Hello everyone Floyd Meyer here I am a Physician Assistant with a Master’s in public health, a degree in molecular biology, and I am currently working in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Today we are continuing our series on Resilience which is the ability to remain well, recover, or even thrive in the face of adversity.
This week we will be discussing psychological resilience and specific practices that you can engage in to improve the resilience of your mind.
The idea of resilience as it applies to humans actually started with psychological resilience. According to Liu et al., “The idea of resilience as resistance to stress originated in the 1970s when researchers began to study children capable of normal development despite a difficult upbringing.” (Liu et al., 2018)
An interesting finding from the continuation of this research was that, “There is significant variation in the way individuals react and respond to extreme stress and adversity. While some individuals develop psychiatric conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), others, recover from stressful experiences without displaying significant symptoms of psychological ill-health.” (Osório et al., 2016)
As we have discussed previously, resilience is the ability to remain well, recover, and thrive in the face of adversity, and this adversity can take many forms especially when we are discussing psychological stressors. Adversity can include things such as social rejection, failure in examinations, early life stress, and other chronic enduring stressful experiences. (Liu et al., 2018)
“Improvements in resilience in humans have been reported as a result of psychological and cognitive therapies, such as a life skills education-based program, intensive mindfulness meditation training, and stress inoculation training.” (Liu et al., 2018)
Make sure to check out my previous videos for examples of life skills that can improve resilience, but today we are going to discuss mindfulness training and stress inoculation training.
“Mindfulness is described as a process of bringing attention to what is occurring in one’s present moment.” (Hwang et al., 2017) Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to have remarkably effective results in reducing stress, decreasing chronic pain, and improving symptoms of anxiety and depression.
There are many ways to start a mindfulness practice. The simplest for most people is to use an app that will guide you through your practice. There are numerous apps out there my favorite being Headspace. I have been using Headspace consistently during the pandemic and I have noticed some significant improvements in my awareness of how my mind gets into loops increasing my stress and anxiety, and now I have tools to break these cycles.
Mindfulness practices can be extremely helpful because they can help you to understand how you feel about how you feel. Say for instance, we have a person who is stressed at work. They are having a very difficult time with the changes we have all been experiencing this year. This person has 2 options on what to do with these feelings of stress.
The first is to normalize their experience. They could think that this stress is a normal feeling that many people around the world are experiencing. This is not something wrong with them. This will allow them to look at their environment and behaviors to determine what needs to be done in order to get them back to their normal equilibrium. This would be an example of a healthy way to look at stress.
The second option, is to think that their feeling of stress is a sign that something is wrong with them. They could think that they are weak or inadequate, and that others around them are doing better than they are at coping with the changes happening around them. This will increase their stress levels, and be an overall unhealthy way of relating to increased stress.
When you start a mindfulness practice you may be surprised by how many of your thoughts are actually just ways to continue to experience feelings of anxiety, sadness, or anger. You may find yourself ruminating on these thoughts keeping that painful feeling at the forefront of your mind. By engaging in regular mindfulness practices you can learn to notice these thoughts and let them pass giving you an inner peace and improving your resilience to stress.
Speaking of stress our next strategy is stress inoculation training. Stress inoculation training or SIT is a resilience building intervention designed to enhance skills to minimize the negative effects of a stressful event. The first step to SIT is education. You need to be educated on potential stressors, understand the signs or symptoms of stress, know self-help behaviors, and have resources for professional help.
The second phase includes skill acquisition and rehearsal where the individual develops and practices the coping skills and self-help behaviors.
The final phase includes continued training in increasingly stressful environments that will most closely mirror real world situations. There are many different forms of this therapy, but it is best done by a trained professional in either an individual or group setting.
Now that being said there are things you can do today to try and improve your stress resilience. Some of the best self-help behaviors include breathing practices. My favorite being box breathing which is a simple exercise where you breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and hold for a count of 4. This cycle is repeated for anywhere from 1-10 minutes and is a great way to calm the nervous system and give you a place to focus your attention. Generally, I would recommend starting this practice in a relatively stress free situation, and as is generally done in Stress Inoculation Training. Then continue to practice in increasingly stressful environments over time.
For years the mind and body were thought to be separate. This was the standard teaching in medical schools throughout the United States, but now it has become increasingly obvious that they are one and the same. When someone is compromised physically they will be more likely to develop physiological disorders and vice versa.
Training the mind is extremely important if you want to improve your overall resilience making you better able to remain well, recover, and even thrive in the face of adversity which is something we could all use a little more of in these trying times.
I hope that this has been helpful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below. If this resonated with you please share with your friends and family and subscribe and follow for more of this content. The time for action is now. Again this is Floyd Meyer. Have a great day!
Horn, S. R., Charney, D. S., & Feder, A. (2016). Understanding resilience: New approaches for preventing and treating PTSD. Experimental Neurology, 284, 119–132. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2016.07.002
Hwang, W. J., Lee, T. Y., Lim, K.-O., Bae, D., Kwak, S., Park, H.-Y., & Kwon, J. S. (2017). The effects of four days of intensive mindfulness meditation training (Templestay program) on resilience to stress: a randomized controlled trial. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 23(5), 497–504. doi:10.1080/13548506.2017.1363400
Liu, H., Zhang, C., Ji, Y., & Yang, L. (2018). Biological and Psychological Perspectives of Resilience: Is It Possible to Improve Stress Resistance? Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00326
Osório, C., Probert, T., Jones, E., Young, A. H., & Robbins, I. (2016). Adapting to Stress: Understanding the Neurobiology of Resilience. Behavioral Medicine, 43(4), 307–322. doi:10.1080/08964289.2016.1170661
Saunders, T., Driskell, J. E., Johnston, J. H., & Salas, E. (1996). The effect of stress inoculation training on anxiety and performance. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 1(2), 170–186. doi:10.1037/1076-89184.108.40.206