Independent of your political stance, the stress, divisiveness, and intensity of the last few months have been trying for most of us. And with the holidays coming on, more stress looms for many. It's enough to make you chug the holiday wassail, go shopping for those red pointy heels you said you were done with, or head to bed and pull the covers up over your head ..depending on your personality.
The good news is a resilience can help! These strategies and skills can absolutely be learned, no matter where you start from, for managing stress, improving focus, and maximizing productivity. But, first:
What is resilience?? A few fave definitions:
- The ability to bounce back from adversity and adapt to change (Wikipedia)
- The ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens (Merriam-Webster)
- “Those who engage in life with hope and humor despite devastating losses” (The Children's Institute, University of Rochester)
- Converting adversity and change into possibility (My Max Performance)
What is the relationship between resilience and stress?
While there are other important components in resilience, stress level is key. Mild stress is actually good for both our brains and bodies (think sudoku puzzles and weight lifting). Children who did not have sufficient stress early may actually have difficulty coping with change later in life. Reframing stress as excitement can be a powerful mindset shift for some of us, some of the time.
BUT uncontrolled chronic or repetitive stress is linked with the six top leading causes of death. It can shrink our brain, cause weight gain, poor blood sugar, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, and dementia. For many, the holidays are an especially stressful time, with extra tasks, financial pressures, and expectations, realistic or not. It's a great time to try a few simple tools to improve our mindfulness and control stress. Being more present will allow us to actually enjoy and remember the good moments.
What is the relationship between resilience and mindset?
Understanding we have responsibility for how we react to our environment, and especially stressors, is a key resilience mindset. In other words, it's more about what you think about what happens to you, than what actually happens to you. Because bad things happen to all of us, whether it's political campaigns, the death of a loved one, or that ugly tie your brother-in-law re-gifted you. Mindset is huge topic in itself, for another day but research shows growth mindset and accountability are key to resilience.
How does this all fit together?
Mind and body are an integrated system that evolved to keep our ancestors safe. Our brain state (emotions and thoughts) affects our body chemistry, and our body state (hungry, tired, in the "zone") affects our brain chemistry. Thus we create our chemistry, and thus our experience of life, moment by moment. Exercise, mindfulness, prayer, yoga, and meditation are all easy ways to reset our body chemistry and brain patterns, with both short term and long term benefits. Exercise also produces additional benefits, in terms of fitness and wellness beyond the brain benefits. There are immediate "reset" buttons you can hit for short term relief and re-centering, for example during the work day:
My gift to you- 3 simple techniques to play with this holiday season:
- Exercise "bursts": it takes as little as 90-120 seconds of intense activity to shift your blood chemistry. Run the stairs, run in place, or do squats in your office.
- Hyper-focus: take an ordinary object, such as a pen or watch or paperweight, and "clear the decks" by tuning into and describing its physical attributes in excruciating detail to yourself for about 90 seconds.
- Gratitude break: find 3 things you are grateful for each morning when you awake, and remind yourself before you go to sleep. Double benefit if you can thank someone for something, this also changes your chemistry. Of course with Thanksgiving next week, your opportunities are practically endless :-).