90: How to Switch from Stuck Stress to Productive Stress Mode - Andrea Liebross
How to Switch from Stuck Stress to Productive Stress Mode

90: How to Switch from Stuck Stress to Productive Stress Mode

Stress happens. However, it’s often the symptom instead of the cause of what’s going on in your mind. You can use your stress productively to create progress, but before you do that you have to recognize if you’re in stuck stress mode. 

In Episode 42, I did talk about this a bit but today I really want to take the discussion a step further because I want to give you some ideas of what this actually looks like so that you can identify the stuck stress in yourself and have the tools you need to change it into productive stress.

In Today’s Episode We Discuss: 

4:53 – Three ways to know if you’re stuck

10:55 – Three reasons why you’re in stuck stress mode

15:03 – Other ways stress can affect you mentally and emotionally

16:58 – What productive stress looks and feels like

19:28 – How to get to the productive stress stage

24:08 – What to do if you want to get to a place of zero stuck stress

Are you in stuck stress in some area of your life? 

Are you someone that first really just needs to work on getting you back on track before you could even work on getting your business back on track? Or do you feel like you’ve got you on track and now it’s time for your business? 

Either one, there are several ways that we can work together. Learn how here.

Resources Mentioned How to Switch from Stuck Stress to Productive Stress Mode

The Full Focus Planner

Committed to Growth 

Runway to Freedom 

Schedule a Call with Andrea Liebross

Other Episodes You’ll Enjoy:

89: Life Before and After Using the Full Focus System with Sarah and Cynde

42: How to Go From Overwhelmed to Motivated

You're listening to the Time to Level Up Podcast. I'm your host, business life coach, Andrea Liebross. I help women in business commit to their own growth personally and professionally. Each week, I'll bring you strategies to help you think clearly, gain confidence, make your time productive, turn every obstacle into an opportunity, and finally overcome the overwhelm so that you can make money and manage life. Let's create a plan so you have a profitable business, successful career, and best of all, live with unapologetic ambition. Are you ready to drop the drama and figure out the how in order to reach your goals? You're in the right place. It's Time to Level Up. Let's do this.

Hello, my friends. Welcome back to the Time to Level Up. Today I'm going to be honest and I'm coming to you from inside my closet. I am sitting on the floor of my closet because my daughter is down in the basement working out. If I went into my little podcast room, I am going to bet you would hear the Peloton in the background so I came up here. I think I've only recorded one other podcast in here ever. I'm kind of looking around and thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should get rid of some of this stuff in here.” It's inspiring me. Well, that's a podcast for another day.

Today what we're going to talk about is stuck stress versus progress stress. In Episode 42, I did talk about this a bit but today I really want to take the discussion a step further because I want to give you some ideas of what this actually looks like so that you can identify the stuck stress in yourself and have the tools you need to change it into what I sometimes call progress stress, progression stress, or productive stress.

Kind of like productive stress because stress happens. It's a feeling and it is often the symptom, not the cause, of what's really going on in your mind. If we can use our stress productively to move us forward, to create progress, then I'm all for it. But first we've got to recognize if we are in stuck stress. Words that are also associated with stress are things like anxiety, frustration, and uncertainty. All of those things are no way can be friends of stress.

But I really want to know why you're not taking action on certain things. I'm going to give you the answer, why you're not taking action is because you're in stuck stress, but we're going to go deeper than that. Let's pause for one minute. I want you to tell me, when you're stressed, how does it feel in your body? Because stress can feel or be a physical sensation.

Sometimes I know for me, I feel it in my shoulders, sometimes in my stomach, sometimes in my legs. If you pause for a second and assess when you are stressed, where do you physically feel it? Now, when you're stressed, where do you mentally feel it? Because stress is also an emotion. It's an emotion. It's something that is created in our mind. But as we've talked about before, all of our emotions, including stress, are caused by our thoughts.

That is actually great news because we can change our thoughts. Here are a couple of types of stress or scenarios that create stuck stress that show up in my clients. Here's the first way to know if you are in stuck stress. Are you future-focused, worrying about what might happen? That's what I mean today when I say future-focused, are you worrying about what might happen, thus, you're not taking any action? That's stuck stress.

