The Resilience Factor

Yerkes-Dodson stress Curve showing a bell curve of stress versus performance
Yerkes-Dodson Stress Curve

Resilience is a part of dealing with day to day stress. Resilience when cultivated can turn daily stress into mere challenge. I’m currently reading The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience by Richard Citrin and Alan Weiss PhD. Both of the authors are business consultants (not exactly my wheelhouse, but the title intrigued me). While the focus is primarily on business, many of the concepts are applicable to personal use as well.

So, what is Resilience?

As defined by Miriam Webster resilience is — “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Because we can’t control everything in our lives (or the world) misfortune and change are apt to find us at some point. So, cultivating resilience can help us bounce back when things change.

How do we cultivate resilience?

Recognizing that we are already fairly good at managing stressors. This is an aspect I see in my office routinely. Many times individuals negate how far they’ve come and discount the positive coping skills they possess because the current state of affairs is difficult. Recognizing that you’ve had difficult times before and that you came through those them is a helpful first step. It’s hard to improve things if you are busy beating yourself up.

Recognizing that the human brain is a fairly old piece of equipment that functions much like it did for our ancestors hundreds, maybe even thousands of years ago. Our biology is stacked to look at stress and do one of three things: Fight–Flee–Freeze. The adversity our distant ancestors faced were often life or death. Our bodies today function in the same way even though the stimulus has changed. Instead of being chased down by lions, tigers, or bears our current society treats us to stressors like traffic, crowding, and insult. If you go into attack mode every time you get cut off in traffic, stress will have a severe impact on you.

Embracing that we hold a key to impacting stress by changing our thinking. By changing the way that we think about our stress we can impact the whole process in a more positive way. While the initial response to stress is biological we can develop ways to challenge those reactions to create more adaptive responses. That’s not to say that negative stress will never find us, but when we teach ourselves to think differently about stress, we can often change the dynamic from tragedy to challenge.

Yerkes-Dodson Stress Curve
Resilience is Cultivated in the middle third of the curve.

Confidence

Cultivating confidence in your abilities is key to helping you become more resilient. How have you handled challenges in the past? What parts of those successes may you be ignoring in the present difficulty? According to Citrin and Weiss, “The best performers use stress to improve themselves.” Think of people who perform as a part of their work (musicians, actors, sporting celebs). In each of the cases individuals study where they have been successful and where they have fallen flat and they adjust their course accordingly. Some do this very quickly while others take time to look at the whole picture. How can you make changes to better address how you look at stressful challenges?

Change Your Thinking

Stress is a part of living. According to Citrin and Weiss, “Stress is a reaction to stimuli (an event of some sort), but that stimuli needn’t automatically cause a negative reaction. Our Reaction–and however we control or don’t control it–causes the stress.” (Page 38) I like to further refine this as the difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction is automatic while a response requires some reflection on the problem as a whole.

Can you transform your stress into empowerment? By weighing risk and reward we move toward empowering ourselves to move through our stresses and become stronger. Citrin and Weiss provide a model on a 10 point scale which may be useful (page 43).

Place your stressor on the risk scale

-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5

  • +5= Transformational shift in my life like winning the lottery
  • +4= Dramatic improvement that creates notable success at work/home
  • +3= Successful gain that brings me praise and appreciation
  • +2= Success that is short lived but enjoyable
  • +1= Creates a good feeling but not much beyond it
  • -1= Minor setback, does not affect me much
  • -2= Problematic event but easily managed within my immediate world
  • -3= A public setback, one that impacts my reputation
  • -4= A major defeat in an areas that I have devoted much energy
  • -5= Major blow to finances, reputation, or health

Answer the following questions

  1. What can I do to prevent the likelihood of a negative event occurring?
  2. What can I do to mitigate the effects if it does occur?
  3. What can I do to create a positive outcome?
  4. How do I build momentum to make that happen?

They go on to state “This model enables us to focus on the positives and potential wins by acknowledging and managing the negatives and potential losses.” And “Resilience changes our perspective on stress in that it moves us from a state of pain to a state of gain.

To review more on thoughts, feelings, a behaviors look here.

This blog post was adapted from the first part of the book The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience by Richard Citrin and Alan Weiss PhD.

Thanks for dropping by ~ Lynda

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