How resilient are you to stress? Here are seven attributes to rate yourself against and ensure that your life and habits, both professionally and personally, are not detrimental to your health.

By Marcel Hattingh, PhD (ABD), co-founder and director of City Changers Institute

South Africa is not a healthy country. Or rather, most of our people are not in a healthy space, considering both their professional as well as their private lives. And the data supports this notion. Bloomberg ranked South Africa as the second “most stressed out” nation in the world, even though there are nations that are actively engaged in war!

More to stress about
The outcome of this statistics is frightening. High stress levels have been associated with conditions such as mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, as well as a breakdown in morals and values, rising crime and corruption, substance abuse, and in extreme cases may even lead to suicide.

How to respond to stress
Responding to this challenge is by no means simplistic, as there are a number of key contributing factors. However, one element in particular seems to stand out – that of an individual’s personal resilience.

Paul Donders, chief executive officer of Xpand International, describes personal resilience as “the ability of a person to deal with surprises, changes and unexpected setbacks in a healthy manner”. In his book, Resilience: Live Healthier, Perform Better, Donders describes seven personal attributes of a resilient person.

7 attributes of a resilient person
1.    Reconcile your past.
2.    Create realistic optimism.
3.    Shift your focus towards solutions orientation.
4.    Work with your skills and talents.
5.    Follow a disciplined lifestyle.
6.    Grow in self-awareness and live out your passions.
7.    Build healthy relationships.

My personal experience
On a personal level, as a recreational ultra-distance athlete, resilience plays a critical role. Though I mentally understood this fact, coming face to face with this reality during last year’s Comrades Marathon caused quite a wake-up call.

Compared to previous years, my preparation was not bad, but I was not in an emotional healthy place. Although I started the race well, by the time I reached Hillcrest my body was shutting down. Waiting next to the road for my support to pick me up, I had a long time to reflect. The words from the Rocky Balboa movie came to mind where he explains that he has “stuff left in the basement”. My basement was empty, nothing left, the fight was drained out of me!

Getting back home, I had to return to the principles that Donders highlights. It became clear that I was steering towards emotional burnout and biological aspects, such as my high blood pressure, supported this conclusion. In particular, my undisciplined lifestyle, lack of solutions-orientated thinking and building healthy relationships were in desperate need of restoration.

Where are you?
So where do you find yourself at this point in time? Are some of the elements shouting at you too? All it requires is a bit of pro-activeness and sometimes support, before you too find yourself sitting next to the road contemplating what exactly went wrong.

About the author
Marcel is the co-founder and director of City Changers Institute – a multidisciplinary higher educational platform. His expertise ranges from the development and implementation of executive leadership development and coaching programmes to human capital development initiatives. Marcel has significant experience pertaining to organisational strategy development and the implementation thereof.