How To Fight Stress

Presenter: Katherine
Guest: Leo Willcocks
Guest Bio: Leo Willcocks of Leo Willcocks Stress Consulting


Health Professional Radio

Katherine: Thank you for joining us at Health Professional Radio today. I’m Katherine, and today we’re talking about stress. Now, are you stressed? Do you experience stress in your life? Maybe we all do to some extent. Are personal challenges eating into your personal life? Here today we have Leo Willcocks of Leo Willcocks Stress Consulting to talk to us about stress and de-stressing. Welcome to our show, Leo.

Leo Willcocks: Thank you.  Thanks for having me.

Katherine: My pleasure.  Let’s talk about stress.  Now, I think everyone experiences some stress to varying degrees.  When do people figure out it’s a problem for them?

Leo: One of the things I’ve learned is that a lot of people have a hard time defining stress.  One of the ways I work out with a lot of my clients is, really, stress is just more defined as change.  It’s a change in someone’s life, in someone’s circumstance.  Whether it be good or bad, it’s just a change of some sort.

It depends on the degree of change as to the degree of the stress.  And it becomes a problem, I’ve found with a lot of my clients and a lot of people that I observe, is when we resist it, we ignore it, or we don’t want to accept that the change has or is about to take place.

Katherine: Right, right.  I’m glad you mentioned that stress can be a positive change as well, because I think a lot of people associate stress with work pressures or personal pressures.  But some very positive changes in people’s lives can bring on stress, such as going on holiday, for example, can stress some people out.  But any form of change is stress?

Leo: Yes.

Katherine: Let’s talk about, say, the more negative sides of stress, where it becomes a health issue.  How does stress manifest?

Leo: I was thinking about that question, and I thought to myself, I want you to imagine you’re walking down the hallway.

Katherine: Yeah.

Leo: Have you got a brother or something?

Katherine: Yes.

Leo: Okay, imagine you’re walking down the hallway, because brothers are the ones that are more likely to do something stupid like this.  I was a brother and I did it.  You’d sit behind the corner or something, and then you’d jump out and scare them.

Katherine: Right.

Leo: This is an example of a very, very sudden stress.  When someone jumps out and scares you, you tense up, all your muscles just tighten very quickly.  Then after that initial stress of someone jumping out and saying, ‘rah!’ you sit there and go, ‘ah, you idiot, why did you do that?’  Then you start to relax.

But if you were to take that same example and apply it to working for a company, and the big managers have now just announced that there’re going to be however many hundred redundancies and no one’s job is safe.  You take that exact same process and you slow it right down over the six months.  Now, when it’s a sudden thing like someone jumping out and scaring you, it’s also quite quick to reverse it.

But when you’re talking over six months, twelve months or however long, slowly your body starts to tense up and it just gets more and more tense as time goes on.  It takes a lot more time, obviously, to help reverse that or deal with that.  There’s that side to it, so the tension.  A lot of people will get muscle tension when they’re under a lot of stress and pressure.

Katherine: Right.

Leo: On top of that, you’ll get things like blood pressure rising.  The blood flows to different parts of the body so the immune system slows down.  The digestive system slows down.  People are losing sleep and shallow breathing, which means they become oxygen deprived, which means their brain is not functioning to its top ability anyway.  There are a lot of different issues that will arise from stress.

Katherine: Yeah.  I really appreciate that example, and it’s a great way to illustrate the short-term stress and the long-term stress.  There are some stresses that do pass and then there are, obviously, like the example of losing a job or maybe losing a loved one, where the stresses are more of a long-term situation.

Now, I wanted to talk to you about different people are more prone to stress than others.  Like, for example, starting a new job could be highly stressful for some people, and for other people it’s …

Leo: It’s a welcome relief.

Katherine: Yeah.  They take it in their stride.  For people that are maybe more slightly high-strung or prone to stress, maybe that’s part of their personality as well, can you give us some practical tips to help relieve some stress fairly quickly for those short term stresses?

Leo: Okay.  One thing I’ve found with a lot of my clients is the ones that accept it easier, like they accept change easier, so they don’t tend to get … they’re not as stress-prone as others.  It’s because of that accepting change.  The ones that I’ve found that become more prone to stress are the ones that have struggled with the acceptance of change and experiences.

I’ve found that this seems to be the case for a lot of people because it’s a lot of past experience, and they bring it with them.  And so if some people have had good experiences with change, like changing from one school to another as a child, and it was a great acceptance because they made friends at the new school, or whatever, or someone else did, and they couldn’t make new friends at the new school.  So, that past experience gets brought forward with it.

Different things I do with clients is, I get them to look at different change in their life, like past experiences.  I get them to see either how it has been a benefit to them, where it has made them stronger, more resilient, more reliant upon themself.  But the other thing I do is I get them to ask some questions, because there’s practical tips that we all know; going and getting a massage, going and breathing deep and yoga and stuff.

But that doesn’t help you at the time of a real stress.  You can’t break out in front of the boss going, ‘hang on a minute, boss, I’m just going to do a yoga pose here’.  You can’t do that.  So, you need to understand some quick questions you can ask yourself to help you deal with it.  One of the things I get clients asking themself is, in that very quick moment, just ask themself, ‘why am I really stressed?’ and to quickly come up with an answer.

