You’re obsessed with them. You know who I mean.
Those stress-resistant people who bounce back from adversity. Personal disasters, financial catastrophes, physical trauma—nothing knocks them down.
Each time they bounce back stronger. Even happy and eager to help others when they really should be taking care of themselves.
Yes, it’s inspiring and impressive. But also mind-boggling and downright frustrating.
No matter all those articles you’ve studied on how to be resilient, all the advice you’ve put into practice, all the lessons learned, you still buckle under stress.
There must be secrets to coping with stress that no one is talking about.
But what are they?
As work-related anxiety increases and the World Health Organization declares stress the epidemic of the 21st century, it’s no wonder you yearn for a coping superpower to survive.
And resiliency fits the bill in our rapidly changing, high-tech culture.
Even the American Psychology Association defines resilience as some super-human trait, being able to “…. ‘bounce back’ from difficult experiences.” Rebounding like a ball, immediately rising back up again.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
But, as you buckle under the strain of just aspiring to resiliency, did you ever ponder the absurdity of it? Instantly zooming back to your “normal life” from all kinds of stress?
It’s one thing to adapt to change or to juggle daily stressors, but totally another to deal with unexpected, life-crushing crises.
Here’s the truth about coping with stress
Yes, time is key, but not the way you think.
It’s not about getting back up quickly, it’s about getting back up, full stop. And this is one of the key secrets to managing stress.
To snap back, you first need to understand your own pace, your own needs.
Everyone is unique, every kind of emotional or psychological upheaval is unprecedented. So when life knocks you down, you need time.
Don’t spring back, bounce back, or leap back. Instead, stop to examine yourself. No one ever said you had to deny your feelings, ignore your emotions.
Acceptance is essential in overcoming stress, especially in extreme cases. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Permit yourself to get bent out of shape to find your new form.
“Yield and overcome; Bend and be straight….” Lao Tzu
Being sad, frustrated, anxious, etc — it’s all fine if you don’t let it get the best of you.
And if that means you need 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years, you’re still resilient. Ignore the time constraints, ignore the media hype, and, above all, ignore the social pressure. Instead yield to the strain.
Who says you have to bounce back?
Once you break free from associating speed with resilience, focus on dealing with the life challenge first, then decide on how to proceed. Most likely going back to who you were pre-trauma isn’t the best choice.
But this doesn’t mean you should negate your past. Rather, one of the secrets to coping with stress is about honoring your darker yesterdays while staying present today and mindful as you move forward with life.
Whether good or bad, your experiences shape you. With growth comes wisdom.
So don’t think about your anguish as if you were running a steeplechase. Think about leveraging those hurdles and obstacles to create a new path with new meaning for yourself.
Take a plant as an example. Let’s say you have a hibiscus that has suffered a cold, harsh winter. You wait until the season’s end to prune it, clipping away the dead leaves, cutting back the stems. You might even fertilize or re-pot it.
In the spring, the plant enters a new growth cycle. It has different branches and stems, even new leaf buds. Your hibiscus is healthy again but changed, with a completely new architecture. It hasn’t bounced back; it has grown into something new.
When you take stock of whatever trauma you have suffered and find that bouncing back to who you were makes little sense, then ease your way into a new you.
Cut loose, grow back
Resilience entails much more than merely “snapping back.” Once you eliminate the stressors of time and returning-to-normal, you find moving forward easier, more natural.
Pull off the everything-is-fine mask and relax!
Admit things are difficult and eliminate false expectations.
If the trauma is huge and you deny it, then you’re building tension unconsciously. Thousands of thoughts will bombard your mind. Anxiety and concerns will plague you. You will keep busy to fill a void, stop the mind chatter, and drown the silent screams.
But avoiding confrontation means avoiding personal healing and growth.
Facing your fears is one of the more important secrets to coping with stress. Research shows that choosing a problem-solving approach and actively seeking social support, while both slow, are effective at building long-term resilience.
So ask for help. Choose quality time with family and close friends instead of business dinners or networking parties. If your business has just collapsed don’t bulldoze into a new enterprise. Instead, explore a variety of options, think out of the box, and contact experts who can guide you to find the best solution for you.
Whichever your scenario, use your time wisely and constructively. Your decision must create the conditions to process the pain before you can snap to anywhere at all.
Tune in to you
One of the resilience secrets to coping with stress is committing to continuous personal growth. Resilient people develop a profound sense of self-awareness and continue to learn about their limits and strengths from each obstacle or moment of strife.
Most likely you will need to hone your self-awareness. You might realize you want further help in the form of a support group or therapy. It may be enough to read a few books on resilience to gain some greater awareness.
Or you can try not doing anything at all. No radio, no television, no Netflix, no social media. Turn everything off.
Constructed silence through meditation and mindfulness can increase your self-understanding. A peaceful walk in nature can also bring the same benefit: as you notice your surroundings you are more in tune with your own inner thoughts and feelings.
Be the tortoise, not the hare
Remember that Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, and its moral: slow but steady wins the race?
One of the most misunderstood aspects of resilience is this: resilience is the tortoise, stalwart and slow.
Your progress will most likely be sloppy and cumbersome. And that’s okay. Discovering your own, natural resilience is a process that defies being handcuffed by time.
Notice gradual changes or shifts in emotions, mindset, and mood. Be mindful of the little steps forward, like temporary, upward emotional swings. Happiness won’t crash over you like a wave, rather, it’s built upon many tiny positive moments.
So, stop with the guilt trips. It’s natural to fall along the way. And remember to pat yourself on the back each time you step back up to the plate for another swing.
Move forward while looking inward
It’s important to reflect on how far you’ve come. The only way to find your direction, avoid falling into the same traps, or travel the wrong path twice is to remember where you’ve been.
Again, going back may not be an option.
Returning to my former life and routine wasn’t an option for me after my bone marrow transplant. Even though at the time I was convinced it was.
I’m discovering I don’t have the same energy as before and my expectations of who I should be were leading me astray, leaving me frustrated and disillusioned. Through realization and acceptance, I am growing into who I can become. New leaves, new branches. I’m still me but changed.
If you haven’t hit a few roadblocks along the way, then there’s very little learning or growth going on. Resilient peeps know these little secrets to coping with stress.
Actually, studies prove that true resilience to cope with stress is built gradually over time and that personal hardiness comes only through various hardships.
You’ve come a long way, now keep going
There’s no secret superpower you’re missing.
Ditch the myth of snapping back when a crisis strikes. Everyone is different. Being slower than others doesn’t make you less elastic. It just means you’re taking a moment to learn about life, about you, and how to grow over an obstacle.
The only way forward is to know yourself. Sometimes hardships will shake you so much that it will be impossible to return to the same life you lived before the stressful event took place.
When you concentrate on what feels right, you’re free from unrealistic expectations. When you kick away time-based burdens, your path will be easier. You accept the little bumps in the road as well as the future bumps to come.
Soon people will consider you resilient, amazed at how you’ve been able to bounce back.
Yes, on the outside, this is what people will see. Only you feel different on the inside, only you will know your hidden truth — there is no snapping back. You can only choose to go forward. That is resiliency in the making.