The Path to Stress Resilience

Written by on July 30, 2019 in Adaptability, Emotional Mastery, Self-Care

It’s been one of those days. It started when the alarm didn’t go off, then you ran over the neighbor kid’s bike while backing out of the driveway. Already stressed, the whole drive to work you kept thinking about how much trouble you’ll be in if you’re late to work – again.

Instead, you discover your boss missing in action and a memo on (what used to be) your desk announcing that your job has been eliminated and you’ve been transferred to digital maintenance … in the basement.

Just when you thought you we’re finally putting an impossibly stressful day behind, you arrive home to discover the cat you’ve been worried sick about for days isn’t missing at all but has moved in with a neighbor who she likes much better than you.

Thankfully, days like this are few and far between, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve all experienced moments when it felt as though we were on the receiving end of some sort of cosmic joke.   

But stress is no joke, and we live in a world filled with an endless stream of sources, from unrealistic deadlines at work and commitment overload, to health and financial issues, striving to achieve goals and demanding relationships.

Even joyous occasions such as career advancement, marriage, and pregnancy are often rife with stress, anxiety, and for some, crippling self-doubt.  

Without effective coping skills, the adverse effects of stress can play a role in determining everything from the quality of your health and overall wellbeing to the course of your life.

How much of a role, is entirely up to each of us.  

Stress can destroy much more than just our physical health. Too often, it eats away at our hope, belief, and faith. ~Charles F. Glassman

It’s Time to OWN Your Stress

Whether we realize it or not, most of us have a habit of ignoring signals that stress is building.

It usually goes something like this, we tell ourselves we’re just trying to keep up with our busy lives and not let the little things bog us down. Okay, maybe sometimes a part of us is hoping with a little time we’ll be able to dodge a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Even when we can no longer ignore stress there is a tendency to focus on relieving the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause.

Typical advice for tackling the symptoms of stress include activities like taking a soothing bath, listening to music, expressing gratitude, redirecting thoughts to something positive, or taking a break from whatever is causing your stress.

These are all worthwhile self-care activities, but the relief they provide is at best temporary and they do absolutely nothing to prevent a recurrence.

Stress reduction and prevention strategies provide a more proactive approach and usually involve identifying triggers, people and circumstances that create stress and then doing the work to either eliminate or reduce them.

But this still falls short of fully owning your stress.

As long as you are a living, breathing and functioning human you’ll never be able to completely avoid or remove stress (or the people who create it) from your life, nor should you even want to.

Learning to effectively deal with stressful situations helps us to gain confidence and a sense of autonomy (ownership), strengthens our capacity for effective decision making and dealing with adversity and increases our ability to achieve more goals.

Which brings us to a powerful third option and that is to develop stress resilience.

We are the creators of our own experience – remembering this, and living our lives from this perspective empowers us. ~Mike Robbins

Understanding Stress Resilience

Emotions Cycle

Developing stress resilience begins by becoming aware of the role your thoughts, emotions, behavior and physical reactions play in the cycle of stress, and the ways in which you tend to respond to the events of your life, especially those you have little or no control over.

This means identifying your triggers (hot buttons) and consciously resolving potential problem issues rather than hoping they will somehow fix themselves or simply disappear.

It’s the difference between coping and thriving.

When talking about stress there is a tendency to focus on external causes, especially the behavior of other people, but our own thoughts and feelings fuel the flames of stress more than you might imagine.

There’s negative self-talk, all-or-nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, and replaying mistakes or perceived slights over and over, and that’s just the beginning.

  • We make choices to ease temporary discomfort or get us through the day without considering long term consequences.
  • We fail to set healthy personal boundaries because it feels uncomfortable and maybe a little selfish, and then blame others for not recognizing our sacrifices or how their behavior adversely affects us.
  • We rationalize away even the most obvious signs that a relationship is in trouble by convincing ourselves that everything will be fine if we just try a little harder, do a little more.
  • Then there is pressure we put ourselves under to do, be and have things we believe must in order to be accepted by others.

These are all behaviors that you can change if you’re willing to commit to doing the work. Of course, sometimes it really helps to have a guide and a road map.

Closing Thoughts

Stress is – and always be – a part of life. At best self-help can serve as a compass and offer encouragement, but if you truly desire to grow stronger and live a richer, more fulfilling life you have to accept that it is not going to be enough to just read about what you need to do – you are going to have to take focused, committed action.

Your fears, attitudes, and expectations have likely been your companions for years so it will take time and effort to change them in a way that enables you to become the person you want to be.

It all begins and ends in your mind.

Refuse to succumb to the stress-inducing events in and around you with the right strategy combined with tapping into your inner strength and you will be able to thrive in any environment.

Related reading: 
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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