Many people assume that being resilient is solely about your ability to adapt to tough circumstances. In practice, resiliency is a quality that’s much more than simple determination. Being resilient means we are flexible. We take steps to practice self-care, so we can better regulate our emotions and manage our energy levels so that we reduce the effects of stress on our bodies, minds and spirits.
To become resilient, we must train our minds and bodies to handle stress in a positive manner. Otherwise, it becomes impossible to get in the “flow,” and perform at our best level.
The effects of long-term stress on the body and the brain and its connection to performance
In the short term, our everyday worries can sometimes sharpen our performance, because sensations of fear and anxiety lead to the release of cortisol. This hormone increases our heart rate and respiration and speeds up our reflexes, which is also known as the “fight or flight,” response.
While this temporary increase in alertness can sharpen performance in the short term, over the long haul it has a devastating effect on our bodies and mind.
Long-term stress has been shown to affect the amygdala, which is the part of our brain which processes our emotions. It also affects the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex areas of the brain, which is involved in learning, memory and execution, making it more difficult to focus, recall information and make good decisions. Long-term stress has also been linked to other physiological changes in the body which affect our immune system and functioning of the cardiovascular system, leading to illnesses affecting our ability to perform.
The connection between resiliency and stress management
Left unmanaged, the effects of long-term stress on both our health and our ability to perform, can be quite devastating. Practising self-care, however, can help you balance your energy levels and manage your stress so that you can continue to perform at your highest level, despite any delays, difficulties or other obstacles that may arise. The following tips will help you increase your resiliency.
Disrupt the cycle
When you begin to feel anxious or out of control, you can short-circuit the cycle and reduce the release of cortisol and other stress-inducing hormones. Step back from the situation, and take a few slow, deep breaths to send more oxygen to your prefrontal cortex and slow your heart rate.
As you’re controlling your breathing, think about the emotions you are experiencing. Label this emotion and call it by name to help switch your mental gears into a more rational, logical frame of mind.
Acknowledge your anger or fear, release it, learn from your mistake, and use it to improve your performance going forward.
Practice healthy habits to build strength and endurance
The stronger and healthier your physical body is, the easier it is to withstand fatigue and the effects of mental strain. Eat a nutritious diet, get plenty of exercise and rest, and take good care of yourself to increase your health and willpower.
Use mindfulness to maintain your focus
Focusing on the moment can help reduce fears of the unknown. Meditation, tai-chi, yoga, and similar practices help to ground you in the here and now, sharpening your attention and focus, reducing your heart rate, respiration and blood pressure, and eliminating some of the deadlier effects of stress on the body and mind. Even simple movements, such as gentle stretching exercises, can help you to reduce pent-up anxiety and other stresses in your body so that you can perform at an optimum level.
Resilience and your team
As the leader, it’s vital you control your reaction to what’s going on around you because your team will react as you do. Your team is unlikely to be resilient if you aren’t.
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