Stress resilience can be defined as an individual’s ability to optimize neurochemical stress response during exposure and terminate the stress response once the stressor is no longer present.
During exposure to stress, your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, sends stress hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine.
These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s “fight orflight” response.
Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles get ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly.
But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk. Long-term stress weakens your body’s immune system’s defences, leaving your body more vulnerable to infections.
Centuries ago, stress helped human ancestors to survive daily threats. In recent times, stressors rarely threaten anyone’s survival.
So what gets you stressed up about?
It could be anything from everyday responsibilities like school, work, peers and family to serious life events such as disease diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress.
For immediate or short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations in the future. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Yet if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health.
Some people cope with stress well, some generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves resilience, an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages people in taking a number of steps.
Developing resilience is a personal journey. A journey that varies from person to person. Not everyone reacts to the same stimuli the same way others do. An approach to building resilience that works for one person might not work for another.
People use varying strategies. For example, you might just brush off stress given to you when you argue with a friend, but some people take it more seriously, leaving them to take a longer time in recovering from this stress.
There are several ways for you to develop and improve stress resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family.
Relationships that create love and trust provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.
Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.
Nurture a positive view of yourself.
Avoid blowing a problem out of proportion. Having confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
There are many more ways for a person to improve resilience. Its fundamental aspects lie mostly in positivity, self- confidence, acceptance, making goals, and plans and making social connections.
Although these focus on your emotional needs, it is also important to take care of your body. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings.
Exercise regularly. Engage in activities you enjoy and find relaxing. A healthy body helps keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
You can compare stress resilience to riding a raft down a river. On a river, you may encounter rapids, turns, and shallows. As in life, the changes you experience have different effects on you along the way.
In travelling the river, it helps to have knowledge about it. Your journey would be helped with having a plan, a strategy that you consider likely to work well for you, by guiding you through.
Perseverance and confidence in your ability to work your way around obstacles are important.
Trusted companions who accompany you on the journey can be especially helpful for dealing with rapids, upstream currents and other difficult stretches of the river.
You can climb out to rest alongside the river. But to get to the end of your journey, you need to get back in the raft and continue.