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“Park, Denise. “Learning New Skills Keeps an Aging Mind Sharp.” Association for Psychological Science. 21 October 2013. Accessed 21 September 2017. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/learning-new-skills-keeps-an-aging-mind-sharp.html.[/fm] Flexibility and adaptability can …”
Stress, unfortunately, is part of our everyday lives. Sometimes it’s just the little daily aggravations such as traffic jams that cause us to be late, and other times it is more serious occurrences like the loss of a job or medical problems that put us under extreme pressure. But have you noticed that some people seem to fall apart over the slightest stressful event, while others are literally the definition of “grace under pressure”? Well, it turns out there may be some reasons. New research has now identified a number of character traits that appear to help us handle stress more smoothly.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, found that there are nine aspects of personality that may provide people with better coping skills in stressful situations.[fn] Brown, Daniel J.; et al. “Human Thriving: A Conceptual Debate and Literature Review.” European Psychologist. 7 September 2017. Accessed 20 September 2017. http://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/abs/10.1027/1016-9040/a000294.[/fn] This conclusion was reached by analyzing numerous investigations focused on individuals who flourish in various facets of life including their careers, physical fitness, academic records, and artistic achievements. Based on all of the traits that were associated with success under pressure in any area examined, the researchers compiled a list of those that appear most consistently.
The nine qualities that may enable you to best deal with stress include:
- Spirituality or religious belief
- Proactive approaches
- Love of learning
- Social competence
- Self-confidence and self-esteem
Not all of these are required to help you cope with whatever comes your way, but the investigators found that any combination of several of the nine is the key to flourishing in the face of adversity. In addition, they noted some external influences that tended to create a better situation for the person under stress. These included the presence of opportunities of some kind, a relatively calm environment, support from family members or employers, a great amount of autonomy, being trusted by others, and facing challenges that felt manageable.
While these results might not be an earthshattering breakthrough in our understanding of the human psyche, they are a good reminder of the kinds of qualities that can help us persevere in hardship and come out stronger for having experienced it. And if you know that some of these traits are not your strongest suits, you can make the effort to grow as a person and improve yourself. It can be done. In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character.[fn] Sunny Bonnell. “Want to Build Brand Character? Look to Benjamin Franklin.” linkedin December 3, 2015. (Accessed 21 Sep 2017.) http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/want-build-brand-character-look-benjamin-franklin-sunny-bonnell
[/fn] He literally built himself one character trait at a time.
Make decisions based on what you truly believe in, whether that is determined by your religious background or your personal set of ethics and values. You will feel a much stronger sense of conviction and ability to get through tough situations when you do. Try to spend some time each day thinking of all of the positive areas in your life and everything for which you are thankful. Make an exercise of jotting these thoughts down daily to ensure you do it, which gives you something to look back on when things don’t go your way, perhaps helping you attain a more optimistic point of view.
Build your self-confidence by surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and truly happy when things go your way. Life is too short to spend time with those who are full of negativity. And you can also increase your self-confidence by doing things you are good at, whether these pursuits are athletic, intellectual, or something else entirely. That may also raise your motivation levels, because any time you know you can accomplish something successfully, it can inspire you to face down the task and get it done.
A love of learning is wonderful to cultivate at any age and can open paths to all kinds of knowledge. Plus, it is great for your brain as you age, with a 2013 study at the University of Texas at Dallas showing that learning new skills is an effective method of preventing cognitive decline.[fn] Park, Denise. “Learning New Skills Keeps an Aging Mind Sharp.” Association for Psychological Science. 21 October 2013. Accessed 21 September 2017. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/learning-new-skills-keeps-an-aging-mind-sharp.html.[/fm] Flexibility and adaptability can be improved by training yourself to look at the big picture so you can see how much less significant some things along the way really are and adopting a roll-with-the-punches sort of attitude. To help you achieve the right state of mind, you might want to try mindfulness practice, which was found in a 2017 study at Pennsylvania State University in State College to combat stress significantly.[fn] Raja-Khan, Nazia; et al. “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Women with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Obesity. 7 July 2017. Accessed 21 September 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.21910/abstract.[/fn] Living a healthy lifestyle in general can also go a long way toward feeling good about yourself and increasing your ability to thrive under pressure. And of course, you can always give yourself a little assist with nutraceuticals such as ashwagandha, theanine, and bacopa, which are all known to help relieve stress and improve focus.