Building Your Resiliency Muscle – Part II

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Key Highlights

  • Tips for building resiliency muscle into middle age and beyond

In Part II of this two-part series on building your resiliency muscle, we’ll look at ways we can all build our abilities to “bounce back” from omnipresent stressors and/or challenges in our work and personal lives.

Ways To Build Your Resilience

Dr. Dennis Charney, a resilience researcher and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and co-author of Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, offers us several ways to help us build our resilience as adults:

  • Practice Optimism
    • Optimism part genetic AND part learned
    • Optimism does NOT mean ignoring reality of dire situations
    • Optimists acknowledge challenging situations by saying, “This is going to be difficult, but it’s a chance to rethink my life goals and find work that truly makes me happy.”
    • Think positive thoughts and hang out with optimistic, action oriented people
  • Rewrite Your Story
    • Reframe situations and focus on opportunities that setbacks present
    • Harvard study found people who view stress as a way to generate better performance do better mentally and physiologically than those taught to ignore stress
  • Don’t Personalize & Blame Self for Life’s Setbacks
    • Remind self that even if you made a mistake, shift focus from the personal, pervasive or permanent to next steps you may consider taking
    • No “failure” is totally personal
  • Remember Your Comebacks
    • Remind self of challenges you have overcome
    • Remind yourself that you’ve faced and/or will face “most horrible things” and come out okay, perhaps better, from challenges
    • Set-backs are part of careers and life
  • Support Others
    • In study among military veterans, higher levels of gratitude, altruism and purposefulness predicted resiliency
    • According to Dr. Steven Southwick, psychiatry professor with Yale Medical School, “Any way you can reach out and help other people is a way of moving outside of yourself, and this is an important way to enhance your own strength.”
  • Take Stress Breaks
    • Jack Groppel, co-founder of Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute,encourages us to recognize that stresses are ever-present and can never be eliminated from life
    • Groppel encourages us to view times of manageable stress as an opportunity to build resilience
    • “You have to invite stress into your life. A human being needs stress; the body and the mind want stress.”
    • Create regular opportunities for the body to recover from stress – take a walk or run, get on your bike, meditate, enjoy a meal with a good friend
    • Groppel said, “Stress is the stimulus for growth, and recovery is when the growth occurs.That’s how we build the resilience muscle.”
  • Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
    • Build resilience by putting yourself in challenging situations
    • Take an acting class, train for and participate in a triathlon, take an adventure vacation
    • Charney with the Icahn School of Medicine said, “There is a biology to this. Your stress hormone systems will become less responsive to stress so you can handle stress better.  Live your life in a way that you get the skills that enable you to handle stress.”


Thanks to The New York Times.


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