Once you ask that question, think of the answer and then ask it again, ‘why is that – the answer from the first question – why does that bother me?’  When you’ve worked that out, you can ask it maybe two or three or four times, and each time it gets you closer and closer to what’s happened in your past, to why you’ve got a real problem there, and why you’re having a hard time with it.  Then once you do that, you can think about different times in your past where it actually worked to your benefit.

One of the things I get with clients is I get them to think of their past experience where the change has actually been a positive thing to them, and how they can use that to help them go through this change and do either similar things that worked for them last time, or if it didn’t work for them last time and the results weren’t the best, look at how you can change what you did last time to have a better result this time around.

Katherine: I see.  You spoke about some of your clients and you, as owner of Leo Willcocks Stress Consulting, you have a program or process that you go through, the De-stress to Success process, that’s a mouthful there.  But can you tell us a bit about what you do with clients?  You’ve had some high profile clients in the past, some corporates, [indecipherable 08:50] teams.  Can you tell us a bit about your process?

Leo: Okay, well, first of all, De-stress to Success, that’s actually my upcoming book.  It’s going through to the publishers at the moment.

Katherine: Okay.

Leo: But the process behind what I do is … stress relief tips that we see all over the internet, we can all use them and they’re great, like massages and breathing and different techniques like that.  They’re great, but the problem is it only takes us away for a little while, because when we come back to work or we come back to a screaming child or a teenager that’s abusing us – our own teenager, that might be – it all starts back up.  The cortisol levels rise, the tension rises and you’re back at square one.

What we need to do is actually not just relieve the stress but actually resolve the stress.  We have to actually go through that process of dealing … a lot of the time, it’s actually with our own past, our baggage that we bring with us.  For example, say it’s a teenager screaming at us, it could be to do with the fact that at school maybe we got picked on, or we got bullied in some way, and our own teenager yelling back at us like that is bringing up that baggage of ‘this is what happened to me as a child’.

Katherine: Right, like a trigger?

Leo: Yeah, it triggers the stress from what happened in our past.  Unfortunately, that’s actually what a lot of our stress is at the current.  It’s usually a lot of the stuff that’s in our past that we haven’t dealt with.  So, throughout the process I help people go back, mentally and emotionally get to their past and help them to actually focus on both how it was actually a benefit to them, and how they actually grew from the experience.

A lot of it is about seeing, basically in life there’s two sides, and unfortunately, we’re being taught so often, like, by the positive thinking movement and things like that, that we only want one side.  We only want positive in life.  But life is never just positive.  Even if you have a magnet and you snap the magnet in half, you’re going to have the negative and positive end.  Then you’d have two magnets with a negative and a positive.

You have to have both, because without having the other, if you don’t know sadness, upset and anger, how would you know if you’re going to experience happiness?

Katherine: Sure.

Leo:You have to be willing to accept both sides of the coin, the heads and the tail.  Okay.  So, what I do is I help people go through the experience and see where they’ve actually benefited from.  A good example of this is with one of my clients.  Her story is quite horrific and I hope people don’t get too upset about it.

But she’s in her mid-fifties.  From the time she was three, she was molested by her grandfather.  Then when her father found out, he tag-teamed and joined in.  Then when she got a bit older, they started prostituting her out to people who they owed gambling debts.  This happened right up until she married at the age of 18.  Turned out she married a man who was very similar to her father and her grandfather.

Katherine: Okay.

Leo: Now, what I did, I helped her to see how, as horrific as it was that she went through, I helped her to see how it was a benefit to her.  One of the things I did, I asked her a few questions about different things that had happened, and how she actually was able to benefit from that.  Some of the things, at first, I was even struggling with the idea, like, I think it’s pretty horrific, but I showed her, by asking her questions that she answered, and she started to see that some of the decisions she made in her life were because of what happened to her.

Some of the places where she was empowered in life were because of the things that they had done to her.  Where she was actually empowering other people and protecting other people, were because of the things that happened to her.

So, she actually became quite a strong lady in her own right, because of the horrific event that happened.  I’m not saying that you have to go through something horrific to learn that lesson, but I am saying that even if something horrific happens, like with my client being molested and prostituted and stuff, she was able to grow because of that, and become an empowered woman and a strong woman to help others.

Katherine: It is so easy to go the other way sometimes, if people don’t have ways of dealing with these life situations, to turn to a more negative … such as drugs and alcohol, or what have you …

Leo: Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of people will turn, because they haven’t been taught the right way to actually deal with their stress.  Unfortunately, we see people fight in the street or hear the abuse in houses, and the children grow up thinking that’s how you deal with your stress.  The next generation grows up and they do the same thing.  It continues on, until someone can break the cycle of that happening.

Katherine: Sure.  Very, very interesting food for thought there.  Thank you for joining us today, Leo, and thank you for sharing a story of one of your clients.  And for those of you who would like to learn more, you can go to  Thanks for your time.

Leo: Thank you.

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