How to reduce your stress (Episode 63)

Feeling stress is a normal human experience. If you’re tired of hearing unhelpful advice about how to manage it, listen as Kay Coughlin gives you practical, truly useful tips.

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Transcript of episode is below.

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Do you need to find a way to get some rest and take control of your own life again? You can, even if you believe that you can't possibly take care of yourself when the people around you need you so much!

Transcript: How to reduce your stress (episode 63)

Hi there. I’m your host Kay Coughlin. And you’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I am a life coach for family caregivers who want to get some rest and feel less lonely. I’m not only the CEO of my own business, but I’m also a wife, mother to two teenage young men, and I’m the primary caregiver for my own mother.

I figured out how to navigate all of these responsibilities and get into the mindset I need so that I can set boundaries and prioritize myself. That’s what I help my clients do too. And if we can do it, I know you can too.

Welcome to episode 63.

Today, I’m going to be talking about reducing stress. This is something that just comes up all the time, not only in my own life, but also with my clients.

What I’ve come to realize is that the only way to reduce your stress is to prioritize yourself. And the only way to prioritize yourself is to reduce your stress. I know that sounds like it’s unfair and it sounds like circular logic. And look, if it makes you want to throw your phone at me right now, I totally get it.

Just hang tight. I promise. I’m going to break that down for you and make it into some manageable size chunks here in just a minute.

But before I do that, I want to let you know that one of the reasons I’m thinking so much about prioritizing yourself is that I am finishing up my planning for an amazing week that I’ve got coming up next month.

And that is called “Prioritize You.” And it starts on Monday, April 11. If you are tired, if you’re lonely, if you are stressed out, this is for you. In just one week, I’m going to give you everything that you need to finally put your own needs at the top of your list of things to do. There are just way too many of us who really think that self care is for everybody else except us.

And even worse than that. We have been taught to think that basic human needs and I’m talking eating regular meals, moving our bodies, getting adequate rest and earning a decent living. We think that these basic human necessities are okay for everybody else to prioritize, but not for us. And we think this because we really think that if we try to put these needs first on our own behalf, so for ourselves, that makes us bad people. It makes us selfish and self-centered. And I want to let you know that the only reason I’m so familiar with this belief and the pain and the guilt and the shame that can go along with it is that I was there for most of my life.

You know, I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a family caregiver for my own mother. And I own my own business as a life coach. I have a lot going on and I used to believe that the needs of everybody else were so much more important than my needs, but I just don’t believe that any more. So I am bringing all of my best stuff to the Prioritize You week.

And that’s for you. Yes. I am talking to you if you’re a family caregiver, and this includes parents, and you just know that you don’t prioritize your own life and your own needs, you know that you always put everybody else first. Well, this week, Prioritize You, it’s for you. You can find a link to register in the show notes, or you can just go to my website, look for facilitator on


I’m offering this week of my very best support, coaching, teaching, all of these things I’ve learned from my own life and from working with all of my clients, I’m offering it all for a ridiculously low price. And I’m so excited because I just know that by the end of the Prioritize You week, you will have everything you need to reduce your stress levels, get rest, be a part of a supportive community. So you can be less lonely, eat the way you want to eat, whatever it is that you want, get the exercise you need and even take care of your own financial needs. So do not wait, go sign up today.

Yes, I admit, I am very excited about my Prioritize You. If you are listening to this after it begins and that’s on April 11th, 2022 is when it begins. If you’re listening to it after that, go check out my online membership community for family caregivers and parents. So you can see what’s coming up next there. Cause I don’t want you to miss out just because you’re listening later, and you’re going to find a link to that over in my Boundaries Community. Look for that link in the show notes.

All right on to the good stuff. As I said today, I’m talking about reducing stress. It just comes up all the time in my work with my clients. You know, it’s just one of those things that’s part of being human. Everybody has to deal with stress at some point in their lives.

Even a monk who lives on a mountain top is going to have stress at some point in his or her life.

There is so called good stress and so-called bad stress. But I think even that is really subjective. Just this morning, I was talking to a client who is currently very stressed out because she’s booked a bunch of new clients, but that means that now she has to develop some different time management skills. Well, it seems like that should be good stress because it’s really amazing that she’s got all these clients now, but it’s just not that simple. She still feels overwhelmed. She is still feeling this stress in ways that are impacting her negatively.

