Managing Stress and Building Resilience

What is Resilience? Why do some people appear more resilient than others? How can we get it? These are just some of the frequently asked questions about stress and resilience…

Resilience is the ability to adapt in the face of adversity. It is a skill that some have naturally, but everyone can learn.


The first step in becoming more resilient is to know your self…know your traits and responses, know your mindset and attitude. Before you change anything you need first to be aware of what is happening, recognize the thought process and recognize the behaviour that follows.


Stress can often challenge our health and wellbeing, leading to accidents, anxiety, relationship breakdown, job change, cardiovascular disease, depression, mood swings, crying spells, insomnia, digestive upsets, panic attacks, forgetfulness, negative attitude, feelings of hopelessness and ultimately losing confidence in our ability to cope. When we are able to recognize our stressors and how it manifests in us, or have confidence to seek help or talk to a friend then we are ready to manage stress and build resilience. 


Resilience involves giving time and attention to The 5 Zones:

  • Work Life Balance
  • Sleep
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Mental Coping Skills


Mindset: You can re train your thinking patterns to become more positive. A positive attitude brings energy and excitement to a situation. It has a positive physiological effect, promoting natural chemicals in your body such as serotonin and endorphins. The majority of adults have between 65%-75% negative thoughts in one day. It’s a habit that is difficult to break, but within 6 weeks you can change your mindset. So how does it work? The Positive Events Diary…sometimes known as a Gratitude Diary, involves a notebook and pen, and each evening for 6 consecutive weeks you bullet point anything positive that happened to you that day. Some days you may have one bullet point, other days you may have 10! Be honest with yourself and keep to the facts. This exercise takes a mere 60 seconds so you cannot say you don’t have time for it!


Mindful Moments: I love this exercise! You can choose the long version or the short version.

The long version: Each day treat yourself to 20 minutes time out! That’s it! Simply do nothing for 20 minutes. Take the time to think, to breath, to simply sip a cup of tea without pressures and duties.

The short version: 3 minutes connecting to your breath. Close your eyes and notice your breathing. Don’t change it or judge it, just notice it. Notice how your body reacts and moves, notice how it is to be still. Keep the focus on the breath. Bring your attention back to your fingers and toes and slowly open your eyes and go about your day as usual.


Exercise: Aim to do 30 minutes exercise every day. It will help you physically and mentally relax. Absorbing the daylight is important too, so try to have a walk outside in the fresh air.


Diet: Plan your diet and make sure you are following a recommended plan such as the food pyramid, with adequate amounts of vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains, vitamins, minerals, and water. Hydration is essential to a healthy diet and helps flush toxins that can develop in times of stress. Ask for advice on healthy eating if you are uncertain.


Sleep: It is essential to get enough sleep each night. Your brain and body need time to recharge and repair. Make your bedroom a calm and inviting place to rest. If you suffer from insomnia or have difficulty in sleeping try Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR).

You can start at your toes and slowly work your way up the body; by the time you reach your head you will be asleep again.


PMR is deep relaxation without the aid of imagination. It is simple mechanical tensing and relaxing of major muscle groups. The technique is based on the premise that the body responds to anxiety provoking thoughts and events with muscle tension. This physiological tension in turn increases the subjective experience of anxiety. PMR reduces muscle tension, pulse rate, perspiration and respiration rates, and is incompatible with anxiety.


Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place.

  1. Curl both fists, tightening biceps and forearms, hold for 5 seconds, relax immediately. Repeat.
  2. Inhale deep breath through nose, exhale through mouth.
  3. Wrinkle up forehead, and all muscles of face, squinting eyes, lips pursed, tongue pressed against roof of mouth, raise shoulders to ears, hold for 5 seconds, relax immediately. Repeat.
  4. Inhale deep breath through nose, exhale through mouth.
  5. Press your shoulder blades together and tighten your abdominal muscles, hold for 5 seconds, relax immediately. Repeat.
  6. Inhale deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  7. Straighten your legs, flex feet and toes, tighten thigh muscles and buttocks, tighten shin and calf muscles, hold for 5 seconds, relax immediately. Repeat.
  8. Inhale deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  9. Sit still for 1 minute and notice the different sensations occurring in your muscles. Feel calm and relaxed.
  10. Repeat exercise if you feel it necessary.


Work Life Balance: Make work part of your life, not all of of it! Schedule and manage your time, putting priorities first. If you fill the day with incidentals there is no time left for the important things. Your wellness plan is a daily routine that needs to be scheduled into your Work Life Balance.


To conclude remember these Top Tips:

  • Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t!
  • A regular routine sets a mood
  • Take 6o seconds to practise your favourite coping skill everyday.
  • Be Mindful, not Mind Full!


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