Stress, like gravity, is one of life’s few constants. It’s everywhere, it can’t be managed and it’s never, ever going away.
Stress should be viewed as a challenge that ultimately makes a person stronger, rather than something to flee or fear. The key is to focus on building stress resilience, which is your ability to effectively plan for, embrace and gracefully recover from challenging and stressful events in your life in a way that produces growth experiences.
There are three key phases to stress resilience:
- Preparation and hardiness;
- Navigation; and
- Recovery and bounce back.
The first phase—preparation and hardiness—is learning to recognize when a stressful event is approaching and then prepare and strengthen yourself mentally, physically and emotionally to handle it successfully. This could be as simple as working out before a particularly stressful day, thinking through the best- and worst-case scenarios of an upcoming meeting or rehearsing an important presentation.
Navigation, the second phase of resilience, is the ability to steer through a stressful situation as it is occurring in real time. One of the best ways to successfully navigate difficult challenges is mindfulness—being fully present and in the moment. This can be accomplished by focusing on a single task, slowing things down, listening to others and building in routines.
Recovery and bounce back, which is what most people think of as resilience, refers to how quickly and effectively you recover from stressful events. In recent years, resilience has been thought of by how well a community recovers from a catastrophic event, such as New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.
The Resilience Advantage, which is a new approach to how we think about and address stress in the workplace, takes this idea of recovery and applies it to how we as individuals also bounce back from big events, like the loss of a loved one, or even small events, such as how long it may take you to get over a bad day at work. Learning the skills of bouncing back means you are ready to return to your regular life with more ease and grace.
Supporting your success in each of the three phases are the following skills that further build resilience:
- Becoming body wise means that you understand and pay attention to your physical responses to stress and use tools like breathing techniques or relaxation exercises.
- Be smart about your energy provides the means to effectively use your personal energy rather than just trying to manage your time. Automating personal tasks (email) or learning to use technology for your advantage and not the other way around are tools that promote an efficient and reliable personal energy grid.
- Developing a resilience mindset entails using the tools of the Resilience Advantage to remind you that you can master how you deal with stress. Two areas explored in the Resilience Advantage include building optimism and creating gratitude. With these and other tools, you can build a simple plan for being more resilient to stress.