David J. Hellerstein, M.D., explains how neuropsychiatry research has begun to understand the basic factors behind emotional fitness and resilience—our capacity to cope with and thus alleviate stress. Increased resilience is useful for everyone, not just those with conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression. The five key components? 1 Physical resilience; 2 Psychological resilience; 3 Activating social networks; 4 Adequate external supports; 5 Challenging yourself; 6 Looking for meaning through involvement; 7 Learning.
What’s the Big Idea?
Physical toughening allows you to better withstand prolonged stress and can decrease anxiety and depression and improve sleep. Key to psychological resilience is ‘appraisal’, how you look at a challenging situation. Is it a threat or a challenge? This has major effects on how the body and mind respond. Learning is critical because we now know the brain continually reshapes itself. Changing behavior, including learning new adaptive behaviors, appears to increase the activity and connectivity of key brain centers such as the brain’s reward circuitry.