Ugh, stress. It’s brutal when it is allowed to run rampant through our lives. There are lots of ways to reduce stress, but what about becoming stress resistant? Stress resistance means that life’s punches don’t bruise as badly. It gives you the ability to endure stressful situations without the same stress reaction. It means that you bounce back more quickly and you don’t bounce so high. In essence, stress becomes less powerful. It would be great to have some science backed strategies for increasing our resistance and resilience, wouldn’t it? How amazing would it be if they were simple, not very time consuming, and something anybody could do? Pretty amazing and I’ve compiled five of them right here!
1. Practice Mindfulness
When I was first introduced to mindfulness, I was skeptical to say the least. I pictured Buddha, monks and vows of silence. I thought it was some crazy “New Age” thing that I didn’t want a part of. As I researched it more, I found that mindfulness doesn’t have to be those things. It’s simply the art of being aware. Ever drive somewhere and end up not remembering the drive? Ever in the shower and forgot if you washed your hair? Or worse, forget what you were going to say mid-sentence? That is the opposite of mindfulness. It’s living life on auto-pilot. Mindfulness asks you to start noticing what’s going on inside you and what’s going on outside of you. It’s noticing when you are feeling tense or had a worry thought about the future. It’s noticing when demands are exceeding your capacity. It’s noticing that you said “yes” when you needed to say “no.”
If I begin to notice my stress reactions more quickly, then I’m able to do something about it more quickly. If I’m aware of what is going on in my life or that stress is building, I can change the situation. I have options and noticing that I need options can help me prevent stress from becoming unmanageable. Research shows that you literally change the structure of your brain by being aware. You can increase your resistance and resilience to stress. It can thwart future episodes of depression and enhance your relationships. Why wouldn’t you practice mindfulness?
2. Collect positive experiences.
Every time you do something that gives you pleasure, you are depositing a happy penny in your piggy bank of life. It doesn’t have to be a vacation in Fiji either. It can be as simple as enjoying that morning cup of coffee, I mean really savoring it. This is an element of mindfulness. The activity might be something you do on a daily basis, but when you start noticing it, that is when the deposit occurs. We have to be deliberate about saving.
So why is this important? Because life will make withdrawals, sometimes big ones. A withdrawal can range from a tight deadline all the way to death of a loved one. When that happens, you don’t want to end up bankrupt and empty. If you save those happy moments, little by little, you can afford a withdrawal. It evens the scales. It helps you become more resilient and stress resistant by the understanding that there is much to life that is so dang good, even when it is hard. What will you notice and enjoy today?
3. Learn to Say No and then Say It
You might have heard this one before but that is only because it is so true. If I am not willing to say no to requests and demands for my time, attention, and energy than I’m going to be stressed. Period. This means saying no to your kids and their requests. This means that you might not be able to have that play date or take them to that party. Maybe you aren’t able to help a friend out at times. It might even mean, we are going to have to deal with some guilt for saying no. However, the alternative is to burn the candle at both ends, make attempts to make everyone happy while you slowly wither into a stress ball that is irritable, angry, resentful, and stretched too thin.
If you want to be stress resistant and stress resilient, it means that you have a strong “no” muscle. We want to be everything to every body. Women are givers but we are also finite human beings with only so much energy to share. It’s okay to say no. It’s not good for us to say yes when we are running on empty and the funny thing is when we are able to say yes to something, it’s not a stress at all, but a joy!
4. Connect with someone daily.
We would all agree that one of the most important things in our life is our relationships. Human beings are wired to connect with each other, it is in our DNA. In fact, babies will fail to thrive and could even die if not held, nurtured, and touched on a regular basis. So reach out, nurture your relationships. Having a good support network, knowing that you are not alone in this life is going to make you stress resistant. The more connected we feel, the happier we are. It’s not any wonder that when we are lonely, we are at our most vulnerable to stress and stress reactions. Who can you connect with today?
5. Control your mind
If you haven’t heard me say this yet, you will. If you don’t control your mind, there is going to be trouble. I used to think that I had an amazing crystal ball that could tell me the future. I was also quite adept at reading minds. Not accurately, mind you, but I could read them nonetheless. Because of these perceived skills, guess how stressed out I could make myself? I would dread the future. I would be mad or hurt by people because I “just knew” what they were thinking. My stress would skyrocket! If you want to have a healthy mental life, you need to start questioning what you think. Your thoughts are not facts and if you can start putting a leash on your thoughts, you are going to be a lot happier and stress resistant. I promise.
So there it is. Five easy ways to improve your resilience to stress. It isn’t rocket science (thank goodness, because I would be a lost cause). It just takes some intention. If you want to feel better about your life, as it is right now, give these five things a shot and report back. I’m sure it will make a difference.