This week I am returning to the book “The Power of Resilience” written by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein and in particular the second feature they associated with resilient people:
Possessing strategies to develop “stress hardiness”.
There are a wealth of books on well-being and stress management so today I will start by giving an overview of my thoughts on the subject.
When we are well-balanced, well rested and relaxed our ability to solve problems and deal with life’s obstacles is increased. When we are stressed, run down and tired our ability dissolves. We are more likely to be emotional and lack the inner resources to cope.
Taking this a step further our perception of our ability to cope is diminished when we are stressed, things that we could normally handle appear over-whelming.
So how do ensure that we have strategies to develop “stress hardiness” ?
I prefer to use the term “Well-being Strategy as opposed to “stress hardiness”. My thinking behind this is the power of linguistics, I want people to focus on the words well-being rather than stress. Every time we consider a word it triggers our associations to that word and for many people there are more negative associations to the word “stress” than positive.
If we start fresh with the positive reframe and use the term well-being we are creating new positive connections and associations. This in and of itself can become part of the strategy.
We also need to develop two types of strategy. The first is our long term health and well-being strategy. This will be all the lifestyle approaches and activities we engage in on a regular basis to maintain a well balanced body and mind.
If our long term strategy is well defined and we stay engaged in balancing our lives we naturally become more resilient. This alone can increase the bounce back factor enormously.
The second strategy is designed to handle crisis. What can we do when faced with a crisis moment? Both the long term strategy and the short term strategy need to address environmental, emotional, physiological and psychological factors.
In addition to this there needs to be a balance of inner reflection and outward action. We need to remember why humans experience so much stress in their lives in order to transform that experience.
As a species we have developed a very unnatural way of living. Our bodies are designed to cope with perceived threat, when threatened our fight or flight response is triggered. In modern living we often deny ourselves the right to run away or physically fight a threat.
Many of the threats we perceive are imagined and created by our thinking processes, others are created by double binds. For example, if you watch the TV show the Apprentice we have the experience in the board room. In the UK it’s Alan Sugar and in USA Donald Trump. The candidates are asked to explain themselves and whatever they say they get criticised for. They have put themselves in a situation without the chance to escape if they want to play the game.
This example of course we call entertainment and the participants have chosen to get involved, however it is not that dissimilar to experiences people may have at work or in family settings.
What happens in our bodies when we don’t act out the fight/flight response?
Our body produces chemicals that send messages around the body preparing it for action. When we don’t run away or fight we suppress our bodies instructions. The chemicals cease to fulfil their purpose and turn into toxins in the body. This in turn suppressed the immune system making it more susceptible to illness.
As an aside most ongoing stress situations that other animals experience are man made creations. In nature there is a threat and the animal either gets away or it doesn’t, fights and wins or it doesn’t. Then the problem is over either way.
Over the next few weeks I will expand on each of these areas with a few simple ideas that are easy to apply for those of you wanting to develop your own well-being strategy.
I would also be interested to hear from you. What approaches do you use? I know many of you are health professionals, what additional information do you have to share?