“Nerves of steel” or How to develop stress resistance

Jun 05, 2019

Every day a person is faced with various stressful situations. The only difference is how exactly he/she reacts to external negative factors. One person may feel as if repairing an apartment is a terrible turn of fate whereas  another maintains equanimity and calm even under a hail of more serious life blows. Psychologists say that an adult mature person must be able to withstand stress. He/she should not panic, but find the strength to act sensibly and rationally. How do you learn to stay calm even in difficult life situations? How can you resist stress? Some answers are in this article.

Contents:

Why it is important to be able to stay calm: stress resistance functions

Stress resistance is a set of personal qualities that allow a person to bear conative, intellectual, and emotional stress without negative consequences which affect their own activities, other people, and their own health. [1]

Scientists believe moderate stress can be beneficial. It is not as destructive as it might seem at first glance. Stress is a kind of training factor that “tempers” the human psyche, giving an impetus for self-development and mobilizing internal reserves for solving problems.

Yet if stress builds up, and physical and emotional reserves dry up, it has a destructive effect.

Stress resistance performs two important functions: it protects the body from the negative effects of stress and ensures success.

Protection against the negative effects of stress on the body

When a person is very nervous, hormone cortisol begins to be actively produced in his/her body. It is this hormone that is responsible for those changes that occur at both the physical and emotional level. Headaches can occur, the heartbeat becomes more frequent, and blood pressure can rise even after a slight nerve strain. All this does not pass without trace. Constant physical and emotional stress with a low level of stress resistance negatively affects one’s health.

In the study by psychologist B. B. Velichkovsky a regularity between the level of individual resistance to stress and the state of human health was revealed. It was found that an adequate reaction to negative external factors leads to a decrease in the likelihood of developing acute and chronic diseases. It was also concluded that a person with a high level of stress resistance is much less likely to use unhealthy methods of coping with stress – for example, smoking or drinking alcohol. [2]

Provides success in all social fields

A person with developed stress resistance is calm, self-confident, responsive to what is happening and is able to methodically and rationally solve problems that arise. Such a reaction to stress allows him/her to build healthy relationships with others and to climb up the career ladder.

If person has too vivid a reaction when faced with stress, it prevents them from reaching professional heights and alienates other people.

Degrees of stress resistance

In psychology, there is a classification of stress resistance. [3] All people, depending on how they respond to external negative factors, can be divided into 4 types:

  1. Stress-nonresistant

For a stress-nonresistant person, nervous strain is a common condition. He/she does not know how to resist stress and is not able to control his/her emotions in any critical situation – even when the problem is easily solved. Stress-nonresistant people do not like to, and do not know how to leave their comfort zone. They often inadequately respond to negative influences from the outside and can become angry, irritable, loud, and show open aggression. People who cannot cope with stress rarely become leaders, and if they do occupy high posts, then subordinates and business partners are often reluctant to deal with them. To ensure that a stress-nonresistant person does not plunge into the abyss of their own fears and panic, he/she often needs outside help –  not only in the form of advice and support of loved ones, but by a professional psychologist.

Common opinions from stress-nonresistant people:

  • “I try to avoid stress in my life. But if some kind of trouble nevertheless happens, I break down and stay like that for a long time”.
  • “I try to find a rational solution in any stressful situation. But for this I need to withdraw into myself for a significant period of time and concentrate, so I must take a break”.
  • “When trying to resolve a conflict, I always postpone the clarification of relations to the last moment – I wait until everything settles”.
  1. Stress-viscous

Various negative phenomena can be very strongly reflected on stress-viscous people, but nevertheless they find the strength to fight (often not without the help of their loved ones). They are able to calmly survive the exit from their comfort zone and know how to withstand the current stresses of work. If the situation suddenly changes, they can even become leaders in solving problems. But stress-viscous people are prone to apathy in low-intensity stressful conditions. In such cases, they need the help of a psychologist.

Common opinions from stress-viscous people:

  • “I try to push minor difficulties away – I think that maybe everything will suddenly settle on its own”. But when stress overwhelms me, I can wallow in apathy for a long time, not doing anything”.
  • “Even when all the troubles are already behind me, I can still experience stress for a long time. I turn the circumstances of what happened over and over in my head”.
  • “I always postpone any conflict to the last moment. I wait for things to work out on their own”.
  1. Stress-trained

Stress-trained people also worry about life problems, but their difficulties only temper them. They are ready to develop and, over time, find their own effective ways to increase their level of stress resistance. Such a person is ready for any difficult situations. He/she looks at all negative things as new personal experiences, which will certainly come in handy in the future. Even stress-trained people cannot get out of problematic situations without losses, but they never get depressed.

Common opinions from stress-trained people:

  • “Situations that were initially stressful to me have become completely mundane over time”.
  • “I don’t really understand how minor troubles that often happen to me can be stressful for anyone”.
  • “I manage the stress relatively easy. I just say to myself “this is what we have already gone through” and get down to solving the problem. Soon everything returns to normal”.
  1. Stress-resistant

It is the stress-resistant people who are able to get out of difficult situations most quickly. They seem to wear iron armor and difficulties do not “break” them. Employers appreciate stress-tolerant people since such workers quickly find the right solution even in cases of serious force majeure. They are quick to relieve pressure after experiencing stress.

However, there is a flip side as stress-resistant people can create stress for themselves and others. They like to stay “toned”.

Common opinions from stress-resistant people:

  • “I mobilize during stress and I can do 100 times more than in my normal state”.
  • “I have little fear in this life. And I like to experience constant shake-ups, they mobilize my internal reserves”.

