Case Study

Hconsult1Demystifying Stress Management


Have you wondered, what exactly happens during stress management sessions? Do you feel anxious about taking the first step towards optimum physical and emotional wellbeing?

This case study will give you a really good idea of what to expect.

Joan L came to see me at my Hendon Clinic for advice on managing day-to-stress and help with achieving (and maintaining) optimum wellbeing. While taking a case history, to help build a picture of Joan’s lifestyle, general health and work-life balance, I established that this bright and lovely lady was already taking some positive steps towards a healthy lifestyle (such as going to the gym and healthy nutrition) but, like so many of us, often experiences pressure and stress from her desire to give the very best of herself in all she does. (Being a naturally caring person and wanting to help others underpin this.) All too many of us are prone to this type of behaviour, and while it is commendable, we can end up going through each day putting the needs of everyone else first- whether it’s our colleagues or employers, our partners, children, family or friends and in this fast-paced life we lead, it doesn’t leave much time for us to care for our own needs and wellbeing.

We established that, inevitably, precious days off work were reduced to cramming in chores, errands and ticking items off the to-do list, often involving rushing around (and rushing around at work too.) I explored this with Joan as, although it’s common for us to feel we’re getting more done by speeding up and rushing and multi-tasking- what this usually accomplishes, is feeding our feelings of stress and anxiety, leaving us physically tired and mentally exhausted or, feeling as though our stress is controlling us, rather than we are in control of our lives. I explained the Stress Response to Joan, and also talked about the main sources of stress so we could identify her individual triggers to help her recognise where the stress in her life is coming from so she can start to modify her responses, make subtle positive changes and better manage her wellbeing. Although many of us experience similar feelings of stress and pressure, understanding our individual and specific sources and triggers can be very complex and this is one of the areas where the skill of an experienced practitioner is invaluable.

Teaching my clients to understand the sources of stress and recognise their triggers is one of the most effective tools I use for helping people on their path to optimum wellness. When we have a little insight and understanding of our responses and behaviour, we start to feel in control again as we know we have coping strategies. I discussed with Joan how this can help her to make gradual changes in her life and help her slow down, reduce the random thoughts and negative self-talk which will give her more clarity, reduce tiredness and improve sleep and general wellbeing. Joan commented, “I have found that taking a few minutes at the start and end of the day to just sit in a chair with my eyes closed breathing deeply and focusing on my entire body releases tension and clears my mind”.

HBreathe1I taught Joan some simple techniques to help her on a day-to-day basis. I checked her breathing and established she has developed a pattern of shallow-breathing (again, a very common reaction to stress.) I showed her a very simple, but highly effective breathing technique to help her master good breathing to lower and lengthen the breath. The technique is a great tool for instantly helping to reduce stress, anxiety or those racing thoughts and feelings and, once mastered, can be practised anywhere, easily, and only takes a few seconds to do. Joan was genuinely surprised at how effective this technique was, saying, “It’s odd to say that I didn’t realize that what I thought of as taking a deep breath was not at all what I was taught by Michelle. She explained good simple breathing techniques that I can incorporate throughout my working day, helping me to focus and reduce stress”.

We discussed work-life balance and looked at incorporating different activities to help improve wellbeing. I also gave Joan my “50 Ways to Reduce Stress” so she could choose just one or two to get her started. I explained the importance for her to do this gradually to help maintain motivation. (Too many of us launch ourselves into new regimes, often setting unrealistic goals, or we try to incorporate too much change, too quickly. Sometimes we also take on activities we feel we ‘should’ be doing rather than those that we genuinely enjoy.) I explained the importance of managing stress daily but reiterated that this could be achieved by including some very simple, 1-minute or 2-minute exercises and techniques that I taught, the key to change being in giving Joan a bespoke ‘stress management toolbox’ of personalised strategies that she can build into her life, which are realistic for her lifestyle and most importantly, which she enjoys.

HMssge2Like so many clients, perhaps the most enjoyable part of consultations involve massage or teaching some simple relaxation and visualisation techniques which are particularly useful for helping racing thoughts, mental overload, tiredness and sleep problems and Joan certainly found these beneficial and relaxing. Asking Joan how she felt now that she has more insight, understanding and strategies to call upon, she said: “I feel that I have the ability to cope with whatever the day throws at me. That doesn’t mean I do everything on my “to do list,” but at the end of the day I feel happy that I have done my best. Taking just a few minutes out to focus on myself helps me to focus on the important things in my life. I am still learning but I feel sure that by following the simple stress reducing techniques Michelle taught me, I can reduce some of the pressures that I put upon myself”. 

With thanks to Joan for agreeing to publish this case study. (And to Alina for the photographs!)


I am available for private consultations at various locations in London:
I offer an initial FREE 30-minute consultation ~ contact me to book yours now:

M: 07973 518 599 

NB: We all respond to stress differently, so seeing a specialist Stress Management Consultant is a very individual experience. The above case study is intended to give a ‘flavour’ of some of the tools and techniques we might cover in your sessions. The object of the sessions is to give you the understanding, knowledge and know-how to manage your stress for yourself. Some people experience relief from symptoms and feel more in control of their lives after just one session, for others, it can be beneficial to have a course of sessions to master the techniques, make gradual, realistic lifestyle changes and develop positive, health habits.