What is stress? I don’t want to get into a definition of it because I think we all have heard enough definitions of stress, but I want to talk about where it shows up in our lives.

We feel stress as an emotion, we think about it as a thought, and stress shows up as an experience in our lives. And what I mean by that is we go through stress in situations and in circumstances and in relationships, that makes it an experience.

I think we’ve all heard doctors talk about how much of a negative effect that stress can have on our lives. You know, it’s a leading cause of heart disease, fatigue, and it means that we make bad decisions about other things in our lives. And, and as I’ve said, it means that we put ourselves last instead of putting ourselves first.

But, you know, we just don’t hear a lot of straightforward advice on how to reduce it. And I mean, real advice, I mean, things that actually work. So what I’m going to do today is I’m going to give you my list of ways to reduce your stress. I use these for myself in my own life, and I use these with all of my clients, and I know that these things work. The good news is they’re all within your reach.

And most of them don’t cost any money at all, or they are very low cost.

I’m going to start with the hardest one, actually, because I want to get that out of the way, because it’s the one I know that is going to have the longest-term effect on reducing stress in your life over time. And here’s what it is. Get to know yourself.

We might also think of this as self-awareness. This is learning more about yourself. What are your needs and your wants and your preferences? What are your values? What has meaning for you? What doesn’t have any meaning for you at all, for you? What are the hard nos and what are the big yeses? The big juicy yeses, the things that you always will say yes to.

What happens is that when we get very stressed out, we forget these things, or maybe we didn’t know them in the first place. So the thing to do is going to be to go back to whatever makes you feel most like yourself, puts you in that place where you can be aware of who you are and what you need.

Now, maybe you already have some practices for this, and maybe you don’t. If you don’t, definitely come join us over in the membership community because we talk about this a lot over there, and it’s a healthy place. It’s a supportive place. There’s no judgment. There’s no guilt. So come on over there and join us in your exploration of self-awareness. It’s one of the things that we do.

As for the rest of what’s on my list, I was going to say that I wanted to start with the ones that are easiest and move on to things that are going to be harder.

But I actually didn’t approach the list that way, because I don’t want to judge these things. I don’t know which things are going to seem easy to you and which things are going to seem hard to you. As someone who’s a perfectionist, some of these things seem very hard to me, but I know other people who find them to be a snap.

So, okay, here’s that list, and it really is up to you to know which ones of these will be easiest. I want to make sure that as you listen to this, you’re listening for the ones that could be the easy things or the low hanging fruit, because when you’re really stressed out, try and do some things that really are within your reach right now, right this second.

So the next thing here as I continue on is: be gentle with yourself. As a perfectionist, I have to say this one is very, very difficult for me, but what I mean by be gentle with yourself is treat yourself like a dear friend. Maybe you might say, stop beating yourself up. Stop causing yourself the additional pain of so much judgment.

When you get up in the morning, try to look at the day ahead, no matter how stressed out you are, and remind yourself that you are just perfect, just the way you are. Be loving and gentle.’

Next then, is a reminder to breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. There’s a lot of techniques for breathing. They all work. A good one is to just take five slow breaths in and out.

We know that about 60 seconds of breathing can make a big difference for you. So just remember to breathe.

Next one then is to feel your feelings. I know this probably sounds awful to a lot of folks listening to this. I used to be like that too, but what I’ve learned is that stuffing my feelings down takes so much energy. And when I’m particularly stressed out, what I need to do is feel my feelings. I talk about this a lot in my podcast. I’m a big believer in this. Feeling your feelings can do so much to reduce your stress level because it reduces the amount of energy that you’re going to have to put into every moment of every day.

Next one then is to get some help, get some help with your physical condition or with your mental and emotional health or with your social situation. I know asking for help is extremely difficult. Still, getting help is one of the very, very best ways to reduce your stress.

Speaking of your social health, the next one on my list here is to get community. Find a healthy supportive community, find friendships, or maybe go back to friends who are good for you, who always help you reduce the stress in your life. People who make you feel good and who you enjoy being with.

