Some people can more successfully adapt to their environment than others. Similarly, responses to stress are diverse, ranging from feeling galvanised into action to suffering physical collapse.
Stress is rarely seen in a positive light, even when there are suggestions that a moderate amount of stress might be good for us in certain situations.
On the other side of the coin, resilience is an important factor in how people cope with stress. In medical terms, resilience is an organism’s ability to bounce back from adversity.
Where does Resilience Come From?
There is the body’s chemical response underpinning this, whereby, in stressful situations the pituitary gland in the brain releases neurohormones. In response, the adrenal gland releases adrenaline and cortisol. While the adrenaline is the source of the fight or flight response, the cortisol shuts down the release of the neurohormones.
“Research indicates that some people with high levels of cortisol resulting from stressful situations have developed a protective mechanism to help them cope with future stress,” Melinda observes.
“Resilience is complex and variable, just as stress is, but people can develop it, and use it to bounce back from bad situations”
“You can approach your life in certain ways that build your resilience,” Melinda suggests. “These protective measures help preserve the balance between physical wellbeing and psychological health.”
One is to reappraise situations that otherwise have negative, stressful connotations.
“There are regular things we do that we find stressful. Building resilience means taking a look at them and thinking whether we could see them in a different context”
It is also useful to try and develop alternative options to deal with ongoing situations which trigger stress.
“Approaching potentially stressful situations proactively can help,” Melinda says. “Always have a plan B.”
Alongside these measures, it is important to cultivate a positive self-image, and to regulate emotional responses.
“It’s not about keeping things in, but rather allowing yourself to feel unpleasant emotions and to understand that they’re perfectly normal,” Melinda advises. “And developing a positive self-image means that when things don’t feel they’re going right in one area of your life, you have other, more positive things to draw on.”
“Resilience is not an automatically guaranteed defence against stress, but people can develop strategies to encourage its development”
Part of this development process can involve people taking time away from their normal, daily lives, using the environment of a personal retreat to help them relax and re-evaluate.
“The concept of convalescence may seem old-fashioned, but it’s based on very sound, practical principles,” concludes Melinda. “Time away can prove invaluable in helping individuals through change.”