– Podcast Episode – 

62. 3 Powerful Steps to Confidently Manage Stress and Break Bad Habits

62. 3 Powerful Steps to Confidently Manage Stress and Break Bad Habits

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“Sometimes, it’s time to just ACCEPT that the outcome will be whatever the outcome will be, and NO amount of stressing will change that.”

Join Jodie & Anastasia on this week’s episode as they discuss how to confidently manage stress and break bad habits, to get your life back on track when you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and just overall ‘busy’.


JODIE – Hello and welcome to the Secrets of Confident Women podcast. I’m Jodie, and together with my business partner Anastasia, we run RiSe Women, a business dedicated to making confidence every woman’s new normal.

So before we get started on today’s topic, I’d like to welcome Anastasia back to the podcast.

ANASTASIA – Hi everyone. Great to be back and I’m really looking forward to today’s conversation because I KNOW it’s about something that we are ALL dealing with right now.

JODIE – yeah, absolutely. So today we’ll be talking about how to manage your stress and adjust your habits if you want to increase your confidence.

Now, I’m not sure what’s going on at the moment, but absolutely everyone I speak to appears to be busier and more stressed than they’ve ever been before.

ANASTASIA – yeah, I know. I’m the same. It’s like the slower pace that some of us experienced during the height of the pandemic and the lockdowns, adjusted us in some way. We got used to being not AS busy, and now that we’re going back to whatever NORMAL is, I’m not sure I’m liking it. I mean, I’ve never been busier in my entire life.

JODIE – yeah, I think you’re right. We all seemed to slow it down a little during Covid and now we’re all back to the rat-race. I mean on the one hand it’s great, because we’re lucky enough here in Australia to be able to do all the things we used to do without all of the restrictions. But on the other hand, we’re also back to a pace that none of us are used to anymore. In fact, I’m not even sure we want to be operating this way anymore.

And of course, with a fast-paced life and excessive ‘busyness’ comes increased amounts of stress and the tendency to revert to default habits, primarily because they are ‘easy’ and they allow us to get the job done faster, whatever that ‘job’ may be.

So, before we move on to manage these factors in our life, first let’s talk about what it looks like to be stressed in our day to day lives.

Being stressed, in a nutshell, reduces your ability to ‘deal’. It tends to keep you in problem-mode all the time, because everything always seems ‘too hard’ and it doesn’t allow you to progress naturally to solution-mode.

ANASTASIA – yeah, that’s right. And remember, from our previous conversations, when we talk about our brains and what we’re designed for – humans are naturally inclined to look for the bad – for the threats and the danger – in order to survive and stay alive. It’s in our DNA. Which is great, because yes, it does keep us alive. BUT, it also means that we ARE more likely to go into problem mode because our brains are just primed to look for the bad more than they look for the good.

JODIE – yes, that’s right. And what we know about brain is that the prefrontal cortex helps us make decisions BUT, when we stress, we limit it. Our brain only has a finite amount of energy. So… when we flood it with cortisol – the stress chemical – it basically shuts down and says ‘nope, I’m not doing this. I’m too exhausted to make any decisions’

And you can see where this is going right? If the decision-making part of our brain is refusing to make decisions, then the automated part of our brain kicks in (the part that relies on pre-formed habits) and it yells ‘don’t worry brain, I’ve got this.’ But it really doesn’t. Because operating based on default habits is sometimes not the best course of action.

So, if we want a superior pre-frontal cortex, with all its decision-making power to keep working in our best interests, we need to be careful not to stress it out. Unfortunately, it has a very limited capacity so we need to take advantage of those very short periods of time when it is in ‘solution-mode’ and ‘action-mode’ and give ourselves the best opportunity to use it to its full potential.

If we don’t, we WILL stress, we WILL have little meltdowns and we WON’T be able to find solutions to the problems we are faced with.

Instead, we’ll just expect the worst ALL THE TIME – also known as pessimism – and then just wait for outcomes that we think are out of our control.

ANASTASIA – yeah, that doesn’t really sound like ‘living your best life’ to me. I mean of course, sometimes we can’t help but stress because some situations can actually be really stressful.

So, the increase in hormones and chemicals that we experience to counteract this, can sometimes useful. Adrenaline running through our bodies can drive us forward to do something when we’re really scared, and that can be useful in a fight or flight moment, when we don’t have the option for flight.

But 9 times out of 10, being stressed will actually make the situation you are in worse, so your best option really is to figure out how to manage your stress so that you can move into solution mode quickly, and increase your confidence at the same time.

And you know what, sometimes the outcome will be the outcome, no matter what you do and regardless of your level of input so in those instances, obviously stressing about it is pointless because it will have absolutely NO bearing on what happens.

What is DOES do though, is reduce your ability to ‘deal’ – by being stressed about something that you just cannot change, it puts you into a problem-mode that it is very very difficult to get out of. And unfortunately, that will start to infiltrate ALL areas of your life, because you’ll just become THAT person – you know that person right, who is ALWAYS living in problem-mode and never seems to be able to find a way out of any of their issues.

