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How good are you at handling the day-to-day stress you experience in your life? Do you think that you have stress resilience? Resilience can be defined as your capacity for stress-related growth, or how you bounce back when life doesn’t go to plan.

It has two parts:

• How you bounce back and grow from big work or life adversities and traumas
• How you bounce back and grow as you deal with everyday stress and hassles.

The Health & Safety Executive defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. There is a clear distinction between pressure, which can create a ‘buzz’ and be motivating, and stress, which occurs when this pressure becomes excessive.”

Much of what has been written about resilience focuses on the first aspect of resilience — what to do when you’re faced with a major life trauma, which is what I wrote about in my last newsletter. However, it’s just as important to develop resilience for life’s every day hassles. After all, it’s not every day that you experience death, divorce or a traumatic diagnosis. But you do have to deal with work pressures, the stress of raising a family, traffic, family conflict and more much more on a regular basis.

The Perfect Life

No one has a perfect life. People who say that their life is perfect do not have inbuilt resilience and will struggle when something goes wrong. They are probably hiding from difficult or negative situations, rather than dealing with them.

The single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide. CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably – says that being silent isn’t being strong. And yet how many men feel that they need to be seen as strong, rather than showing their emotions or opening up when something bad happens? Too many men will absorb the issues rather than asking for help. My own father died of a heart attack at the early age of 50, brought on in no small part, I am sure, through internalising the stress created by being made redundant twice during the big economic downturn of the 1970s.

Bouncing Back

In order to be able to deal with whatever life throws at you, you need to develop a positive mental attitude and learn how to manage the negative situations that occur. One way in which you can do this is by accepting that negative situations do happen. Consider that while they might at first appear daunting, like a huge mountain to climb, your first step should be to step back and analyse the situation as part of the big picture. This will help prevent overwhelm or blind panic that many people first experience when something bad happens.

Take the time to think about what is happening. The situation might be difficult to handle, but what can you learn from it? Who can you ask for help? You know that you’ve probably dealt with worse before – how did you cope with those situations? Every day problems and challenges are never as bad in the morning when you’ve slept on them. The problem of course is that stress can inhibit sleep – and a sleepless night leads to even greater stress. And so the cycle continues.

Remember also that while the situation might seem challenging, you probably know someone who is going through something worse and dealing with it very well. How do they cope with what they’re dealing with? Where does their resilience come from?

According to the research of leading psychologist, Susan Kobasa, there are three elements that are essential to resilience:

Challenge – resilient people view a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralysing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.

Commitment – resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals; they have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. Commitment isn’t just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about and their religious or spiritual beliefs.

Personal Control – resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.

So the next time your life doesn’t quite go to plan, take the time to stop, look at the situation as part of the bigger picture and look at what you really need to do, in order to bounce back.

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