Developing Stress Resilience
Updated: Jan 3, 2020
There is a huge issue with mis-overuse of the healthcare system and an increase in healthcare costs due to illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain, and cancer. The bigger issue is that patients rarely find relief from their symptoms in the western medical system. There is new convincing evidence that shows that integrative medicine is more effective and that there is a growing effort to share these practices in order to develop stress prevention. (Karren, Smith, Gordon, & Frandsen, 2014)
According to research, there is a strong connection between emotions and health. (Moss, 2010) The response or restraint of negative emotions such as stress, anger, or grief, can affect the immune system greatly. According to Karen et al. (2014), “Mental stress is a biological and biochemical process that starts in the brain”, alerting the “fight or flight” response. This alert sends messages through the “nervous system, causing the release of hormones from the endocrine system and eventually effecting the immune system”, which then sets off the body’s inflammatory response. (p. 31) Overtime this disrupts the body’s function to stay in balance and in control (homeostasis). The body will eventually shut down because it is not able to deal with the stress of the negative emotion. Therefore it is important to have a healthy internal balance of hormones, immunity, and the nervous system functioning, in order to stay healthy. (Karren at el., 2014, 31)
Unfortunately, any sort of change or stress is a challenge to homeostasis. Therefore, it is important to know how to cope with stress effectively in order to maintain balance. Stress can either be positive (eustress) or negative (distress). An example of positive stress is going back to school to get a Ph.D., or an example of negative stress is the death of a loved one. Distress can lead to a loss of productivity and control which may cause illness. While Eustress could improve productivity, motivation, controlled determination, and overall health. A good preventative or healthy learning style is knowing how to turn bad stress into good stress. (Karren at el., 2014)
Research shows that those who exhibit resilience to stress, are able to resist the ill effects and utilize coping skills that help. It suggests that changing the way one perceives stress and the way one copes with it can help with learning stress resilience. (Karren at el., 2014)
Some key components that improve well being in the face of stress are:
- Having a commitment to a purpose or meaning
- Having control of own life experiences and events
- Growing from change and challenges in life
- A sense of hope (coherence) that everything will work out
- Connectedness to oneself and any other spiritual source. (Karren at el., 2014)
Evidence shows that there are certain factors that can help overcome the effects of stress. These factors include:
- A good sense of humor
- Hope and faith
- A positive self-esteem
- A sense of control
- Loving social supports
- Healed or positive early life experiences
- A good explanatory style
- A balanced and nutritious diet
- CBD, cannabis, and other herbal medicine
- Realistic goal setting
- Good sleep
- Financial security
- Stability at home
- An understanding of stress
- Good problem solving coping skills
- Use of relaxation methods. (Karren at el., 2014)
These resilient qualities have powerful effects on health and luckily these factors can be cultivated and learned.
We can cultivate these factors and components into our lives by utilizing modalities such as:
* Positive Psychology, which focuses on resilience and utilizing coping skills.
* Reconstructing and rewriting one’s own history around the stressors. This could be done by journal writing, expressive art, inner child healing, or through desensitization and reprocessing techniques.
* Regular exercise and healthy diet
* Utilizing relaxation techniques and mindfulness meditation. (Karren at el., 2014; Moss, 2010)
Engaging consistently in such healthy behaviors will help change negative habitual responding patterns into positive patterns.
In Summary, people with traits of stress resilience enjoy better health and have fewer episodes of illness. (Karren at el., 2014) Therefore it is very important to know how to deal with stress and utilize coping skills in order to maintain optimal health.
Karren, K. J., Smith, L., Gordon, K. J., & Frandsen, K. J. (2014). Mind/body health: The effects of attitudes, emotions, and relationships, 5th edition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson.
Moss, D. (2010). The Two Hearts and the Path to Heartful Living. In S. Bhave & S. Saini (Eds.), The anger/hostility/aggression syndrome and cardiovascular diseases (pp. 201-210). New Delhi, India: Anamaya.