Resilience tip #1 - It happens! What, stress? Sometimes.

May 31, 2016

Let's be realistic: Life is not always smooth sailing. Stress happens. We cannot predict adversity, illness, losses, etc.  Yet, people with good mental health have an ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep moving in a positive direction in the face of stress and adversity. This ability is called Resilience. Resilience involves thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

 

Let's consider our thoughts about stress. "Stress is always bad for you." -- is this a myth or a fact?

 

I will answer this question with a story by a well known psychiatrist and a rabbi, Dr. Abraham Twerski. One day, Dr. Twerski was waiting in a dental office and happened upon an article that described how lobsters grow. The article pointed out that a lobster is a soft and mushy animal that lives inside of the rigid shell and that rigid shell does not expand. As the lobster grows, that shell becomes very confining and the lobster feels itself under pressure and very uncomfortable. It goes under a rock formation to protect itself from predators, casts off its shell and produces a new one. Eventually that shell becomes very uncomfortable as the lobster grows, so he goes under the rock formation again and sheds off that shell and the process repeats itself numerous time.

 

Reflecting on the article, Dr. Twerski posits that the stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable. If lobsters had doctors, he jokes, they would never grow because as soon as the lobster feels uncomfortable, he would go to the doctor, get a Valium or a Percocet, feel fine and never get a new shell. Dr. Twerski suggests that we realize that the times of stress are also times that signal for growth.

 

Stress is not always bad for us. Recognizing that living a stress free life is not possible leads to more realistic expectations about life. The issue, really, is how we perceive stress and how wisely we manage it. 

 

 

 

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