Understanding your stress response
The first step to developing resilience is understanding your stress response, its triggers, and what happens once it’s activated:
Seeing pressure differently
When humans are put in a high-pressure situation, they can appraise it one of two ways: thrilling, meaning they come away wanting more, or threatening, meaning their stress response is activated. How people react hinges on their unique history, experiences and personality. One way to build resilience is to harness pressure and use it to your advantage, by focusing on the positives of challenging situations. This will help interpret them as opportunities instead of threats.
Knowing your triggers
Understanding your performance environment will help you to identify your triggers, the things which are hindering your resilience. These can typically range from having little control, conflict in relationships, or having an unclear job-role.2 By tuning into what is specifically triggering your stress response, you can build self-awareness, which will help you to cope better with pressure.
Understanding the impact of stress
Our stress response is hardwired into the most primal part of our brain, as it serves us for our most basic human drive: survival. This means that once activated, it’s hard to thrive under pressure. To reduce your sensitivity to stress, make exercise a regular part of your routine. Although an obvious tip, it is highly efficient in regulating our mood and physical reactions to stress.
Psychological stress response
When the above strategies haven’t worked and you have interpreted pressure as stress, this can offset a pattern of negative thoughts which occur in loop and escalate the ‘threat’ in our minds. These thought-loops include catastrophizing, discounting the positives, and making negative predictions.3 Rather than trying to control or remove the thoughts, simply realising and accepting that we have a choice to change them has been shown to dramatically reduce the effects of stress.4