Why Resilience Matters Today More Than Ever

The following is a guest post by Nancy Maxfield-Wilson of MyMax Performance.

Got stress? It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to reduce our stress. In fact, it seems to multiply daily in our hyper connected, smartphone-addled world. So how do we develop a more effective response? Resilience is critical to thriving vs. merely surviving! Resilience (our ability to bounce back and even transform adversity into opportunity) can absolutely be learned. It can also be strengthened, just like we strengthen our muscles.

Why care? Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death, and two out of three of every doctor’s visits involve stress-related conditions. It costs the U.S. $200-$300 billion each year in healthcare costs and lost productivity. In 2016, the American Psychological Association saw a significant increase in stress due to political conflict, fear about our nation’s future and social media usage.

Chronic stress can crash our productivity, health and happiness. It can disrupt sleep, memory, metabolism and ability to learn. Adding insult to injury, it can make us gain weight! In response to stress hormones, our body pushes more fuel into our bloodstream for fight or flight, but if unused, that extra blood sugar gets converted to fat and the infamous “muffin top”.

Research shows how you perceive your stress can influence whether it adversely affects your health. The GOOD news (there’s lots, so read on for it!) is that humans are incredibly resilient, which is why our species has been so successful. In addition, we can change our behaviors once we become aware of them.

Here are five big reasons to be optimistic- we’ve GOT this!

1. Our mind is incredibly powerful and it can heal. This is why in medical trials, we control for the “placebo effect.” We can actually recover because we think we’re receiving treatment.

2. We create our reality moment by moment with our thoughts and mindset. Consider Viktor Frankl or POWs held for years in unimaginable conditions. Bad things happen to good people; it’s our response that defines us. Optimism can be learned.

3. We are more than our DNA! Research of twins shows that lifestyle choices influence our health just as much or more than our genetics, in some cases (epigenetics).

4. Our body’s natural state is balance (“homeostasis”). This is the body’s ability to stabilize body temperature, heart rate and stress hormones, to name a few. Just give it a break and let it do its stuff! It’s a mind-body system; the body is a powerful tool for resilience.

5. Everyone can become more resilient, no matter where you are starting from, if we are willing to develop new skills.

Reset your stress meter to become present, productive, healthy and happy. Remember-resilience is your superpower-the difference between thriving and merely surviving in your one precious life!

How to Help Kids Manage the Stress of Divorce

The following is a guest post by Erin Kassenbaum.

If stress burned calories, many of us would weigh 90 pounds, right? Work, family and the never-ending “to-do” list all create significant stress on our lives. Most of us adults can effectively manage our stress. But what about children, especially kids whose parents are going through a divorce?

Understandably, divorce causes a great deal of stress for children. They are full of fear over the changes they are experiencing, and often worry they are the reason their parents are getting divorced. One of my main goals when working with clients is helping them help their kids manage stress during and after divorce. Children generally respond to stress in one of the following three ways: positive, tolerable, or toxic.

Positive stress response is a healthy part of development where kids learn to cope. Children experience positive stress when getting a shot or starting school after summer vacation. Tolerable stress is more serious and longer lasting, but manageable. This is often the type of stress children experience when their parents get divorced. The good news is both types of stress can be negated by positive, loving relationships with parents and other caregivers who can help them adapt and cope with stress.

However, if parents are so high-conflict they are not able to develop a cooperative co-parenting or parallel-parenting relationship, kids are at risk for developing a toxic stress response. Toxic stress puts children in a constant state of fight-or-flight mode, affecting their brain development, suppressing their immune system and causing learning and memory problems. As adults, children who experience toxic stress are at risk of developing heart disease, substance abuse problems and depression. Obviously, we need to help kids manage stress so that it doesn’t become toxic.

This is one reason it’s so important for parents to focus on developing a manageable co-parenting or parallel-parenting relationship with one another. In addition, parents can help their kids manage stress by:

  • Understanding it’s normal for kids to be stressed during the divorce process. Don’t get stressed because the kids are stressed!
  • Validating the kids’ feelings about the divorce. Using phrases such as “I know you feel sad,” or, “I understand you miss seeing your mom everyday like you used to.” Kids need to hear that it’s okay to feel how they feel.
  • Encouraging honesty. It’s important kids know they can always be honest with both parents.
  • Asking the kids what they think would make them feel better. Sometimes the only answer may be that mom and dad get back together and that’s okay. Try to offer simple ideas like taking a walk, watching a movie together or calling the other parent.
  • Keeping a regular routine, especially for younger children. Routine and consistency give kids tremendous security and comfort.
  • Repeatedly reassuring them they are not the cause of the divorce and that both parents will always love them, no matter what.

Finding the Balance With Stress

The following is a guest post by Mary Battista of Prairie Health Companion.

When you hear the word stress, most people automatically think of a negative outcome: disease, discomfort or distress! Stress is “the response of the human organism to any change or demand”. But is the outcome from a demand put on the body necessarily always bad?

Most people are well aware of what stress means to them. When people are under pressure to achieve, or have constant demands that exceed what they feel they are capable of handling, they feel the negative effects of stress. Physically, they may experience chest pain, a racing heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, trouble sleeping, digestive dysfunction, muscle tension and headaches, to name a few. To soothe this state of “distress,” some may engage unhealthy practices such as overeating or drinking, which starts another set of stressors that comes from being overweight or side effects of too much alcohol. The body, feeling under threat, is sending distress signals by secreting the hormones cortisol and adrenaline as it prepares for the flight or fight response designed to help the body evade danger. The problem is that if stress is not well managed or is excessive, this response can cause or exacerbate disease.

