Building resilience is one of those tasks that can be elusive and yet if we don’t investigate further we deny ourselves an avenue to reducing stress.
It’s not as if stress won’t happen, we all have it at some point. However stress that goes unchecked usually leads to us feeling awful. Building resilience skills is not as difficult as it may seem although it does take time. When we become more aware of our personal patterns of thinking and behavior when stress arrives we allow ourselves an avenue for change.
Time is key. Many give up before seeing change because change does not come immediately. Consider it like planting a seed. We don’t expect the seed to sprout immediately. We give it time and nurture the it by giving it what will make sprouting more likely (water, sunlight, and warmth). We can do the same in making change for ourselves in terms of resilience building.
First, check in with your body. When stress arrives what happens in your body? Do you often have a splitting headache, other aches, nausea, lack of appetite. These are all common responses to stress in our body. Once you notice it , track back to what happened just before. Note the way your body felt just before you noticed that splitting headache or sour stomach as it can be a key to catching stress as it enters the body.
Noticing what happens just before.
You are not likely to want to do this exercise in the midst of your stressful day. Think afterward about what typically happens just before you notice that splitting headache. Did you have a neck-ache or were your muscles tight? Try to track back the physical sensations you notice to the first symptom you can identify. If nausea is your symptom, did you notice a particular sensation just before like a queasy stomach?
We are looking to plot these symptoms along a line from least troubling to most difficult. As such it will help to give those symptoms numbers.
By plotting your symptoms along a scale over time you will begin to notice these symptoms earlier in the process. The thing about our bodies is that they want to clue us in to what is happening. We have just become really good at ignoring that information. When you start to tune in you have an opportunity to notice your stress before the wheels come off the bus so to speak.
So start looking at your body symptoms when stress is happening. Plot them on a scale from 1-10 where 1 is lest troublesome and 10 is the most troublesome.
If you start to notice your body symptoms earlier in the process you can intervene sooner and possibly avoid that splitting headache altogether. To review some quick interventions click here and here.
Now start to look at your thinking during a stressful event AND then how your thinking was just before—notice a pattern here? During stressful times our thinking may not be at its best. We can get caught up in thought distortions about our abilities (To read more about distorted thoughts click here) which aren’t helpful in solving the problem at hand. Many times our negative self -talk simply adds unhelpful fuel to a raging stress fire.
By challenging distorted thoughts we can learn to bring the thinking into line so we can access our full ability to manage the problem(s) that are causing stress.
So what does challenging our thoughts mean? Simply put it means to look at our thoughts and work to make them more accurate. For example, if you are having the thought “this always happens to me.” Looking for the exceptions to that statement can be helpful. Was there EVER a time when whatever the ‘this” is didn’t happen in your life? Can you find a time when the “this” didn’t happen to you, but happened to someone else?
So what’s the point of this exercise? To look at what is happening, take a step back, and look at the whole picture. For example if you can think of a time when the “this” happened to someone else, clearly it doesn’t ALWAYS happen to you. Sometimes it happens to other people and you are then able to look at the situation and say “Well maybe it’s my turn this time.” Still stressful, but likely not as stressful as the belief that you’ve been somehow singled out for stress. Making our thoughts more accurate helps us to take some of the fire out of the process.
When there is less fire amping up the stress levels we can think more clearly and are likely able to solve the problem more quickly bringing our stress down much more quickly.
Give it a try.
As always please leave any questions or comments.
Thanks for stopping by ~ Lynda