Wise Words Wednesday.....Building Emotional Resilience
Posted on 22nd August 2017 at 21:45
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom” – Victor Frankl
Did you know that chronic stress can shorten your life span by 4 to 8 years?
When I came across this research, I was particularly interested because it related to caregivers. I’ve been a carer for most of my life. Firstly, for my younger brother who had Muscular Dystrophy and died at the age of 32 years and now for my mother for the past seven years.
The reality is being a carer is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be very rewarding and on the other hand it can be very challenging and stressful.
As a carer, the emotions I experience can swing from one extreme to another. Feelings of frustration, resentment and despair when I feel a loss of personal freedom on one side. On the other side feelings of compassion, kindness and love for my mother knowing she has lost all of her independence and much more.
Eeyore or Tigger?
When I experience negative (depleting) or positive (postive) emotions I often associate these emotions as either feeling like Eeyore or Tigger. They are both characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne. This analogy helps me to quickly gauge how I am feeling. Eeyore is known to be pessimistic, gloomy and depressed and Tigger’s character is described as energetic, optimistic, fun and resourceful.
Now you don’t have to be a carer to experience these emotions. Just dealing with every day challenges of work commitments, looking after children, getting the shopping done, dealing with relationships, looking after loved ones, running your own business etc. can all generate similar emotions.
Over the last few years I have become more aware of how certain situations and challenges influence my emotions.
It’s important to remember that it is okay to experience negative feelings because this is not about suppressing, denying or ignoring those negative emotions. All emotions have a depleting or renewing effect on our physiology which affect our performance.
The Stress Response
When you experience negative emotions you trigger the stress response. Your limbic brain (also referred to as the primitive brain) is programmed to respond to this signal, as if you are in danger. It will automatically release stress hormones and prepare you to either fight, flee or freeze.
This process is hardwired into our genetic makeup and is absolutely necessary for our survival. Many thousands of years ago when cavemen went out hunting they needed to be protected from wild animals and this stress response kept them alive. Once the stress is removed the body goes back to its normal state.
Nowadays we don’t get chased by wild animals, however our everyday experiences of modern day living can trigger the same stress response.
Whilst the body can cope with short-term stress it is not designed to cope with ongoing medium to long-term stress.
If you keep experiencing negative emotions your body is constantly in ‘emergency’ mode and this is not sustainable without it having a negative impact your health.
Research shows that ongoing stress can lead to burnout, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, Alzheimer’s and speed up the ageing process.
If you were asked whether you would like to feel like Eeyore or Tigger on a moment to moment basis who would you choose?
I know my choice would always be Tigger!
Research completed by the HeathMath Institute shows that when you are stressed your energy levels deplete and this creates an incoherent or chaotic heart rhythm. When this happens it impairs your brain’s ability to process information and think clearly.
On the other hand positive emotions create coherence and order in the heart rhythm and coherence is the building block to creating and sustaining resilience. HearthMath, defines ‘RESILIENCE’ as ‘your ability to PREPARE FOR, RECOVER FROM and ADAPT in the face of stress, adversity and challenge’.
There are a number of tools provided by HeartMath that enable you to create that space where you can decide to change how you are feeling in the moment. Believe it or not, you do have a choice!
Building Emotional Resilience
If you would like to find out more about how you can build your emotional resilience, boost your productivity and well- being, click the link below to find details of a workshop I will be running in October.
1.0 Become aware of the challenges and situations that generate negative emotions for you.
2.0 When you experience negative emotions, ask yourself, how long do I want to keep feeling this way?
3.0 Identify what you can do in the moment to reach a neutral or positive state.
Tagged as: Emotional Resilience, Stress
Share this post: