Date posted: 24/09/2019

Build your resilience: 5 ways to handle stress and anxiety

What should you do when things don't go as planned? For example, when you fail an important exam, or don't get the job or internship you were gunning for. Psychologist Snow Chen shares her tips for building personal resilience.

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The 2016 National Tertiary Student Wellbeing Survey, conducted by Headspace and the National Union of Students and completed by thousands of tertiary students aged 16 to 25 across Australia, revealed that 83.2% identified "feeling stressed" as the mental health problem affecting their studies1.

While it can be comforting to know that your peers might feel similarly to you, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try to learn how to better manage stress and negative thoughts.

According to Snow Chen, Consulting Psychologist at Revelian, building personal resilience is an effective and widely practiced strategy that has many benefits including improved mental and physical wellbeing, better relationships and increased productivity.

1. https://headspace.org.au/assets/Uploads/headspace-NUS-Publication-Digital.pdf

Here are Snow's five top tips for building personal resilience:

1) Take time for self-reflection

Snow believes being aware of your emotions and the potential trigger behind what you are feeling can help you understand what caused them. Once you have this understanding, she says you can then change your behaviour to reduce potential negative emotions and increase positive ones.

"Self-reflection allows you to clarify and recognise your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours and allows the opportunity to learn about yourself. You can understand your current state by asking questions like, 'what is making me think or feel a certain way?' 'What actions can I take to make a difference?', 'What has worked for me in the past?'" says Snow.

2) Pay attention to the emotions that are most useful

Snow acknowledges that some emotions are more useful than others, but this depends on the situation. She believes identifying which emotions to pay attention to and which to come back to is an incredibly useful tactic.

"Ask yourself questions like, 'Is this the most appropriate time to be feeling this?' and 'What can I learn from this?'. Reframing can help you to determine whether the best course of action is to ignore the emotion, welcome and use the emotion, or to bookmark and return to it at a more appropriate time," Snow says.

"Part of being resilient is using your energy where it counts most."
Snow Chen, Consulting Psychologist at Revelian.

3) Recognise what you can and cannot influence

It's important to recognise there are things in your life you have little control over. Snow suggests to influence factors you can actually change yourself.

"Some experiences happen outside of your control, and other things are within your sphere of influence, such as your own thoughts and feelings. You have the capability to manage yourself, even when you are faced with challenges you did not cause. Part of being resilient is putting in effort to manage your reactions and behaviour. Using your energy where it counts most will help you cope" Snow says.

4) Set personal goals

Snow advises setting clearly defined goals for each stage of your studies or early career path can help to provide a sense of direction, clarity and focus, and can also help you to maintain motivation in more critical moments like when you don't get a particular job you hoped for.

"Having a clear goal and purpose is like having an internal compass that points you in the right direction. Articulating what your goals are can help you gain a sense of purpose and motivate you to determine the most effective strategies to overcome challenges that may be hindering you," Snow says.

5) Remain open to learning and growth

While you might discover a strategy works for a particular situation, it doesn't mean it will necessarily work for another. Actively working to find new coping strategies over time can allow you to confidently face a variety of challenges.

Snow recommends developing a plan that includes planning actionable steps towards becoming more receptive to change, setting expectations for how and when you will achieve your goals, and making time for check points to measure your progress.

"Being open to new experiences and events provides opportunities to invest your energy into learning how to cope with new challenges, and build your toolbox of resilience strategies," says Snow.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact:
Australia - Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
New Zealand – Lifeline on 0800 543 or Youthline on 0800 376 633.

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