How to manage stress coming from people close to you?



This is a question that came from one of the participants from the ‘Boost your resilience!’ course. And I’ve heard it many times before.

Sometimes we think that we are quite good at stress management. It’s the others who need some (our?) help.

As I said before (and I will say it again…): “It’s not what happens to us but how we look at what happens to us, which causes our stress!”
And we all look at things differently.

Just look at the current crisis.

I look at it in a certain way and therefore I react in a certain way.
My partner/brother/colleague looks at it differently and therefore he reacts differently.
But HIS way of reacting, causes ME stress…

Sounds familiar?

What do I need to do? I need to manage MY stress, even when the stress comes from people close to me.
And how do I do this?

By sticking to my ‘stress management formula’:

Stress management = working on my (stressors + buffer + perception)

Working on my buffer:

I ALWAYS need to work on my buffer. When my buffer is weak, stressors have a much bigger impact on me, and my stress reaction is going to be higher. So… the more ‘zen’ I am, the less I will be impacted. In this case: enough sleep and the capability to be able to calm myself down are going to be key.

We all know how people get on our nerves much more easily after a bad night’s sleep…

Also… me trying to reason with somebody when I’m stressed myself or when I’m calm… it is going to have a very different outcome!

Working on my stressors:

My stressor in this case is the stressed person. You might have noticed that stress can be contagious. His stress might ‘infect’ me too.
One strategy could be to avoid this person. No contact, no stress.

Another strategy could be to try and calm down that person. (You could even send them to one of my courses ;-D)
But if the previous strategies don’t work: I’ll have to work on myself… and use all the strategies I have, to stay calm (and I’m back at ‘working on my buffer), despite him being stressed next to me… Because the moment I get stressed as well… I’m no longer my best self and … I’m potentially causing damage in my body.

Working on my perception:

If I see him as my big stressor, chances are that I’m not going to be very happy about that.

I might even start to resent him. And guess what: the more I resent him, the more I will be stressed. Therefore, it will be important to try and understand him, to show empathy, to also see the positive things he does… in order to feel less stress myself… ;-D

That will, of course, be easier when I’m quite calm and I’m back at … ‘working on my buffer’.

Isn’t it amazing how these elements are so linked and how they are all so important in the ‘Stress management formula’?

Good luck! And remember… #youalwayshaveachoice #YAHAC

Mindfulness / Meditation / Relaxation


I’ve noticed that there is often a lot of confusion when it comes to the concepts of meditation, mindfulness and relaxation.
Often, they are being used interchangeably, whereas, in my eyes, there is clear difference.

Let me start with mindfulness.

What is it? Jon Kabat-Zinn, the one who developed the 8-week program, defined it as:

“Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmental”

When you do the 8-week training, it is basically split in two:
During the first part (=week 1-4) you learn how to focus. Since our mind is always jumping from one place to the other (the monkey mind), it’s good to learn how to focus. How do you practice that? Through the ‘body scan’ and ‘focus on the breathing’.

When you do a body scan, you ‘scan’ your whole body, by focusing on different parts of it, each time paying very close attention to whatever may be ‘noticeable’ there. Maybe there is some itching, or it feels warm, or … you don’t notice anything. Whenever you are distracted, you bring your attention back to whichever part of the body you were examining at that moment.

The second technique is focus on the breathing: where do you notice it, is it shallow or deep, is it quick or slow, are you breathing in or out…You focus on the breathing. Nothing more, nothing less. And whenever you are distracted, you bring your attention back… to your breathing.

To me this is not ‘true’ or ‘complete’ mindfulness yet. It is the preparation to the ‘real deal’.

In the second part of the training (week 5-8), you learn to observe (from that point of focus, that you’ve practiced during the first part), whatever presents itself, as long as it presents itself.
Basically, you learn to observe what’s going on within yourself (what are you thinking, what am I feeling, where in my body are you feeling something) and what’s going on around you.

You are practicing awareness.

And that is where the real gold is.

You notice things, without being carried away by them.

You notice, for instance, anger, instead of already being angry, or regretting what you said.

You might even notice that something/somebody triggered you and that you are about to get angry…  And this gives you a choice… you can choose how you are going to express that anger…

You notice stress signals, when they are still in their early stage. And you can do something about your stress, before it gets worse…

So far mindfulness.


Let’s now move to meditation.

In the Cambridge dictionary you will find the following definition:

“The act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.”

There are many types of meditation.

