7 Steps to a Stronger You

What are your goals for 2013? There’s good news from the world of psychology: Whether you want to develop more meaningful relationships, figure out how to bounce back better from adversity or pursue a new challenge, these seven strategies will help you get there.

1) Embrace the three C’s. Real happiness doesn’t come from outside – a new car or outfit won’t do it. According to psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, if you want more of that happy-to-your-core feeling, you should focus your energies in three types of areas: those that allow you to foster connection to others (take a cake decorating class with mom); those that allow you to develop competence (work on becoming fluent in Spanish); and those that give you choices (start that new business you’ve dreamed about because it’ll let you call the shots, or accept a job offer that includes a flexible schedule).

2) Figure out your stress type. People experience stress in very different ways, and what helps you keep stress in check might not work for someone else. Doctors Stephanie McClellan and Beth Hamilton have identified the following stress types:

Zero to Sixty: You’re generally calm, but when stress hits, you have a big response.

Life Observer: You feel like you’re in a bubble watching life pass you by.

Constant Overdrive: Your engine is always revved. You might have a hard time sitting still, tap your feet or hands, and clench or grind your teeth.

Dash and Crash: Stress keeps you focused and helps you achieve, but once it goes away, you crash.

Once you become aware of your stress type (or types!), you can develop a stress management plan that works for you.

3) Get gritty. Grit is another word for perseverance — and it matters. In studies of incoming cadets at West Point, it was a better predictor of success than IQ or standardized test scores! Gritty people don’t back down from challenges and don’t allow failure to define who they are. Simply put, gritty people don’t quit.

4) Understand your sensitivity level. Do loud noises, strong smells, or bright lights stress you out? Do you need plenty of downtime to maintain your balance? If so, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). The term HSP, coined by Dr. Elaine Aron, refers to the way certain people process sensory information. If you’re an HSP, it might be extra important that you get enough sleep. It can also help to have a quiet space in which to decompress, and to limit caffeine.

5) Bounce back better. Whether you’re going through a big crisis or just trying to manage daily stresses, these questions will give you a little perspective:

- Have I experienced anything like this before?

- Is this event going to change my life in a way that I’ll never recover from?

- Is it possible that this event might change my life for the better or open new doors for me?

- Will I still be dealing with this issue next year?

- Do I know anyone who has been through this who can help?

6) Challenge yourself. It’s time to stop letting fear hold you back. Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East for work. I was nervous, but the trip became the highlight of my year. When you take risks and master challenges, your brain asks, “Hmmm, what else can I do?”

7) Seek progress, not perfection. The most resilient people understand that abilities and aptitudes aren’t set in stone – they can be developed. People with a growth mindset (as Dr. Carol Dweck calls it) don’t get caught up in having to perform perfectly, and that makes them more willing to ask for help. Result: They move forward faster.

However you want your 2013 to look, incorporating some or all of these strategies into your daily routine will help. You can build a stronger you!



Nature walks, deep breathing…what stress management techniques work best for you? Let us know in the comment box below.


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Paula Davis-Laack

Paula Davis-Laack is an internationally-known writer and stress and resilience expert. She is a blogger for Psychology Today and contributing writer for The Huffington Post, specializing in managing stress and work, particularly for women in corporate America. Paula is also the founder and CEO of the Marie Elizabeth Company, an organization devoted to helping busy professionals manage stress, prevent burnout, and build habits for more happiness, health, and resilience. Paula teaches and speaks about stress management and resilience to a wide variety of audiences, including professionals in the military, education, and legal professions. Paula also works one-on-one with individuals as a life coach on topics related to stress, burnout prevention, and resilience.

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