Alternately, eustress is defined as “good stress”. In this state, you find yourself feeling engaged, inspired and excited about what lies ahead. This is the “sweet spot” that, as a coach, I am helping the client find so they feel challenged about the goals that lie ahead, rather than overwhelmed or out of control. Too little of the good stress and the client feels uninspired and finds it hard to move forward toward healthier habits.

Divorce can certainly be a stressor.

Taking small steps and experimenting with self-care, women can start to flourish in ways that bring good health and happiness back into their lives. Stress need not be all bad, but careful management is necessary so that you can live a life that feels exciting but allows the body to maintain optimal health.

Time to Stop Toughing It Out

The following is a guest post by Theresa Nutt.

As I continue my journey of becoming my own beloved, I have noticed something important: a theme that is really standing out for me right now is the topic of toughing it out. Too many of us have learned to ignore our feelings and other parts of our experience that are not considered acceptable (according to who, I wonder?).

Here are a few of the common symptoms of toughing it out:

  • We swallow feelings and let them fester inside.
  • Others treat us poorly and we don’t speak up.
  • Our needs come last after everyone else is “happy” or comfortable (which never happens).
  • We stop pursuing our passions and wait for a magic someday.
  • Our body tries to get our attention and we just keep pushing on because there isn’t enough time. Eventually, something big happens and we suffer as a result.
  • We are exhausted, but afraid to slow down or rest.
  • Instead of living a unique life that speaks to us, we try to fit in and be more like others around us.

Tune In Instead Of Toughing It Out

The obvious remedy is to tune in more deeply to ourselves and our experience. There are times when the most loving thing to do is notice that life is really challenging. Or, that despite our best efforts we can’t seem to make headway.

There are not enough spiritual gymnastics in the world to help us in certain situations. And instead of admitting we are struggling or instead of asking for help when we need it the most, we start beating ourselves up using our inner critic.

What if instead of all the critic’s responses, you found yourself asking what you needed most instead of how can you tough this out?

Help Yourself First Instead of Toughing It Out

Once you tune in, you have the good fortune of knowing what you most need. Is your inner child screaming for your attention in some way? Are you in need of a supportive friend to listen or give you a hand? Do you need some time in Mother Nature to calm your mind and deepen your breathing?

And in the end, if you could just remember that the love, attention, approval, appreciation and every other thing you seek from external sources is a neon sign. The neon sign is reminding you to stop, tune into what is true for you, and love yourself more fiercely than ever before.

Why Do We Resist Forgiving?

The following is a guest post by Mary Hayes Grieco of The Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training. 

“Forgiveness is releasing an expectation that is causing you to suffer.”
– From “Unconditional Forgiveness” by Mary Hayes Grieco

In the last twenty years, nearly 4,000 new studies in psychology and medicine have proven what we intuitively know is true: forgiveness is good for our health and happiness. Numerous studies make the link between resentments and stress-related illness like heart problems, backaches, chronic pain and sleep problems. Most recently, the chief surgeon at The Cancer Care Centers of America stated that he believes there is a strong link between long held resentments and certain cancers. It seems like our growing awareness about the cost of resentment and unforgiveness will be the next big public health issue.

“Let it go – you’ll feel better” is something your grandma probably told you. Chances are good that you thought about forgiving the offender for about a minute, then dismissed the idea. We really don’t want to. Why is it that even though we know that forgiveness is good for us, we still have so much resistance to it? I think we resist forgiveness because we misunderstand what it is, and we don’t know how to do it. I want to propose that there are some unfortunate myths out there about forgiveness that need to be dispelled in order for the public to embrace forgiveness as a life skill and a good health habit.

Unfortunate myths about forgiveness that create resistance (and keep us stuck)

Myth #1: “Forgive and forget.”
Seriously, did that ever work for anyone? It doesn’t and we intuitively know that, so we don’t want to try and fail. What we actually need to do is forgive and remember and turn our wounds into wisdom. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting, excusing bad behavior or allowing people to continue to hurt us.

As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them, the first time.” So, forgive them for your freedom, but don’t allow them to harm you again.

Myth #2: Forgiveness is hard and it takes a long time to get there.
In reality, it isn’t any harder than learning how to drive or how to floss your teeth – you must take a little time and be taught how to do it, and practice. And it doesn’t take forever once you know the steps; most of the time, once you’re educated and ready to go, it takes about an hour. See the steps on my website.

Myth#3: You must talk it out
Many believe that forgiveness means you must talk to the other person, make peace, and work things out – someone has to apologize. Nope. Forgiveness is actually a private healing experience which you do to release your pain and gain relief and healthy detachment about the person and the situation. You don’t have to talk to the offender at all or find a common understanding or extract an apology – all that stuff is in the category of “reconciliation,” which is a whole different animal.

Myth #4: There are some things that are unforgiveable.
Do you really want to believe that there are some things from which you will never heal? Everything can heal, eventually. Some things take longer than others, but they will heal if you remain open to the healing process.
Myth #5: You have to be some kind of saint to forgive something really big.
I’ve seen many ordinary people forgive some truly terrible things – human beings are phenomenally resilient!

When one person sincerely and effectively forgives another person, a miracle happens. The stagnant block inside them dissolves and melts away and the light of their soul slides in to replace it.