An example of this was my Committed to Growth client, Emily. Remember, Committed to Growth, in there are people who really have a high desire to commit to themselves and to their business, to not have what I call little quits anymore, they really want to upgrade their lives and their businesses. Emily, inside Committed to Growth, brought this to the call a few weeks ago. She was stuck thinking about whether or not she should go to Sweden to visit her family—she's from Sweden—and to go to a concert with her dad that she was really looking forward to but had now been rescheduled due to COVID.

She just said, “I can't decide.” She was in this stuck stress, partly because she was worrying about what might happen in the future if she had a conversation about her desire to go with her husband. She might not get the response that she wanted. He might not say, “Sure, go. Don't worry about anything.” That was creating stuck stress.

She also was in stuck stress thinking about the fact that if she went, she might not be home for her boys’ entire first week of school. What would they think? Both the conversation with her husband in the first week of school haven't happened yet, my friends, but this was Emily, worrying about what might happen in the future. That is being future-focused about what might happen and that shows up is stuck stress. Now, good news. She's gone.

Here's another way you can think about stuck stress or ask yourself could this be you? If you are someone who's thinking, “How will I keep track of everything? How will I know what to do?” Those thoughts put you in stuck stress. I hear these kinds of thoughts often with my business owners as they begin to grow in their work with me inside Runway to Freedom, because they now have become paralyzed thinking about “What if I actually was even more successful than I am now? I mean, now things are going well, but what if I was actually more successful? How would I do it? How would I serve my clients? How would I run the office? How would I do it?”

How would they know what to do next? This is also stuck stress. This happened to my client, Cynde, who is more of in the Runway to Freedom stage in her growth journey. She has a great business. She was growing and growing and growing and she was in a bit of stuck stress, thinking about how she would handle what was ahead because there's only one of her.

In our Runway to Freedom work, she's managed to create some better systems, get help from an online business manager, train a few people to do what she does, and she has created more freedom in her business. Great news here, by getting out of the stuck stress and more into the progress stress, she has booked more gigs in the first half of 2022 than she had in all 2021, and I believe in 2020 as well. That's another kind of stuck stress, when you're worrying about how am I going to do it.

Third example of stuck stress. You ask yourself, “How will I be attentive to everything? I'm only one mom. Everything falls on me. How am I going to do all of that plus work on my own health and wellness?” If you're someone out there—and I know you're out there—who think that it all falls on your shoulders and that there is no time or energy left for you, then you are like my client Laura in Committed to Growth who came to our call last week asking why she just can't get something for herself in each day, whether that's taking a walk, reading, preparing a meal, or even making a phone call to a friend.

She said she's always taking care of everybody else. She's always helping everybody else plan, whether that'd be parties or team dinners, and she's working full time so she's serving other people there. She was in that stuck stress thinking, “This is impossible. I use all my energy up to take care of others. There's no way I'm going to be able to find any energy to devote towards me or doing something that I want to do for myself.”

Good news there, she grasped onto a concept that I call eat the frog, which we'll talk about a little later, and she now is in what I call productive or making-progress type of stress because she's going for a walk every day.

Those are some examples of what it might look like for you because those are examples of real-life clients. They often say to me when they realize that they're in stuck stress, “I just don't know why I can't get out of it.” There are three real reasons why you're in this stuck stress. Here they are.

Number one: You're stuck in the busy. You have your busy badge on. You're just too busy and you get wrapped up in everybody else's busyness. If someone said to you, “How are you?” You'd say, “Ugh, we're just so busy. I've been so busy.” That's wearing the busy badge, my friend, and that is a sign of you being in stuck stress.

You are no busier than anyone else because we all have 24 hours in the day and we all use every minute to do something. We may not agree with what each other is doing but we all are using our minutes to do things. Are you wearing a busy batch? That's number one. That's one reason why you're in stuck stress.

Here's reason number two: You're giving yourself too much time to do things. Emily was giving herself weeks to make the decision about whether or not she wanted to go to Sweden. Cynde was probably in this state of stuck stress of worrying about her amazing growth for a couple months. Laura has been doing this maybe for a lifetime, telling herself that she has to take care of everybody else before herself. These are all people who are giving themselves too much time.

