Stress Management Learning To Deal With Stress

Stress Management Learning To Deal With Stress

Building Resilience
In this article I hope to focus on an aspect of Stress Management that seems to be relatively overlooked – building resilience to stress and anxiety as it occurs in our daily lives.

There are two questions this article will explore:-
1. Given that exposure to some stress or anxiety is unavoidable- and bad things happen to all of us at some point – how can we handle adversity & associated stress better when we experience it?

2.  Also, are there any important lessons we can learn on how to build up stress resilience? (why do some people cope with a lot of stress and recover well from difficult situations and events, while others do not).

There are a number of aspects to consider:
– What resilience is, and is not
– Things to avoid when adversity strikes
– Characteristics associated with resilience
– “Struggling Well”

Stress Management Learning To Deal With Stress

What “Resilience” Is And Is Not
In practice resilience is difficult to define and is not adequately covered by the phrase “bouncing back”, since this implies that not much effort is required. Resilience, recovering from adversity, needs effort.

Resilience is not merely being a “survivor”, i.e continuing to live your life as damaged or wounded, while nursing anger and blaming yourself or others.

Even after the most difficult experiences, we can self-recover, and also surprise ourselves at how well we achieve this. Practically what are the important things to avoid doing – and equally importantly focus on doing – so as to maximise our potential for recovery and build our resilience? Let’s now look at these:-

Some practical pointers on things to avoid when adversity strikes:-
– Reacting like a victim. “Why me?” thoughts and reflections (this is pointless, as it does not change things and your answer to yourself may still not satisfy. A better question to pose is “why not me?” – acknowledging that bad things happen to us all, including yourself).
– Denying things have happened to you (accepting it’s happened helps you to move on).
– Being overly positive.
– Seeing events as without personal meaning.
– Giving up – “nothing works!” (avoid being “stuck” in helplessness)
– Seeing events as sealing one’s fate. (you are not somehow “doomed” forever, or “born to lose”.)
– Self-devaluation. (losing your self-belief)

(Republished with kind permission from Michael Neenan)

Characteristics Associated With Resilience – “Struggling Well”
We have looked at what resilience is and is not and also some things to avoid when adversity happens. Now we will look at what personal characteristics are found among people who exhibit resilience and introduce the concept of “Struggling Well”.

Resilient people have been found to possess the following characteristics – it is therefore important to consider the following list and note which points we can begin to adopt and so benefit from:-

Resilient people possess and show the following qualities:-
– Flexibility of thinking and adaptability of behaviour.
– Not dwelling on past events
– Sense of humour
– Internal locus of control – Control is with me, not with external forces
– Risk-taking – Expect things to turn out well, Confidence
– Ability to form friendships and loving relationships
– Extracting positive lessons from adversity – High frustration tolerance
– Hardiness – Faith, Empathy, Personal discipline.
– Independence of thought and action – You don’t need approval from others.
– Self-belief/ Self-efficacy – .Tenacity. Emotional regulation i.e. ability to control yourself
– Setting and achieving long-term goals
– Keeping things in perspective
– Making do – You can always do something even with limited resources
– Physical endurance – Exercise, cardio-vascular stamina
– Curiosity – Being prepared to learn from the experience.

(Republished with kind permission from Michael Neenan)

Stress Management Learning To Deal With Stress

“Struggling Well” And Not So Well
The phrase “Struggling Well” refers to the process of moving forward while you undergo the pain and setbacks of misfortune, and is a defining feature of stress resilience. The key to “struggling well” is the attitude you adopt in coping with adversity. It may be useful to reflect on the following questions-

– What adverse situations have you struggled well with? What were the key factors that helped you to overcome the adversity?
– Which adverse situations have you fared less well with? What were the key factors that militated against a more resilient response?

Another part of developing a resilient out look is that of “ABC awareness”, where:-
A = Adversity triggering thoughts and
B = Beliefs, which then largely determine our emotions and behaviour
C = Consequences related to the adversity.

This is why attitude(s) – arising from our beliefs following adversity – are so important.

This has been an overview on the factors that play a part in building resilience to stress and anxity, but hopefully it has contained information and insights useful to us all in building our own personal resilience and learning to manage stress.

A final thought, resilience building is a process – a journey – where we all find and include those elements and strategies most helpful to us personally:

“There is no one way for a person to be resilient and there is an array of behaviours, thoughts and actions found to be associated with resilience. As a result, individuals can put together their own strategies for building resilience, depending on their own individual strengths, styles and cultural differences.”

(American Psychological Association, 2004)


I would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance and help of Professor Stephen Palmer PhD and Michael Neenan (Director and Associate Director, respectively of The Centre for Stress Management) in reviewing the text and granting the necessary permissions to include tables and information from the conference talk by Michael Neenan that this article is based on.

– American Psychological Association (2004) The Road to Resilience. Washington DC: APA
– Bonnano G , (2006) Grief Trauma and Resilience in E. Rynerson (ed.) Violent Death. New York: Routledge
– Maddi,S & Khoshaba,D. (2005) Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws at You. New York:Amacom
– Neenan, M. (2007). Developing Greater Resilience. Talk given at The International Stress Management Association Stress Conference. April 2007: London
– This article first published in Stress News, January 2008 Vol 20 No.1 © John Casson , 2008. All rights reserved

About The Author:
John Casson BSc. MISMA. CIPD Associate. Founder of Casson HR; business services include Coaching, Wellness @ Work, Stress Management, and HR Consultancy. Business background in the Not for Profit, Government and Engineering sectors.

Article Submitted By
John Casson
Life Coach, Northampton

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