Psychology 101 for Change Agents, Session 2: Understanding and Taming Your Stress Response

Uncategorized Feb 10, 2021

Psychology 101 for Change Agents: A Self-Guided Coaching Curriculum


A little bit of background 

 These videos are excerpts from group coaching sessions I do as part of a livecast series for the social entrepreneurs who are part of our Joyful Impact Accelerator.  Along with the videos there are worksheets that go with each session.  We wanted to share this material with as many of you as want to make use of it. I hope these sessions can generate some deep insights and breakthroughs for you in your journey to more fully answer your own call to serve.   Additional sessions will be posted every other week to the Joyful Impact blog as the livecast series makes it way through the 12-session curriculum.  To download the worksheet for this session, click here.  And if you missed Session 1 from two weeks ago, you can catch it here.


Session 2: Understanding and Taming Your Stress Response

Too many of us have learned to cope with a near constant state of stress. There is a positive role for some stress some of the time, but when our stress response gets triggered too often we can end up dealing with nearly continuous anxiety. This can cost us a lot in terms of our health, our capability to achieve personal fulfillment and our ability make a positive contribution to those we love and to the world at large. The good news is that if we are willing to get curious about our own wiring there is a lot we can do to map it out, and then rewire ourselves to function at a higher level.

So what’s the backstory on stress? The joke’s on us. Thanks to our evolutionary heritage we are psychologically wired for a world continuous mortal danger that by and large no longer exists. Remembering the model of our psychological system we’re using throughout these sessions, our more primitive brain (“System 1”) is automatic, fear-driven and risk averse. This is great in truly dangerous “fight or flight” situations when even a moment’s hesitation can be life threatening. The bad part is that the only way System 1 can do its job is by being prone to overreaction and by never letting us switch it off. By contrast, our higher order mental faculties of reasoning, logic and planning (“System 2”) are energy intensive and have to be consciously switched on. As a result, System 2 is happy to automate and outsource as much of our mental functioning as possible to System 1, the very same night watchman who spent millions of years on a hair-trigger lookout for sabertooth tigers sneaking up in the shadows.

So even though many of us are privileged enough that our actual environment is not nearly as full of life and death threats as it once was, if we don’t actively intervene to examine our wiring and update it, we will likely end up with an inner life that is far more reactionary and fearful than it needs to be. Left to its own, the stress reaction pathway, powered by powerful hormonal signals, amplifies in intensity as it rushes through us, leading us to reflexive, unthinking action without ever engaging any of the faculties of our highest and best selves, from reasoning and logic, to our feelings, our beliefs and our values.

This self-guided coaching session and the accompanying worksheet can help you become more aware of your own stress response, what triggers it, and what works for you to recover your equilibrium faster when you do get stressed.


50% Complete

Sign up below to receive free access to the Joyful Impact Members Area, where you can access all kinds of learning materials and content to help you step up your game as a change agent. 

These are the same materials we use with the social entrepreneurs in our accelerator program and the funders we coach one on one.  The world has never been more in need of a new, greatest generation of change agents and that's why we're opening up free access to these materials to anyone who's ready to make use of them!