Stress and negative emotions have been shown to increase the severity of disease and worsen the prognosis. Positive emotions and the ability to self-regulate emotions, on the other hand, have been shown to prolong health and decrease the risk of premature death (Science of the Heart).
What is stress? A state of emotional unease describes stress. You will likely describe yourself as ‘stressed’ when you are experiencing feelings of frustration, anxiety, irritation, lack of control, and hopelessness.
Ongoing stress can impair your ability to enjoy your life to the fullest and decrease your energy. Emotions activate physiological changes that include the stress response.
We cannot eliminate our emotions. We all have them, and they can make life enjoyable. Our emotions determine what is important to us, what we care about, and what motivates us. Our emotions connect us to others, allow us to be proud of our accomplishments, to be happy doing things we enjoy, and to demonstrate care and kindness. We don’t want to get rid of our emotions. But we also don’t want our emotions to be in control, especially when they are the cause of stress.
Emotions are closely related to resilience. There’s that word again. The HeartMath definition of Resilience is as follows:
The capacity to prepare for, recover from, and adapt in the face of stress, adversity, trauma, or challenge.
Emotions are involved in physiologic changes associated with energy regulation. I’m sure you have at times experienced extreme tiredness after an argument or dealing with disruptive individuals or groups; that is a result of our emotions triggering the stress response. This seems to indicate that to have the best of health we need to be resilient and be in control of our emotional responses.
We can build our physical resilience by increasing our physical capacity. This can be done by walking farther, walking faster, increasing your weights or repetitions, swimming farther or faster. How can we build our emotional resilience and capacity? We can learn to develop new responses to stressful situations that will help us retain energy and adapt to what is occurring. The ability to adjust and self-regulate is a skill that can be learned and will help you in building relationships, remaining calm and composed in tense situations, and maintaining your integrity. You will also be able to make clearer decisions. It is when you are stressed, frustrated, or angry that errors are made, and poor decisions occur.
It has been shown that our efforts to self-regulate emotions can produce broad improvements in increasing or strengthening self-regulatory capacity, similar to the process of strengthening a muscle, making us less vulnerable to depletion of our internal reserves.
Keeping this information in mind it would seem that the ability to self-regulate our behaviours, attitudes, and emotions could go a long way to improving our health and our life. According to The Science of the Heart, there is a growing body of scientific evidence linking “mental and emotional attitudes, physiological health and long-term well-being.”
I’m all for building my resilience and have been working on it for several years. Despite many challenges along the way I firmly believe that my resilience has improved. I am in much better control of my emotional responses. Am I in control all the time? Of course not, I am human and far from perfect, but the overall effect has been good for me. Building resilience isn’t difficult, but it does require ongoing effort. In minutes a day, you can build your resilience.
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