The Three C’s of Stress Hardiness

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We all know people who do well under stressful conditions, in fact, they seem to thrive on it.  These are “stress-hardy” folks, and here are three clues to how do it.  They form the basis of what’s called Transformational Coping.

In essence, stress-hardy people place potentially stressful events into a new frame of reference.  They have learned how to transform a stressful situation into an opportunity to be creative, or growth-enhancing, or maybe even uplifting or humorous. Rather than doing battle with an uncomfortable or unpleasant event, or taking it personally, they allow the situation to challenge them to learn, and to grow.

Here are the 3 C’s of transformational coping that stress-hardy people thrive on:

Challenge.  If we define stress as reacting to a comment or a situation as threatening, stress-hardy people take the view that a difficult  person or circumstance is a challenge that they can rise to.  Rather than feeling threatened, they reframe the event as an opportunity to be creative.  How do they do this?  One simple secret is that they become curious.  Rather than become defensive or falling back on old scripts, they take a moment to pause and get curious as to what would lead a person to make such an ‘outlandish’ claim.  They wonder what they might be missing, and they take an interest in finding other ways to approach situations that makes them stretch, and perhaps even shape events to their advantage.

Commitment. Stress-hardy people find meaning in their work. They feel that their work is connected to a higher purpose, and that their role contributes to a larger goal. Here are three possible answers a mason gives to the question:  What are you doing? “I am laying bricks,” is a cynical response. “I am earning a living,” is a joyless response. “I am building a cathedral,” shows a person connected to a larger purpose. The connection to something larger allows stress-hardy people to consider as minor annoyances things that might stop another person dead in his or her tracks.

Control. Stress-hardy people know when to hold and when to fold. They know when they can control events and when they can’t. They know how to let go and flow with events until they find an opening when they can again assert themselves. While they may give up, they don’t give in. They alter their strategy, including perhaps altering their goal, by going more deeply into their intention. They are attached to their intention, to expressing themselves, and to their goals, but not necessarily to the form that these take.