Stress is a hot topic these days, especially with the state of the economy, the rise in unemployment, and the notion our financial nest eggs are not as plush as they once were. In my recent article "Internal vs. External Stress: Can You Identify Which One?” I expressed the importance of identifying and adjusting our behaviors to balance our lives to reduce any negative effect stress is having on our physical, mental and energetic bodies. This is more difficult than most realize. It is much like comparing fingerprints. The more stress points we are able to zoom in or focus on, the better we are able to identify the stress and the more efficient we become at taking corrective actions. These result in being more effective in achieving the balancing act we all seek to maintain. I wanted to provide a case study as an example to help you identify stressors in your life.

Case Study

Jane is struggling with identifying her underlying stressor; she has already identified her main trigger for stress: money issues.


Jane is 43 and has been a fifth grade teacher in the same public school for 18 years. She loves her position and thrives on seeing her students move on to the next grade every June. However, over the last five years Jane's weight has increased by 5-10 pounds per year, she is on blood pressure medication, and there is a significant history of cardiovascular disease in her family. Currently she is supporting not just herself, her husband (who was laid off three months ago), and more recently her daughter Jill (who recently left her husband) and Jill’s two-year-old daughter Jody. Jill works part-time and earns enough to pay her personal bills and necessities for Jody but nothing more. Physically Jane has always been physically, active including walking and attending a women’s fitness center. She was not truly consistent but averaged one visit per week to the gym and walking twice a week.


After a few coaching sessions, Jane has identified the following three elements as her main external stressors:

-Financial obligations and strain
-Physical weight and overall health

And three internal stressors:

-An increase in difficulty with climbing stairs; specifically, she's out of breath
-Pain in her lower back
-Feeling her kick start of the day has to be at least one if not two or more coffees


Finding out what we don’t know or have not considered to be affecting Jane’s life is a priority for the next coaching session. Our first step is to put together a list of questions that probe Jane to think outside of her normal thought pattern, nudging her to explore areas that she possibly may not feel comfortable confronting go alone. Through her honest answers we will be able to identify which trigger may be hiding behind another symptom.

Types of Questions:

Here are six questions we would try to work into the next session. We will be looking for openings provided by Jane to allow us to ask these, as well as physical body cues to support our belief she is ready to explore. Remember that as coaches we are there to support the client to move themselves into the next phase of their lives, and as such we need to be conscious of their readiness and wiliness to hear and respond to certain questions:

Employment Possibilities:
*What are the possibilities or percentage of possibilities your husband will find *employment in the next 3-6 months? Be honest, re: his age, health, limited educational experience, etc.
*What about your daughter? What are the possibilities of her finding full time work?
*What is holding you back from putting yourself first in all of your decisions, such as how you spend your time or what you spend the money you do have on?
*Focus on the internal stressors and use a microscope to take a closer look at what these three have in common; name the three commonalities. Now focusing in further, what is the one thread of similarity the three commonalities share?
*Knowing the thread of similarity between the internal stressors, what is one action you can take today or this week to resolve, rebuild, fix (insert the appropriate action here) to begin to reduce the stress you are physically feeling?
*What will be different in your life when this stressor has been finally removed? How will others know that the stressor is no longer affecting you?

Remember, these questions are open ended and phrased to force Jane to think before immediately responding. Give her the space and time necessary to think about her answers.

Possible Solutions:

Finally, before the session comes to a close we would like to take a few moments to brainstorm some possible solutions to help Jane begin to make better decisions that allow her to be first on her list of priorities. Here are some ideas of what types of solutions we might suggest to her:

*Being realistic with the current economic situation and suggesting her husband to be the caretaker of their granddaughter when their daughter Jill needs to go to work. This allows their daughter to seek out a second job or pick up extra hours at her current position.
*In exchange for financial rent, suggesting Jill take on the duties of house cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping, which could help with reducing the stress of getting chores done.
*Jane feels her current position of teaching fifth graders is her calling, but we would suggest she explore the possibility that there might be something else she can do to supplement this that could bring her similar fulfillment like tutoring students.

Until next time, embrace your inner wisdom.


Author's Bio: 

Karen Kleinwort is a certified professional coach who specializes in life, business and health coaching. Kleinwort also holds a BS in Business Management and an AA in Holistic Health & Fitness Promotion; additionally, she is a Reiki Master and CranioSacral Practitioner. Kleinwort is available for interviews and appearances. You can contact her at or (877) 255-0761.