Paul Abraham: Eight tips to improve your resilience

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Paul Abraham, speaking at Bramley Lawn.

By Paul Abraham of www.headingonwards.com

When you’re faced with adversity, tragedy, or even just plain old stress, it is natural to feel like “throwing in the towel”.

But what if we could build an immunity to stress in the same way we take vitamins and antibiotics to boost our immunity to illness?

There are many hundreds of books available to purchase and plenty of articles to read on the internet, and here are just a few ideas to get you started.

1. Keep a positive attitude

Although it may seem too simple, keeping a positive attitude is key to deflecting stressors. This can be difficult for some people – a large part of how optimistic you are is determined by genetics and the chemistry of your brain’s reward circuits.

One way to restructure your brain’s response to stress is to stop pessimistic thoughts in their tracks. Ask yourself if there’s any rational basis to feel negatively about a situation. Recognise that you’re in control of whether the glass is half-empty or half-full.

2. Reframe your stressful thoughts

If the root of your stress can be linked to a particular event, try re-framing the event in your head and realising that failure is essential for growth.

Learn to think about what is causing the stress of the event by re-framing it, assimilating it, accepting it and recovering from it.

3. Find a resilient role model

Imitation is a powerful mode of learning. Our role models are so important in our lives that their values can influence our own values through psychological imprinting. Whether they’re world leaders or friendly neighbours, find role models that you can look up to in times of stress.

4. Face your fears

Fear is normal. Don’t be ashamed of being afraid. Fear can be a powerful tool that can increase your self-esteem by helping you learn and practice skills necessary to overcome stress.

5. Develop active coping skills

Despite how painful it may be, try actively coping with your stressors instead of withdrawing and surrendering to them.

The most resilient people use active rather than passive coping skills like creating positive statements about themselves, and actively seeking support from others.

6. Establish and nurture a supportive social network

Very few of us can “go it alone”. Building a safety net of close relationships with friends or organisations can boost your emotional strength during times of stress.

Plus you’ll feel the validation of helping others deal with their own stressors.

7. Prioritise your physical well-being

Regular exercise is often touted as one of the keys to cleansing your mind of stress, and with good reason.

Regular physical activity has been linked to improvements in mood, cognition, regulation of emotion, immunity, and overall self-esteem.

Exercise may seem trivial when you’re faced with mounting stress and anxiety, so try to think of it as a welcome reprieve rather than as yet another task to be completed.

8. Play to your strengths

Recognise, utilise, and grow your signature character strengths to actively prepare for difficult and stressful situations.

If you have strong social skills or want to develop them, set aside time to spend with your social network.

If you prefer staying in, try writing or pursuing your favourite artistic endeavours. Do what you’re good at (or simply what you enjoy doing) and give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

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