This is the course I am taking from the University of Washington. Hopefully I will learn something new and approach life’s issues differently.
Research indicates that 90% of people experience chronic stress. Stress is unavoidable in life. Why? Because we’re hardwired for it. That is how the caveman survived the saber toothed tiger. We call it the fight or flight response. However not all stress is bad. Moderate but manageable levels of stress are actually good for our performance. It’s really when stress is persistent that it can produce a wear and tear on our body.
Chronic stress is very toxic to our bodies, our minds and our behavior. It can produce significant health problems, in terms of cardiovascular health and lead to the development of illnesses such as diabetes. It can impact our minds: the ability to think clearly, solve problems and be optimistic in the face of adversity. It impacts our behaviors: we act aggressively towards others and avoid things we shouldn’t.
What happens physically when we are stressed? The amygdala gets activated and sends signals to the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The sympathetic nervous system, the main part of the ANS, also known as the gas pedal, goes into a fight, flight or freeze response. The other part of the ANS, the parasympathetic response, is like the brake, this helps us restore and calm down. So the sympathetic and parasympathetic are akin to the yin and yang. That’s how the stress response works. It begins in the brain, it goes to our nervous system and is then communicated to the rest of our body. That’s why we can have an accelerated heart rate, flushed face, sweaty palms or shortness of breath just from thinking.
To deal with the physical effects of stress, we have to become resilient. We have to learn how to silence the sympathetic nervous system by activating this parasympathetic response. There are two aspects of resilience: survive and thrive. Survive: developing the capacity, ability, skill set and routines in order to bounce back from adversity. It’s the ability to manage life stressors and continue to pursue and do well. Thrive: doing what matters most – enhancing and optimizing your well-being. According to Ann Masten of the University of Minnesota, the foremost expert in the concept of resilience, you don’t have to be born with resilience, it can be cultivated. Having the awareness, engaging in intentional practices, being open to learning, applying, and integrating particular lifestyle choices are all ways to increase resilience. So it’s a matter of what we do and seek to acquire that defines whether or not we can become resilient – not simply being lucky in life.
Resilience is defined by the ability to survive in the face of adversity and thrive in order to optimize our well-being and performance. We can acquire it. It comes through purposeful activities and the integration of specific skills, habits, and routines into our life.
Robert Jordan, American author who served two tours in Vietnam said: “The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”
to be continued…
The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.
“Why did you buy 12 loaves of bread!?”, his wife screamed. “Because they had eggs!