Six tips to help build wellbeing and resilience to stress

New research led by Dr Justine Gatt, Senior Research Scientist at NeuRA, supports the understanding that emotional resilience plays an important part in everyday mental health and wellbeing from an early age.

Dr Gatt wants everyone to know that they have the potential to increase wellbeing and resilience to stress by retraining their brain.

“Building resilience is critical in today’s fast-paced world because it helps to protect us against the development of mental health problems and better manage stress in our everyday lives,” said Dr Gatt.

Dr Gatt and her team have used their findings to develop a framework for building resilience, called the COMPAS-W Wellness Chart. It includes some useful tips for building resilience, which can be applied to adults or adolescents.

“Our twin study has highlighted that both our environment and genetics contribute to our wellbeing,” says Dr Gatt. “Therefore, anyone can build resilience. It is not something that you are simply born with. It is particularly important in early life while the brain is still developing, so much so that it can actually change your brain for the better.”

The ‘COMPAS-W Wellness Chart’ stands for Composure, Own-worth, Mastery, Positivity, Achievement, Satisfaction with Life – Wellness Chart. Dr Gatt expands on how this chart can help us develop resilience.

1. Composure

Develop positive coping strategies like humour and active problem solving, rather than avoidance, self-blame, venting or substance use, and know your body when you are getting stressed so that you can respond differently.

“Ask yourself, what do I normally do when I am stressed? And is it the best way to deal with it, both for me and the situation? Then, start becoming aware of your body when you are next stressed (e.g., sweating hands, frustration, and aggressiveness), and take a pause and think to yourself whether there is an alternative and better way to respond,” says Dr Gatt.

2. Own-worth

Know who you are, what you stand for and your values, and preserve them with healthy boundaries.

3. Mastery

Build on your strengths, seek opportunities for growth and be self-reliant.

Some examples of such activities might be taking on a new hobby, learning to play a musical instrument, or being involved in challenging sports. Each of these activities has an inherent challenge in them as they involve learning something that may or may not be mastered, which can be mildly stressful.

“With these activities, what is important is learning how to deal with this mild stress in an effective and optimal way, particularly in the early years. It provides a form of inoculation as the person learns to deal with future stressors as they come along,” says Dr Gatt.

4. Positivity

Have a positive outlook, seek out and schedule time for fun, and take regular notes of things achieved.

5. Achievement

Identify your life purpose, your talents and interests, and set meaningful goals that satisfy your needs independent of others,

6. Satisfaction with life

Be fit and healthy and look after your body too. Be mindful and present (pay attention to your five senses), and practice gratitude.

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Watch Dr Justine Gatt discuss the importance of building resilience in this video: