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“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf”

| Sarah Mockett

A lovely quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is of course referring to the inevitability of stress. We can’t avoid it, but we can learn how to bounce back after exposure to it.

This is resilience. For more on resilience please login to the Tonic and Me and check out this month’s topic. If you are not yet a subscriber, enquire here.

Our bodies aren’t designed for contemporary social threats like angry bosses, isolation, or work deadlines. Long-term exposure to the stress hormone cortisol lowers our ability to control inflammation in our bodies. Low level, chronic inflammation can be triggered by chronic stress.

When this inflammation continues without being addressed, we increase our risk of heart, brain, digestive and hormonal diseases. The connection between inflammation and depression is significant, and chronic stress also makes us more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. So, as the return to the work place begins, and demands on our time increase, can anything be done to increase our resilience?

According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is not a trait that people just have or do not have. It’s something that can be learned and developed by adopting certain behaviours, thoughts and actions.

Physical health is a component of mental, emotional and spiritual health, and all of these areas need to be nurtured in order to increase our ability to bounce back from a stressful event.

These are all habits that cultivate resilience:

Nutrition Humour Values Positive relationships
Fasting Competence Purpose Hope
Exercise Reflection Creativity Gratitude
Cold therapy Savouring Breathwork Compassion
Nature Optimism Mindfulness Journaling
Light Autonomy Art Social support

You can build these habits in to your daily working routine. If you know you’re going to have a busy or demanding day, then make sure you start with a good breakfast – one that contains protein to sustain your energy and concentration until midday. Take the time to prepare it the night before if necessary. Take a prepared lunch with you instead of reaching for stodgy canteen carbs.

Or savour that coffee – make the experience as good as it can be. Choose a really good coffee; one that has healthful properties, such as the Exhale brand. Whilst making your brew, think about the entire process of getting that coffee to your desk and everyone who is involved in that process. Smell the aroma as the coffee brews, connect with the taste and feel gratitude whilst you sip.

Improvements in resilience can be objectively measured using Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. It’s measured on a scale of 0-10. A higher score is desirable, as this indicates resilience and flexibility – someone who is able to switch gears quickly.

HRV can be measured by using a chest strap heart rate monitor and down loading a free app to translate the data. This is more accurate than finger or wrist devices, but not thought to be quite as accurate as the electrocardiogram method. However, for those who enjoy figures, it can provide a way to provide insight and track progress whilst working through a programme of change.

If you are interested individually or as a team or organisation in HRV, resilience and wellbeing then you need to enquire about this:


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