Is that you? Are you giving yourself too much time? Are you in stuck stress. In businesses in my Runway to Freedom, a lot of those women in there have been giving themselves too much time to get a grip on their business forever for years. They just feel like all they need to do is serve clients, clients come first. “I can't work on my own business and getting a grip on it. This has been going on forever,” which is another reason why they hate to write goals, but that's for another podcast.

In Committed to Growth, giving yourself too much time often looks like you making lists and never getting to the real things that matter on the list but the things are still on the list so you feel like you're attending to it in a way but you're not getting them done, because they might be harder.

Which brings me to number three. The third reason you might be in stuck stress is because what you want to do or the actions you need to take to get where you want to go might be uncomfortable or hard. They might only be uncomfortable or hard for three seconds but they might be uncomfortable and hard, so your brain, of course, doesn't want to do that. Of course, it's staying in stuck stress.

Who wants to have a difficult conversation with their husband? I don't want to do that. Who wants to say to their kid, “Sorry, I can't go to your game because I have to go get my haircut”? Those are examples of being uncomfortable. We have all the obvious examples of being uncomfortable that I'm sure you can imagine, but there are some subtle ones too that I see my clients in.

When you feel like you're in stuck stress—and you're probably there again, because you're wearing your busy badge, you're giving yourself too much time, or you're scared of being uncomfortable—when you're in that stuck stress, it feels unbearable. You just want it to end. You want to solve the problem. You want to call all of the people and tell them, “Help me. Help me.”

You talk about it a lot. You commiserate over this stuck stress with your friends. This is a lot of what we talk about over a glass of wine. It feels unbearable and it grows in intensity. You start to feel it in your body, remember, I asked you what does stress feel like in your body, but then it really overtakes your mind and it gets worse and worse and worse, to the point where sometimes you just throw your hands up and say, “Forget it. It's never going to happen.” A lot of businesses get to that point. They think there's no way they can grow further than they are. That's not true.

Here's another example of stuck stress: It blocks our genius. When I work with clients, one of the things they often say is that “I should know this. This isn't so hard. What's my problem? Andrea, you make everything seem so simple, doable, and logical. What we're talking about here seems easy.” When you're in stuck stress, you cannot access your genius brain. Your problem-solving abilities are blocked. Everything to you seems impossible.

Also, when you're in stuck stress, you feel a little bit of self pity, resentment, confusion, blame, and shame. “If only he would say yes, then I’d feel better. Or if only this would happen, then I can move forward.” Sometimes, stuck stress feels like shame. Like, “I can't believe I'm still here. What are people thinking of me?” You don't even want to take a move to change it because you're already thinking that they think bad things about you.

But when you're in stuck stress, it reaches a point where it doesn't serve you. Stress can serve you. It can serve you. That's the progress stress, the productive stress, but it doesn't serve you until you make it. If you are someone who is stressed out, there is a tipping point where you cannot stress anymore and make it useful. Kind of the law of diminishing returns, you get to a tipping point where you could keep stressing and stressing and stressing, but it is not useful any more.

Let's talk about the kind of stress that is useful and what that looks like. Cynde, Laura, and Emily all got to a place where they are now using progress stress, progression stress, productive stress. When you're doing that, it is stress that is current-problem focused. How are we going to make sure that we are prepared to serve all our clients if we continue to grow? Let's solve the problem.

When you're in productive stress, it's intense, but it is tolerable. Having difficult conversations with your husband, once you finally have the conversation, yes, the conversation could be intense but you are tolerating it, it is tolerable because you see this is the way you're going to make progress.

The stuck stress diminishes as we take action. If you've gotten to the place where, “Okay, I flipped the switch. I’m in productive stress”, you're going to see even your overall stress level is going to diminish as you take action. When you're in progress stress, it helps access our genius brains, it helps access the solutions. You find solutions to things, you can figure out what to do next.

A client this morning, I had to point out to her that she was in stuck stress for probably two months right now already. She had to flip the switch and start making some phone calls. All of a sudden, believe it or not, she got some responses. But she was in stuck stress for so long, she hadn't even asked the questions she needed to ask until today.

