Managing Stress: Resilience as a Stress Protector

In the first part of this blog post, we took a look at stress and where it comes from.  We explored the concept of a stress container and our unique reactions to stress.  Now we’ll think about resilience and coping strategies.

How can we stop our stress container from overflowing?

Let’s go back to the stress container.  Imagine each of us has a stress container that fills up with the stress we experience.  Now add a tap to the bottom of the container.  When this tap is open, stress flows out of the container.  This tap represents the coping strategies we use.  To think of it another way, the tap gives us resilience.  Stress flows into the container and the container fills up but the tap allows the container to continually empty so that it doesn’t overflow.  If the container doesn’t overflow, we don’t experience the stress reaction.  Consequently, we don’t suffer the negative effects on our health and wellbeing that can come from prolonged exposure to the stress reaction.

Stress container with tap

There are coping strategies that help to keep the stress flowing out and strategies we use that can make things worse and cause a blockage.

This MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) has a useful summary of coping strategies that can help or hinder. There is a lot here and probably much that you do already.  But the aim isn’t to give you a big scary to do list and add to your stress container.  Instead, focus on what works for you.  Is there one thing on this list that stands out for you as something that could make a big difference to how you manage stress?

Things that can help protect against stress are:

  • Exercise.  Walking (of course) is ideal, especially in a green space that gives the added benefit of access to nature. 
  • Healthy diet and a good sleep routine.
  • Having fun.
  • Learning a new skill.
  • Sharing how you feel.  It’s so important to make time to connect with other people, to laugh and vent, share and ask for help when we need it.
  • Reducing distractions. Having some time being present with less exposure to screens, notifications, noise, or clutter.

Some strategies that we use to cope that ultimately don’t help with stress are:

  • Too much sugar, caffeine, alcohol.
  • Overworking and doing too much.
  • Too much screen time.
  • Perfectionism.
  • Bottling up our feelings.

When we are stressed, there are lots of consequences.  We feel stuck, we struggle to get things done, we get into conflicts with other people, and we can get ill. When we feel resilient and our stress levels are lower, we are able to manage all the changes going on for us.  We can make better decisions and communicate more effectively.  We also have options because we have energy and ideas to make changes.

The key is in being aware of what is going for you.  Get in the habit of taking a moment throughout the day to ask, how am I doing?  What do I need now?  How are my stress levels? 

And then respond.  Do something that helps.  Perhaps you could make some bigger changes to your routine, your outlook or your environment.  Connecting with people and asking for help is vital too.  Don’t underestimate the power of the small things you can do.  You probably do have a couple of minutes to do something positive. (Here is a helpful list of 10 things you can do in a minute or two).

Have a ponder of these questions and let me know what you come up with:

  • What things do you already do to protect against stress?
  • What things do you do that don’t help when you’re stressed?
  • Do you make time to be present and check in with how you’re feeling?
  • What ONE thing could you do more of/less of to reduce your stress levels?

Wondering how you could feel more confident, less stressed and ready for all the ups and downs ahead? Get in touch to have a chat with Anise and find out more about resilience coaching.

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