WHY ARE SOME OF US immune to stress, while others buckle under pressure at the first opportunity? It's all in how we look at it. Those of us who are resilient to negative stress seem to rise to a challenge instead of fearing it. "Stress hardiness is not an inborn trait, nor one that's reserved for the old and wise--it's a life skill we can all benefit from learning," says Toronto-based corporate consultant Bina Feldman. "The possibility of being stress-free is unrealistic; the possibility of being stress-hardy is not." How we think has a strong effect on our physiology, so it's important to build the mental habits that make us stress-resistant. Here are the mindset adjustments that can have the biggest impact on your life.
Be a Problem Solver
Does criticism put you in a funk or spur you to improve your productivity and attitude? If you take action now, you can avoid future stress and conflict. "Effective stress management is about early intervention, not crisis intervention," says Feldman. This tactic also allows you to manage your time better rather than leaving things to the last minute.
Get in the Game
Feeling disempowered or victimized produces enormous distress. Don't make it worse by turning your power over to others. Whether you're making a major investment, health or work decision, study your options. Participate, speak up and be involved.
When change is viewed as a threat, rather than a natural part of life, anxiety levels rise. But perceiving a promotion or move as an exciting possibility (or at least not a major headache) keeps you from getting mired down by stress. "When you can anticipate and plan for change, you feel empowered and better able to cope with whatever comes your way," says Feldman.
Form Strong Relationships
A recent study found that the CEOs who managed stress best were those with support systems. "Part of their stress hardiness came from their deep interpersonal connections with other people," says James Campbell Quick, Ph.D., a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Institute of Stress. Women are more likely to seek social support in stressful times, such as calling a friend to discuss marital woes or even asking for directions. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, dubbed it the "tend and befriend" response, and they suspect it might be a reason that women outlive men.
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