What Does It Mean To Be Resilient to Stress?
Merriam-Webster’s Definition of resilient: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Simply put, those resilient to stress still face it; they simply aren’t overwhelmed by it. Their mind remains focused and ready to problem solve, face the stressor or move beyond it.
How Do You Become Resilient to Stress?
Resiliency is not a trait you’re born with (although some people have personalities more prone to resiliency). The key to building resiliency is different for everyone, however, it requires commitment, patience and effort.
You may find you manage certain stressors extremely well; while others quickly overwhelm you. Many factors can influence resiliency at any time, and thus, a stressor you’ve handled well in the past might suddenly cause extreme anxiety. On the flip side, studies show people are often far more resilient than they believe they ever could be when facing extreme adversity such as a catastrophic event.
1. Building Resiliency Takes Time & Effort
Just like cleaning out an overflowing junk drawer, the mess gets bigger when you first begin. Soon the garbage is cleared away and the space is neat, organized and far more efficient to use.
2. Building Resiliency Is Worth The Effort
Life is a challenge, but it’s also an amazing journey if you allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy the ride. This may sound like a trite sound bite; but it’s true.
3. Resiliency Is Fluid
As noted above, resiliency is not static. Back to that organized junk drawer: if you don’t maintain a system, the drawer will eventually overflow again. Stick with the program, and your resiliency builds over time. Just keep in mind, some circumstances in life, such as a major loss, are naturally overwhelming. The flow of emotions is a significant part of the grieving process.
4. You Have to Be READY to Build Your Resilience:
Again, resiliency is a learned trait, a habit that takes time to build. If you don’t have the energy to put in the required effort–or more importantly, you’re simply not ready, you’re unlikely to surpass the stress. Resiliency often requires change (a change in habits, sometimes even a change in deep-rooted values that no longer serve us). One thing is for certain, most people don’t like change and all the “what ifs” that go with it.
From my experience working with both men and women, there’s a lot of talk about overload and stress long before there’s any movement toward change. Ironically, we often find comfort in the discomfort of stress, simply because it’s familiar.
5. If You Aren’t Ready, You’re Making A Choice Not To Move Forward:
Nothing is wrong with this unless you’re truly underwater. Doing nothing about overwhelming stress is actually doing something–often a big something. It’s prolonging your situation, creating even more stress. This can lead to mental, emotional and physical problems, which, in turn, can affect your mood, your self-esteem, your sleep, energy, etc. The cycle continues from there. Unless you’re able to make peace with your status quo, one of two things is likely to happen: you’ll either exhaust yourself (which slows you down in the long-run) or you’ll finally be forced into making that change.
If this resonates with you, but you’re still apprehensive, I recommend starting with the smallest of steps toward resiliency. Set just one or two goals. Simple changes in your thought patterns and habits can be the catalyst toward resiliency. And for those of you ready for change right now, consider this an exciting chapter in your life.
6. The Steps toward Resiliency and Stress Management Are Extremely Personal.
What works for “everyone else” will not necessarily work for you. You must find the path that works for you, or you’ll remain on overload. Worse, you’re more likely to feel defeated, worsening that cycle.
The steps below are based on research and facts, and/or common tactics that have worked for others. For best results, start slowly with the steps that resonant with you, modify them as needed, or add your own. Visit the new Facebook Group: Learn.Grow.Inspire.Share for encouragement, support, tips, questions and advice.
One Step At A Time
(Research shows implementing these daily habits have a positive impact on resilience:)
Wake Up With A Good Attitude
Studies show that how you view your day from the moment you wake up, is how you will live it.
End the Day With 3 Positive Take-Aways
Research proves that the more you focus on the positives of each day, the more you’ll teach your brain to lean toward optimism.
Practice Blocking Negative Thoughts
It can be a tough habit to break, but the more you try, the better you’ll become. Use any safe method you can to stop the pattern: focus on a positive quote or mantra, take a deep breath, picture yourself on vacation or picture a giant stop sign that interrupts the ruminating thoughts. Another option is to journal. Again, be sure to choose the method that fits your personality. Most importantly, don’t beat yourself if you continue to struggle. Just keep trying, and eventually you’ll get there.
The steps above are just the beginning of building resiliency to stress. Here are additional, proven ways, to grow resilience:
- Set a goal and reach it; then set another
- Take time out to unwind and rejuvenate (lots of research supports the significance of restoration)
- Spend time with friends
- Get enough sleep (if you’re struggling with insomnia see a specialist)
- Exercise is essential for a healthy body and mind. You’ll feel better, sleep better, have more energy and the list goes on.
- Work on increasing your self-esteem (a critical and worthwhile step)
- Practice problem-solving. The more often you train your brain to jump straight into problem-solving mode the more automatic it becomes.
- Learn to recognize your emotions without letting them control your thoughts
- Create a supportive network (friends, relatives, support groups, on-line communities, meetups, etc.)
- Build powerful habits faster through consistency. Make a conscious effort to promote a positive attitude every day. Need reminders to get you started? Receive automatic email reminders for three full weeks (the average time it takes to form a new habit) that keep you on track.