How to maximize your stress resilience – 11 key tactics

Stress is unavoidable these days, but suffering from it is a decision. By approaching stress in the right way, stress could become a positive factor in your life.

Let’s start with the definition of stress to better understand its impacts on your wellbeing.

Stress is the body’s natural reaction to any change that requires an adjustment to a specific situation. Your body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. When you’re stressed, your brain releases stress hormone cortisol, your heart rate goes up, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises.

Stress affects your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life.

Physical stress occurs as a result of feeling overwhelmed, not having enough sleep, and eating unhealthy. Stress can also be emotional: an unpleasant work environment, continually worrying about certain situations, or even facing devastating tragedies. Emotional stress is the most challenging to deal with because we feel like we’re unable to change the situation. If we can’t eliminate the stressful situation, we can work on becoming emotionally resilient to it.

Emotional symptoms of stress include: feeling overwhelmed, having difficulty quieting your mind, becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody, low self-esteem, avoiding social situations. Physical symptoms of stress include: lack of energy, tense muscles, insomnia, loss of sexual desire, headaches, rapid heartbeat, stomach problems.

Here are the main key tactics on how to maximize your stress resilience and use daily stress to make you stronger.

1. Practice stress

The best way to manage stress is to practice it. By consciously creating stressful situations, you can become more hardy when it comes to real life events. Rehearse stress by putting yourself in challenging situations. It could be physical and social challenges like running a marathon, competing in a sports event or giving a public speech. Confronting a challenge will help you to perform your best under stress. So, when it hits you, you’ll know what to expect, you’ll be mentally prepared and capable to embrace stress more easily.

Challenging experiences increase your self-confidence. Frequent exposure to stressful situations can change your body’s biological response to stress, and reduce your stress hormones activity, allowing you to better cope with stress when it comes.

Build your life around skills that enable you to handle stress. Think of it as a game, so make your practices enjoyable and exciting!

2. Exercise

Exercise relieves your stress response and distracts the mind from the constant challenges that you’re facing.

The good news is that even low-intensity exercise can help you manage your stress. The key is to exercise regularly. Find enjoyable activity that fits your schedule. It could be an easy morning run, sweaty yoga class or anaerobic exercises. List goes on, but most importantly – choose the type of exercise you prefer the most and do it constantly.

What type of exercise is the most stress-relieving?

Studies have shown that weight lifting or resistance exercises build muscles more effectively than doing aerobic exercise like walking or running. Weight training produces more endorphins which are responsible for positive mood, than any form of cardio exercise. The most beneficial exercises are the ones that puts the most pressure on the large muscles. Recommended ones are squats, leg presses, incline sit ups, bench presses, military presses.

Exercise helps your body to get so much needed recovery from daily stress fatigue.

3. Change your perception

Stress influence on your body is based on your perception. You have two options: you can view stress as a negative aspect of your life, which is constantly weakening and absorbing your energy or see it as an opportunity to get stronger.

By reappraising stress as an opportunity to grow and learn, you’re subconsciously reframing your perspective on it, which means you’re turning negative situations into positive ones.

The best way to deal with stress isn’t avoiding it, but instead, changing your perception and embracing it.

4. Take care of your mind

Take care of your mind and give it some rest to help it better cope with stress.

Think of your mind as a muscle. Heavy load of pressure would simply hurt a muscle, leading to injury. Athletes know the importance of rest – it’s a must for your muscles to recover. Your brain and body needs recovery after unrelenting amount of daily stress. Apply the same principle for your mind and take some rest, especially when you feel like you should.

Take a moment to remember a stressful day at work. Imagine what would have gone differently, if you let your mind take a pause and let the brain recover. Stress is the stimulus for growth and recovery is when growth occurs. It means when you want to learn something well, you have to take breaks. That’s how we build the resilience muscle.

Another trick that you have in your bag is a positive attitude. Optimism is strongly related to resilience.

5. Focus on your breathing

Studies have shown that deep and slow breathing helps to reduce stress, boost your immune system, and have a significant effect on your mood. Science has found, for example, that breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder.

6. Write down your feelings

Writing is another way to manage stress. Sometimes, our inner voice can get confused. By writing and expressing our feelings on paper, we can understand our perception of ourselves and identify causes of stress.

Start with journaling and write down your thoughts, feelings about certain experiences. Analyze your emotional reaction to issues and obstacles that you’ve faced. Even better – try finding meaning and identify your purpose in life. It is highly recommended to turn writing into a habit, because it can boost your emotional strength during difficult times.

7. Eat mindfully

Food works as a fuel for our body and mind. But when we’re stressed we can get particularly unaware of what we eat. Pay a little attention to what you consume during times of stress and avoid grabbing sweets and snacking or eating bags of junk food just to feel better. Eat food which is rich in nutrients, and above all, eat mindfully by eating slowly and relishing every bite. 

8. Observe the triggers

Your heart rate is speeding up, and palms are getting sweaty, you ask yourself, “What’s happening?!”. Observe the triggers as they start to stress you and objectively reflect on them.

9. Block out the negative. 

Imagine something you love, or what makes you happy before getting involved in a stressful argument with your co-worker. Even if you’re right, arguing only intensifies stress. Go easy with criticism, allow your colleague to express his opinion, and search for compromise. You might find better solutions for reducing stress!

10. Get some fresh air! 

Studies have shown that by taking a short 15-30 minute walk or just heading outside increases feelings of well-being while reducing your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

11. Identify the sources of stress. 

Start managing your stress by identifying the stressors. Most of us are constantly worried about work deadlines or problems at home, but by understanding your thoughts, feelings and behavior could give you a deeper understanding of stress in your life.

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