Modern women are, we’re often told, stressed. We’re engaged in a juggling act: still shouldering the majority of the domestic responsibilities, while trying to hold down careers.
Even when it comes to our mental health, we can’t escape the gender gap. Studies – such as that done by Oxford University in 2013 – say the stress we’re put under as a consequence, could be why women experience more mental health problems than men. National mental health surveys show that psychological disorders are 20 to 40 per cent more common in women. While Health and Safety Executive (HSE) research over the three year period from 2012-2015 showed that women are almost 60 per cent more likely to suffer from work-related stress than men.
Dealing with stress
Recent research knocks ideas about ‘stress management’ on the head. Rather than trying to control its symptoms, we should instead be adopting a more positive approach – improving our resilience and wellbeing.
A US study of 30,000 adults, over eight years, found that those reporting high stress levels and who believed stress was harmful were 43 per cent more likely to have died in that period. In contrast, those reporting high stress levels but who didn’t believe it was bad for their health had lowest risk of death, even lower than those reporting minimal stress levels.
What is resilience?
So what is resilience? It could be described as an individual’s response to anxiety and the methods utilised by them to successfully deal with a situation or event they perceive to be to be stressful.
But it’s not something you are born with – in reality resilience is an active choice, a mindset everyone is capable of achieving.
It’s not an impervious layer of steel that will protect your mental health – brittle and impenetrable – but something flexible, self-aware and authentic, that enhances performance and focus.
Simply, it’s something you choose. Here are 10 hacks to help you be more resilient in the face of stress.
How to be more resilient
1: Practise grey thinking
Try to see issues as a range of greys rather than black or white. Understanding this spectrum at times of stress can move you from thinking in extremes – a child-like ‘all or nothing’ approach – towards more adult solution-orientated grey thinking, scanning for options and not feeling overwhelmed.
2: Believe stress is an opportunity
As research shows, believing stress is bad for you has a negative effect on how you deal with it. When resilient people get the feelings associated with stress – heart pounding, sweaty palms – they recognise that this is because they care about the outcome, and they prepare to perform well, with excitement and courage replacing dread.
3: Accept what you can control
Wasting energy trying to plan, predict and control things you can’t influence is disempowering and exhausting. Accepting that the only person we can control is ourselves is liberating.
4: Look forward not back
“Why has this happened to me?” Don’t ask negative questions as your unconscious mind will rake over the past, finding negative reasons. Resilient people don’t ruminate but ask what they want to happen next; visualising it and how to get there.
5: Connect and help others
Stress can tempt us to isolate ourselves; to feel our pain alone. Resilient people connect, offer help, accept help offered and are not afraid to ask for it.
6: Give up being perfect
Recognise you are not perfect and never will be. Resilience is about being authentic and vulnerable, which creates a greater level of empathy and support from the people around you.
7: Don’t judge or blame yourself
Life is going to throw a few curve balls your way. See any setbacks as temporary, not permanent, and never think you’re simply not good at something.
8: Embrace failure
In his quest to invent the electric lightbulb, Thomas Edison said he hadn’t failed but had just discovered 1,000 ways that didn’t work. Resilient people are curious and see failure as an opportunity to learn and improve, rather than a badge of defeat.
9: Practise self-compassion
Realise and accept that emotions are human, and are there to allow us to connect to others and express what is happening. Denying your emotions uses up valuable energy, which inevitably makes us feel out of control.
10: Have choice
Resilient people always believe they have choice, which means they look for the options in every situation and keep the locus of control within themselves. Remember: only you can change your mindset. Good luck.
Denise Little is a mindset consultant . She helps leaders and professionals develop resilience and self-awareness, transforming how they deal with stress so they can thrive under pressure.
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