Resilience, Stress, and Thriving
Definition of Resilience
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from misfortunes. In order to deal effectively with upsets caused by adversity or disruptive change, you need to be resilient. When you have a lot of resilience, you are able to handle life's inevitable upsets with power, grace, and creativity. You have the inner resources you need either to bounce back quickly from short-term challenges, or, when you are facing prolonged challenges, you have what it takes to hold your ground both steadily and surefootedly over long periods of time.
When you lack resilience, life's unavoidable upsets can result in your feeling overwhelmed and stressed. You find yourself getting knocked off balance quickly––only to discover that re-gaining your balance is difficult. Over time, you start to lose ground. You feel like your life is beginning to slip away from you. This is a distressing state. If you are not well practiced at both creating and tapping into the inner resources you need to turn things around, you are apt first to become discouraged and disheartened, and, over time, depressed.
As a human attribute, resilience is fundamentally a dormant trait. Most of the time, it is inactive, just lying in waiting––on call, as it were, 24 by 7. You don't actually experience your own resilience until and unless your state of equilibrium is upset. Then, in reaction to whatever upset has befallen you, you instinctively lean on your reserve of resilience to help you recover from the upset as quickly and fully as possible. This basic survival instinct is deeply encoded in our DNA.
The more resilience you have “at the ready,” the more likely you will be able to deal successfully with whatever upsets come your way.
Definition of Stress
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain that occurs when you experience more upsets than you are prepared to handle. This happens when the combination of whatever inner resources you have "on tap," plus your available external resources, prove to be insufficient meet the challenges you are facing.
When you are in a stressful situation, once you find yourself running out of “adaptive moves" you can make, you can end up feeling caught, stuck, frightened, overwhelmed, and/or exhausted. As stress gradually overtakes you, you can reach a state of being completely "stressed out." At that point, you feel like you have nothing left to give. Life becomes truly burdensome. Living in a state of chronic stress leads first to persistent “dis-ease,” and then literally to disease. It can kill you. Not good...
How to Thrive in Stressful Times
If you are suffering from chronic stress, there are many techniques you can use to "manage your stress.” Unfortunately, however, these techniques don't make stress go away. They just help you sweep the stress under the rug.
In the short term, having ways to “park” your stress under the rug is a useful thing to know how to do. In the long term, however, you most likely will accumulate far more stress than you can hide under your rug. It will eventually reappear, and in the long run, it might well overcome you.
A better approach is to figure out how you to "vaccinate" yourself in such a way that whatever is stressing you simply ceases to have the power to do so. If you could do that, you wouldn't need to wield a broom and constantly go about sweeping things under the rug. You could apply your energy and attention to more productive matters.
The key to thriving in stressful times, therefore, is to find a way to become substantially immune to stress. Mind you, no one can be completely immune to stress. But all of us can increase our ability to have “stressors” wash right off us––just as water runs off the back of a duck.
Inoculating Yourself Against Stress
If you would like to know more about how you can increase your immunity to stress by expanding your repertoire of adaptive responses, please continue to the next page.