Stress management redefined: ditch the deep breathing and do this instead

Are you fed up with being told to ‘manage your stress’ by taking a deep breath or going for a walk? These are strategies designed for a different era. A time when workplaces were very different. Today, I’m going to suggest a radical new approach. One that fixes the old problem of being ‘time-poor’ in very different ways. You see,  you’re not stressed because you have poor coping skills. The real problem is something much more insidious.

Fix failing systems, not yourself!

How much time do you waste each week working around the vagaries of badly designed systems and work processes? It’s time to take a radical approach.  Stop being the human equivalent of the worn-out cog that holds a broken machine together. Instead, update the machine.  Make a list of the top 3 processes that waste your time. Then update them, fix them or throw them out altogether.

Zone out to chill out

Firstly, stop pushing yourself to focus all day.  Your brain can’t do that. It needs regular breaks to function at its best. That’s where zoning out comes into play. Research has shown that taking short “brain breaks” throughout the day can improve focus, creativity and productivity. My favourite way to do this is by tapping into the power of trance. This is a deep state of relaxation. It counters stress and induces a calm, contented flow.

In 2023 I designed a group coaching program for managers in a high-profile arts organisation. They wanted to reduce stress and increase their impact. Instead of focusing on time management techniques (which you can learn anywhere), I taught them to access trance states and develop emotion-regulation skills.  By the end of the program, everyone was feeling more focused and in control, despite the continuing demands of their jobs.


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Newsflash. Doing things you hate can make you feel stressed. That’s why it’s essential to craft your workday using the 80:20 Rule. This comes from Economics and explains that 80% of your results come from just 20% of your efforts. Here’s the radical bit. I’m not going to tell you to focus on streamlining your work processes.  Instead, I want you to focus on doing tasks you love for at least 20% of your day.

Assuming you work around 8 hours a day, that means allocating just 1.5 hours a day to tasks that bring you joy. It doesn’t sound much but it can make a huge difference to your stress levels!  So, it’s time to stop using outdated strategies to manage stress. Instead, take a radical new approach from this day forth.  Fix the failing systems, take brain breaks and prioritise tasks that bring you joy.

And remember, I’m here to help. Check out my inspiring online coaching lab, Momentum, if you want to dive even deeper into these ideas.

This article was created by Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a leadership trainer and success coach. Her mission is inspiring talented people to become leaders who make a difference.  Since discovering her passion for training and development, Eleanor has trained more than 60,000 people. She delivers face-to-face workshops for corporates, online masterclasses for leaders and Positive Psychology retreats for trainers, HR practitioners and leaders.