Feelings of panic, stress and uncertainty were likely felt by many throughout New Zealand during the earthquakes on Monday. As New Zealanders, earthquake stress is something we are learning to address and understand. There are opportunities to support each other, develop strategies to cope and be prepared for the future.
Some people are able to ‘keep calm and carry on’ in the aftermath of natural disasters, while others experience considerable emotional distress. Your ability to bounce back after stress is referred to as resilience and involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that are learnt. The first step in building your resilience is to recognise your stress response.
When do you feel stressed?
We all felt stress to varying degrees during Monday’s earthquakes. But what about other stressors? Do you have work pressures, relationship issues, financial concerns, or anxiety leading up to Christmas? Knowing what causes your stress is the first step to empowering your health and taking back some of the control that stress disables. It is an opportunity to do things differently and to break unhelpful patterns of behaviour.
For example, earthquakes are unpredictable and leave us feeling powerless. Therefore, having an emergency plan and a survival kit may help to reduce your stress in the face of another earthquake.* Are there other ways to better manage your workload? Can you block set times in your calendar for checking and responding to emails, making calls, or taking a walk outside? Thinking about ways to reduce your stress is the important next step in helping to improve your well-being and resilience.
The benefits of resilience
When you develop ways to manage and reduce your stress levels, you are on the path to becoming happier and healthier. The benefits to your wellbeing are widely known – better sleep, stronger immunity, better digestion, lower blood pressure, balanced hormones, reduced cravings, more energy, and healthy sex drive.
When stress is managed in the workplace, employees are more productive and engaged. They have the space to be creative. Working relationships improve and conflict is better managed. Decision making is improved, and there is less staff turnover and absenteeism.
How resilient are you?
Do you agree with the first set of statements, or the second set?
- You are a certain kind of person and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
- You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.
- No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
- You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.
According to researcher Carol Dweck, if you find you agree more with the first set, you have a ‘fixed mindset’, while the second set is a ‘growth mindset’.
Your mindset has an impact on your resilience or your ability to bounce back after stress. So if you blame yourself and your capabilities, you’re likely to have a fixed mind-set. But, if instead, you tell yourself: “that’s frustrating, what could I do differently next time?” you’re more likely to have a growth mind-set.
Building resilience and well-being
Resilience and well-being go hand-in-hand. So, how can you become more resilient?
- If you are a perfectionist, remember that some things are out of your control. You can, however, control how you respond
- Give yourself permission to create boundaries. Say ‘no’ in an assertive way to requests you simply don’t have time for, or cannot do
- Identify the sources of your stress and list the actions you can take that would reduce them
- Make time-out for you a priority. Do things you enjoy to feel energised again
- Prioritise getting enough sleep
- Exercise regularly to strengthen your body and relax your mind
- Eat nutritious food to give your body the fuel it needs to repair and process
- Reduce body stressors such as caffeine, alcohol and drugs
- Talk with a counsellor or friend to get a new perspective
- See a doctor if you need help with anxiety, depression, or addictions.
If you are wanting to take control of your coping strategies, our new course on Resilience and Wellbeing will help. Focusing on identifying and addressing the stressors in your life, you will discover ways to take control.
* Organisations can get through disasters by being ‘good employers’ says professor Bernard Walker. Walker is the associate professor of HR management and organisational behaviour at Canterbury University. He co-authored a 2013 study which analysed organisational responses following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. Download these useful resources for your organisaton: Building Adaptive Resilience which is about the longer term process of building resilience in organisations, and Staff or Stuffed on creating resilience in people.
Written by Chantell.