Progression stress is friends with determination. It's friends with commitment, motivation, curiosity, and courage. It is actually useful. Imagine that, it's useful stress. It's helping us move forward. How do you get there? How do you get to this progress stress? A lot of my clients in Committed to Growth, we talk about ripping off the busy batch.

Laura had to rip off her busy badge. She had to put on a different badge that said, “Hi, my name is Laura, and this is what I'm going to do today.” If you are someone who wants to rip off the busy badge, you're the kind of Committed to Growth person, you're ready to do it, that's what you need to do. Rip off the busy badge and put on your “Hi, my name is Amazing” badge on.

Here's another way you get to progression stress. You give yourself deadlines. You don't give yourself forever to make things happen. I think you should probably go back and listen to some of the podcasts about planning and scheduling and figuring out what your priorities are. When you do that, when you use some of the tools that you have access to, such as the Full Focus system, when my clients have started to use those tools along with some new thinking and give themselves a structure in which to get things done in terms of time with deadlines, guess what, things get done.

My client, Sarah, just said to me this morning, “It is so freeing telling myself I'm only going to spend one hour creating this flyer. I'm only going to watch this video for 30 minutes.” Give yourself some deadlines. Or “I am going to finish all my thank you notes by July 1st.”

My daughter was in stuck stress writing thank you notes for graduation gifts. I said to her, “Listen, here's the rule. All the thank you notes need to be done by July 1st. I don't care how you do them, when you do them. They need to be done by July 1st.” Guess what? Miraculously, as soon as I put that deadline on her, she started doing them and she got them done before July 1st. She was bragging this weekend to her friends at a lake house who were complaining about writing their thank you notes that she just said, “I just gave myself a deadline, I got them all done.” Imagine that.

Here's the third way that you can get yourself to productive stress: One, rip off the busy badge, two, give yourself a deadline, three, eat the frog. What I mean by this is that you do the thing that seems to feel the most uncomfortable or the hardest first thing in the day. If you're someone that's struggling to get your walk in, get your walk in first thing in the day. If you're someone who doesn't like writing strategy, write your strategy out first thing in the day.

A lot of my Runway to Freedom people, they don't love it, but they've gotten used to and now appreciate looking at their numbers. So they eat the frog, and every day, they look at their numbers first thing. Some people are just even planning their day. That's uncomfortable because they realize that they have more things that they want to get done than time in the day, and so they've gotten into the habit of eating the frog of planning or establishing a big three first thing in the day.

Whatever it is, eat the frog. Notice, this is really all about your thoughts. What thoughts are you thinking currently that are creating stuck stress for you? What thoughts are you thinking in maybe a different category that are creating progress stress for you? I want you to think about this: Everything is always fine in the present. We can plan for things and be strategic.

When we start to plan for things and be strategic, we see progress happen. When we start to plan for things and not be strategic, just worry about them, and continue to think of them as problems, we stay in stuck stress. But everything is figure-out-able. If you start asking “How am I going to solve this? What do I already know to be true?” you're going to get into that progression stress.

If you say, “Hey, yeah, today I do have many things going on, how am I going to fit everything in?” Once you start getting creative and changing your thoughts to “I will fit what I need to fit-in in,” it starts to happen. To get to a place of zero-stuck stress, what my clients are doing is identifying their stuck-stress thoughts.

My client, Terry, has really gotten good in the past few weeks about identifying her stuck-stress thoughts. She's been working on a project maybe now for 18 months that hasn't gotten off the ground and she just identified her stuck-stress thoughts. There are all sorts of thoughts about worrying about the future, how things are going to affect her family, who will take care of her three little boys, what if she doesn't make any money? What are people going to think? Those are all stuck-stress thoughts.

Number one: Identify your stuck-stress thoughts if you want to get to zero-stuck stress. Then the second piece here is to be willing to be wrong about them. What do I mean by this? If Cynde thinks: “There's no way that I could continue, I couldn't grow this business or handle any more,” what if that thought was wrong? She had to get to a place where that thought was wrong in order to decide to hire some help.