So THEN what happens is, stress from one area of your life will start to create stress in other areas too, because that simply becomes the state that you are living in. You know this right, because we’ve all been here. You’re stressed about something at work, and then all of a sudden EVERYTHING becomes too hard.

Managing a house is too hard, the kids are too hard, organizing your social life is too hard, waiting in a queue at the supermarket is too hard, watching other people on the road drive too slow is too hard, dealing with challenging family members is too hard – EVERYTHING becomes too hard, because all our brain is looking for is HARD. It’s stuck in stress-mode and in problem-mode so all it can recognise and associate with is HARD.

manage stress quote

JODIE – yeah, absolutely. We’ve definitely all been there. And the key here is to know that this is absolutely normal. We will ALL experience this many many times in our lives, and there’s nothing wrong with you if you do. It’s totally normal. BUT… if you don’t want to be living your daily life this way, then you MUST learn how to manage these stress levels so that you can start living your life in solution-mode and happily, as opposed to problem-mode and miserable.

So, here’s where our 3 step practical process for managing stress comes into play, that will help you move out of problem-mode whenever you need to, and increase your confidence at the same time. It really is a win-win situation.

So, step # 1 is to ACKNOWLEDGE. When you feel like you’ve hit higher than usual stress levels, you’re stuck deep in problem-mode and you’re having trouble finding a way out,

Take a moment to pause and have a good look around at what’s happening, and acknowledge that the situation is stressful and that your stress hormones and chemicals are elevated.

Recognising and labeling stress is actually the first step to managing it because it makes it something real and tangible that you can start working on – not just a default setting that’s operating non-stop in the background of your mind.

And sometimes, if it feels like it’s too hard to do this on your own, enlist a friend or a family member to help. Someone that you really trust to tell you the truth – no BS, no sugar coating. Call them over and say ‘I know I’m stressed and I’m struggling to manage it, but I need some help to figure out what exactly it is that I’m stressed about, and how I can deal with it.’

This kind of approach will always help because they will be able to see things and have access to details about the situation that you won’t be able to see, because you’re deep in the middle of it, but they’re looking at it from the outside. A quick tip though, with this one – try not to call on someone who is deep into the same challenge as you are, because chances are, THEIR stress will be contagious and then you’ll just both end up falling further into problem-mode.

ANASTASIA – yeah, that’s so true. We always talk about having the right people around you and supporting you and this is definitely one of the reasons why, because THEY will be the people who can help you identify what’s wrong and support you to manage it.

Ok, so onto step # 2, which is to ASSESS

I love this one because it just makes absolute sense. When you’re feeling stressed about something, take a moment to assess the situation and create 2 buckets for your thoughts and your actions – what I CAN change and what I CAN’T change.

Then immediately get to work on putting into action the things that you CAN change, and for the moment, put to the side the things that you CAN’T change. They’ll still be there, in the background and that bucket’s not going away, but to start with just push it gently to the side.

Now, as you start to take action and change the things in the CAN CHANGE bucket, you will instantly start to feel an increase in confidence and a reduction in stress levels because you will KNOW that you are actively working on the situation, to fix things. Yes, it might still be crap and yes, there might still be a lot to stress, but at least you’re doing SOMETHING, right?

Now, when you’ve done as much as you CAN, bring back the CAN’T CHANGE bucket and re-assess. Have your actions changed anything in the CAN’T bucket, to a CAN? If so, swap it into the other bucket and get to work. If not, leave it where it is and move on.

Keep working through the things in your buckets or on your lists, whatever works best for you – I’m definitely a list girl – and keep moving things around as you action them or as their status changes. BUT know that, there will come a time when whatever is left in the CAN’T bucket, just cannot be moved. It is there for a reason and that’s where it will stay, because there are some things that are just entirely out of your control and there is nothing you can do about that.

So how about an example to demonstrate this…

Say you’re really stressed at work – you feel overwhelmed, you’re struggling to manage your workload, the commute to and from work every day is exhausting, the culture is a little toxic and your manager doesn’t really want to know. They’re probably dealing with the same thing and their priority seems to be – just get the work done.

This might seem like a situation that you cannot change so you just stick with it, day in day out, and continue to be miserable about your work. But what if there were some things that you COULD change, that may influence your situation? Wouldn’t it be worth trying?

Your CAN CHANGE bucket might include things like ‘manage my calendar better to block out certain periods where I can work undisturbed’, ‘plan a meeting with my manager where I address my concerns and offer solutions’, ‘stay away from people in the workplace who are having a negative impact on me’, ‘ask if hybrid or ‘work from home’ is an available option’? If you list all of these as CAN CHANGE possibilities, then work through methodically to implement what you can, you may in fact see a difference in your work situation.

But, if you try everything that you can try and nothing seems to be working, then clearly that falls into the CAN’T CHANGE bucket which means you are then faced with 2 clear options – stay, and accept that that’s just the way things will be. Or start looking for another job. It really is that simple.

JODIE – yeah, absolutely. This may not be EASY to do, and it might take some time to play out, but it definitely is that simple. And this process can apply to so many areas of your life. I once had a coaching client who would complain about a boss who always interrupted her. She was due to run a big presentation and she was terrified that her boss would interrupt her while she was presenting, and totally throw her off.

