It's all about resiliency: Change!
It's all about resiliency: Change!
This is the first in a series of articles which will discuss various aspects of stress and how we can learn to bounce back from stressful occurrences.
And I’m not referring to the loose coins in our purses or pockets. I’m referring to the ongoing process of change we experience and how we respond or react to it.
For those of us who have immigrated to another country, whether for work, love or play, it is necessary to make many adjustments. How we handle these adjustments will play an important role in how happy and healthy we will be.
The challenges one faces when leaving behind a familiar and trusted place are numerous: language, culture, expectations, being separated from loved ones and our sense of not belonging, to name just a few.
Change can be seen as either a problem or an adventure. Do we roll with the ups and downs or do we stumble and fall? If we stumble and fall, do we have the strength (mentally and physically) to pick ourselves back up and keep going? Our ability to do this or not determines the level of unsupportive stress in our lives, because not all stress is bad for us.
The stress factor
Stress is a much used word (and some say a much maligned word) these days, but it’s actually quite new in our language as it relates to the state of bodily or mental tension. Dr. Hans Selye, an Austrian endocrinologist, began his research into what he termed "the non-specific response of the body to any demand." The "any demand" was what he called stress. It could be a deadline for a project, a wedding, finding a new job, losing one’s job. It could also be a workout in the gym.
Now, hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear the word stress being used by someone. We’ve come to use it to describe negatively perceived situations when we feel anger, fear, irritation or are overwhelmed. We use it to tell about what we experience as well as how we feel.
What we need to realise is that it starts with a stressor and how well we can deal with the stressor will be seen in our response (proactive) or our reaction (reactive).
We also need to realise that not all stressors are created alike. What stresses me won’t necessarily stress someone else. One can view a move to a new country as an adventure, while someone else experiences it as traumatic. Another good example is a snake. Two people see the same snake - one will be inquisitive and want to pick it up, the other can’t run away fast enough. Their responses depend upon a multitude of factors.
Even if two people respond to the snake with fear, how they respond will also be different. One may break out into a sweat, another may flee, while another may freeze in place. One might even pass out. Again, all depending on a multitude of factors which we’ll review in future articles.
Resiliency - the stress balm
In order to respond well to a stressor and / or recover quickly from a stressor, we need something called resiliency. The good news is that we don’t need to be born with it. We can develop it. It is an essential ingredient in making a new country a home, even if it’s home for only a short time.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines resiliency as the "ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." This ability makes all the difference in how enjoyable our lives will be in our newly chosen country, our work and our relationships.
If we haven’t been nurtured and raised to handle change well, and many of us haven't, then it’s time to cultivate it. Otherwise we remain stuck in a victim mentality. We give our power away to the people, places, and circumstances around us. We dance to the tune of someone else’s music. Ultimately we pay the price of this with our health and well-being, succumbing to the toxic effects of stress.
Acquiring resiliency takes awareness and it takes practice. It takes an awareness of what is triggering us to feel stressed, what signal or signals our body is giving us when we experience a stressor and what our thoughts and perceptions are about the stressor. Mastering these takes practice.
The benefits of mastering resiliency are many. Our immune systems are stronger, our ability to think logically and creatively is enhanced. Memory is improved. We sleep better. We have more energy. We are more motivated, more productive. The list goes on and on.
And now what?
Set a goal for the coming time to become more resilient. Take small steps. Start with making a personal list of the people, activities, places that nourish your body, mind and soul. Things that give you energy rather than drain it. Refer to this list frequently.
A few examples? Certain foods, listening to calming music, working out, reading a good book, soaking in a tub, lying in a hammock, breathing (yes breathing - more about this important resource to follow), dancing, writing, and playing a musical instrument are just some of the possibilities. This list will be very personal.
Whenever you are facing or have faced a stressor, remember to turn to something on this list. Building your energy reserves is a first step towards developing resiliency in changing circumstances.