FOCUS: Stress

Disciplines: Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Systems Thinking, Team Learning

Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath.
Stress is an ignorant state.
—Natalie Goldberg


I remember talking to a woman from New Orleans whose whole neighborhood was wiped out by hurricane Katrina. “I never realized how much I counted on my corner. It let me know where I was. Now that it’s gone, I hardly know who I am.” I cannot imagine how it would be to experience something as devastating as Katrina or the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

My recent crisis is tiny by comparison, but it has shaken my world still. Three weeks ago Hal fell after having lunch at Bruegger’s with his friend Tony. He got a big gash over his left eye and broke his right patella (knee cap.) He is already on the mend, but in the meantime we have had to figure out how to live. Suddenly dressing, going to the bathroom, going up and down stairs are daunting. So we’re in learning mode, and acquiring things like walkers, wheelchair and a stairlift.

Hal is inspiring in the way that he accepts reality and is determined to get better. And I swing into coping mode. I only realized how stressed I am when I arrived at a doctor’s appointment at 10 a.m. exhausted from helping Hal down a lot of stairs and into the car, only to discover that our appointment was at 2:00. Worse yet, I had mixed up appointments in my head, and someone was at my house at 10:00. So I scrambled to make it all work, and then sat down to acknowledge to myself that I am hugely stressed. That in itself was a relief.

Living Through Stress

I had been doing some of what I know helps me live through stress. But I had lapsed badly in some areas. Here’s a list of what helps me:

  1. Acknowledge that I'm really stressed, and a little addlebrained because of it. Stop pretending everything’s just fine. Get mindful. Write things down and check lists and calendars.

  2. Take care of myself. Eat well (I’d been eating too much of the comfort food people had brought). Exercise. Sleep extra. Cancel things. Take a little time to meditate each day.

  3. Ask for and accept help. After having helped Hal down all our stairs and into the car by myself, I called neighbors to help the next time. No need for me to be a hero here. And it’s too hard to do alone. I was setting myself up to get hurt or burned out. I also asked people to help me research wheelchairs, walkers, stairlifts. People visited and brought food, which I welcomed. I practiced saying “yes” to every offer of help.

Coaching Questions:

  • What stressful situation can you stop fighting?
  • What does it look like when you get totally real and mindful about it?
  • How can you take extra care of yourself so you don’t get tired, sick or stupid?
  • Whom can you ask for help?


No telegathering this month because I’m too stressed and Hal can’t yet get his own lunch! But send me your best stress buster ideas!

Read an excerpt from Liberating Greatness, the Whole Brain Guide to an Extraordinary Life, the book Hal and I wrote, at

Reach me: 1-888-907-HOPE (4673)or e-mail I am a personal and executive coach and would be happy to offer you a complimentary coaching session by phone.

Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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