Personal Resiliency Can Help Control Stress

There is documentation that shows a significant proportion of stress can be attributed to our perceptions of events, and how we process what we’re experiencing. That is to say, two people can experience the same set of circumstances, and one person will be energized and excited, while the other feels stressed and overwhelmed. A third person in the same situation may feel some stress, but not to the point of feeling overwhelmed.

The differences in these reactions can translate into a greater feeling of personal happiness and life satisfaction, and even improved health for those who feel less stressed by the events of their lives.


Personality Factors

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Some of us are born more reactive to stress. Nurses in hospitals have been able to identify such differences in the temperaments of babies who are only one day old. Some infants react more negatively to physical stimulation or change than others who remain relatively unfazed.

These temperament changes are inborn and enduring but can be minimized to an extent with childhood experiences and efforts made as adults.


Optimistic Thinking

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Optimists have been found to be healthier and happier, as well as more successful in life. Optimists tend to minimize and de-personalize the negative events that occur in their lives while focusing on and taking personal credit for positive events. This causes increased resilience as well as greater confidence, stronger personal relationships, and other positive life events.

Some people are more naturally prone to optimism than others. Optimism is also a habitual thinking pattern that can be learned and cultivated.

Other thinking styles that affect people’s stress levels (and the stress levels of those around us) include Type A personality features and perfectionistic tendencies. 


Healthy Physical Habits

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We all function better when our bodies are in prime condition. Therefore, those who take better care of themselves, in general, usually have the reserves to handle stressful situations better than those who don’t take care of themselves as well.

We tend to underestimate the value of things like getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. However, such healthy habits can put you into a better position to handle the stress that comes into your life.


Quick Coping Skills

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Those who have healthy coping skills, in the face of stressful situations, can recover more quickly from the major and minor stressors that come each day.

While there are many ways to relieve stress, each with their benefits, it’s important to have a few stress relievers on hand. They will help when you are in a moment of frustration or when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

The relievers will turn off your body’s stress response and return your body’s systems to a state of equilibrium (as the fight-or-flight response creates many physiological changes that can make a calm reaction more difficult). This allows you to respond to stressful situations rationally rather than react in a less healthy way.


Locus of Control

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The term "locus of control" refers to whether you feel your life is controlled by you or by forces outside yourself.

Those with an internal locus of control feel that they have a choice in their lives and control over their circumstances. Conversely, those with an external locus of control feel more at the mercy of external events.

As you may have guessed, those with a more internal locus of control tend to feel happier, more free, and less stress. They also enjoy better health (likely because they experience less of the damaging chronic stress that can come from feeling powerless) and are more satisfied with life in general.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those with an external locus of control are more susceptible to depression as well as other health problems. They tend to keep themselves in situations where they will experience additional stress, feeling powerless to change their circumstances, which adds to their stress load.

Your locus of control can be shaped by events in your childhood or adulthood (whether you were able to have a substantial impact on your environment can lead to a sense of empowerment or of learned helplessness) and perpetuated by habitual thinking patterns.

Press Play for Advice On Reducing Worry

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to stop focusing on things you can't control. Click below to listen now.

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By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.