Can’t shake the stress

Life is stressful in the best of times. In these COVID times, it can be downright overwhelming. 


It’s the end of summer Down Under, and our family recently went on our first holiday in a year. We traveled from our small community to a state where they had not had a single case of COVID in the community for ten months. We ventured out to go shopping and to restaurants with a relative sense of security laced with a strong undercurrent of surrealism.

Unfortunately, I forgot to leave my stress at home, and it took up a lot of space in our lives. Our week in the sun ended up a bit overcast as a result.

Self-care sounds so easy when you read a book or a blog: Take a walk, call a friend, read a book, take a bath – whatever floats your boat. However, none of those things will make a difference if you do them with stress, anger, and frustration leading the way. You’ll just wake up less tired and still churlish after your oh-so-indulgent nap.

My too smart for his own good husband pointed out that far too often I let someone else’s decisions dictate my happiness. I told him he was a jerk who should keep his opinions to himself. I was also quick to add that I love him and that he’s right, but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear.

We resist the truth when we’d rather it simply be different. Sometimes that resistance looks a heck of a lot like grumpiness and stress shooting out of our every pore like laser beams destroying everyone and everything around us.

Reality is not up to us to choose. Luckily, how we deal with it is well within our control.


shake the stress

Stress at Home, Stress at Work. Where’s Calgon When You Need it?

After speaking to clients, friends, and family in recent months, one thing is clear – we’re getting through something we never wanted to slog through. Some of them look as if they are about to collapse, and others are still smiling.

What makes the difference? Why are some people resilient and, dare I say it, happy, while others are miserable?

Worth a read: Save Yourself from Burnout and Rebuild Resilience

How to Shake the Stress and Open to Joy

Negative attitudes are like black holes. The deeper you go into your stress response and let your fatalistic attitude take charge, the less it feels like there is a way out. Resentment and exasperation become the status quo.

How can you escape the gravitational pull?

Not everyone has a coach on speed dial to help them through moments when they can’t shake the stress and set themselves free. If you did, your coach would ask you some powerful questions to help you see your current situation through a fresh lens.

Here are five places to explore and fifteen questions to get you out of your funk and back to being and doing your best. You’ll know what area you need to pause on and reflect the longest.

Consider how people in the worst circumstances can still have a positive mindset

The most positive people aren’t wearing blinders; their eyes are wide open. They also know what is in their control (and who) and what is not.

Ask yourself:

What’s in my control?

When was the last time I remained positive when dealing with a stressful situation?

What lessons have I forgotten from that experience?

Get grounded in the present moment (not the perfect-past or sure-to-be-better future)

Comparison exacerbates stress. Whether you’re comparing your child’s reading habits to your neighbor’s, speaking opportunities, travel, it doesn’t matter. Mine to yours, past to present, it does not serve our psyches. Stop.


shake the stress

Ask yourself:

Am I living in the present or spending more time worrying about what the future will bring?

What comparison traps do I fall into most often?

What do I love that I can do today – no need to wait?

Accept imperfect humans

We are all imperfect humans; showing grace towards them means showing grace to you. Yes, some people make you want to rip something and throw it in the air as you shout at the top of your lungs. Just me? Huh. No matter. Resist.

Ask yourself:

Do I set a higher bar for others than I do for myself?

Do I set a higher bar for myself than others?

What messages am I sending to others when I let my stress doing the talking?

Change your focus

This is a trick that works on little babies and on animals too. When they become fixated on something, give them something else to zero in on instead. When you’re focused on the things that make your stress explode, make the conscious decision to shift your focus.

Ask yourself:

Is my current focus serving me?

What can I do right now to break the rumination cycle?

What am I avoiding?

Slather on the olive oil like you’re a big ol’ salad (ok, not literally)

Oil and water do not mix. Like water forming droplets that can’t permeate through the oil, those things that are stressing you out can roll off of you.

Ask yourself:

What would it be like to not internalize everything?

What one thought that’s driving me nuts can I choose to let go of in this moment?

How much lighter would I feel if I didn’t carry everyone’s burdens?

When you can’t shake the stress, you feel powerless. It’s as if all the bad things you see and feel are running your life. If you need help to get back to a more positive and powerful mindset, do not hesitate to reach out to get it. Also, remember, for better or worse, this too shall pass.


It’s never been more self-evident than in the global pandemic that stress and lockdown burnout levels are high.

Take a look at the 3Plus program: Work/life balance and stress management 

Alli Polin Contributor
Alli Polin, CPCC, ACC, is a former senior executive with deep experience in leadership, change management, and organization development. Now a writer, coach, and speaker, she is driven to help people create a full life and achieve professional success. She has an award-winning blog, Break the Frame, writing on the intersection of life and leadership.
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