What Do You Do WhenYou’re In A Stressful Situation?

You’re about to speak in front of an audience and your heart is pounding and you feel nauseous.  Or maybe you have to go to the hospital or the dentist and you want to be able to stand your ground and not feel intimidated into doing whatever they tell you.  Or perhaps you’re waiting impatiently for an email or a call, news that matters to you and that you feel you have no control over.

In any of these situations, you probably know that your feelings aren’t helping you achieve your best or feel happy. 

What you want is to be feeling calm and confident, perhaps excited or simply detached.  Maybe you need a boost of creativity, or a shot of diplomacy, or just the ability to distract yourself and focus elsewhere.


Setting anchors is a technique that is often used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and by coaches trained in that approach.  It’s a really useful way to access positive resource states like calm, confidence and creativity, at times when you need them most.

Generally, people set anchors ahead of time, before a situation they know may be challenging.

The traditional way of setting anchors is by really getting into the emotion you want, and then creating a physical anchor for it in your body. An example would be pressing your thumb and little finger together, something you wouldn’t normally do, and are unlikely to do accidentally.  In this way, the anchor is only used purposefully, making it stronger and more effective.

Cascading Anchors

You can also create a cascade of anchors.

This is most often done when you want to change from a quite ‘negative’ state to a ‘positive’ one.  It would be a big ask to go straight from terror to confidence, for example.  If you can set yourself up to go from terror to nervousness, then to calm and finally to confidence, then you’re being a lot more realistic.

One of the great things about a physical anchor is that you always have your body to hand (pun intended).  So, you don’t run the risk of losing your lucky pants, or whatever other object you might have as an anchor: a mistake made by no small number of athletes!

On the other hand, physical anchors don’t work well for everyone.  It depends on how you interact with the world.

Do you hear songs when you look at pictures, or if you just hear a keyword, or maybe even when you smell a familiar scent?  If so, picking a playlist to listen to just before or during that tricky situation may be the best answer for you.

Maybe you can picture what you’d like to happen really clearly.  Or perhaps a particular image triggers an emotional response in you.  In that case, having a specific image as your home screen or setting up a mini-slideshow for yourself could be really useful.

And with both the playlist and the slideshow, you’ll find that once you’ve gone through it a few times, you can bring it to mind without the external cues, if need be.

An Example

Let’s ground this in an example, using images.  You could pick something that represents your feeling of terror at speaking in public, or the worst-case-scenario you imagine.  Then, pick one to three images that represent comfort to you: a role model, a favourite place, person, animal or object.  Finally, choose one to three images that trigger the emotions you’d like to be feeling: calm, confidence, enthusiasm.

BF-Anchors CollageIn some ways, it’s best to keep it simple: one image of what you want to release, one for the transition, and one for what you want.  However, it can be good to pick a few extras, as you may find one or other works better for you as you experiment with them.  The same theory would hold true when setting up a playlist.

If you set up something like this, run through it at least five or six times before the situation you’re preparing for.  As they say, practice makes perfect, and in this case it’s like martial arts, you want this response to become as ingrained as possible so that every time you start to feel that negative emotion, you can automatically bring up the anchors to guide you to those more positive, resourceful states.

Why not give it a go?  And if you’d like some help, call me on 07561 231 281.

Leave a Comment