system, and cause all sorts of acute and chronic diseases, ranging from heart attacks to cancer and diabetes.  In others words, too much fight-flight is BAD . . . and our society has it in spades!

Limbic System 300x171 Coaching The Stressed OutThe REAL problem with the fight-or-flight reaction is that the sources are always stored in the MEMORY which has its seat in the limbic system, located in the mid-brain, also known as our “lower brain” or “lizard brain.”  This is the oldest part of our brains, based on our evolution, and does not involve conscious thought.  It DOES, however affect our thoughts!

What this means is that EVERYTHING we see, hear, touch, taste and smell is filtered through this limbic system . . . and is colored by our memory-based STRESS!  That woman at my workshop was seeing me as her abusive relative… whether or not she consciously understood I was not that guy!

Relationships are especially vulnerable to the fight-flight reaction.  A woman’s need for safety and a man’s need for acknowledgement often clash when these needs become primary and the higher brain quality of LOVE is forgotten!

Stress Release Is Vital

Studies of people who meditate or live in ashrams or monasteries show that stress levels – as measured by heart rate, cortisol levels, etc. – go down, and the longer the practice of meditation, the lower the overall stress levels.

Another group of people found to have a lower tendency to devolve into fight-flight are those who are tied in – spiritually, emotionally, consciously and subconsciously – to INSPIRATION.  Their thoughts appear to come directly from higher brain functions and are not filtered through the lower brain survival needs, and are models for the type of human we can evolve into when fight-flight is reduced.

People who meditate, or experience stress-release techniques like Logical Soul® and Higher Brain Living® also reported increased levels of inspiration and creativity, as well as the expected stress reduction.

prefrontal cortex 300x193 Coaching The Stressed OutSubjects in lowering stress studies usually demonstrated increased levels of wave coherence in certain areas of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) in the frontal portion behind the so-called “third eye.”  Those who reported stress were found to have little or no brain wave coherence, and little activity in the PFC.

The resulting happiness and focus were found to be directly related to increased activity in these areas . . . and decreased activity in the limbic system areas.  Meditators are simply calmer, more relaxed, more effective, and much happier about their lives and activities.

What this means for you as a coach is this:  while there is very little you can do to increase a client’s brainwave coherence, you CAN suggest they start meditating . . . or at least go on a retreat or vacation to clear their minds.  For the more severe cases, suggest they get therapy.

Coaching those who are stressed out is no fun, can drain your energies and complicate your life.  By using the time together to suggest additional alternatives, you will change their lives in ways that will add more to your coaching . . . and more quality of life to you both!