“Our psychological resources are more important than our stressors.”

I came upon this statement recently while I was doing some research, and it struck me as quite profound.

On one level it seems simple and obvious. Sometimes that which is simple and obvious is most profound, but easily missed when we are expecting, or looking for complexity.

Naturally a big part of my work involves assisting clients in dealing with stress.

I am often amazed at how much stress some individuals are facing on a daily basis. We often see articles and books dealing with ways to reduce stress. This information is helpful.

However, we may develop the attitude that stress is a bad thing, and feel stressed about the fact that we have stress! We may become anxious about stressors beyond our control, such as the illness of a loved one, downsizing of a company, or even severe weather.

Life does, and will continue to have its stresses. What we can control, or develop, is our inner strength.

Think of stressors as psychological ‘flu viruses.’ Consider psychological resources as our ‘immune system.’

Just as the best way to prepare for flu season is to strengthen your physical immune system, the way to prepare for the stresses of life is to strengthen your psychological resource system.

The components of this resource system might include attitude, problem-solving skills and solution orientation, self-esteem, personal empowerment, people you can talk to who offer positive support as opposed to reinforcing negative attitudes (friends, family or professionals), good physical health and self-care, a willingness to learn and grow, a spiritual connection to something larger than oneself, a sense of humor, and a belief that you have something valuable to contribute in this lifetime.

What you will notice about this list is that every item is something we must take responsibility for ourselves.

We cannot get them from someone else, (though we can learn from others) nor can we blame anyone if we do not have them.

No matter what our circumstances, we can develop every one of the above mentioned components. We may have to read, take a class, join a group or work with a professional, but everyone can develop a strong psychological resource system.

Stress may never disappear from our lives. Stress itself is not the problem anyway: the problem is our reaction to stress.

If we see it as a challenge, dealing with it as best we can, we remain healthy.

If we do not have sufficient resources, external stress becomes internal distress. This is when physical and emotional health is compromised.

We are well aware of the importance of keeping our bodies in shape. Equally important is developing our psychological ‘muscles’, keeping them fit, toned and ready to handle whatever challenges come our way. 

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or CDs, visit www.gwen.ca