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Stress At Work Gets Bum Rap
Yes we all have stress and that’s a good thing. As I like reminding clients, “If your body didn‘t have any stress, you’d be dead!”

Think of stress as if it is a band or continuum that we move along, with positive challenge stress at one end and negative dis-tress at the other.  And we are always moving back and forth between the two poles.  

Have you ever asked yourself “why is it that some people experience more dis-tress than others working in the same environment and under similar conditions?” 

The answer may surprise you. How we respond – mentally and physically – to events around us often has more to do with the unconscious processing of sensory cues, than with rational thinking.

The good news
That means negative stress (dis-tress) can have its roots in random, accidental exposure to sensory cues (
things we see, hear, touch, or smell in the environment around us) activating a conditioned response that is totally outside our conscious awareness. Our body and emotions can be hi-jacked by environmental cues we don't notice, and that have little to do with current experience. (If you’d like more information on the neurobiology visit this link.

A better question is ...
“When you find yourself on the negative side of the stress continuum, how can you neutralize the negative effects?” There are steps you can take, and we will get to them in a moment. First it may be worth mentioning why you should bother. Why is it worth your time and conscious effort? 

Stress costs!
Intellectually knowing, that stress costs Canadian businesses billions of dollars every year in lost hours and health care, may not fire off your hot buttons. Until you think about this – the indirect costs may be even higher and they live where you do.

  • Stress impairs judgment and decision-making, learning and memory.1

  • It affects short term concentration and the ability to plan for the long term. 

  • Stress is a major factor in high staff turnover and low commitment at work.

1O’Keefe, Nadel, Jacobs & Nadel, Dienstsbier

Stress is an inside job
Denial is the single biggest challenge to overcoming stress in the work place. Many people are reluctant to seek treatment until dis-tress leads to disease (more accurately labeled dis-ease.)

If more people understood how little conscious rational thinking, actually has to do with our stress response and how easily negative stress can be converted to positive challenge, then they would be more comfortable and proactive about managing it.

A two minute stress buster
Here’s a great technique for common garden variety stress, the kind we all encounter on a regular basis.

You know those days when it feels like your office has a revolving door? The phone and text messages are flooding in? You’re multi-tasking to the max … and then you just can’t concentrate anymore. Your thoughts are flying around, but nothing is landing? 

What if you could STOP and take a two minute break that will clear your mind?

Take you into the relaxation response. Lower your heart rate and your blood pressure. Feeling your breathing deepening as you neutralize stress, clear your mind and refocus your thoughts?

Take a test drive now Two Minute Stress Buster*
Concentrate for a moment on something stressful or challenging in your life. Can you notice your body getting tense? Feel your muscles tightening? Check your breathing and notice what's happening. Did you
STOP breathing? Or is it rapid and shallow – higher in your chest? Okay, now you have a baseline.

  1. Check the time and make a mental note of the minutes.

  2. *Cross one ankle over another. Notice which leg is on top. Either will do.

  3. *Next, extend your arms just below shoulder height, with the backs of your hands touching each other.

  4. *Take one hand (same side as top foot) and cross the wrist over the other hand so that your palms now touch.

  5. *Interlace your fingers.

  6. *Swing your hands down, then in (inside) and up onto your chest. Relax your shoulders.

  7. *Sit like that for two or three minutes and you’ll feel your breathing shift lower and slower in your chest, your  muscles relaxing and your mind clearing. Keep your head upright.

  8. Optional: Close your eyes giving yourself a suggestion that they open again in a specific number of minutes, feeling relaxed and refreshed. You may be surprised that your eyes do open within 30 seconds of the time you suggested.

The technique is called Hook-ups or Cooks Hooks, one of the BrainGym™ exercises by Dr. Paul Dennison. Two minutes a day can be like taking a vitamin for your mind. You’ll have more creative ideas. Great for studying too, but that’s a story for another day.  

Other Steps
Five or ten minutes of exercise can do wonders.

  • A quick walk around the block will get more oxygen to your brain (brains need oxygen to solve problems.) You’ll have more creative ideas as well.

  • Pick up a book on BrainGym™ and take a two minute body tuning break. All can be done in an office environment and they will tune up your mind, brain and body connections without breaking a sweat.

  • Drink more water during stressful times. Water helps flush out the chemical soup your immune system releases during stress.

Two powerful resources 
Many experts recognize that trying to manage stress consciously may actually be counter productive. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has many valuable, time and field-tested methods for neutralizing stress. Because NLP works with the neurological associations running outside of conscious awareness, change happens quickly and comfortably.

Handles the ‘big stuff’ too
Back in 2005 the European Federation of Psychologists ‘Task Force on Disaster and Crisis Psychology’ listed NLP and Hypnosis as two of the preferred treatments for Post Trauma Therapy. If they work for trauma, and they do – I’ve put it to the test – then clearing stress is easy.

Now what?
For those working in high pressure, demanding roles, periodically getting a little help and clearing away accumulated baggage of stress can be well worth the investment. Signals to watch for include lack of concentration, frequent anger, frustration, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed or burned out.

A quick acting antidote
Many business people turn to the NLP Breakthrough process, as a quick, effective and comfortable method of clearing away the common barriers to performance. Negative stress can drain your productivity. So be proactive about your well being, and you’ll improve your bottom line as well.

One more question
So now you're wondering "how do you create more of the positive 'challenge' stress?" That's a great question. The next news and views article will definitely have some tips for creating conditions for 'challenge' stress, at work and at home. Watch for it.

End notes
Considering the fall NLP Practitioner Program 'NLP or Coaching?' The Innergize blog may answer some of your questions. (
Learn more about the Breakthrough process at Breakthrough Coaching.

A few quotes ...

On Multi-tasking:
Humans can't multi-task—we can't pay attention to two things simultaneously. No, multi-tasking is really just rapid attention-switching. And that'd be a useful skill, except it takes us a second or two to engage in the new situation we've graced with our focus. So, the sum total of attention is actually decreased as we multi-task. Slicing your attention, in other words, is less like slicing potatoes and more like slicing plums. You always lose some of the juice.
David Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
George Orwell

“When things stop growing, they begin to die.”
Charles Gow, in Managing Corporate Lifecycles  (a little harsh, but worth thinking about!)

“Even if you are on the right road, you will eventually get run over if you just sit there.” Anon (who else?)

Check out the Innergize blog found at If you like, share a story of your own using the comment box. 

A blog worth a visit if you need a little humor in your day.  

Looking for language patterns?
Go to Wordpower Resources

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