Being resilient means having the ability to recognize a hardship and being able to come back from that hardship quickly and in good health.
We all face little hardships everyday. How we frame these incidents can have a big impact on our mental health. Our body’s response to stress is a great thing when we are in danger. It can possibly be the thing that saves our life. Known as the stress response system, it helped our ancestors survive lion and bear attacks. It was extremely useful and important for survival. In today society, the chances of being mauled by a lion or bear are slim to none (for most of us). The drawback to this revolution is we have all of these stressors in life that aren’t life-threatening, yet for some reason we are always stressed out. Well, why is that?
Mental toughness. It’s not the only factor associated with being resilient, but it’s a large one. What your brain perceives as a threat and what is actually a threat are two very different things. However, both scenarios can yield the same physiological response.
Here are two examples.
One: Your boss calls you into his or her office for a meeting or you have to give a presentation. You start sweating, your mouth gets dry and your heart rate sky rockets. When asked a question during the meeting, your mind goes blank. Maybe you stumble through your presentation but you are mad at yourself afterwards because you knew the material so well but you just couldn’t get it across well enough.
Two: After a late night in the office, it is dark and you are walking to your car alone. The hairs in the back of your neck start to stand up as you see a person 20 feet away walking towards you with their hood up. Your heart starts racing and your palms start sweating so you walk faster to your car. You become hyper aware of everything that is happening around you and your body is tingling. The individual crosses your path before you make it to the car and they smile and say, “Good evening.” You get into the car, take a deep breath and head home without incident. You may think back and say, “Well that was dumb, I got all nervous for no reason.”
What’s the difference?
Example one will not end in death, however, example two has the potential to. Unfortunately, people are mugged or killed every day. We see it on the news, read about it or, sadly, know the victim. Giving a presentation or having a meeting with your boss may feel like it will kill you, but it won’t. 🙂
The feeling that you get (sweating, high heart rate, dry mouth, hypersensitivity) is your sympathetic nervous system kicking in. This system kicks in when your brain perceives a threat. It will save your life but there is a cost to using it. We only have so much fuel in our tank for a lifetime and we need to use it wisely. Remember that person you met or the 40-year-old you know who looks like they’re 65? Or maybe it’s you? High stress is one of the reasons for this.
The good news is you can do something about it. The next time you present, head to your bosses office or your kids are driving you crazy, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you aren’t in real danger. Slowing down your heart rate through breathing will help you gain the mental clarity you need in those situations. And will add life to your ticker. Easy, right?