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Make yourself more resilient

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If you’ve been eyeballing studies on whether stress is good or bad, you might have gathered that it’s all about genes or childhood experiences, so there’s nothing you can do about it.

While it’s true that some alpha people naturally roll with the punches, and that some who had rough childhoods grow up to be hardy and adaptable, it’s also true that human beings can learn new tricks.

“Even if we’re not born well equipped to deal with stress, we can change,” says Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University, who has compared “totally insane son-of-a-bitch” types who lash out under stress with nice-guys-finish-first types who stay cool and pick battles they can win.

New studies indicate that moderate levels of stress can help you rise up and carry on. However, if you force yourself into stress-reduction techniques that you hate, you may stress yourself out even more. You need to feel some control.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is this battle worth waging?

2. How important is this?

3. Should I be angry? Will it do any good?

4. Can I do something (else) about this problem?

5. Would that be worth the trouble?


  • Recognize that stuff happens.
  • Retain confidence in your ability to deal with rotten luck.
  • Seek out responsible, reliable allies. Learn from them how to get by.
  • Help someone else.

— Adapted from “Who Says Stress Is Bad for You?” Mary Carmichael, Newsweek.

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