One of the certainties of living is that, no matter who you are, how successful you have been or what privileges you were born into – or earned, you will face obstacles and challenges at some point on your path through life. And we know that further success is largely dependent on the way you respond to those challenges.
In the past year in particular, I’ve learned the value of developing “stress resilience,” that ability to bounce back, overcome the difficulties, learn from the mistakes and failures and move forward.
There are habits that you can develop that will help you build your resilience in such a way that you are better prepared to handle life’s curve balls. These practices have helped me, so I want to share them:
- Get more sleep. A large percentage of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation, which impairs cognitive ability, decision-making, empathy, impulse control and the quality of relationships, to name a few. Recognizing that I was one of those people, I began 18 months ago to track my sleep, using a Jawbone device. It took me a year of raising my awareness and measuring to increase my average sleep from about 5 hours a night to over 7 hours. (7-9 hours is the requirement for most of us).
- Move more. Make it a priority in your life to find a type of movement or exercise that you enjoy: walking, dancing, Yoga, the Martial Arts, biking—or mix it up. Get a buddy if you have to, to help keep you on track with your schedule. Make an appointment with yourself and keep it like any other commitment. Learn some quick stretch moves or energy-boosting moves that you can do throughout the day. Every little bit helps.
- Learn to breathe. Become aware of the pace and tenor of your breathing. Most of us breathe in quick, shallow bursts. Stop and take a deep breath whenever you think of it—and certainly when you are feeling anger, anxiety, frustration or fear. It is surprising how instantly this helps.
- Practice mindfulness or meditation. Just take five minutes to close your eyes and be still. Notice sounds, smells, and other sensations around you. Tune in to your thoughts and replace them with something that brings you joy, like a favorite vacation spot, a fond memory or a special loved one. Learning to meditate has made the biggest difference in my life when it comes to rolling with the punches.
- Create a Gratitude Practice. Be more grateful for the people and things in your life that matter. And make a habit of expressing it more. Writing in a daily journal about what you appreciate will help you to focus more attention on the good things in your life. When I do this consistently before I go to sleep (using my Gratitude Journal), I sleep better! It’s so much healthier for you than watching the late news, which is largely negative, and a stressful way to enter what should be restful, restorative time.
Those are the top five ways that I’ve built more stress resilience in my life in the past few years. If you do none of these, just start with one, adding another when the first becomes a habit. If you already have some great habits around managing your stress, consider adding another.
Either way, I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with these or other practices. What works best for you?
If you’d like to know more about balancing work and fun in your life, join me on my upcoming webinar: Balancing Work/Life: 10 Keys to Take Back Control.