ANASTASIA – yes, that’s a great example of how to ASSESS a situation and then decide what Can or CANNOT be changed. So, the purpose of this exercise is to slowly work your way through all the CAN CHANGE items, change what is within your power and boost your confidence by getting into action. And then, whatever’s left in the CAN’T CHANGE bucket is for the next STEP.

JODIE – yep, I’ll take this one.

So, after you’ve done everything you can do and you’ve revisited your buckets as often as you need to, the question is then….. have your actions created a change in your circumstances or are there STILL some things that you just CANNOT change? If so, then that’s when you need step 3, which is to ACCEPT

This is actually the most crucial yet the most difficult step in this process – once all is said and done, and there’s nothing else left for you to do, it’s time to just ACCEPT that the outcome will be whatever the outcome will be, and NO amount of stressing will change that.

There’s a catch here though – this step will ONLY work if you’ve followed steps 1 and 2 properly.

It’s really hard to ACCEPT a situation for what it is, if you haven’t first ACKNOWLEDGED that it is something that makes you anxious or concerned, and then ASSESSED the circumstances to ensure there’s nothing you can do to change the potential outcome.

If you find yourself unable to accept what’s left, you really need to ask yourself why. Is there something left that you think you could do that you haven’t really tried yet, because you’ve been too afraid or there’s something in the way?

Or is there an issue that you haven’t acknowledged as part of the situation? If there is, you need to go back to step one and figure out if you’ve covered all your bases and really thought about everything that could be causing you stress.

Going straight to step 3 is almost impossible because it’s REALLY hard to accept something that worries you, without experiencing some measure of stress and the whole point to this exercise is to REDUCE stress in your life (well, as much as possible anyway.)

ANASTASIA – Yeah, and I think there might be a bonus step here too Jodie, around changing default habits because I think it’s important to be able to recognise certain habits that aren’t working in your favour, in order to avoid defaulting back to them when you’re stressed or overwhelmed.

Creating positive default habits that will pull you out of problem-mode and support you to enter solution-mode is a great way to manage stress because it automates the process for us. If you create the right habits to Acknowledge, Assess and Accept, then THAT is what you will fall back on if stress starts to kick in and you start to feel overwhelmed. It’s THESE positive habits that can help you solve for the problem that you are facing. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? To fix the stressful situation we are in?

JODIE – Absolutely. So an example of default habits that may not be supporting you in situations like this could be over-eating, under-eating, smoking, drinking, not sleeping well, procrastinating, or a whole range of other habits that your body and your mind may revert to, when things get too hard.

Learning to recognise your default habits and replacing them with more helpful habits, is the way to break this cycle and make sure that the habits you ARE defaulting to, will be ones that will help you and support you.
Pre-empting the cue is crucial here – in order to avoid reverting to a default habit, you need to recognise your trigger BEFORE the habit loop commences.

As we’ve discussed in the past, a habit loop looks like this – there’s always a trigger that kicks if off – the thing that will get the ball rolling and your mind into auto-mode.

This is followed by the routine – the default practice or thought that you automatically revert to whenever your trigger shows up.

And then there’s the reward – the outcome of the habit, which will often give you an undesired outcome but which you’ll subconsciously accept time and time again, because it’s familiar.

So the key here is to recognise the trigger, CHANGE the routine, and intentionally bring about a different reward or outcome. What you want to do is create more helpful habits to get you out of problem mode and into solution mode as quickly and as easily as possible.

Because here’s the thing – unhelpful habits are often just coping mechanisms. We’ve created them to help us GET THROUGH something but often, ‘getting through’ is not enough.

If you learn how to recognise your default habits as coping mechanisms and you know what triggers them, then you put yourself in the best possible position to change your routine or your behaviour, which will ultimately change your outcome.

So try changing to more helpful habits and see what happens – instead of over-eating when you’re stressed, try drinking some water instead. The action is the same, but the outcome will be much better for you.

Instead of procrastinating when you feel overwhelmed, write a list and get all your thoughts down on paper. Or call a friend, someone who is happy, positive and uplifting, who you know will boost you up when you’re feeling low.

There are so many ways to change our routine and disrupt the habit loop, as long as we learn how to recognise our triggers and put a plan into action to change our behaviours.

And this WILL help you when you’re stressed because you eliminate the fear of knowing that stress and overwhelm will lead you to unhelpful habits and destructive coping mechanisms.

ANASTASIA – Amazing. It all makes absolute sense. And like we said earlier, it’s not easy and it does take time, but it is simple. And if you work on this and get it right, we guarantee you will learn how to manage and reduce the stress levels in your life.

Well, that’s it for today. Thanks for this awesome discussion Jodie and thanks for joining us everyone. It’s been amazing, as always. And if you’ve enjoyed it too, please feel free to like, share or subscribe to help us get our message out to everyone – that confidence IS accessible to every woman, if she learns how to create, practise and master all of the practical confidence building techniques that work for her. So until next time, bye for now.


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