It is pure irony that in a week when I have a last minute overseas trip to see a client, a black tie dinner the night before I depart, a talk to give at a prestigious lunch, a workshop to write and a spotty outfit to prepare for a charity event that my seven year old is attending; that I remember that the deadline for this article is six hours away. Talking about boosting our resilience and reducing stress when we feel like the veritable pressure-cooker is about to explode could be the very straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. However, much study and research does tell us that we can learn resilience and take various actions to reduce stress. It is a mere matter of taking the deliberate actions and steps to make it happen.
Resilience is that almost indescribable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting what life throws define them and drain their resolve, they find a way of rising from the ashes.
Psychologists have long identified some of the factors that resilient people have; a positive mental attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a learning opportunity. They also display a clear acceptance of reality, a deep belief that life is meaningful and an uncanny ability to improvise. If we think about resilience in the following ways we can pave the way to learning how to be more resilient.
Awareness and thinking: notice what is going on in your head
Do you conceptualize an event as traumatic, or as an opportunity to learn and grow? George Bonnano – an eminent psychologist – states that in essence, events are not traumatic until we experience them as traumatic. He calls it a potentially traumatic event, which he argues is more accurate. The theory is straightforward. Every frightening event, no matter how negative it might seem from the sidelines, has the potential to be traumatic or not to the person experiencing it.
Talking to someone or reaching out
As the expression goes’ a problem shared……’ Call upon others to help you meet the challenges ahead, resilience is also about knowing when to ask for help.
Our mental and physical ability to cope with challenges without becoming ill
Of course, developing resilience often comes along hand in hand with reducing the potential for stress. We all know that stress can sabotage your confidence, churn your stomach and impact upon your general wellbeing, and therefore our ability to be resilient. Alongside developing your resilience, practice the following to help reduce your stress levels.
Remember that expression, ‘this too will pass’. Although it is uncomfortable, the negative feelings will pass. Paradoxically accepting and acknowledging that you are feeling anxious will help activate the body’s natural relaxation response.
● Breathe – deeply. In response to stress our bodies change physiologically, the quickening of breathing being one.
● Remind yourself of positively reframed statements such as “I can do this”, “I will get through this”, “I am stressed right now but have the ability to make myself feel calm” and “I can feel my heart rate slowing”.
● Exercise – it is easy to overlook exercise in favour of a constant and growing to-do list. Maintaining a regular exercise routine has been proven to reduce stress, improve mood, enhance self-esteem and increase energy and productivity levels. During exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins, which interact with receptors in the brain causing the good feelings.
● Sleep is incredibly restorative – and since electricity was discovered we have steadily been getting less of it. We only need to consider sleep deprivation in horrible torture scenarios to realize the consequences of the lack of sleep.
Despite my moment of anxiety upon realization that a deadline loomed, through these reminders my day was more productive. I was working from home awaiting a delivery and I even managed to plant some roses which had been rather abandoned in a bucket and were looking somewhat un-resilient, and possibly a little stressed. I shall look forward to smelling them.
Kate Tojeiro is an Executive Performance Coach, MD of X fusion and the author of The Art of Possible, out now in paperback, with 10% of profits going to the The National Association of Children of Alcoholics.