You probably know what a soccer coach is, and you may be familiar with the idea of a career coach. But how about a resilience coach?
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"A resilience coach is someone who helps people get on with transforming lives even when they're struggling with stress, conflict and burnout," explains Krystyna Kidson, MPsych, a psychologist and pastoral supervisor who runs a stress and resilience coaching practice from Sydney, Australia.
She likens the mind, heart and body to a car engine. "Together, they power our conscious actions and drive us wherever we need to go," she says.
But stress of any kind can be like fuel impurities clogging up an engine, she adds, making it hard to stay on track and keep working toward our goals.
"As a psychologist and resilience coach, I act like a master mechanic, showing people how to fine-tune their own engines so they can show up for the people who matter to them, do what matters and stay efficient, reliable and resilient under pressure," she explains.
If that sounds like what you need these days, consider these stress-relief tips from Kidson and clinical therapist Nicole Weis, LPC, LAC, peer support program manager at the National Institute for Human Resilience at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS).
1. Recognize What's Going Well
"In times of stress or trauma, the negative tends to weigh heavy on us," Weis says. "Talking about what is going well and what we're strong in can help pull us out of that negativity."
In a March 2016 Behaviour Research and Therapy study, people either visualized or wrote about positive outcomes to the things worrying them, or visualized positive images unrelated to the concerns on their minds. In all three instances, anxiety decreased, suggesting that focusing on positives may help counter stress.
2. Look Around You for Support
Most of us have access to help. However, we may not realize everything that's out there. Think about what resources you have that you could use to do even better, Weis says. Are there community groups, online programs or even neighbors or friends of friends who could lend a hand and ease your stress?
- Instead of doom-scrolling on social media, use platforms like Facebook to find groups of like-minded people that you can add to your support network
- Take an online course geared toward stress-reduction techniques, such as UCCS's free online resilience program
- When you can't see friends and family in person, lean on get-togethers via Zoom or FaceTime, or mix it up by working out together virtually
3. Let Go of Unhelpful Thoughts
"Our mind is a master storyteller," Kidson says. While some of the stories it tells are true, others are about things we want to do or how we see ourselves and our world around us. And those stories can cause distress when they tell us things like, "What if you mess up?" or "You're not good enough."
When these kinds of negative thoughts occur, first observe them. Notice if you feel any sensations in your body when you have these thoughts, Kidson says, and simply breathe slowly.
Once you have this step down, the next step is to come up with a thought that is true to replace this one. For example: "I may not do this perfectly, but I will give it my best, and that's good enough. Plus, I can grow from any mistakes."
It may seem cliché, but this tool has been shown to work, according to the January 2020 book Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
"The more we reach out and help others, the more we build our own resilience."
4. Truly Connect With Others
When we see someone we know, the tendency is to ask a very quick, 'How are you?' and engage in a surface-level conversation. Go deeper.
"Purposefully ask how they're really doing and re-establish those relationships," Weis says. "Even a five- to 10-minute conversation leads to more meaningful connections. And the more we reach out and help others, the more we build our own resilience."
Plus, having social support appears to help us be more resilient to stress, according to The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
5. Reflect on Past Successes
"I firmly believe that because we are still existing in this world, with all this stress, that means we have some level of resilience already," Weis says. "Everyone has gone through some stress; they dug deep and got through."
Think about other situations in the past when you were stressed and identify what helped you get through those times.
"This helps us realize, 'I am here, I am resilient,'" Weis explains.
She gives the example of living through a house fire, almost losing her entire house and remembering how many people in her social network connected and offered help. So, the next time she's under a great deal of stress, she might reach out to talk to friends and family and see if that helps again.
6. Make Time for Self-Care
"Give yourself permission to take a break from all the stress right now," Weis recommends. "Tell yourself that it's OK to take time for yourself."
This goes against societal pressures to go, go, go and never stop going. But taking a day to do nothing or hike in the woods can help create the physical distance you need to mentally get away, relax and recover.
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- Behaviour Research and Therapy: "The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder"
- StatPearls: "Cognitive Behavior Therapy"
- The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley: "Four Ways Social Support Makes You More Resilient"