Stressed in the city

By on February 1, 2011

Living in Japan can be both exhilarating and exhausting. No matter how long you have been here, living in a foreign country adds a layer of stress that you wouldn’t experience back in your home country. Case in point: six months after returning to Canada I was on my way to the bank when I noticed that I was rehearsing in my head what I was going to say to the teller – in English! After having a good laugh at  myself, I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that this was no longer necessary. I also recognized that during my five years in Japan, mentally rehearsing unfamiliar interactions in Japanese was a “normal” part of my everyday life. While I hadn’t considered how much stress this added to my life, the sudden removal of the need to engage in this habit was supremely uplifting. Many stress experts tout things such as exercise, meditation, journaling, and walking in nature as solutions for managing stress. These are great in theory – and even in practice – but what if you just can’t find the time to fit anything more in?

How can you optimize what you are already doing to increase energy, reduce stress, and avoid adding one more thing into your already overloaded schedule?

Simple: leverage your strengths.

First, let’s differentiate between natural strengths and skills. Anyone can develop skill through repetition and necessity. Your natural strengths, however, will stand out from those areas where you are simply skilled due to the following characteristics: 1) You will be energized by performing these activities and/or learning about these subjects (regardless of how skilled/ knowledgeable you are at them); 2) You will learn more quickly and develop higher levels of expertise in areas that are aligned with your natural strengths.

So what does this have to do with reducing stress? Think about a day where you have spend an entire day doing something that you dislike (but perhaps are skilled at). Now think about a day spent doing something you love. What is the difference in your energy and stress levels in these two different scenarios? The former creates distress and zaps your energy. The latter creates eustress (or positive stress) and actually gives you energy. Even a few hours spent bookkeeping will exhaust me, but a 16-hour day spent training or coaching will leave me with that energized “good tired” feeling as I fall happily into bed at night.

To tap into this “good tired” immunizer against stress, consider the following: Do you enjoy learning about music, art, business or the latest technology? If you teach, put this source of energy to good use in your teaching by crafting it into games and learning activities for your students. More creative working with a group than on your own? Enlist a team to work with you at the point in projects where you usually find your energy flagging and your stress increasing. Are you in sales? How can you bring a talent for connecting people or a passion for research to the forefront to build stronger relationships with your customers?


Are you a leader in a large organization? The areas of your job that are most energizing for you point to your greatest opportunities for both contributing to the organization and reducing your own stress. Identify the aspects of your role that drain you and either systematize or delegate them so you can focus on doing what you do best. Forget about New Year’s resolutions. Focus on leveraging your strengths and watch your stress disappear and your wellbeing soar!


Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide. Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance and profits took shape. A dynamic speaker, coach and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive. Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech. She can be contacted through her website at

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at