How To Be Resilient When Feeling Stressed

The other day I spoke with a friend in her early 60s, and she asked me a very potent question. She said, “was I always this miserable?”, “do you remember any times when I was filled with joy?”. I paused. I wondered why she felt that way.

I said, “I don’t think you are miserable. Why do you say that?” She told me that it seemed as though as she got older, she became more and more irritated by things easily and that the feeling of joy was gone. She felt it was the job, the environment, the kids etc. The conversation took many twists and turns, but ended somewhere with identifying times, events and experiences that were invigorating for her using reflection to stimulate thought.

Reflection is one of the most powerful tools of growth a leader can use. In, 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class by Steve Siebold, the section titled, “Champions Lead through Facilitated Introspection states that great leaders know what makes them tick and that the only way to help a person discover the hidden power locked up in their psyche is through asking probing questions. He goes on to say that facilitating the introspective process in another person requires patience and time but that the payoff is increased productivity and deeper connection.

In the age of the mind, facilitated introspection is the core process of leadership.

If you are feeling beaten down by everything and nothing in particular, or just going through the motions looking for lasting joy, building resilience through re-charge and reflection can help. It’s very easy to get caught in the cycle of other people’s judgments, unrealistic expectations, criticisms, and definitions.

The American Psychological Association states that resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress–such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.” They go on to say that there is nothing exceptional about being resilient–we frequently encounter and demonstrate resilience, and it “does not mean that a person does not experience difficulty or distress.” But rather, it is a behavior (or series of behaviors) that can be learned, practiced, and developed.

For example, the following journal exercise is based on the APA’s recommendations for recognizing and training resilient actions (be aware that these concepts will vary by individual and culture):

  1. What are three situations causing you the most stress?
  2. Who/what is your support system in these situations? Are you communicating & connecting with them on a regular basis? (If some aspect of this prompt is problematic, spend more time here considering your relationships and communications–see also Are You Easy to Talk To? What Do You Do When You Have Been Misunderstood? and Fostering Authentic Communication.
  3. How have you handled similar situations in the past, and what did you learn about your natural inclinations and tendencies from those experiences? What might you need to do similarly or differently?
  4. For each of the three situations above, list three possible options for resolution.
  5. Resolution will likely require you to make changes, so consider, how adaptable are you?

On a new journal page, respond to the following based on your answers to the prompts above:

  1. List three goals that would help you resolve some of the stress you previously wrote about (think in terms of realistic, manageable steps).
  2. Reflect on the hoped-for outcome of these goals.
  3. List three traits about yourself that will help you reach these goals.
  4. List three situations that are providing you with stability.
  5. List 1-5 things that you are doing to assist others and 1-5 things that you are doing just to take care of yourself.

We are not necessarily “tough” when we are resilient, especially in the early stages when we might be very emotional and uneasy and it seems like the circumstances are much tougher than we are; however if we continue to move forward, use the power of reflection and re-charge, we are exercising resilience.