How simple ideas can resolve stress, and how questions can help you discover those ideas.

He was sitting in my office: tense, tired, stressed and depressed. He lost pleasure in the small stuff of life. There were plenty of complex interpretations that could be the source of his depression. I wondered if I would dive into them, but decided not to. I decided to look for more simple solutions to break the vicious circle. How to find out? Asking questions, simple questions, often help. So i gave it a try …

– “When exactly do you feel most stressed? What happens at that specific moment?

– “Well, phone calls are happening all day long and I do feel overwhelmed and not prepared to answer”. (He works in the financial sector and get phone calls from anxious clients who are worried about their investments during this financial crisis.)

– “How many of the phone calls you receive are from this type of overstressed clients?”

– “About six of them”

– “Are those mostly the same six clients calling you?”

– “Yes!” , he replied.

– “Ok, and how many of them are really important clients that you cannot afford to lose?”

– “Two, and they call me almost every single day”.

– “How much time would it take you to study their file as your first job when you enter the office in order to prepare your answer to their questions?”

– “I guess about 5 minutes for each of them, that means 10 minutes all together”

– “Would it make a difference to you if you prepare as your very first job in the morning their file and call them yourself before they call you?” , was my next question.

He smiled and said “Yes, of course. I would feel much better. I would not be afraid to be overwhelmed by their calls any more!”

My client implemented the small change and felt more ‘in control’ of his work. After his first success, in our second session, he started to suggest other small changes that increased his impact on situations, and some weeks later, he could hardly remember how there had been a time where work was so unpleasant. This practical case study illustrates nicely what research has discovered already some decades ago. The researcher “Robert Karasek” discovered that the amount of  ‘subjective’ control you have over your work situation, has a stronger impact on your distress level than your ‘objective’ work load. So what this case nicely illustrates is that helping someone see new solutions to increase (objective or subjective) control over situations, decreases distress and lower distress leads to more self-confidence and creativity to find even more solutions.

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