Got stress? It’s increasingly harder to reduce our stress, in fact there are more sources almost daily in our hyperconnected world. Don't despair yet-maybe though, it’s time to work the other end of the equation, by developing a more effective response to the stresses we can't reduce or eliminate. Who can afford the consequences to health, happiness, and productivity of not managing stress? The BAD news: it costs the U.S. an estimated $200-$300 billion each year in healthcare costs and lost productivity;stress is linked to the six leading causes of death, and 2/3 of doctor's visits involve stress related conditions. For 2016, the American Psychological Association’s annual survey saw a significant increase in stress due to the political climate, fear about our nation’s future, and social media. Resilience, adaptability, and mindset are all critical to thriving our in today’s frenzied, stressful environment.
Chronic stress can crash our performance, wellness and happiness. It can disrupt sleep, memory, metabolism, and ability to learn and focus, increasing concentrations of ‘bad’ hormones and neurotransmitters. Adding insult to injury, chronic stress can make us fat! In response to stress hormones, our body pushes more fuel into our bloodstream to run from predators, but if unused, that extra blood sugar gets converted to fat, and even more unfortunately, the infamous "muffin top". There are multiple categories of ‘bad’ stress: physical, psychological, environmental, job, family, and social. (For the record, there actually is such a thing as ‘good’ stress, and it can lead to improved performance, mood, and memory). Recent research also shows that how you perceive your stress can actually influence whether it adversely affects your health.
The GOOD news (there's lots, so read on for it!) is that humans are incredibly resilient, and adaptable, which is why our species has been so successful. In addition to that, we are smart enough to create new habits (see below for some to try out!)
Resilience (our ability to bounce back and even transform adversity into opportunity) can be learned. It’s a set of skills, and once developed, can be strengthened just like we strengthen our muscles. We were built for this!
Here are 5 big reasons to be optimistic about becoming more resilient and adaptable:
- Our mind is incredibly powerful-and it can heal. This is why in human clinical trials we control for the “placebo effect”-we can actually heal some conditions because we THINK we’re receiving treatment-even if we’re not.
- We create our reality moment by moment with our mindset-and we have amazing capacity to choose our mindset-think Viktor Frankl or POWs held for years in unimaginable conditions. Bad things happen to good people; it’s our response that defines us.
- We are more than our DNA! Research with identical twins shows lifestyle choices influence our health as much or more than our genetics in some cases. Epigenetics is a promising new field and offers hope.
- Our body’s natural state is balance, also called homeostasis. This is the body’s ability to rebalance itself to maintain body temperature, blood oxygen, heart rate, and stress hormones, to name a few-you just have to give it a break and let it do its stuff. Remember it’s a mind-body system, and the body is a very powerful tool for mental resilience; I will explore this in future posts.
- Everyone can become more resilient, no matter where you are starting from-if we are willing to develop these skills, especially tuning into our bodies.
There are so many resilience tools, from mindfulness to yoga to reframing to exercise, to putting aside our smartphones for awhile. The list is long for ways to reset your stress meter and become present, productive, healthy and happy again.. don’t wait..unless you are planning on having less stress soon..anyone?
Remember-resilience is our superpower-the difference between thriving and merely surviving our life!