Treating personal and work related stress/anxiety/concerns

Stress management and coaching for anxiety

The following examples are taken from my work with various clients (personal and business) in the fields of stress management and coaching.

Typically we can group them in the overall category of general concerns and anxiety – split into either personal or work related. However it’s not uncommon that issues in one field do influence behaviour and attitudes or thoughts in the other. This is because any person is a whole individual – mind, body, spirit – therefore it’s not that easy or possible to separate out particular concerns in one area not affecting another.

Top current concerns: work related and personal

Current economic uncertainty in general, including:

* Uncertainty regarding job security
* How to begin a job search
* Direction/options/planning (seeking another role elsewhere)
* Remain with current employer (coping, developing strategy)
* Motivation: how to keep on going, keeping confidant. Increasing performance

Person-to person work relations and difficulties:

* With colleagues, with your boss
* Meetings, giving presentations
* Promotions
* Role changes
* Re-structuring, redundancies (facing redundancy or living with the possibility of redundancy)

Personal issues:

* Anxiety (can even be anxious about being anxious!)
* Loss of past relationships and difficulties – influencing current life (work and private) potentially the future also.
* Gambling
* Alcohol
* Anger management
* Life-work balance
* Motivation; fear of “failure”, lack of setting goals (procrastination)

All the above can be addressed by coaching; also stress counselling (or management) where appropriate.

Does coaching work?

(or stress counselling/management for that matter)

From own practice experience the answer must be a “yes”. Recently the Department of Health has recognised counselling as helpful, investing in expanding the provision of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) services – to address various issues including stress.

NB: You may also come across CBC (Cognitive Behavioural Coaching) similar to CBT in the approach and techniques used, but the work takes place in a non-clinical setting.

With my own clients the following outcomes/results happened (Note: all the following are anonymised – to maintain confidentiality, no real names appear):


Assist mid-level executive in web design agency selected for promotion over close office colleague. How to handle colleague reactions, own feelings of unease at promotion.

Problem/solution focused approach in single 3 hour session. (“”single word” , “miracle” technique).

Clarified approach top situation, client at ease in accepting promotion, more confident and better equipped to handle colleague(s) reactions.


Aid senior Human Resources Manager to gain Fellowship of CIPD.; also to clarify future career options, boost confidence and skills in handling work pressures/difficult situations.

Three sessions. (9 hours) Key contact/sponsor for FCIPD application identified, skills and experience inventory made. Confidence and building resilience to stress techniques imparted. Cover letter formats and Unique Selling Points devised, executive agencies identified for client to approach, CV reviewed and updated.

Fellowship of CIPD gained, client better at handling difficult work situations, more confidence, clearer future direction. CV up to date, applications, letters formats on file to use.


Business Challenge
Client facing likelihood of redundancy following take-over by rival firm. Two aims: survive current uncertainty, update skills and documents to “hit ground running” regarding job search.

Survival strategy/actions devised to cope with current uncertainty while in parallel job search commences. Job agencies and head-hunters identified to approach.

Client more focused and confident, better able to handle situation and thrive.

Business Challenge
Current work issues regarding behaviour at meetings when HR agenda items are discussed (withdrawal, impatience)

SPACE review (cognitive coaching tool) uncovered core unhelpful belief regarding colleagues input when discussing HR items in meetings; client’s “self discovery, i.e. recognition of this led to understanding and behaviour change.

Client’s behaviour at meetings altered; viz:- more open to input from other non-HR colleagues, no withdrawal or impatience.

Life Challenge
Recovery from past relationship, unable to let go and move one.

Confidence building, examining roots of beliefs arising from past negative life experience, consequences of holding on to such beliefs.

Client able to plan new future, let go of past (move on).


Excessive drinking /gambling. Arguments with department head. Fears of being disciplined or fired due to behaviour. Personal life: lack of goals, motivation, activities to improve.

Cognitive-behavioural coaching. Settings goals, assertiveness training.

Within four weeks, alcohol consumption under better control, gambling ceased, more confident reading remaining employed, cognitive-behavioural and assertiveness techniques used to handle work relations and issues – less conflict with office manager and colleagues. Future goals detailed and work started on these.

“ Ron”

Alcohol usage, starting to affect business activities in the day.

Examined with clients roots (thoughts, past experiences) leading to current alcohol consumption. Devised with client a plan of activities to reduce alcohol intake while increasing overall fitness, reducing stress levels.

Within two weeks alcohol intake reduced, exercise regime started.


Relationship difficulties with school colleague.

Counselling, questioning to help client examine and assess situation, options to handle generated.

Client clearer re actions to take to resolve the issues; relief at clarity, more decisive.


General anxiety. Concerns regarding burnout at hectic work activities. Fear of possible OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Multimodal analysis and profile drawn up. Cognitive-behavioural questioning – to explore roots of unhelpful beliefs and thoughts, hence feelings.

Program of actions devised for client, including: stress management, alternative relaxation activities, more helpful thoughts (to help change mindset to more positive position). General fears found to be groundless, not OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) sufferer.

Positive outcomes require a client/therapist partnership

For all of the above, the clients had to engage and work with their coach /stress manager in devising a programme of actions/exercise to help. There really is no “magic wand” as it were where with no work from the client’s part, things improve. Instead the client and coach form a partnership to work on improving things; this aspect is the key to good outcomes from any coaching session(s).

About The Author

For further information about the author’s work and background reading visit John Casson’s GoToSee profile page here

Read articles by John Casson on Life Coaching & Stress Management:

Stress Management – Learning to deal with stress
Multimodal Life Coaching
All in the Mind? A personal approach to pressure proofing your thinking

Redundancy. Recent FT feature on coaching for executives facing redundancy FT Executive Appointments, pages 4 & 5, 28 May 2009, “Outplacement” feature). The articles in the feature address the need for stress /emotional counselling plus coaching at executive jobs level.

See ISMA website (International Stress Management Association) for stress information statistics also HSE website (Health & Safety Executive)

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