You know that one of the things on my list here has to be setting boundaries, because I talk about that all the time. Setting boundaries really can reduce your stress, especially if you set them, communicate them to people and then insist that people respect your boundaries.

Next up here is get some rest. When you are incredibly stressed out there is really nothing quite as effective as getting rest. And by this, I don’t mean just sleep. This is daily refreshing rest. Things that you can do throughout your day to make sure that you are giving yourself what you need, so that you are at your best as much as you can be.

If this one sounds like it is really so far out of reach for you and like rest is just a cruel joke for you, I wrote a guide and it’s over in my Boundaries Community. It is totally free. Go on over there. I’ll leave a link to it in the show notes, take a look at how I teach about getting rest. And I think you’ll find that this one is not nearly as far out of reach as you think it is.

The next one then is to eat nourishing foods. This means different things to different people. I am certainly not going to tell you how you should eat, but we do know that in general, especially when you’re very stressed out, that if you can limit sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, you’re going to go a long way towards reducing your stress and helping your health. In general. We know we also know that avoiding junk food is a good idea. Reducing oil, right? Eating fewer chips and fewer Doritos is going to help. So really try to eat some nourishing food as often as possible, especially when you’re under a lot of stress.

The next one here is to get exercise. I think in particular, that light exercise is extremely helpful. You can do as much light exercise as you want without doing yourself any harm whatsoever. I like to recommend light exercise because when I am very stressed out, sometimes I do get tempted to do big, heavy, really challenging workouts. And sometimes that’s when I get hurt doing my workouts. When I’m really stressed out, I don’t think I’m a really good judge of how much is too much.

And so I’ll try to do light exercise and more of it. And, you know, that’s go take a walk or go dancing if you can, that sort of thing. Um, and that’s going to help you a lot.

And then I’m going to end this list by going back to the first one I mentioned, which is getting to know yourself, but I want to talk about that in a very specific way.

One really great starting point for getting to know yourself is to learn to recognize when you’re stuck in a hamster wheel in your own head. Now, I also would call this a thought, it might look like a thought and behavior loop. So you have a thought and then you keep doing a certain behavior. And when we can learn to notice this, we can get out of the loop.

Now learning to notice it is one thing. And I recommend something called a thought download. You can find that for free as well over in my Boundaries Community.

But there are some things that you can do to get out of the loop. Pretty much the entire list that I just went through is going to get you out of a loop.

And the thing to do is to recognize that you’re in a thought loop or a thought behavior loop, and that you need to kind of jolt yourself out of that. So it’s a good time to go get some exercise or call a friend or call your therapist or a life coach like me. And we can help you get out of those thought loops when you see them.

Reducing stress is really a decision that you have to make. You have to say to yourself, I am choosing this for me. And then you do have to take action to make it happen, to actually reduce the stress in your life. Now it’s probably going to involve changing some thoughts or behaviors that you do right now.

And I’m here to tell you, it’s definitely going to mean learning to prioritize yourself and your own needs in a new way. And that’s one of the main reasons that I created my Prioritize You workshop. We just have not been taught to prioritize ourselves. We haven’t been taught to reduce our stress. We haven’t been taught things to do to take good care of ourselves.

And I want to change that for all of us. I want to change it for you. We can learn, and we can learn to use the tools that are available to us to reduce our stress. But the first thing that we have to do, and I’m talking to you, is make the decision to do it.

So if that’s what you get out of today’s episode, that the first thing to do is make a clear decision for yourself, to say I’m going to reduce my stress. That is something incredibly important to take away from this today. I want to really encourage you to start by making the decision.

Maybe go back then and listen to my list of suggestions on how to reduce your stress. But once you’ve made the decision, you can move forward and you have a really, really good chance that you actually will be able to reduce the stress in your life.

If you liked this episode, you have to go check out my free community to talk about Boundaries. It’s a safe space for us to do the work of making decisions about what’s okay. And what’s not okay. And communicating those decisions to the people around us. It’s not easy, but we can support each other while we do it. You’ll find the link in the show notes. Or you could just go there now. And it’s at Facilitator On Fire dot net slash boundaries. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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