Unit 1: Mindset
How to build resilience to stress
Madeleine Hawkes, Weight Loss Expert
PGCert Obesity & Weight Management
BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics,
BSc (Hons) Psychology
In the previous article we looked at how to manage our stressors with the help of the 4 A’s. Hopefully you’ve been able to reduce the number of stressors in your life and have identified a few ways to manage the ones you have to accept. In this article we’ll show you how to build resilience to stress by altering how you perceive and react to stressors.
Becoming more resilient to stress can enable us to constructively harness the stress response. When harnessed correctly, stress can be an incredibly useful tool which can help keep us motivated and focused.
The stress bucket
Before we go any further I’d like to introduce the concept of the ‘stress bucket’ which can help us visualise our stress levels, making it easier to know when to apply healthy coping strategies.
Imagine having a bucket that slowly fills up with the things that cause you stress. The fuller it gets, the more prolonged the stress response – this can lead to chronic stress. Our capacity to handle stress is very individual so the size of your bucket will depend on various factors, like your genetics, personality and previous experiences. We can reduce the amount of stress in the bucket using the techniques we learned last week, but we can also increase its depth by becoming more resilient.
Building resilience to stress
Taking time for ourselves away from stressors can significantly improve our ability to deal with them. Try to make space for something you find enjoyable and relaxing every day. Here are some calming activities to consider:
Taking a bath
Listening to relaxing music
Practising a skin-care routine
Dancing around the room
Going to the gym
Spending 5 minutes outside
Going for a walk
Growing your support network
Having different types of social support networks in place helps build our resilience to stress. We can strengthen our network by tending to the existing relationships we have. Our friends and family are often more available to us than we realise – prioritise spending time with them when life gets busy.
To expand your social support network, get involved with volunteer groups, sports clubs or work socials, even if it’s something as simple as having a good chinwag with a group of colleagues over lunch. Professional support from therapists, psychologists and doctors can also help you deal with your emotions constructively and work through more complicated issues.
Another way to build resilience is by practising gratitude. Journaling is one way of doing this and it has been shown to have a positive impact on stress. Although our days are made up of a mixture of good, bad, and average moments – with the odd disaster thrown in there – we tend to focus on the bad and disastrous while discounting the positives. Journaling helps us highlight those good events, improving our mood and reducing undue worry.
Take action ⚡
Maintaining a positive mindset is fundamental in building resilience to stress, so this week try to integrate gratitude into your day.
Take two minutes on your commute home or just before bed to note down three good things that happened during the day. If you don’t feel like anything good happened, explore what you are grateful for in that moment. Focusing on the positive aspects of our lives improves our self esteem and wellbeing, and in time, our resilience.
Much like building muscles, our resilience to stress won’t just grow overnight, we must actively choose to work on it. Eventually, however, you’ll find that your ability to proactively deal with stress will improve.