Episode 1 - A shortcut to Managing Stress

podcast Aug 24, 2022
Do Divorce Right
Episode 1 - A shortcut to Managing Stress

The Do Divorce Right podcast is a new podcast dedicated to looking at the many different aspects of divorce,  interviews with women who have their own incredible divorce stories or those who can offer some great advice as you go through yours. Hosted by Becca Maxwell, a divorce coach and relational intelligence consultant, the focus here is to help you to find the strength and support to help you heal, feel lighter and in a better frame of mind to face the inevitable challenges of your divorce journey.

In this episode, Becca will share a simple but powerful framework on how to take some control of your thoughts and reduce your sense of anxiety and overwhelm. This framework can be a critical tool for the most difficult days of your divorce - and beyond!

Audio Transcript

Welcome to the Do Divorce Right Podcast. I'm your host, Becca Maxwell. And I'm here to help you transition through your divorce with ease and integrity, to not only survive the challenges of your divorce, but to thrive as you come out the other side of it with a much better life than you ever hoped possible. On this show, we talk about many different aspects of divorce, interview women who have their own incredible divorce stories, or those who can offer some great advice as you go through yours. The focus here is to help you find the strength and support to help you feel lighter, happier, more positive, and then a better frame of mind to face the inevitable challenges of your current journey.

Today, I want to talk to you about Stephen Covey’s Circle of Influence model, it's a super simple and super effective model that I find I'm frequently using for clients, coaching clients, as well as my consultancy clients, when they're in a period of overwhelm and when they're feeling a little too stressed. So it's a fantastic framework to help you whenever you're feeling a little bit powerless. Essentially, it's a way to classify our everyday stresses so that you can priorities them and focus your energy on where it's actually going to make a difference. 

If I was to ask you to imagine all of the thoughts that cause you any level of stress or anxiety in a day, or any period of a day, firstly, there'll be so many, you'll just be listening forever. But also, they're super wide ranging, it's really hard for our minds to grasp on to any of those and feel that we can make a difference. 

I'll give you an example; I don't consider myself an anxious person at all, and I live a gorgeous, relatively peaceful life. One that I have a huge amount of control over actually. And even so, in the first few hours of a normal day, in my normal home, I have hundreds of different thoughts that could potentially derail me or derail our entire family, if I was to let myself get into a stress spiral. 

So I've done a list this morning, I was just trying to capture some of those common ideas that are coming through. And this is a list of my thoughts that have come through in my early morning stresses. So I'm just going to read this list to you, as embarrassing and silly as it seems. 

  • Will I get the puppies out of the house before one of them soils the carpet again? 
  • Are the children on track to get out the door in time for school? 
  • Do they have clean uniforms to wear? 
  • If I put laundry on today will it rain before tomorrow's uniform has time to dry? 
  • What am I going to put in their lunchboxes today? 
  • Are their snacks healthy enough? 
  • Sultanas have a lot of sugar in them, am I a bad mom for putting sultanas in their lunchbox? 
  • Could we be doing more to minimize our environmental impact? 
  • Will my son have another tough day in school again today? 
  • Will the kids get into the new school that we really want them to go to? 
  • But if they do get into the new school, will they make friends? 
  • The puppies! Who's watching them? Where are they? have they eaten yet? 
  • Am I prepared for today's meetings? 
  • Should I have done more to prepare for today's meetings? 
  • Is somebody going to take the dogs for a walk? 
  • Are they being trained enough? 
  • Are my clients getting value from their time with me? 
  • What am I going to post on social media today? 
  • What am I going to talk about in my next podcast episode? 
  • Have I updated my colleagues enough on the work that I've been doing? 
  • When was the last time I spoke to my good friend Jamie? I wonder how she's doing in her new job? 
  • Am I a terrible friend for not reaching out in a while?

And these were all within like the first 20 minutes of me being awake. It's just a horrible long list. And there's so much more as we go through the day, right? Like I say, super wide ranging in there. We've got environmental impact. We've got the stresses of the immediate silly puppies.

