resilience

How to increase your resistance to stress

Stressed is just desserts spelt backwards

…but before we all go reaching for the chocolate mousse or banoffee pie, there are other (more healthy) ways to combat stress and deal with what life throws at you. As April is Stress Awareness Month We Are Wellbeing wants to discuss the topic of resilience, and how by building and cultivating your resilience you can tackle stress before burnout occurs.

Our resident success coach, Rachel Letham, will be sharing some practical tools and strategies to help you boost your resilience and help tackle life’s stressors.

‘Resilience is typically defined as the capacity to recover from difficult life events. “It’s your ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns,” says Amit Sood, MD, the executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being.

‘Resilience is often described as rolling with the punches, learning from circumstances quickly and with the least negative effect but it’s not a short term process. Resilience is something that can be called upon continuously in our lives as we deal with daily stressors as well as big events or life situations.

Why is resilience important?

‘Resilience is important because it gives people the strength needed to process and overcome hardship. Those lacking resilience are easily overwhelmed and may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms (like those desserts I mentioned!) Resilient people tap into their strengths and support systems to overcome challenges and work through problems. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or don’t have. It involves developing behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learnt and practised.

‘Resilience is a survival tool. It helps us to grow and develop as humans and having a growth mindset is crucial. The World Health Organisation recently stated that resilience is “The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy or threats. It also includes coping with significant stress caused by problematic and toxic relationships in the family or the workplace and the capacity to bounce back from difficult experiences.” So being resilient won’t see your problems go away but it can give you the ability to see beyond them and gain more enjoyment in your life with the ability to manage stress and pressures better.

How to Build and Cultivate Resilience

‘It’s helpful to think of resilience as a process. The following are steps that can help build resilience over time:

Develop self-awareness

‘Understanding how you typically respond to stress and adversity is the first step toward learning more adaptive strategies. By having some clarity on your strengths and weaknesses you can understand how to use those strengths to deal with difficult situations and having self-confidence in the decisions you make is key to maintaining a growth mindset.

Build self-regulation skills

‘Remaining focused in the face of stress and adversity is important but not easy. Implementing stress-reduction techniques, such as guided imagery, breathing exercises and mindfulness training, can help you regulate your emotions, thoughts, and behaviours.

‘A quick breathing technique for you to implement is the 3-1-6 breath. This is all about breathing out for longer than you breathe in. It opens up the pre-frontal cortex, the executive, thinking part of the brain. It allows you to have clarity of thought, calm your heart rate and get grounded in the moment. You simply breathe in for the count of three, hold the breath and breathe out for the count of six.  Do this for around five rounds to feel calm and centred.  You can use this when in a difficult situation or when you find yourself in moments of stress, but you can also use it daily to build up a sense of resilience.

Learn coping skills

‘There are many coping skills that can help in dealing with stressful and challenging situations. Tapping into Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; if we look at the basic physiological needs of breathing, sleep, food, water and shelter. Making sure that these core basic needs are met first are often essential to our overall capacity to cope with situations. Have you drunk enough water today? Have you eaten nourishing meals and had enough sleep? In our busy lives, it is often these core needs that get forgotten or bad habits come in affecting how we can then cope with life overall.

‘How about taking a three minute stop? This is a really nice self care exercise to do at least once a week. Find a quiet place, and close your eyes. Allow yourself to focus on your self, your space with curiosity and compassion for three minutes (set a timer on your phone).

‘Let what’s already there with you; your breath, your thoughts, your emotions, those things to do, any physical sensations pass you by. Rather than getting attached to thoughts, let them pass you by like clouds. Don’t judge or reflect on them, just let them be.

‘After the three minutes, write down in your journal or on a pad of paper the thoughts and feelings that passed through you and how you feel. We rarely have an opportunity to sit with ourselves and really take stock. It’s a great way of checking in with yourself mentally.

Increase optimism

‘More optimistic people tend to feel more in control of their outcomes. To build optimism, focus on what you can do when faced with a challenge, and identify positive, problem-solving steps that you can take. Build a compliments file to boost your optimism. Collect emails, comments, notes from your friends, family, peers and colleagues of times when you have been complimented about the way you have handled a situation, completed a project or excelled at something. You can keep this in the notes app on your phone or in a file on your computer. When you need a boost in morale and confidence, take a few moments to read that compliments file, it’s a great way to boost your level of optimism.

‘The good news is that many psychologists and academics believe that the skills for building resilience can be learnt and you are not stuck with the levels that you have. So take time to build the skills, increase your knowledge around stress and get the tools to build resilience and you can boost your wellbeing. By building resilience you are preparing yourself for the long run and better prepared to deal with what life throws at you.’

April is Stress Awareness Month, and keeping on top of you stress-level is paramount to protecting your wellbeing. Our success coach, Rachel Letham, is here at We Are Wellbeing to ensure your business protects and gets the best from employees. For those struggling through April, see Mind.org for vital services and contacts.

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