Actually, this is a great one, one of her thoughts was: “No one will do this program or deliver the material as well as I do.” What if she's wrong? What if someone will deliver even better than she will? She had to get to that place in order to start training other people.

When you're even talking about your own health and wellness goals, what if you have the thought that it's going to be impossible to lose 10 pounds? What if you were wrong? What if you're wrong about that thought? What if it's totally possible to lose 10 pounds? You have to get to that place where it's totally possible to lose 10 pounds in order to start doing the work and in order to take action.

Identifying your thoughts, number one, is a way to get out of stuck stress. Be prepared to examine what's going on in your head. Are you having thoughts or are they facts? But anything you're thinking about the future goes in the thought line. Anything you're thinking about the future goes in the thought line, it is changeable, you get options about what to think.

Now, once you identify what you are thinking, number two is to be willing to be wrong about your thoughts. We, including me, like to be right, and your brain wants to be right, it wants to be right more than it wants to be wrong. It wants to be right because it wants you to feel better or achieve your goals and not lose your goals. Your brain's job is to make you feel better.

Be willing to be wrong about some of these thoughts that you think might make your brain feel better temporarily. It sounds like such a great thing, “I want to take care of my family, family always comes first.” Doesn’t that sound like a great thought? Or “I developed this program so I'm the best one to deliver it.” Doesn't that sound like a very noble and great thought? Or “I just have so many things going on, but once I get through this little time period, I'll be able to focus better.” Doesn't that sound so noble and amazing?

These all sound like great thoughts. I want to make sure that everybody is ready to go. Sounds like another amazing thought. But what if you're wrong about these thoughts? What if it's not so important that everybody's ready to go? What if other people can deliver the program just as well as you? What about those things? This is the kind of work we do in coaching. We learn to think more deliberately so that we can move out of this stuck stress.

Now, I am not talking about trying to convince ourselves or think thoughts that we don't want to have. What I'm encouraging you to do is to think thoughts that help you create progress. We don't walk around thinking that stress is always that. The clients I work with, we don't always think stress is bad. We think it's a symptom of a thought that we're having. Sometimes, that thought is actually helpful because we need that little boost to get us going.

I'm going to leave you, and I'm going to ask you to ask yourself, are you in stuck stress in some area of your life? Are you someone that first really just needs to work on getting you back on track before you could even work on getting your business back on track? Or do you feel like you've got you on track and now it's time for your business? Either one, there are ways that we can work together, either inside Committed to Growth, inside Runway to Freedom, or even just doing a one-on-one VIP day. They're all options.

Make sure you go check out all the options in the Work With Me page on my website. While you're there, check out the new design. It's pretty cool, and the colors, and even the fonts. I really love them. Check those out. See what you think. Tell me, but don't do that as a way to remain busy. Don't go spend millions of hours on the website to wear your busy badge. Rip it off. Say, “Hello, my name is Andrea, and I am getting something done today. I am going to work through my stuck stress and move it in to progress stress.” Okay, my friends, have a great week. I will see you soon.

Thanks for listening to the Time to Level Up Podcast with me, your host, Andrea Liebross. If you know someone who could benefit from listening to this episode, I encourage you to take a screenshot and share it with them. Okay. Now, what about you? You've listened to the podcast, and if you now know that you're ready to upgrade your life, upgrade your business, upgrade you, then stop being only a listener and start being a liver living that upgraded life. Head over to my website and schedule a call. Right there on that call, we'll start changing the way you think and act so that you can have the freedom to achieve the impossible in life and business, and have the resources to do it. You deserve an upgrade. Let's do it.

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I'm Andrea Liebross.

I am the big thinking expert for high-achieving women entrepreneurs. I help these bold, ambitious women make the shift from thinking small and feeling overwhelmed in business and life to getting the clarity, confidence and freedom they crave. I believe that the secret sauce to thinking big and creating big results (that you’re worthy and capable of) has just two ingredients – solid systems and the right (big) mindset. I am the author of best seller She Thinks Big: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Moving Past the Messy Middle and Into the Extraordinary and host of the Time to Level Up podcast.