Updated: Jul 5
Disclaimer: This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. My articles may contain links to my own products & services or to those of other companies or individuals. All content I share on this blog is my own honest opinion and will never be influenced by any compensation I may receive through my own or others' products and services. Please see the full policy here.
If you're like me, you have spent a lot of time with tense nerves, hoping for life to get less stressful. After 50+ years on Earth, however, I have realized that waiting for life to be less stressful is like waiting for Godot - absurd! The stress factor is a permanent feature of our lives: there is no escaping the constant adversity that life throws at us. Rather than waiting for the world to hand us a break, we can learn to cultivate a resilient mind, which in turn will give us both the strength and skills to manage stress.
A resilient mind is ultimately about adapting to change. Two important aspects of human resilience in the face of adversity are emotional intelligence and emotional strength. Emotional intelligence involves being aware of your own and others' emotions and managing them effectively, while emotional strength involves being able to bounce back from difficult emotions that hurt us.
One path towards resilience is through acceptance. Cultivating acceptance can help build both emotional intelligence and strength. Acceptance doesn't mean putting up with injustice, rather, it means being able to recognize what is within your span of control - and what is not. Clarifying what you can control and deliberately choosing to focus only on that is a powerful cognitive exercise that can short-circuit stress.
In addition, practicing gratitude can be a powerful tool for managing stress. Research has shown that deliberately expressing gratitude can improve both mental and physical health. To cultivate gratitude, try keeping a journal or taking a few minutes each day to reflect on the things you're thankful for. It can also be helpful to focus on small moments of joy throughout the day, such as a beautiful sunset or a kind interaction with someone.
Use these thought/journal prompts to shift your perspective regarding your biggest source of stress:
Recognize that your feelings about the stressful situation, whatever they may be, are valid. Tell yourself with authority: "it is alright to feel like this" and relieve yourself immediately of the burden of judging yourself for feeling how you do. You might make a list of the emotions you are feeling and give yourself permission to feel them one by one. Feelings are not right or wrong - they just are. When we heap judgment on ourselves for our feelings, we exacerbate our own distress.
Identify one thing that you are grateful for regarding your source of stress. This could be gratitude that an outcome or situation is not worse than it is, or appreciation for some help that you are getting, or kudos to yourself for handling a particular aspect of your stressful situation in a positive way. You are not negating all the negative feelings you processed in #1, rather, you are introducing the counter-weight of positivity, breaking the spell that the negative emotions had on you.
Consider your discouragement about a particular aspect of the situation, and then think of five individuals who have succeeded in this particular aspect (or a similar aspect) of a situation in their own lives. Reach out to these five people and let them know how much you admire them for these particular accomplishments. This will help jog your attitude out of discouragement and into the realm where success has already happened.
By learning emotional intelligence and emotional strength, as well as cultivating acceptance and gratitude, it's possible to build resilience and better manage stress. So next time you're feeling overwhelmed, remember that stress is constant but so is change. Every day is a good day to practice becoming more resilient.