We have what's going on with my friendships, my children - I'm obsessed about raising healthy, intelligent, interested, happy children. 

There's so many of my thoughts going around there. And of course, it goes on and on. And I don't doubt we're all the same. On a bad day, the stresses are clearly significant. 

You know, I remember during some of our family's darkest times, when I was wondering whether my children were even okay; whether I would get a call from the school telling me that they weren't dropped off at school for the day and then wondering where they were, whether my ex would return them as he was planning to, whether I was going to receive another form of abuse that day or not, it was overwhelming, it was simply too much!

And it's very, very hard to calm your thoughts, and this negative influence can absolutely take over your thinking. So it takes a lot of practice to narrow down those stresses. And, like I say, focus on what you can do something about. So it takes a lot of practice. But this framework really does help. 

So I want you to imagine a diagram of two circles where the smaller circle sits inside the larger circle. So I believe Stephen Covey introduced this concept with the analogy of a fried egg. So let's, let's go with that. 

So the larger circle, the egg white, is the circle of concern, all of your worries or fears that sit outside of your immediate control. These are things you're concerned about, but you can't necessarily impact. These are things that make us anxious, and we don't have an immediate answer for like:

  • What if there is another COVID mutation? 
  • What if I was made redundant? 
  • What if my ex gets a new lawyer? 
  • What if he wants to sell the house? 
  • What do my ex's family think of me? 

All of these kinds of things sit within the circle of concern, because you can't do anything about them. Or they are actually hypothetical problems that are not yet realised, they may or may not happen. So the inner circle, the yolk, is our circle of influence. 

This contains the things that we can more readily affect or influence. Such as your own thoughts. 

As much as it seems like we can't, we can control our own thoughts, your attitude, your responses, the words that you choose, and even how you choose to see a problem. What you read, what you say, what you buy, where you go, we have, we have the ability to control all of these. So these sit within our circle of influence in that yoke. Stephen Covey's assertion here is that whichever part of the circle you focus on, will actually grow. 

If you spend time focusing on those things that concern you, but you can't actually change, then you will show more and more concern. And you'll get more and more worried about these problems, making you even more overwhelmed. But if you focus on the yoke, those areas that you can actually influence, then your circle of influence will grow. 

Just think about that for a moment, I find that extremely powerful. If you can focus on that which you can influence, then your ability to influence will grow. So if we can accept that some of these issues that we're deeply concerned about, are actually things that we can't control, then we can essentially release them from our thoughts, we can set them aside because ultimately, there's nothing that you can do about it right now. So let's apply this to an anxiety of what if my ex husband wants to sell the house?

I'm picturing a girlfriend living in the home, the ex husband has moved out of the house, and she's living there with the children. And she has this very, very real concern. What if my ex husband wants to sell it? She could spend countless hours in a stress spiral on this single thought alone. And she's got all of the others to deal with. But this one could really derail her day. In this scenario, her anxiety is future focused. 

It hasn't happened yet. In fact, it may never happen. And she can't control what her ex husband may or may not want in the future. So it's really not a good use of her energy to stress about it. It may never happen. What she can focus on instead is what she can influence. So she can influence her thoughts around this. She can reframe that anxiety. For example, She can tell herself, it may never happen. In fact, I hope it won't. But if my ex husband does let me know that he wants to sell the house, then I will find a way to deal with that. I don't have the answers yet. But I will cross that bridge. If it comes to it.

She releases herself then from this awful hypothetical problem that is taking up so much negative energy and creating a lot of stress in her every day, it doesn't need to, she can put that aside. So concern about that issue won't leave altogether, it doesn't go away. But you can defuse that. And you can stop it from distracting your everyday thoughts. Instead, you can then focus on what you can do today. And in the weeks to come. I'm going to use another example. 

