THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Increase Your Resilience Factor

Are your emotions spinning out of control more often? Do you find that inconveniences, impatience and frustration are getting to you, and you aren't able to let it all go like you once could? Do you feel tired or drained just thinking about your day and everything you need to get done? If you answered yes to any of these symptoms, it may be due to a lack of emotional resilience.

Think of your emotional resilience capacity like the amount of gas you have in your car. The more you have, the farther you can go. Building a reservoir of emotional resilience gives you the confidence to know you can make it through a potentially stressful situation; it gives you the energy to continue down the road after stress drains you; and it gives you the ability to quickly reset your system to perform in a normal, operational state.

Our resilience depletes when we feel resistant or compressed. For example, think about the resistance you feel when you find yet another major project has landed on your plate. Or your company is laying off 15 percent of your department and you have to pick up the slack. You're already feeling overloaded. Who wouldn't feel resistant or compressed?

We don't know about you, but more and more people we talk to are having multiple health and/or financial problems they never imagined before. To get through these tough times, we all need to build up our resilience capacity.

Building up our resilience capacity is so important because it helps reduce the emotional and physical effects of time crunch, overload, edginess, financial pressures, unexpected changes ... you know the list. Research is showing that these standard daily stressors have a cumulative effect that translates into resilience depletion. Plus, when we're low on resilience, we tend to add extra drama to a problem which magnifies the situation and creates even more drain. And that's when we spin out of control, make mistakes, say things we later regret, ignore our health, and so on.

In physics, resilience is the property of a material that enables it to bounce back and resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched, or compressed. (How often do you feel bent, stretched or compressed?) Bamboo trees are wonderful examples of being able to bend without breaking. Bamboo trees go through stress from nature, but they bounce back in a remarkable way. You may have no control over external factors but you can build up your internal resilience to maintain flexibility and balance in your life, like the bamboo tree, as you deal with challenging circumstances.

We all need resilience for optimal health, happiness and reducing stress. Building our emotional resilience capacity involves simple actions that can be easily learned. Here's one way to stop the drain and start building resilience:

The Power of Neutral

By learning how to activate the Power of Neutral you can prepare for a potentially stressful situation or stop a reaction in the middle of a stressful experience. Think of all the times you're listening to the news, surfing the web or in a meeting and you hear something that makes you angry or worried. Instead of letting the anger run or projecting fear into the future, you can use the Power of Neutral before and as you watch the news, surf the web or attend a meeting to build your resilience capacity and save all that emotional energy.

Here's a simple tool to shift into Neutral to build your resilience capacity. It's a lot like shifting into neutral in a car. Your engine is still running but you get to decide which way to go before you engage the gear again. Shifting into Neutral inside yourself gives you more vision and stops the emotional surge and energy drain so you can maintain resilience as you sort your options and choose how to respond.

  1. Take a time-out, breathing slowly and deeply. Imagine the air entering and leaving through the heart area or the center of your chest.
  2. Focus on your heart and breathing instead of focusing on your stressful thoughts and worried feelings.
  3. Continue until you have neutralized the emotional charge and you feel calmness throughout.

Use Step one as soon as you feel your emotions start to react. First you want to take a time-out by choosing to step back from your emotions. Heart breathing in Step one helps draw the energy out of your head, where negative thoughts and feelings get amped up. Breathe slowly and deeply in a casual way. Imagine the air entering and leaving through the center of your chest and heart area.

In Step two, disengage from your stressful thoughts and feelings as you continue to breathe. Just having the intent to disengage can help you neutralize a lot of your emotional energy.

In Step three, continue the process until you have chilled out and neutralized the emotional charge. This doesn't mean your anger or anxiety will have totally evaporated. It just means that the charged energy has been taken out and you have stopped the stress play out in your body.

Practicing the Power of Neutral often brings a sense of empowerment, confidence, appreciation and other positive emotions. When you're experiencing positive emotions more possibilities come into your view. Positive psychology researcher, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has found that: "Through experiences of positive emotions people transform themselves, becoming more creative, knowledgeable, resilient, socially integrated and healthy individuals."

Resilience should be at the top of all of our "must-have" lists if we are to effectively deal with today's time constraints, overload, financial worries, and the unexpected challenges to come. There are many ways to build mental, emotional and physical resilience. This is just one tool to get your started. Practice this resilience tool daily and watch your resilience tank fill.

  • Read more about how organizations are helping employees build more resilience.
  • Read about a new technology designed to reduce stress and build resilience.

We invite you to join our Facebook and Twitter pages and YouTube channel where the latest stress relief resources are often announced and made available. We also offer a Stress & Well-Being Survey™, the most comprehensive and accurate assessment tool that's available free over the Internet. The survey takes five to ten minutes to complete, and will provide you with a comprehensive picture of how much stress you are experiencing, your energy level and what areas are most stressful in your life. Results are followed by tips for improving your scores.

You can find out more about Doc Childre, Deborah Rozman and HeartMath at www.heartmath.com. Doc is founder of the non-profit Institute of HeartMath co-author of The HeartMath Solution and From Chaos to Coherence. Deborah is a psychologist and business executive, and co-author with Doc of Transforming Stress, Transforming Anger, Transforming Anxiety and Transforming Depression.