Strengthening Your Resilience Muscle

Resilience, one of the hot topics in my holistic wellness bubble, easily defined as “the ability to resist or recover from adverse effects of a stressor”.  It is most often referenced for its psychological or social implications.  What most people don’t realize is that resilience is systemic, having an influence on our health, biology, and physiology. 

Anytime I can find techniques that cross the mind/body barrier and are backed by science, pump up the volume……  I’m doing the happy dance…..  (references available upon request)

Imagine resilience as a muscle, like any muscle you can train it in the gym and those benefits go with you far outside the gym.  Hence the breathing techniques and mindfulness recommendations you’ve seen pass through your inbox.  What you didn’t know about those techniques is that they can also help you lose weight, build muscle, increase hormone balance, improve performance, aid in immunity, and more.  

Resilience is the scientific link to understanding the relationship between mind and body.

When physiological (intense workout) or psychological (bad day at work) stress occurs, the body responds the same, sending electro-chemical signals throughout the body to up-regulate certain systems and down-regulate others.  Learning to control this is a skill that both high performing business professionals and professional athletes have in common. No coincidence there! 

In addition to psychological resilience training such as meditation, practicing gratitude, and choosing to respond vs react to emotionally stressful situations, here are 3 ways you can train your physical body to better adapt to stress.  

Reverse focus Interval training - most people think of interval training in terms of how high you can get intensity to go, reverse the focus and work on your recovery. 

For example 30 seconds of vigorous activity followed by as much time as it feels for your body (hear rate, breathing) to be fully recovered.  The less time it takes you to recover from interval sets, the higher your resilience. If you have a heart rate monitor you can be much more specific about your recovery. (ask me)

For longer periods of exercise, work to exert more effort with less exertion.  Do this by controlling your heart rate and breathing to be as calm/slow as possible, backing off your intensity just before you feel your stress response engaging.  

Incorporate gentle strength training, chose a series of exercises to get started, go slowly for 10 to 15 repetitions each to a point that your muscles just get tired, learn to start here and increase resistance, repetitions, and intensity as your body begins to adapt. 

Learning to find/feel your physiological stress threshold will help you feel psychological stress in your body when it is happening.  Having a well-trained stress response enhances all areas of your life, health, and well-being.