Let's use the anxiety of “I'm terrified about the impact of the climate crisis on our children's future”. A biggie, I totally understand this. But I'm going to assume you're not a world leader that can implement large scale solutions right now, which means that you alone cannot have a large scale influence on the reversal of global warming.

So should we stop worrying about it? You know, should you put that into your circle of concern and, and stop concerning yourself about it? Or do we look at what you can influence, what you can influence what sits in that yoke of the model is the impact that you and your household can have on the environment. 

Now, remember, if that circle of influence, if we focus there and it can grow, we focus, first of all, on what your household can do. And there's so many resources to help you decide on what's manageable, what are some actionable steps that you can take, so you could take them, and then you focus on again, what you can actually impact. So once those changes in your household have become second nature, and you still hold that concern, you can have incrementally larger steps of influence. So from your household, to the community, from the community, to the city, or the state or the country. And, you know, this is where we talk about where your focus goes, energy flows, and that circle of influence can grow. So I want you to think about them.

This is a really powerful model. 

One, it releases you from the stresses that can derail you every day. Two, it helps you identify those things that you can impact and actually grow that impact, which is phenomenal, so fabulous. 

So I want you to spend some time thinking about that. What issues are creating stress in your life right now? And which of those issues actually sit outside of your immediate influence? Take some time to recognize it. Take some time to think about that and decide where does this issue sit? If you can't influence the outcome, why are you spending your time worrying about it, your energy is better spent somewhere else better spent looking after yourself, looking after your children, and creating a beautiful life, you can acknowledge that you're concerned about an issue, but that you can't do anything about it for the moment. And you can free yourself up from that concern for now. 

Let's take a look at those things that you can have some influence over. 

If you've made a list of all of these concerns, some you can't do anything about, some you can, I want you to think then about to what degree do you have influence over each of these issues? And rate everything perhaps on a scale of one to 10? So how much of an influence can I take against each of these issues? 

But anything that you rate lower than a five, I'd actually invite you to put that into the circle of concern for now instead, or re-frame the problem altogether. For example, you might be anxious - I'm going to use as an example for myself - I am anxious actually about my son not doing very well at school right now. And I would rate my ability to influence that at perhaps a three out of 10 because I can't pay for extra tuition right now.

I can't conceivably carve out more time to work with him on the concept that he's struggling with. In fact, I might not even be able to help him with the concepts that he's struggling with. It's been a long time since I was in high school. So my ability to influence my son to do well at school right now is not very high. 

But I can reframe that. I can reframe what concerns me here. 

Instead of putting anxiety or concern around feeling that he's falling behind in his grades, because he's out of his depth, what I can do is reframe that and feel that I can influence how he feels at the moment; I can look for ways to comfort him, I can look for ways to let him know that we all struggle at times, I can share examples of when I've found it difficult to learn something and explain that learning is not a linear process, I can encourage him and let him know that I'm confident he'll catch up soon, I can provide support for him. So I do have the ability to influence him. I've just reframed the problem. 

I'm no longer helping him with his grades exactly. But I can influence how he feels about his performance at school. I can take away any feeling of failure or feeling that he can't do anything right and influence that. So my ability to influence has now skyrocketed. And it feels great to actually be able to have an impact to know that I can make a difference. So this is something I want you to spend some time with, take a pen and paper, take some action, write down all of those issues that are maybe keeping you awake at night. 

Some of those concerns, do your morning list like I did with mine, and decide what sits in the egg white, what's in my circle of concern, what sits in the egg yolk, which is my circle of influence, within that, rate them out of 1 to 10 and decide what you can actually control and what you can have an influence over. 

And I hope that then you can apply this framework when you're feeling most overwhelmed or most anxious. And it gives you a way to really narrow and focus on what you can do to make a difference.

Thanks for listening. I hope you took something of value out of this episode. I'm your host Becca Maxwell. And you can find me on the web at dodivorceright.com or on Instagram at @dodivorceright. 

I look forward to connecting with you there.



Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.