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Emotional resilience: 4 tips to improve blood sugar & stress

 

Emotional resilience refers to our ability to effectively and calmly adapt and adjust to stressful situations with a certain mindset. The good news is that resilience can be trained and developed over time. Almost everyone has heard of resilience and knows that it’s a term often used in stress management. But do you know exactly what resilience is, how to practice resilience yourself – and, most importantly, how resilience could optimise your blood sugar levels? 

Why are resilience and managing stress so important? Stress affects many of us in our everyday lives. In a study conducted, 60 per cent of those surveyed said they suffered from stress sometimes to often.[1] At the same time, it is no longer a secret that permanent and long-term stress promotes a variety of health conditions.

The risk of strokes and heart attacks in particular increases, but high blood pressure, tinnitus and chronic digestive problems can also occur.[2, 3] With there also being a connection between stress and blood sugar – and type 2 diabetes – it is crucial that building resilience becomes a priority for all of us.

So, read about the meaning of resilience, the link between stress and blood sugar, and how you can resist stress by following certain everyday practices.

What is the meaning of resilience?

Resilience’ is a term from psychology that describes the mental and emotional ability to cope with and get through challenging life situations.

Resilience was first researched in the 1950s when the US psychologist Emmy Werner began a long-term study that lasted 40 years. She accompanied 686 children on their way to adulthood. She was able to determine that regardless of the children’s background, their resilience – that is, their ability to consider their own lives as meaningful, had a positive effect on their development. About one-third of the children who had been classified as at-risk because of their background led a fulfilled life.[4]

Did you know that the term resilience’ originates from a physics context – more precisely, from the Latin word resiliere’, meaning to bounce back?’ It describes the nature of substances that always return to their original form despite strong external influences.[5]

When are we resilient?

Being resilient does not mean that bad things can never happen to you or that you can never be sad or feel low. The meaning of resilience is that you are no longer so easily thrown off course by difficult circumstances. Some emotional stress even contributes to you feeling more resilient or wanting to persevere even more.

This also shows that emotional resilience is something that everyone can train and improve. You can think of it as muscle training – only instead of lifting weights, you practice resilient behaviour and thought patterns.[6]

Why can stress be so problematic? Read more about the most common signs of stress and normal cortisol levels in our Health Portal.

What are the seven pillars of resilience?

The seven pillars of resilience are a widely used model to help you cope better with stress and remain calm, even in challenging phases of your life. The seven pillars consist of four basic attitudes and three practices.[7]

Resilience attitudes: how to cope with stress

  • Acceptance: Above all, accept the things you cannot change – do not dwell too much on the past or on circumstances you cannot influence.
  • Attachment: Cultivate relationships with other people and your environment, but also with yourself.
  • Solution-oriented thinking: When you encounter crises and problems, look ahead and search for clear goals and solutions.
  • Healthy optimism: Try to develop a healthy attitude toward current circumstances – above all, this means looking positively into the future and at the present circumstances from a different (perhaps less negative) point of view.

seven pillars of emotional resilience

How do you practice resilience?

  • Self-awareness: Strengthen your relationship with yourself and take the signals your body sends you seriously.
  • Self-reflection: Question your own perceptions and change your perspective. Try to find out why you had certain feelings or why you reacted in a certain way.
  • Self-efficacy: Our actions have consequences. This means that you can make a difference through your actions, both to yourself and to others.

Building resilience: can resilience be taught?

Four factors in particular, some of which feature in the seven pillars model, are important when it comes to building resilience. These factors include creating connection, promoting your well-being, shaping your life in a meaningful way and practicing healthy thought patterns. Let us explain these concepts in four precise everyday tips that you can integrate into your own life.

Tip 1. create connection

Feeling connected has a lot to do with the people around us. Start prioritising relationships with your friends and partners. Surrounding yourself with understanding and empathetic people will make it less likely to sink into feelings of loneliness and despair.

Especially after traumatic experiences, many people tend to isolate themselves and find it difficult to accept help. Yet it can be enormously important, especially at such times, to accept the care of others – because there is a difference between the need for time for oneself and total isolation. Feeling connected with people who care about you and support you can go a long way.

Likewise, joining organised groups or communities helps some people. These can be groups that may even deal with the personal traumatic issue – for example, self-help groups. Sharing with people who have similar problems often gives a sense of being understood and not being alone when it comes to dealing with your own challenges. In general, being involved in these environments and social structures can give you hope and a sense of purpose.

Tip 2. prioritise well-being

Take care of your body. Stress is felt as much physically as mentally, so a healthy and strong body can be a beacon of hope when you are emotionally distressed. A healthy diet and plenty of water, adequate sleep and exercise are all factors that can help with managing stress and preventing depression and anxiety.

Become mindful and practice mindfulness. There are many different ways to do this; you can choose whichever mindfulness techniques you feel most comfortable with. Whether it’s mindful journaling or yoga, meditation or mindful walks – all of these things help you to experience life in the moment and, most importantly, with yourself.

Mindfulness techniques make you aware of what you can be grateful for and can thus give you hope and confidence when you encounter stressful situations. These techniques are not difficult to learn and are often easier to integrate into everyday life than you might think. 

Avoid unhealthy coping strategies, as these offer a distraction and short-term escape route, if any, from your real worries and stresses. Alcohol or other drugs tend not to help you look at life more positively or see alternatives. Give your body the right resources to cope with stressful situations in a sustainable way.

Tip 3. Find more meaning

Finding meaning in your own life can sometimes be a very challenging task. Help others – whether friends or within a volunteer group; it doesn’t matter. In doing so, you can feel connected to others, improve your self-esteem, and at the same time, get the feeling that you are doing something meaningful.

