It’s impossible to sidestep all sources of stress. Would you really want to, anyway? Our lives are full of physical and psychological challenges that add zest to life and sometimes deliver satisfying rewards. But while you can’t erase all sources of stress, you can learn how to reduce stress and also build resilience—your ability to bounce back from stress.
William James, the great Harvard philosopher-psychologist of the late 19th century and a graduate of Harvard Medical School, himself a stressed-out melancholic, marveled at those he called “the healthy-minded” among us because they appeared to live happier and healthier lives as a result of their optimism and positive perspective on life. Amid the run-of-the-mill volatility everyone must deal with, the healthy-minded seemed to turn challenges and potential failures into grist for opportunities and successes.
More recently, statistician and risk-management specialist Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the term “antifragile.” In his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, he defines fragility as the tendency to be damaged by volatility and uncertainty—the kinds of things that often create a chronic stress response. By contrast, the antifragile person realizes that stress is just the price we pay for being alive. Cultivating anti-fragility helps us use our strengths to overcome challenges and become stronger in the process.
A prime example of antifragility is the Navy Seals. They are able to manage high degrees of stress and still function admirably. Faced with life-threatening situations, they can rapidly change the focus of their attention and address the issue at hand efficiently and flexibly. Brain scans show that Seals have altered activation in a prefrontal brain region called the insula, which is involved in managing stress signals. As a group, Navy Seals exhibit at least seven characteristics of resilient people: calm, innovative, nondogmatic thinking; the ability to act decisively; tenacity; inter-personal connectedness; honesty; self-control; and optimism and a positive perspective on life.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Collation 3:2-5
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 (KJV)
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