Are you resilient? Have you got what it takes to ride the most challenging waves of life? As a psychologist with a PhD and 20 years experience I thought I did. But I was wrong. Through adversity, I found out the hard way that there is a big difference between ‘knowing’ about resiliency and stress management and being able to ‘expertly apply’ these skills when you need them most.
But I am not the only one who ‘knows’ about resiliency and stress management. Most people know a fair bit about resiliency and the importance of stress management skills. They have read a few books, watched a few episodes of Oprah or Dr Phil and done some breathing or muscle relaxation. Despite this knowledge, the rates of depression, anxiety and stress are rapidly rising with 1 in 2 people on the planet (3.5 billion) likely to have a serious psychological disorder during their lives – WHY?
Surely it can’t be because we don’t have the knowledge needed to manage our stress? Perhaps it’s because, as the saying goes, ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ and ‘knowing’ about something is very different to being able to ‘expertly apply’ it to your life when you need it most!
Resiliency: Amateur vs Pro
Having some basic knowledge of resiliency and stress management is akin to being an ‘Amateur’ as opposed to being a ‘Professional’ where you have the knowledge and experience (AKA wisdom) to expertly apply the right skills, to the right situations, at the right time!
An Amateur is defined as ‘a person only having a superficial knowledge of a subject or activity‘ whereas a Professional is ‘a person who engages in an activity with great expertise, competence and skill’.
Clearly, if we have some knowledge of stress management yet still suffer from stress, anxiety or depression then we could not call ourselves a ‘Pro’ but need to accept our ‘Amateur’ status and seek more wisdom and skill to improve our ability to manage stress.
Having an ‘expert’ level of ability to manage stress is a very important part of being resilient and achieving your life goals. We all deserve to live the most successful lives possible and we owe it to ourselves to apply the extra effort needed in both learning and practice to become ‘expert’ at managing our own stress and thus move from Amateur to Pro!
Resilience: My Journey
You know, despite all my years of psychology study and training, sometimes I would find myself stressing out about things – and know that I was over-reacting, yet felt unable to stop the cycle of stress and worry. You see it wasn’t that I didn’t understand the theory of stress management – I am a reasonably bright guy with a PhD on the topic. I think, looking back now, it was that despite all my theoretical knowledge, I couldn’t simply and easily put this theory into practice when I needed it most.
To be more specific, I did not apply the knowledge and skills to my own life and understand my own reaction patterns, learning and motivational difficulties, and timeframes for improvement BEFORE I needed to rely on them most when I found myself facing some of the biggest Waves of Life. Looking back now on those difficult times, and reflecting on all my years of study and practice, I have found 7 simple truths that distinguish the Pros at resiliency and stress management from the Amateurs.
Amateur vs Pro: 7 Things You Need to Know!
- Waves of Life: Not All Waves Are Equal: Be Wise & First Measure Size!
When I realised how many different stressful life events I had to manage – all at the same time – I discovered I was a ‘high risk’ for a stress related illness. I needed to stop and measure the size of each of the current waves in my life objectively so I didn’t sweat the small stuff AND MORE IMPORTANTLY give myself enough recovery time from the big stuff! A Pro gets this right and makes the correct recovery adjustments every time!
Question: Do you know your current level of risk for stress related illness? Can you stop yourself from under or over-reacting to stressful life events?
- Wipeouts: Prevent Double Trouble by Stopping the Stress Cycle!
Stress reactions are normal but to become a Pro I needed to learn to prevent the stress reaction cycle and the double trouble of getting stressed about being stressed which causes the wipeouts of anxiety and depression.
Question: Can you recognise your early warning signs of stress and stop the double trouble cycle to prevent burnout?
- Optimal Wellbeing is About Balance in All 4 Elements – Not Just 1 or 2!
In order to turn Pro I needed to learn that Wellbeing is not just about having healthy mindsets but also having healthy approaches to emotions, lifestyle and purpose as well. Optimal wellbeing is about having balance in all 4 elements not just in 1 or 2.
Question: Can you balance all 4 elements of your wellbeing every day?
- Mindsets: A Pro Lives Free From Worry, Demand and Blame!
I needed to switch focus – from Worry to Acceptance, from Demanding to Encouraging, and from Blame to Responsibility. An Amateur will only be able to change one or two negative mindsets but a Pro will be able to change all three!
Question: Can you change your mindsets and live free from the need to worry, demand and blame?
- Emotions: The River Must Flow But Not Flood!
I needed to manage my emotions in healthy ways by keeping relaxed while problem solving where I could and using coping skills at other times. A Pro never makes a mistake in selecting the right strategies and this enables the river of emotions to flow but never flood – Problem Solving for things that can be changed and Coping Skills for things that cannot be changed!
Question: Can you recognise and manage your emotions effectively so the river of emotion flows but never floods?
- Lifestyle: A Healthy Body is Essential For a Healthy Mind!
I needed to maximise my sleep, keep exercising, eat a healthy diet and stay in touch with positive family and friends. A Pro balances all the lifestyle needs constantly whilst an Amateur only gets the balance right occasionally.
Question: Do you have the self-discipline needed to optimise your physical wellbeing every day?
- Purpose: You Need to Have a ‘Why’ in Both The Big and Small Picture of Life!
I needed to not lose sight of the big picture and keep doing small acts of kindness each day despite the challenges. A Pro achieves purpose in the small and big picture everyday – despite the obstacles and challenges whilst an Amateur often misses opportunities for purpose.
Question: Is your purpose in life clear in both the big and small picture? Are you living with a sense of fulfillment everyday?
When I fully understood these 7 simple truths I could quickly and easily develop a comprehensive Wellbeing Strategy to respond to any stressful Waves of Life – I was able to become resilient and thrive in the midst of life’s challenges. And, as time progressed, and some of the bigger waves and Tsunamis of Mid-Life struck – I was able to Ride the Waves of Life like a Pro and avoid the Wipeouts!
Ride The Waves of Life
The Stress Surfer
NEWSFLASH: My new book “Resiliency Pro: 7 Life Lessons to Surf the Big Waves of Life” is coming soon!