Work and stress: how not to “burn out” at work

  1. “I have been working for a very successful company for 4 years. My position involves ongoing conferences and presentations. I never liked this kind of activity, but when I got the job, I thought that I would get used to it. But no, my job is eternal stress. I panic before every seminar and I cannot sleep the night before because of fear. Now the leadership has imposed on me another complex project. I’m already not coping well with other projects of mine, but there’s also this extra load. I’m all nerves, I have absolutely no time for my child. I don’t know how to increase stress resistance at work. I already have a depressed mood every day. Sometimes I think that it would be better to just leave.

    – Tatyana, 33, PR manager

    It is in the work environment that stressful situations most often arise. And how skillfully one copes with current tasks largely characterizes one’s professionalism and potential as a specialist in a particular field. Many employers prefer stress-resistant candidates for you can rely on them as they easily establish contact with subordinates and business partners.

    A person with a low level of stress tolerance in a difficult situation is likely to panic, which prevents him/her from solving the problem. He/she is not self-confident and this makes it difficult to communicate with colleagues and bosses. It is difficult for such an employee to present his/her ideas, which means that the employee is destined to almost always be in the shadow of  colleagues. He/she is keenly criticized and afraid to assert rights.

    Sociologists name several causes of stress at work:

    • fear of losing one’s job during periods of unemployment and financial instability;
    • performing overly complex work because of the desire to prove oneself to the boss;
    • continuous improvement of requirements by management;
    • lack of definition of job duties
    • unfair distribution of wages between employees;
    • conflicting relationships with bosses and colleagues. [4]

    Each person, depending on the profession and functional responsibilities at work, puts their own meaning to the concept of “stress resistance”. For a sales manager, this is the ability to calmly respond to negativity from a potential customer. A senior manager understands stress resistance as the ability to soberly analyze the situation and make the right decisions in force majeure.

    Negative emotions and depression do not help in any kind of activity, whatever the position held. Improving stress resistance should be the goal of everyone who wants to achieve success in their careers.

Everything under control: stress resistance test

To diagnose the level of stress tolerance, psychologists use various tests. One of the questionnaires was developed by Schreiner. [5] The test is suitable for self-diagnosis as it allows you to establish whether you are coping with stressful situations productively or unproductively. This is a chance to understand whether the applied methods of self-regulation are effective in combating external circumstances.

The Schreiner questionnaire consists of 9 statements. Those that can be answered positively must be marked.

  • I try to always finish my work, but often do not have time and have to spend extra hours on it.
  • When I look at myself in the mirror, I notice signs of fatigue and overwork on my face.
  • There is a heap of trouble always waiting for me both at home and at work.
  • I can’t fight my bad habits, although I try.
  • I am worried about my own future.
  • I often need cigarettes, sleeping pills or alcohol to relieve emotional stress.
  • I lose my presence of mind when something suddenly changes in my life.
  • I love my loved ones, but I often feel boredom and emptiness even in their company.
  • I have not achieved anything in life and often experience disappointment in myself.

Count the number of positive answers. Each “yes” answer is 1 point. Now you can process the results.

  • 0-4 points. You have a restrained reaction to stressful situations and the ability to control your negative emotions. It’s not in your nature to constantly be annoyed and blame yourself.
  • 5-7 points. You do not always have an adequate response to external stresses. You can restrain your anger if you wish, but in some cases negative emotions dominate you. It is necessary to tackle the development of individual methods of self-control in stress.
  • 8-9 points. You are emotionally exhausted and overworked. You often lose control in a stressful situation and do not know how to keep yourself in check. You and others suffer. The main task is to find effective ways to increase your stress resistance.

How to develop stress resistance

A great contribution to the study of the effects of stress on the human body was made by the Russian scientist H. Aliyev. [6] He offers the following recommendations on how to deal with stress:

  • Tolerance to the behavior of others, desire to find compromise solutions in difficult situations.
  • Improving personal self-esteem.
  • Effective distribution of physical and emotional load.
  • Active use of relaxation techniques: meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, massage, soothing baths.
  • An interesting hobby that helps to not get hung up on an unpleasant household routine.
  • Alternating different types of recreation – active, passive and intellectual.
  • Refusal of bad habits that only temporarily relieve stress (smoking, alcohol, active change of sexual partners).
  • Healthy sleep.

If independent work upon the problem does not bring the desired effect, it is important not to miss the moment when the “protracted” stress begins to take on a chronic nature.

Often, an inadequate response to stressful situations is a habit that has become a model of behavior. A person gets used to reacting to problems in  certain ways, such as turning in upon himself/herself, getting annoyed, losing control of his/her own emotions or spilling the accumulated negativity on others. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique has been shown to be effective in the development of stress tolerance at work and in other life situations.

This scientifically substantiated, certified method is based on the theories of I. P. Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, A. A. Ukhtomsky and others. The course will help change the pathological model of behavior that prevents you from effectively dealing with stress. The goal of the course is to form positive attitudes and replace the negative with them, which will help participants not to panic and to keep calm even in case of force majeure. The mindset developed during the course will give strength to solve emerging problems with a cool head. This is far more effective than anger, irritation and fear.

The course is designed to take 2-6 weeks. Training is conducted remotely and you will study at a convenient time at home. A personal psychologist will help you to complete the training program in full and he/she will answer questions by phone and e-mail, or in online chat rooms. Participation in the program is confidential. It’s not necessary for colleagues and even loved ones to know that you are undergoing a behavior modification program.

The development of stress resistance means an opportunity to enjoy life in all its manifestations and boldly meet your goals, despite the obstacles.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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