Building emotional resilience
By FOO SIOW HUEI
Stress is not just a feeling; stress is a natural body response to threat or challenges in life. The muscles in our bodies are designed to contract in times of danger and relax in times of safety.
The contraction of muscles helps to protect our bodies from harm or possible death. This mechanism is known as the “fight-flight” response.
On the other hand, when we feel safe and our muscles are relaxed, we are open to connect with each other. That is when relationships are strengthened and nurtured.
In modern days, we face tension and anxiety on a daily basis – starting from the time we commute to work (i.e. traffic jams), to meeting deadlines and firefighting when an unexpected emergency arises.
The build-up of tension in our bodies can be harmful to physical health and our interpersonal relationships, especially if these tensions are not released for our bodies to return to its original balanced state.
What is the impact of stress?
Prolonged tension stored in our bodies can cause many health issues. Common ones are muscle aches, insomnia or poor quality sleep, indigestion and low immunity.
When we are prone to falling sick, productivity and work performance can be badly affected. Stressed out people can get angry, irritated, anxious and depressed easily. They can also experience difficulty in getting things done because of their inability to focus.
When we are in “fight-flight” mode (contraction of muscles), we are no longer open to building interpersonal relationships.
In fact, very often, relationships with colleagues and family members can easily be strained when we are stressed. In this state, we focus solely on fixing things (fight) or avoiding social interaction by distancing ourselves from others (flight).
It is crucial for any team to function effectively to work towards common goals. According to teamwork expert, Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, lack of trust is the first obstacle standing in the way of team effectiveness.
Trust is the key to a successful team, as it opens up rooms for honest feedback, constructive debates and willingness to seek support. However, a stressed out individual tends not to trust people, for fear that his/her openness will expose him/her to similar threats or challenging situations as experienced before.
People under chronic tension often find themselves unable to trust, even though they may actually prefer to do so.
The remaining four dysfunctions as identified by Lencioni are:
- Fear of conflict
- Lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results
These symptoms can be easily identified in underperforming teams; and very soon, good team members will be driven away.
Building team resilience to cope with stress
Let’s face the reality of this modern world; we can’t avoid stress entirely. So, it is important to build a team with high emotional resilience to cope with daily stress and tension.
Many corporations dream to have team members with the ability to face adversity, navigate through stressful experiences and rise to the occasion with ease.
Engaging our bodies with stress relief exercises will be highly effective. Once our bodies break away from a tensed-up posture (contraction), our minds will be able to relax, and we will be able to connect with people around us.
Tension Releasing Exercises™ (TRE)
Created by Dr David Berceli, TRE is a simple technique that releases stress or tension which accumulate in our bodies from daily circumstances of life.
TRE is a revolutionary approach that deliberately uses the body’s own innate process of involuntarily shaking in a safe and controlled way, to physically release deep chronic muscular tension held within the body.
As the process uses a series of simple exercises to invoke tremors which are then self-regulated, it does not require recalling past events. We simply engage our bodies to release the stress and tension stored within.
TRE benefits many people in every aspect of an individual, and these include:
- Physical body – TRE reduces muscle and back pain. It promotes better sleep, and increases energy and endurance.
- Emotional level – TRE helps people manage workplace stress and anxiety better.
- Social level – TRE helps improve interpersonal relationships with less conflict and greater emotional resiliency.
TRE can be taught in one-to-one or group settings. This technique is gaining popularity around the world among organisations, companies and individuals from different walks of life. Testimonies from people who practise TRE mentioned how they have improved the way they handle stress.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
The key here isn’t about eliminating stress and pressure entirely; it is about how you and your team handle it as it comes. Building an emotionally resilient team with the ability to handle stress isn’t a one-day job.
With consistent practice of effective methods, it is very achievable. Always remember to engage both your mind and body, as they are very closely connected.
Other good habits to build emotional resilience
Taking care of your body
Many effective leaders make time to keep their bodies fit and healthy by having balanced diets, drinking enough water and engaging in physical activities.
Engaging in regular exercises such as jogging, yoga and swimming help to burn off extra adrenaline stored in our bodies from stressful times.
Keeping a positive attitude
Keep track of things you are grateful for; it can be some beautiful qualities you possess, or anything you see as a gift (e.g. nature or physical environment).
Consciously avoid saying or thinking ‘what you don’t want’ or ‘who you are not’. Instead, rephrase it to ‘what you want’ or ‘who you are’. For example, instead of saying “I don’t want to be angry”, say “I am being accepting and at peace.”
Maintaining good relationships with loved ones
Spending quality time with your loved ones can increase your oxytocin level. Oxytocin, also known as the “bonding hormone”, has the ability to lower anxiety and increase trust.