Also, be proactive. Ask yourself what alternatives you have and what you can do to improve your situation. If problems seem too big, try breaking them down into more manageable tasks that you can then better address.

Set yourself goals – but realistic ones. Try to notice and appreciate even small successes. Celebrating the small successes improve motivation and self-esteem, as you get the feeling that you are on the right path and that your actions are important. Create opportunities for yourself for these moments.

Tip 4. promote healthy thoughts

We do a lot of thinking. Your thoughts can make you despair as well as catch a break from reality. Healthy thoughts put things into perspective. They can work wonders if you manage to change your perspective in a challenging situation and shift your focus to something else for a brief moment.

Especially in stressful phases, you might get caught up in irrational thoughts, such as Why is it always me?’ or The world is against me!’ By taking a step back mentally and trying to look at your situation more rationally and from a different point of view, many difficult problems can immediately seem a little less catastrophic. Of course, not all problems disappear into thin air just because you perceive them differently. However, you do have the power to evaluate your own situations and perhaps relax a little more as a result.

Accepting change is especially important in this context and is also something that happens in our heads. This involves accepting the things that are unchangeable and at the same time focusing on the aspects where you can bring about change.

infographic on how to boost emotional resilience

Why resilience is important

Type 2 diabetes: what is the link between stress and blood sugar?

When you are under stress, your body prepares itself to provide a lot of energy. One of the ways it does this is by increasing blood glucose levels, so that important organs and muscles are supplied with glucose. Stressful situations can therefore cause increased blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes – in some cases so much so that the dose of medication or insulin needs to be adjusted.

Can stress cause type 2 diabetes?

Scientists are discussing whether chronic stress could be involved in the development of type 2 diabetes in the first place. Apparently, long-term stress also drives up blood sugar levels permanently and can also increase inflammation in the body. For people who are already at a high risk of diabetes, this may be a decisive factor in the onset of the disease.

Studies suggest that general emotional stress, depression, anxiety, sleep problems and chronic burnout can increase the risk of diabetes. However,  researchers emphasise that long-term studies are still needed to find out exactly what the links are.[8–10]

So, take stress in your everyday life seriously – especially as a diabetic! Chronic stress is not something that should be part of your professional or private life, and it poses a serious threat to your health.

How can I test my blood sugar at home?

Certain home blood test kits allow you to check your long-term blood sugar levels – that is, your hba1c levels. This value then provides you with a useful initial indication of your average blood sugar levels over the previous months and your risk of developing diabetes.

Hba1c test kits like this are extremely useful in determining where you need to be proactive about your overall health – with the results, you can take targeted steps to improve your blood sugar levels, whether it’s through exercise, your diet or managing your stress levels better through building resilience.

banner to test for normal hba1c level

The meaning of resilience – at a glance

What is the meaning of resilience?

Resilience describes your ability to feel relaxed and calm, even in difficult situations or phases of life. You can train yourself to become more resilient to stress through mindfulness techniques, for example.

What are the seven pillars of resilience?

The seven pillars of resilience are a model within resilience training that uses four basic attitudes (acceptance, attachment, solution-oriented thinking, healthy optimism) and three practices (self-awareness, self-reflection, self-efficacy) to help you when it comes to building resilience in a healthy way.

How do you practice resilience?

Together with the seven pillars mentioned above, these four tips can especially help you develop emotional resilience and strength:

  • Connection: Create a sense of belonging to the people around you and your environment.
  • Well-being: Do something good for yourself and your body, take time for yourself and for nice things away from your daily work routine and detached from any obligations.
  • Meaning: Try to create more moments in your life that make you feel like you are doing something meaningful.
  • Healthy thought patterns: Don’t let your thoughts rule you; always try to look at your situation from a distance, change your perspective and focus on the good things.

    Sources

    [1] Techniker Krankenkasse “Entspann dich, Deutschland - TK-Stressstudie 2016, p. 56, 2016.

    [2] Salleh, M. R. “Life Event, Stress and Illness,” Malays. J. Med. Sci. MJMS, vol. 15(4), pp. 9–18, October 2008.

    [3] J. D. Q. MD, R. S. Horn, und J. C. Q. PhD, “Health Consequences of Stress,” J. Organ. Behav. Manag., vol. 8(2), pp. 19–36, July 1987, doi: 10.1300/J075v08n02_03.

    [4] WDR, “Resilienz, February 27, 2020, available at https://www.planet-wissen.de/gesellschaft/psychologie/resilienz/index.html, accessed on March 15, 2021.

    [5] Resilienz-Akademie, “Resilienz Definition - Resilienz-Akademie: Resilienz lernen,” available at https://www.resilienz-akademie.com/resilienz/, accessed on March 15, 2021.

    [6] American Psychological Association, “Building your resilience, 2012, available at https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience, accessed on March 15, 2021.

    [7] Mauritz, S. “Die sieben Säulen der Resilienz - Resilienz Akademie, available at https://www.resilienz-akademie.com/sieben-saeulen-der-resilienz/, accessed on March 16, 2021.

    [8]    Melamed, S., Shirom, A., Toker, S., Shapira, I. Burnout and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective study of apparently healthy employed persons, Psychosom Med, vol. 68(6), pp. 863–869, December 2006, doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000242860.24009.f0.

    [9]     Murdock, K. W., LeRoy, A. S., Lacourt, T. E., Duke, D. C., Heijnen, C. J., Fagundes, C. P. Executive functioning and diabetes: The role of anxious arousal and inflammation, Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 71, pp. 102–109, September 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.05.006.

    [10]     Pouwer, F., Kupper, N., Adriaanse, M. C. Does Emotional Stress Cause Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus? A Review from the European Depression in Diabetes (EDID) Research Consortium, Discovery Medicine, vol. 9(45), pp. 112–118, February 2010.

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