Stress is a very common and present emotion in our daily life, that very often has the power to transform not only our daily routines, our mood, relationships or career, but also our whole life and its length. Correlating with many diseases that it can produce and strong influences that it can introduce to our life, stress has mainly negative reputation.
The question that we are able to hear almost every day and almost everywhere is: How to build stress resilience and take the control of it?
When it comes to stress, we are more resilient than we actually think we are. We are naturally capable of dealing with most of what life prepares for us and challenges it sends to us. In order to be able to develop the effective stress resilience mechanism one must understand what it represents.
”You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” Maya Angelou
People deal with stress and negative events in many different ways and while most of the time the very first reaction we experience while dealing with stress is anxiety, blame or fear, stress resilience means having a positive response to stress, known as mature defense, according to American psychiatrist and professor of Harvard Medical School-George Eman Vaillant.
As reported by Vaillant, resilience is a positive adaptive feature that can be learned and developed. The crucial factor here is the definition of stress; depending on what we understand as stress determines the presence of stress in our life. Those who observe stress as a challenge and the opportunity to grow and evolve learn to avoid stressful circumstances and generate motivational approach and will for action rather than escape and ’victim mentality’.
The starting point is understanding what and why we feel while experiencing stress; understanding the source of anger can provide valuable information about what needs to be changed. Once we understand where those negative emotions come from, we are able to develop the internal locus of control, which is based on the fact that each person is in control of their life. We might not be able to control the circumstances, but we can certainly control how we respond and react to them. The perspective on stress could be the single most important factor in how we experience it when it happens and afterwards. Observing stress as a challenge awakens the focus and allows to perform under pressure and can even lead to flow.
”The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James
Stress can often lead to self-destruction and in order to avoid that we first have to experience the will to grow so that we can make that a mental habit. Inner peace, motivation, inspiration, calmness and mindfulness are some of the best enemies of stress, that will not only develop the stress resilience but will also help to develop a stronger personality. In order to evolve those abilities, we have to comprehend that all those abilities can be learned and developed through everyday practice. Our thoughts become our actions and our actions become our life. It’s important to detox your mind too every now and then and not only your body, since the mind is the birth of everything.
Building strong and healthy attitude can take years and is a never-ending process, because it’s a learning process. We learn new skills every day and we apply those skills to our attitude, which becomes a new product every time we add a new skill. So in that matter, it’s important to understand that just as our thoughts can be changed-our attitude can be changed too.
We are all familiar with the example of the half full VS. half empty glass, which can be applied to many cases of our daily life, but especially when it comes to stress. Half full VS. half empty glass concept not only explains that everything that happens to us has a bright side, but it also explains the importance of priority. Our priorities determine the results we reach, and while experiencing stressful events or situations, we always have to make the map of priorities. Facing the problem and discovering its root is the first step. Understand HOW and WHY you found yourself in this situation.
This step is crucial not only for solving the problem but also for avoiding the same or similar problem and situation in the future. Once you discover what made you come to that situation, you will be able to control it and not allow for it to happen again.
Ask yourself what your priority is-is it solving the problem or escaping it? Be honest with yourself, lying to you will always be a mission impossible. If you somehow think that escaping the problem is what you need or want to do, remember that while it’s true that some things are just better left on the side without paying attention to them-it’s usually those things that will come back and haunt you.
Facing the problem doesn’t necessarily have to be a complex, exhausting and stressful process, it’s your choice how you play with it. Yes-play is the exact word. We often live in our mind, in our own reality and forget that the real world doesn’t always follow our own imagination or rules. Observing every problem as a game can help you find the solution faster, and even make a profit out of it. In every game you will face obstacles, difficulties and you may find yourself in some not very pleasant situations-and the same thing will happen in life. What do you do in that situation defines your personality.
”I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
It’s important to develop self-compassion. You have to be there for yourself, to be your own friend, a person you can always turn to knowing that will always be there. Not to judge, not to blame-but to listen and understand. To comprehend what you go through and develop a comfortable, honest and pleasant sensations. Understand that although our thoughts determine our actions, they don’t determine who we are. We are not our thoughts or feelings, they don’t define us. We use them to try to express ourselves, which is not always easy thing to do. There is no right or wrong way to feel or think in any given moment, sometimes it has its own flow and it has nothing to do with who we really are.
Next step: mindfulness. As an American philosopher and psychologist William James said: ‘’The education of attention would be education par excellence’’ Mindfulness is flourishing when we are alone with ourselves, with our minds and feelings, thoughts and reactions, when we pay attention to what and why do we think or feel, understanding our own being and the way we function.
”Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” Gever Tulley
Not everything that happens to us requires a reaction. Some things should be just left to go in their own rhythm and their own way. Patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting. It’s not an absence of action, but the timing of action. Sometimes we insist too much on something that we ourselves manage to ruin it, and sometimes we do that before anything even happens, by over-thinking, fantasizing, expecting, worrying, doubting. Sometimes all it takes is to let things evolve naturally.
Being resilient doesn’t mean not experiencing difficulties, stressful situations and events, it is the ability to remain calm and focused during such situations and directing our energy on overcoming the obstacles instead of expanding them. Remember that the more attention we pay to something, the more important and present it becomes. In the same way the more attention we pay to stress and events or people who produce it-the more power and importance we are giving to it. Learn to let go.
Finally, there is no such thing as a magic rule that can guarantee that you will become stress resilient-it all comes to the understanding. You can’t manage something that you don’t understand. In that matter, you can’t learn how to become stress resilient if you don’t really understand yourself. Every individual observe and experience things differently, and so they make their own strategies and techniques to manage whatever happens to them.
Take care of yourself and your thoughts better. Please yourself more, instead of worrying about things that are just not worth it. Self-acceptance has a very important role in the process of self-growth. In order to change something we have to accept it first. This doesn’t only apply to the process of becoming stress resilient, but to any other process that involves self-improvement and self-evolvement. Nothing will happen if we pressure it, to the contrary-pressuring things will only lead us further away from where we want to be. Our mind and our body are both hard to control if they are under the pressure, therefore it is more difficult to avoid stress. Give yourself time, give yourself space, but most important-give yourself love.