3 ways to become more stress resilient

Stress is unavoidable. The key is learning how to cope with it. Discover three ways to bolster your stress response and build resiliency without adding extra time to your schedule.

By Brooke L. Werneburg

Resilience means being able to adapt to life's inevitable stresses and setbacks. In other words, you bounce back quickly when something goes wrong. If you frequently feel unhappy, or often wish you could take back the way you reacted to something, you may need to work on your resiliency.

Here are three tactics you can use to raise your resiliency threshold and get more enjoyment from life.

  1. Create awareness. Becoming more aware of your thoughts and actions can help you recognize patterns and areas where you can improve. Plus, it allows you to acknowledge what you're already doing well. The next time you feel stressed, simply pause and notice your reaction. You might ask yourself, "Where is this coming from?" Once you've done that, you can choose another response or way of thinking.

    Try these tips to strengthen your personal awareness:

    • Listen to your body. How does your body react to stressful situations? Do you clench your jaw or teeth? Do you notice your heart rate increasing? Are your thoughts racing, or are you repeatedly worrying about the same issue?
    • Write it down. Make a list of your signs and symptoms of stress. This gives you a moment to check in with yourself and pause before you respond.
    • Reflect. Take note of what your mind is telling you in the moment of stress. You can then question if what you're telling yourself is true, real or rational. Stress often triggers irrational thoughts. By noticing them, you can step back and gain perspective.
  2. Focus your attention. A powerful technique for dealing with stressful situations is to cultivate your attention to focus on the present moment. Doing so reduces the mind's tendency to wander and ruminate on the what-if thoughts that often add to stress. Focusing your attention takes practice, especially in a world that's filled with text messages, social media and other distractions. To develop this skill, try focusing on the details in your everyday surroundings and experiences. Discover new aspects of old haunts and habits. Find the beauty in the mundane.

    Try these ideas:

    • Take a walk around your neighborhood and see it through fresh eyes. Pay attention to your route. Acknowledge the bark and branches of trees, the front doors you pass, the landscaping rocks, the neighbor's dog barking. Be fully present and try to take in as many details as you can.
    • Once you're home, reflect on how that walk was different than usual. How do you feel?
    • Look for points in your day where you can practice cultivating your attention, such as mindfully eating your dinner by engaging your senses to notice the taste, aromas and textures of each dish. Or try focusing on your breath, noticing the coolness of the air as you inhale and the warmth on your exhale. Can you feel the rise and fall of your chest with each breath? You'll likely be surprised at what you notice when you simply take the time to pay attention.
  3. Don't pass judgment ... for at least 3 minutes. Do you find yourself judging and assessing everything you experience? "This would be better if ..." "They should have ..." "I would have done it this way ..." Combat this "righting reflex" by challenging yourself to simply experience someone or something for three minutes without trying to critique or improve. When you delay judgment, you create space for gratitude. You may find that what's in front of you is good enough — or enjoyable as is.
Dec. 29, 2016 See more In-depth