Coping with the stress of it all

As you may have already noticed, the nature of my contributions is changing a bit this year; and this is partly due to the changing circumstances in which we’re all living and working at the moment.

I work closely with people from all works of life and although they all present with different issues and questions there’s no doubt that there has been a significant shift over the last few months, including the evolution of a very common theme.

If I had to sum up the question I’ve been asked most frequently over the last few months, it would be something like “How can I cope with the current economic difficulties?” and/or “How can I keep my business or team focused when there are so many negative distractions going on?”

And my response?

Well, there’s no doubt that many are suffering and there’s no doubt that the difficulties will probably continue for some time to come.

At the same time, however, there’s also no doubt that my training in clinical psychology as well as executive coaching and positive psychology have equipped me with the knowledge and skills to help people deal with these difficulties, and it’s this experience and these skills that I’d like to share with you today.

To begin with, it’s important to know when normal and understandable stress becomes dysfunctional and problematic depression.

It’s no surprise, and in fact it’s perfectly appropriate, for those negatively affected in their vocational and/or financial lives, or for those businesses hit hard by the downturn, to experience some form of distress.

It’s also important to note that we shouldn’t necessarily over-react to this but rather deal with it quickly and simply.

This being said, it’s also no surprise that some people are experiencing much higher levels of distress and in my clinical psychology practice we’ve definitely seen an increase in people presenting with symptoms of stress and depression as a direct result of the global economic crisis and the impact on their business, organisation or personal wealth.

Let me start with the last. If you’re suffering depression, you need expert help! It’s that simple. But the good news is that treatment for depression doesn’t involve years and years of psychotherapy.

Rather, most people can be effectively assisted to feel better within a relatively short period of time (in eight or 10 sessions) and the most effective, most commonly used approach (cognitive behaviour therapy) will equip you with useful and powerful tools that will also assist you in other areas of your life.

So how do you know if you’re depressed and needing professional help? The simplest way to make this decision is to review this short depression fact sheet. In addition, you might also like to check out another interesting site to which I’ve had some input (and which you can use free for the first month).

If you’re not excessively distressed and if you’re still functioning relatively well, but would still like to feel better, then I highly recommend the following strategies:

  • Simplify; take some time to clarify what’s really important (and what’s not) and stay focused on your real priorities (personal and working).
  • Keep up your energy; don’t let your diet, exercise or sleep slip. It’s hard to be happy if you’re literally sick and tired!
  • Develop optimism; face up to the cold hard realities, what ever they may be, but make sure you face them in a constructive way, and in addition, do what you can to also actively search for positives.
  • Don’t feel you have to do it all on your own; resilient people are better at reaching out to others and appropriately asking for help.
  • Use your strengths to deal with your problems; give some thought to what you’re best at and how you can use these attributes to take on these adverse circumstances.
  • Practice gratitude; as bad as things might seem try not to forget that there are almost certainly others worse off.

See here for more tips and tools.

So there you have it. If you’re feeling stressed, you’re very definitely not on your own. If you’re feeling stressed, there are very definitely resources and strategies that will help.

Although it might be understandable that you’re experiencing some stress at the moment, it’s not necessarily helpful or healthy – so do something now and make sure that you get through as best you can.

Finally, let us know what helps you cope with stress, as well as what questions/issues you’d like me to address in future columns.




Dr. Sharp’s latest book (out now) is “100 Ways to Happiness: a Guide for Busy People” (Penguin). You can find out more about corporate programs, presentations, and coaching services at and You can also ask him questions using the comments panel below.


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