De-Stress Series: A Simple 4 Step Process to Help Your Clients Cope With Stressful Feelings

manMH900448338[1]Sometimes our clients come to a session feeling stressed, overwhelmed, guilty, pressured or anxious. It's hard to coach people when they're caught up in these thoughts and feelings, so it can be helpful for us to have a way to help calm them down.

This technique may seem overly simple - but it's often the simplest techniques that work the best...

NOTE: If you have corporate or executive clients this technique is great. You may want to tone down the touchy-feely language (eg. stick to the first 3 affirmations in step 3). AND you may also find this is a great technique BECAUSE it is so practical with a learning element (step 4)  which can be done by themselves at home.

So, here's what I do:

4 Simple Steps to Help Clients Cope With Stress and Stressful Feelings:

  • Step 1) BREATHE. Ask them to pause and take a few deep breaths - making sure to breathe deeply into their stomach. It can be really helpful to ask them to place their feet flat on the floor, and place a hand on their stomach - and feel their stomach rising and falling. TIP: Sometimes this first step is enough on its own.
  • Step 2) Ask them to simply NOTICE, WITHOUT JUDGEMENT, what they're feeling. It could be overwhelmed, guilty, pressured, stressed, anxious etc. Ask them to say out loud, "I'm feeling __________".
    NOTE: If you notice they're judging themselves, ask them to repeat the statement without the judgement, until you are satisfied they are simply stating how they feel.
  • Step 3) Ask them to AFFIRM themselves, preferably out loud, with a supportive affirmation or mantra. It could be one they create for themselves, or one of the examples below:
    i) "I am doing my best."
    ii) "I can handle this feeling – and manage my day."
    iii) "This feeling of ___________ (overwhelm/anxiety/guilt etc) will soon pass."
    iv) "I am safe and I am loved. I can handle whatever I am feeling."
    v) "I love myself. I will take care of this feeling later on today."
    NOTE: Now they can use this mantra throughout the session or day, whenever they notice they're feeling anxious or stressed again.

So, steps 1 - 3 of this technique help our clients notice what they are feeling - without judgement - and be present so they can have an effective session or get on with their day in a calmer frame of mind. However, there may be an important message or learning in the stress or difficult feelings. Therefore I also recommend a final step to help clients cope with, and learn from, their stressful feelings. This step proves that we can – and will – take care of ourselves. And as we get better at it, our stressful feelings become less burdensome in the future:

  • Step 4) REFLECT AND LEARN: Ask them when would be a good time to look at this feeling and take care of themselves? They may want to explore it with you in the session, but if not, ask them to commit to taking a few moments to reflect on their stressful feelings - it could be over a cup of tea when they get home or before they go to bed. Ask them to consider:
    i) "What's important about the feeling of __________ today?" and
    ii) "What do I need to learn from this?"

IMPORTANT NOTE: Avoiding our unpleasant feelings and stress may help us get through a difficult day or week, but it can be a destructive habit which actually increases our stress in the long run. Our feelings show us who we are - and when we avoid looking at what we feel we literally abandon our 'selves' - removing the ability to learn what our feelings are telling us. When we allow our feelings and look at them without judgement, we not only learn from them but we also find that our feelings 'move on' - because we've got the message - and they're not needed any more...

"She had finally allowed her negative feelings to surface, feelings that had been repressed for years in her soul. She had actually FELT them, and they were no longer necessary, they could leave." Paulo Coelho

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Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>


  1. Davison H Ncube

    I found the resources here very helpful for my development as a coach. I am in the early stages of my coaching career and can see that I can develop fast if I continue reading your posts and listening to your recordings. Thank you for the wealth of content that is contained in your posts and recordings.

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Davison, Thank-you for your comment! I am so glad you find our resources and articles helpful 🙂

      Keep up all your good work and learning, warmly, Emma-Louise


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