  • Formal and informal meditation. Both the body scan and the focus on the breathing are formal meditations. An example of an ‘informal’ meditation could be that you drink a cup of tea mindfully: you drink it slowly, noticing the warm mug in your hands, smelling the tea, tasting it in your mouth, etc… You can take a shower, mindfully. You focus on that specific activity.
  • Guided meditations…
  • Mantra meditations…
  • Transcendental meditations…

Is one better than the other? Not really. It depends a bit on what you are looking for. And it’s also about personal preferences. For me they are mostly about the ‘focus’ part.


And let’s finally talk about relaxation. Or, again according to the Cambridge dictionary:

“a pleasant activity that makes you become calm and less worried”

Some activities are going to be relaxing to the mind, others are relaxing to the body, some can be a combination.
You can find reading a book relaxing, or spending time with friends.
Going for a run can relax your mind but… not necessarily your body…

Again, is one better than the other? Not really. It depends a bit on what you are looking for. And it’s also about personal preferences.

Then why did I recommend start practicing the body scan and the focus on the breathing in my course ‘Boost your resilience!’?

I want people to try it out, because it could potentially be 1 solution to different problems.

  1. It can be used as relaxation: when you feel stressed, overwhelmed … focus is the answer. Can’t the other types of meditation not do that too? Absolutely. See below.
  2. Both the body scan and the focus on the breath will (eventually) relax both the mind and the body. Even though at first you can feel very restless. It’s a bit strange but at the same time, very normal. You first have to ‘stop’ to finally feel all the stress that has been built up in the body. Because of the adrenaline, you were not aware… At first you might feel more stress. But it will get better and easier.
  3. The two meditations I give are a first step into the direction of ‘awareness’. And it’s exactly that ‘awareness’ that I believe to be crucial in stress management. To be aware of your thoughts and beliefs. To be able to notice certain patterns that you have. To notice emotions and bodily sensations… And for me that ‘awareness’ has come through my mindfulness practice. And that is priceless.


“OK, I get it”, I hear you say. “So I can also do other types of meditation to relax?”.
Yes! If you want to try meditation only for relaxation purposes, check out the app ‘Insight Timer’. You will find thousands of meditations in different languages, organized by duration and type.

“Do I need to meditate to relax my body?” No…
A massage can do that for you. Or a hot bath.
There are also lots of breathing techniques.
4-4-4-4, for instance… or cardiac coherence, …
You will find more information in a video I created before. You can find it on Facebook or on Youtube.

I hope that I’ve been able to clarify the different concepts.

Think about what you want to achieve, choose the strategy (whether it’s meditation or not) and … start practicing. Because… you’ll need to practice in order to have ‘access to it’ whenever you need it.

Lessons from Lockdown #3

(If you are reading this on my website, you have NOT missed #2 – that one had been published here last year under the name of Punto!)

My third and last (for now) tip is … mindfulness.

Maybe you are a fan already.

Maybe you think it’s too esoteric for you…

Newsflash: you don’t have to buy a special cushion to sit on and you don’t need to wear anything special. You can do it anytime, anywhere.

I have been meditating for many years, not always very consistently, but … for the past 4 months, I’ve done it once a day. And I found it very helpful for several reasons.

  • After the many hours of screen time (already mentioned in the ‘1st lesson’), it helped me to ‘open my mind’ after having been ‘focused’ for too long. It felt like a true break.
  • Also, the fact of simply ‘being’, instead of ‘doing’ something, felt like a breath of fresh air.
  • Having a ‘formal practice’ of mindfulness enabled me to finetune my ‘awareness’.
    • It helped me to notice stressful thoughts more quickly, so I had the option to analyze them and even let go of them so they wouldn’t keep on bothering me.
    • I noticed my anxiety at the beginning of the confinement.
    • I noticed my sore throat in May…
    • I noticed a lot of things, actually and I can honestly say I got to know myself better… certain reactions, patterns, values…

Noticing allows you not to react, but to respond.

Or as Viktor Frankl said:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Mindfulness helps me to notice that space. Without it, I don’t see it and therefore I have no freedom.

  • When I do it at night, it helps me to unwind. When I do it in the morning, I somehow start my day better.

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t make me totally zen and I’m definitely not mindful 24/7.

But… I’m still grateful for it and therefore it deserves a spot here.

Do you want to know more about mindfulness?

Since Covid started, I’m offering ‘The Truth about Mindfulness’ for free. If you are interested, go and have a look here. Feel free to share.

As of today, you can also apply for my free beta-course: ‘Boost your resilience!  From overwhelm to more balance’. Check out this link to see if this would be something for you and if not, maybe you do know somebody who’d love to participate. Thank you for sharing!