THE BLOG
01/13/2010 11:03 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Here's How to Up Your Stress Hardiness

Every so often in our practice we meet a few super-ladies who appear to be resistant to stress. They adjust to change with ease, responding to stressful situations in an effective way. Dr. Suzanne Kobasa, a psychologist at City University of New York, identifies this style of coping as "hardiness." In this economic climate, whether you have a job or are looking for one, every woman we know wants to know how to become more stress resistant.

Stress hardiness is not the avoidance of stress; it is a positive response to stressful situations and the ability to minimize their negative effects. The good news is that you can learn to become stress hardy at any stage of life, and doing so can change the relationship between stress and illness.

By studying business executives over eight years, Dr. Kobasa found three personality traits in those who remained the healthiest as their company underwent a major restructuring. These traits protected some of the executives and managers from the terrible physiological effects of stress. She measured emotional responses, including depressed mood, anxiety, displeasure and anger. She also studied loss of confidence, distrust, despair, worry, unrealistic wishes, inactivity, withdrawal and impatience.

She discovered three attitudes that will increase hardiness: commitment, control and challenge.

COMMITMENT
Commitment is having a sense of purpose for why you are doing what you are doing. It means being involved in family, work and having a social network. It may also mean that you practice a religious faith or are rooted in strong personal values. Such involvement supports you in solving your problems without letting stress disrupt your goals. Commitment also means dedication to a task and the belief that it is achievable.

CONTROL
The need for too much control can be a huge source of stress. There are two types of control: internal and external. People who have an internal locus of control know that they can't influence all the external events in their lives; instead they feel they have a choice in how they react to those stressors. Those with an external locus of control believe that they have little control over what happens to them, and that fate or destiny dictates their circumstances.

A healthy perspective on control helps you focus on events you can influence and stop worrying about things you can't. You believe you can actively chart the course of your life by solving problems and making decisions. Even if things don't work out as planned, at least you haven't passively accepted something that makes you unhappy. Knowing that you cannot control every detail of your life and being aware of what you can control can definitely help you cut down on stress.

CHALLENGE
Challenge is really a mind-set about change. Stress-hardy people are not frightened by change because they regard it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. They view change as a challenge that they want to confront rather than as something to avoid. They are willing to work through difficult circumstances and even look forward to the chance to think creatively.

The global recession is stressing out a lot of women. By embodying the following qualities, you will deal with the ups and downs more effectively:

  • Have a sense of meaning, direction and purpose that animates your life

  • Let your values guide you rather than your emotions. View emotions as a source of energy and motivation but keep in mind they are not always reliable guides

  • Motivate yourself to take action and concentrates on what you want, not on what you don't want

  • Have a strong social network and rely on the support of others reasonably

  • Have a sense of humor and be optimistic. You don't always need to take yourself too seriously

  • Evaluate your ways of thinking and behaving and makes changes if they are not working

  • View adversity as a challenge rather than a threat. Try your best to grow and learn from whatever happens

  • Look for solutions that work for everyone

  • Know its okay mourn life's inevitable losses

  • Let go of things and that you have no control over

  • Be grateful for the good things in your life

For other ways to fight stress through nutrition, exercise and relaxation, get a copy of So Stressed: The Ultimate Stress-Relief Plan for Women today. http://www.amazon.com/So-Stressed-Ultimate-Stress-Relief-Women/dp/1416593586/re