Top 5 Ways to Increase Your Resilience

You may dream of a stress-free life, but the reality is that stress is just as inevitable as the need to eat and drink. Instead of avoiding it entirely, you should focus on finding ways to manage it.

“Reducing stress means we can reduce the amount of stressful events that happen to us,” said Elissa Epel, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco and author of The Stress Recipe: Seven Days to Greater Joy and Ease . “This is not the best goal, because there will always be many different stressors in our lives.”

Instead of trying to get rid of stress completely, a much more realistic goal is to increase our stress tolerance. Resilience is the ability to withstand and recover from stress and, as Epel points out, the ability to relax when nothing is happening. As with many other aspects of life, resilience is something we can improve with practice. Epel suggests the following five strategies.

“Catch” stress three times a day

Stress can be such a big part of our lives that we don’t even notice it. To better understand what our stressors are and how they affect us, Epel recommends getting in the habit of catching our stress three times a day. To do this, pause for a moment and check what might be causing you stress – whether it’s work, physical discomfort, or just general anxiety about the future.

“This is to capture the subtle stress of an uncertain future, as well as specific things that we worry about, but we don’t really need it,” Epel said. “Worrying doesn’t usually lead to productive problem solving.”

Build a stress shield

Identifying our stressors is the first step; the next is to find productive ways to deal with stressors, one of which is to create a “stress shield”. To do this, Epel recommends listing the reasons why you are actually willing to deal with whatever is causing you stress. For example, if you’re stressed about a project at work, it might help you think back to times when you’ve successfully completed similar projects in the past, or make a list of all the ways your previous training has prepared you. “In addition to the reasons why you’re ready, you can also think about the resources you have available to help you succeed,” Epel said.

Go from “why me” to “try me”

When you’re especially anxious about something, one way to deal with it is to remember all the hardships you’ve overcome in the past as a way of reminding yourself that you have everything you need to deal with whatever the future holds.

Practice stress fitness

As with our physical fitness, we can improve our resilience. In fact, they are quite interconnected: improving physical fitness often leads to an increase in the ability to cope with stress. Some of the ways to train stress fitness include high-intensity interval training or immersion in hot or cold water, such as a sauna or cold shower. “The most important thing is to relax in discomfort,” Epel said. “We tend to tense up when we are physically stressed and we worry about stress. If we can keep the mind relaxed while the body is an even better workout.”

Create “joyful” bookends

No matter how busy life gets, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the good things in life. Epel recommends taking some time at the beginning and end of each day to remember the good things in life, like something you’re grateful for or a moment that made you smile. In the morning, it can help you look into your day and remember the positive things that await you; and, in the end, it can help to look back and tell about all the good things that happened.


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